When it comes to dealing with kids, I don’t have any experience to draw on, other than vague and somewhat distorted recollections of what it was like for me way back when. But that was back in the day when we were thrown out of the house after breakfast on a Saturday morning and told not to reappear until 1pm and then it was out again till tea-time at 6pm. We owned nothing that had a plug on it. Batteries were about as technical as we got. And we had to make do with games we made up as we went along.
Life was simple… and safe.
So although I have clear memories of being 13, comparing it to being 13 today is a little like comparing snakes and ladders to minecraft. I figured it might help to borrow a couple of other 13-year-olds and let them all amuse themselves. Take the pressure off and limit my interaction [it takes serious energy to keep up a conversation with these kids].
We headed over to the Dinoszaurusz Kiállítás (Living Dinosaurs) exhibition in Millenáris. I figured it should keep them amused for a couple of hours at least, but hadn’t reckoned on the short attention spans that are a byproduct of our multi-media age. In under an hour they’d seen all they had to see. And this was not part of the plan.
I remembered that to keep me amused on long car journeys, my mother would make me memorise stuff. I can recite the 32 counties of Ireland and all the towns and villages you passed through on the road from Waterford to Dublin (before the bypasses). I remembered how my dad quizzed me on where the four sugar-beet factories were and which team played in what GAA sports ground. I needed to keep them occupied. To keep them engaged. To keep them focused on something other than being bored. So I wrote out 12 questions (all dinosaur-related) and told the three lads to go find the answers [In fairness, I had warned them at the start that there might be a quiz.]
First question they asked: Is there a prize? Yes.
Second question: What is it? A pizza lunch – as much as you can eat.
Note to self: Food is still a winning factor.
There’s a lot to be said for competition and cooperation. Two of the three read Hungarian so they had an advantage but the 12 questions were divvied out in such a way that all three could contribute. There are some managers I know who could learn a lesson from this. [My bonus question was: Guess which of the dinosaurs Mary would like to have as a pet. The answer: The one she likes most. These boys ain’t stupid.]
Over pizza afterwards in Marxim, the conversation was broad and wide-ranging covering everything from Euro 2016 (and the accompanying changes to European geography since its inception) to what Trump as President would mean for the world. Conversation flowed freely, each feeling comfortable enough to contribute their take on the world without fear of judgment or recrimination. There are some teachers I know who could learn a lesson from this.
I was mega impressed when my lad offered to pay and then thanked the other two for coming along. There are some adults I know who could learn a lesson from this.
They might have learned loads about dinosaurs but I reckon I learned a little more about kids and how much they could teach us, if we only took the time to watch, listen, and engage.
PS Exhibition is well worth a visit – the T-Rex is positively life-like.