"Today's kids are immature, self-absorbed, and just need to GROW UP!" This is a comment I hear from teachers on an almost daily basis. And, I must confess that I have shared a similar sentiment on more than one occasion.
However, just yesterday, I was talking with a former student who credited his band experience with helping him to be the adult that he is today. But when did that happen? I don't remember him being particularly grown up when he was in my class. I remember him trying to raise a baby rat in his band locker...
So when did he become a grown up... 21? That seems like a good age to be a grown up. After all, that's our legal drinking age.
Maybe even younger. Eighteen? That's when he become emancipated, assumed liability for his actions, could vote, and could have even served in our nation's military. Yes, perhaps it was when he turned 18. Right? Or maybe not.
After all, you're allowed to watch adult movies at 17, drive at 16, and hold a job as young as 14. You can deliver newspapers, babysit, or work for your parents even younger than that. When you enter middle school at 12, you can choose "career education" tracts to help plan your pathway to adulthood. And, with today's technology and social media, 10 year olds have often seen more tragedy, violence, and sadness than people twice their age did a decade ago. It seems that kids are exposed to adulthood younger than ever before.
So when did he grow up? It did not happen in my class. I was there. I would remember it. And trust me, locking his best friend in a tuba case is not grown up!
Maybe he wasn't grown up, but he was in fact growing up.
Growing up is not defined solely by time, but by experiences. He grew through trial and error. He grew during good times and even more so during bad ones. He grew when I challenged his mind and body. He grew up when his soul was nourished. He grew when expectations were set, and passions were ignited. He grew when boundaries were drawn and consequences were assigned. He grew before, during, and after school and on weekdays and weekends!
I was right, he wasn't GROWN up when I taught him, he was GROWING up.
There is no singular time or seminal moment which defines a young person's passage into adulthood. It is as different as the children who experience it. We never really know WHEN kids grow up... But we do know WHERE: in your rehearsal room!
Yes, right in front of your very eyes it is happening. You may not always see it, but trust me, it's happening. Not just in front of you, but because of you.
They are GROWING up. Well... Most of them.