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Kids R Kapable

Just a little note to concerned ‘grownups’ everywhere.  If you look at a kid—and I mean really look—I don’t mean notice a person shorter than you, I mean make eye contact, notice their facial expression and observe their body language—If you look at a kid, don’t assume they need your help unless they’re obviously distressed, or ask for it.  You might think this is difficult call to make.  You might think, not having kids of your own, that you’re unable to make this determination.  You are.  You do in fact, already have the skills even if you’ve never been around kids  It’s a remarkably simple call to make, just use the exact same criteria you would for determining if an adult was in distress.  Because, guess what, kids and adults are in fact the same species of animal and communicate in the same way.  Honest.  If someone—adult or child—doesn’t need your help, feel free to say hello, give a wave, give a smile, but don’t—do not—try to force help on anyone that doesn’t want or need it.

You might wonder why I’ve meandered away from my normally cool demeanor in this space.  Earlier today, the kid and I were out and needed to know if there was a hot dog vendor on the corner a block down.  The crowd on Market Street was characteristically huge as is its wont on a Sunday afternoon, so we were having difficulty seeing the next corner what with all the people. 

The kid spotted a bike rack she could get a perch on.  Sitting on top of the rack already, she said, “Give me a hand and help me up.”


“Why not?”

“You know we don’t do that.  You can do whatever you’re big enough to do yourself,” I said peering down towards the corner.  I walked a few feet down the street to see if that would help, then I returned.  The kid was standing on the bike rack.  She’d done it herself.  Funny how that works.

“I don’t think I see anything, but there are still a lot of people to see over.”

“Well, come on kid, we’ll walk down and see what we see.”

The kid hopped down, sticking her landing onto the sidewalk below.

Sure enough, our favorite hot dog vendor was down there.  We were rewarded with delicious bacon wrapped hot dogs!  Yum!  So much pig in a single dish!

The kid finished her dog, and wandered off.  We’re downtown all the time, the kids all know their way around.  I was unconcerned.

Then I heard it.  My partner said, “Ummm…..”  It was her ‘we’re about to have a problem’ tone.  I spun around to see the kid back up on the bike rack.

I was about to explain that she’d figured out how to do that and all was well.  My partner and I have the same policy on acrobatics, namely, you can do whatever you can pull off on your own, so it seemed like an odd thing to have to explain.  Then I saw the real issue.  An affluent middle-aged individual wrapped in a camel hair overcoat with a scarf was approaching the kid.

What the hell?

She was approaching with a bewildered look.  Perhaps the same look she’d use if she saw a raccoon or a jaguar perched atop a bicycle rack on Market Street.  “Do you need help?”

I looked at the kid.  She was as flummoxed as I was.  No, she didn’t need help, but who was this woman walking towards her?  I could see from the kids body language she wanted to back up, but well, she was on top of a bike rack that she’d so far practiced jumping off of forwards, not backwards.

“Do you need help?” the lady’s voice was increasing in volume towards a persistent yell.

Now, the kid was—rightly so—starting to be alarmed.  Who was this woman?  Why did she just keep coming at someone balanced on a bike rack?

My partner had already started walking toward the conflagration.  The kid was about to go backwards off the bike rack.  Now, at this point, thanks to this asshat, I mean busybody, I mean well-wisher, the kid actually did need help.  As she began to wobble, the kid thrust her hand out to the side, the only way she should could reach away from the woman and not launch herself off the rack backwards.  Just then, my partner grabbed her hand, steadying her, and said, “No, no she doesn’t need help.”.  The kid re-balanced.  All was well.  The kids assailant looked mystified, but thank God finally had the good sense to move on now that another adult, a huma she at least marginally respected, or at least one she felt she wasn’t large enough to successfully bully was on the scene.

Here’s the thing.  (I say this rhetorically because chances are if you’re reading this you already know what the thing is.)  The kid didn’t have a problem.  She didn’t need help until the utterly banal adult caused a problem.  So, once again, I’d like to drive home.  If you see someone you’ve somehow convinced yourself needs help, examine your assumptions.  Ask yourself, how’d that kid get up on that bike rack?  Are kids capable of such things?  (The answer is yes, in case there was doubt.)  Then, if you’re really, really sure they need help, offer.  But otherwise, slow yourself down, give the world and your brain a few seconds to catch up, and make sure there’s really something happening before you make a mess.


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