"Welp" I hear this a lot, as a middle school educator. Today, I wonder... is this the refrain of generation zed? Welp representing resignation. An enormous shrug. A capitulation to fate, a throwing up of hands. Declaration of disappointment. "Welp, that happened!" "What can ya do, eh?" Appropriate in many contexts: Hissy-fit, flat tire, natural disaster, public meltdown. Parents trying to use slang to sound cool. ("Uhhh, thats an oof.") Today, I wonder. 'Whelp' can refer to the offspring of any carnivorous mammal of the Canidae, Ursidae, Pinniped, and Felidae families, but most commonly refers to a puppy. 'Whelping' also refers to the birthing process and the raising of a litter in these respective families. Some days, I wish I was grown-up, and other days I wish I wasn't. The world wars gave us a generation of soldiers sinking in quicksand, lost to mortar shells and PTSD. This gave way to a generation of the scrappy and abandoned, rinsed in cynicism and feeling the aftermath of emptiness. The ones who raised themselves gave way to generation of hyper-vigilance, of vicarious living and helicopter hovering, of unrestrained access to information and unprecedented supervision of their daily lives. Gen Z is the future, the insolent and calculating legacy on the horizon. Instead of whelped, we were wounded. But maybe, they are one and the same. If someone wise doesn't initiate us on purpose, the brutality of life will do it automatically. We grow up too fast. We see too much. We internalize. We hold our hurt with us, in our bodies. Today, I wonder.... Maybe 'welp' is a refrain for a reason - a subconscious cry to be cradled, to be birthed and raised and released from the nest. Maybe there, beneath the memes and the noise, nestled in the sorrow, is the milk we have been craving, the predigested worms we need before we can leave the nest. I have immense respect for the previous generation, but know that things need to be different for the next one. and I am optimistic. Despite everything around us, despite the state of the world. Maybe that's a defect in this mammalian brain, (carnivorous by habit but on the verge of veganism), but I can't help but be hopeful. We are born with power and fire, and seek autonomy, yet remain all child underneath, craving a nurturing structure: puppies seeking playmates, baby seals splashing in water, the bear cub pawing at pine bark, mewing for its mother. Canine, Feline, Ursine: all instinctively reared. Hominid are the aberration, governed by the laws of nature but also free to disrupt them. Left adrift, left to their own devices, to be mothered by each other and raised on misinformation. I strive to keep this in my mind, as we fumble for the trappings of education - 'structure,' 'engagement,' 'discipline,' 'self-regulation;' fumble for the trappings of society - 'order,' 'justice,' 'science,' and 'safety.' May we be an oasis of compassion, a bastion of truth, and a gentle shepherdess of those in our care. May we see the stray, the child, the orphan, and the seedling that is in everyone we encounter. Some days, I wish I was grown-up, and other days I wish I wasn't, but today, I wake. and wonder. pay respects to those who came before. put up a prayer for those still to come. and push on.
[Image: ‘The Otter Hunt’ by Edwin Henry Landseer]