Introducing My New Friend Bentley
Last Friday, I accompanied part of a fourth grade class during their visit to the local wildlife refuge. For those of you who’ve been reading this blog forever, you may recall I wrote about the first time I did it here. Since then, I’ve become more comfortable with both the curriculum and the subtle differences between the grades. For example, first and second graders are much more likely to worship the ground you walk on and follow your directions, while fourth graders are a bit more challenging to wrangle.
Because I decided it suits me, I’ve assumed the role of wrangler. I bring up the rear and make sure we don’t lose anyone along the way, while my co-volunteer handles the teaching part. My first time out, I found myself surrounded by all the kids who felt compelled to spell the name of every single plant we observed. That slows things down significantly.
But I digress…
The kids in the rear are the ones that just can’t be rushed. They stop and marvel—almost to the point of obsession—with every little thing they see. Then they want to tell me about the deer bone they saw at Grandma’s house, or that they like to go fishing with dad. And of course, they are extra careful with their spelling. Some even draw pictures.
Which brings me to Bentley.
Friday’s group was a fourth-grade class and I was bracing myself for all sorts of shenanigans. After all, shenanigans were in abundance the last time I volunteered for a fourth grade class. As we made our way along the trail from the nature center, the stragglers immediately began the process of separation.
“HEY LOOK AT ALL THOSE FLOWERS!!!”
For a moment, I had to concentrate, as my middle-aged eyes weren’t seeing much in the way of flowers. But once I focused, I could see the tiny yellow specks everywhere. Bentley’s enthusiasm was contagious, and he was the first kid to notice ant hills. By this time, we’d fallen a bit behind, so I had to urge Bentley and his friend Jackson to keep up. It’s hard to keep up, though, when there are just So. Many. Things.
One of the skills we try to reinforce for the kids who come out to the refuge, is the skill of “noticing.” I’m finding that in this chapter of my life, my noticing skills have really improved. Life as an adult can often get in the way of noticing and appreciating little, simple things. But if you’re lucky enough to spend time with kids, you’ll find they notice more than you’d think they were capable of.
As we continued our walk in nature, I noticed that Bentley was wearing a Green Bay Packers hat. Now, a couple things about that. First, I’m a life-long Packers fan, having grown up in Wisconsin. Second, I know first-hand what it’s like to be a Packers fan living in Minnesota—quite brutal at times. So as soon as I noticed Bentley’s hat, I had so many questions. But, as the grown-up in the equation, I also knew that we needed to concentrate on observing nature’s signs of spring. That was the assignment.
So…I bided my time until we were heading back to the nature center. Once I knew we were not expected to do any more “work,” I shared with Bentley that I liked his hat and I, too, was a Packer fan. I told him I admired his courage to wear his hat at school.
And then, we were off to the races…discussing the recent trade of our temperamental star quarterback (good riddance, we agreed), how well we thought this season would go and who our favorite all time player was. I had to tell Bentley that I’ve been around a really really long time, and, when I was his age, the Packers sucked. I felt it my duty to prepare him for years of losing seasons.
I mean, I’m guessing he no longer believes in Santa, so this revelation shouldn’t take too much out of him.
The Packers last won a Super Bowl in 2011. Bentley was born in 2012. He’s endured a lot of playoff disappointment and is remarkably Zen about it all. He’s just the type of fan we’re going to need as the team transitions to younger, more inexperienced players.
Come to think of it, Bentley’s exactly the kind of kid this world needs going into a future that sometimes appears bleak.
My long term outlook got just a wee bit brighter after meeting Bentley.