Jacqui (jacqui) wrote,
Jacqui
jacqui

Burning Man Teenagers Want to Have Their Freedom Too

Hey Gang, I belong to a wonderful mailing list for the village I have helped build and camp with every year at Burning Man; Kidsville. After the event there is always a flurry of writing back and forth -- tons of ideas are shared, things that would maybe make the next year's burn more exciting or comfortable for the kids -- and then it dies down again and the list goes semi-silent for about six months. I was just checking back in again because someone very close : ) to me, (who I am really looking forward to meeting for the very first time out there on the playa this year), had written asking where we would be camping and I wanted to check our placement on the big bad map. I couldn't find us and there hadn't been any update on our website so I checked the mailing list and then I saw this simple exchange between two moms that set me off. You know me, overemotional, overreactive, a gal of always-more-than-a-few-words -- so I blurted, and now I'm over it. I just hope I haven't ruffled too many glittered feathers or sequins.

--- In KidsCamp@yahoogroups.com, Dawn B <dawnmb@p...> wrote:
>
> > Some of the boys hide out in RVs and play video games all day, but I
> > really can't understand that....
>
> People let their kids bring video games to Burning Man? That's so
> not allowed in our family...the idea of kids playing video games (or
> watching television) at Burning Man seriously gives me the willies.
>
> Dawn B


--- In KidsCamp@yahoogroups.com, Dawn B <dawnmb@p...> wrote:
>
> > Some of the boys hide out in RVs and play video games all day, but I
> > really can't understand that....
>
> People let their kids bring video games to Burning Man? That's so
> not allowed in our family...the idea of kids playing video games (or
> watching television) at Burning Man seriously gives me the willies.
>
> Dawn B

Grrrrrr...judging other people and their kids is so not kind. Nope, not kind at all. Since I happen to be one of the main people who had a bunch of kids hanging out in my RV playing video games last year I can't help but take this, oh, well, just a wee bit personally.

Come on gals, this is a big community, there's room for everyone and everything, why not make a little room in your hearts for the older kids who have a harder time doing the kinds of things that the younger kids do, and that they themselves once did when they were smaller. These guys aren't as innocent and easily entertained as our younger campers, they don't enjoy some of the things that the younger ones do, and they're too young to get off on some of the more adult activities that go on out there. They're caught in between being young and being old, they're kind of stuck in this awkward teenage place, and whatever gives them comfort is fine by me. Please try to remember what you felt like when you were a young teenager and then imagine that version of you finding yourself in the midst of the world that is Burning Man. Teenagers, particularly boys, are shy, and my son at least needs to have a safe familiar place to retreat to. I don't have a problem with his playing video games at home, so why should I have a problem with it there? To each his own, right?

When Beau and his friends did venture out during the day to try to hang with the smaller kids they wound up getting yelled at for something stupid and were told that they couldn't use the trampoline because they were too big. When they would try to move to the other trampoline, all of the little kids followed them and made that trampoline unsafe for big kids to play on as well. That'd be enough to scare me back into the RV too.

From my perspective the teenage boys, (mine has been coming since we started Kidsville and were originally Kids Camp), are interested in what goes on at night more than what's happening during the day, they tend to stay up late and sleep in, and then they want to stay out of the sun and hang together doing what they like to do at home, which is hanging in packs playing with their electronic toys. Just because we think the real joy is out there on the playa, or in doing more wholesome activities, doesn't mean that these guys shouldn't get to play in whatever ways make them happy.

I mean isn't a lot of this a great big exercise in freedom and community? To me that means making room for all kinds of parenting, all kinds of freedom, and all kinds of community. Teenagers have their own ways of creating community, and while my teenager's version of bonding and playing at Burning Man may not appeal to everyone, or conform to their parenting standards, this does not make it any less valid. In fact one of the boys we met and befriended last year, a kid Beau spent a lot of time playing video games in the RV with, has become one of our best friends, there isn't a single day that goes by where Beau or I don't speak to him on the telephone. He came and stayed with us for spring break. In fact this year we'll be picking him up and bringing him with us. I think making a good friend out there and keeping that friendship alive and vital despite the geographic distance is a pretty cool thing. That probably wouldn't have happened without the electronics they bonded over in the first place.

I can't get enough of the people, the art, the magic that is unfolding out there every second of every day. Of course I want to be out there taking it all in, instead of hanging out in an RV playing video games, but that's me. I want to squeeze out every second of communing with the rest of you that I can, but I'm an adult and it's easy for me to relate to other people. I'm not a shy awkward teenager. Plus I'm blase about nudity and sexuality and I don't have to deal with the embarrassment that might "come up" when parts of my body are beginning to respond in ways that I might not have control of, if you get what I mean. I think having a place to retreat to where they can return to familiar comforts (when this very wild world gets to be a bit too much for them), be that video games or coloring books, is a good thing.

You know in a macro way we are all aware that we are not supposed to interfere with anyone else's experience out there, perhaps we can apply this same principal to the way we view other members of our own micro-community. I am very, very clear on my desire to live and let live, to not to interfere with anyone else's experience, and this includes the kids. If my son or his friends would rather do what feels safe and comfortable to them, even at the expense of missing out on some of the beauty that is happening outside, then I'm fine with this. I'm just glad they want to come at all.

I guess I just took this a bit too personally because I've been coming for a while now, I've watched our playa village grow and change, and I don't like when anyone defines what is considered appropriate or inappropriate behavior for Burning Man. If I've learned anything out there it's that nothing stays the same, everything changes, and my son who was only seven years old when he first set foot on cracked playa dirt, has changed like everything else does. At fifteen and a whopping six feet two inches he is a very different being than the little blue-haired boy who first came to Burning Man when his Dad had broken both of our hearts by running off with a stripper. Where he once loved riding his bike around in the middle of our camp during the day and helping crush cans, he now likes hanging out with people around his age in an air conditioned RV. Why do we have to judge that, or me for allowing him to do this? Is our experience of Burning Man any less than anyone else's because of this? We participate, we decorate, we gift, we share, we love. We are as much a part of this community as anyone else, and it hurts to be judged.

Sorry I just had to get this out of my system. I'm super sensitive, it comes with the territory of having an artistic temperament. I don't hold any of this against any of you for expressing your opinions, that's your right. In a blink I won't even remember this, I just need to say my peace, stand my ground on my own little piece of Kidsville territory, and move on.

Big loving hugs,
Jacqui
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