Margaret Mead, my mother, and middle schoolers

  • Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Margaret Mead, my mother, and middle schoolers -- what do these three items have to do with each other? Plenty. I always respected Margaret Mead for her travels to Samoa to study the culture of rearing teen girls in that part of the world. With the start of another school year, we should remember what she learned in Samoa.
You see, Margaret Mead saw that our youth were showing signs of  “storm and stress” and she wanted to see how other cultures handled such problems. She said a big part of the answer lies in bridging the generation gap and having the teens spend more time with the older relatives.
I saw firsthand what she meant. We had American Education Week every year in November where I taught school. I seldom had parents visit, because most of the
parents worked. The secretary, Sandy, called me on the phone to tell me one mom
was headed my way.  
“Great!” I responded. “Describe her so I will look for her.”
“Oh, you’ll know this one alright,” she answered,  “it’s your mom and she says it’s American Education Week and she wanted to see how her kid was doing as a teacher.”
My mom was very outgoing and personable so Sandy and I just laughed and were glad that we had a visitor. But, of course, my mom was really there to offer any constructive suggestions, having done a little teaching herself.
She walked in and the room took on a calm air about it. Grandmotherly types just exude calm. She walked around and helped the kids with their vocabulary lessons. Her mere appearance, one of good taste, but definitely a knowledgeable lady really soothed the sometimes-squirmy students.
 She started to spend more time with my classes by helping on field trips, special projects or just one on one reviews. The effect was wonderful.
We soon found out she was valuable in another setting involving teens. My daughter played field hockey and my mom went to every game. It was not long before players started to mill around my mom and share some of their life decisions with her. It was remarkable that they felt so comfortable with her. They felt safe confiding in her, and her home baked cookies probably set a nice, cozy tone too. She held her cookie container underneath her handmade afghan she crocheted in the school colors. The girls were always affectionate with her, something that was appropriate for her age and place on the team.
She got the name of  “Hockey Mom Mom” and stayed on for ten years after my daughter left the team. She was a great asset toward galvanizing the girls as a team and helping with personal concerns, because the girls trusted her so much.
She was the one who watched over their belongings when they were on the field. The boyfriends knew that Mom Mom was watching, so they treated the hockey girls with great respect.
What a wonderful arrangement that was a two-way street. My mother derived such pleasure from these girls. She always said that remembering their statistics
helped her keep a sharper mind.
They helped give her a beautiful send off when she passed this world and many still
mention her today.  Her contributions were very much what Margaret Meade would have
expected. We need to tap into our elderly more for these situations.
So, all ye grandmothers who are able and available, check out a youth setting where you
may lend your talents as we start another school year. You will make a wonderful difference.  

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