It probably started while I was attending middle school. That was when we were expected to outgrow the childish behaviors that were acceptable in elementary school, but were definitely not cool in high school.
In high school, we all wanted to be cool — none of that silly, childish, grade school behavior would do.
I remember those middle school years as being the few goofy years that separated my introduction to elementary school from my high school years. That was when I was supposed to be getting ready for adult life. I consider them to be goofy years because I remember not knowing exactly how to behave like an adult.
We could still be a little silly, but not completely second-grade-style silly.
Those are the years when I frequently heard my parents say, “Oh, don’t be so childish.”
I wish I had a few bucks for every time I heard Mom say those words.
During those transitional years, we are expected to morph from childish behavior to adult behavior. The transition is different for everybody. Most people are able to put behind them the childish, silly things that they loved and enjoyed as children and are able to become functioning adults. Sadly, some stayed childish.
Most adults I have worked with always relate and respond to situations as adults – not as children. During meetings, there will be serious discussion about serious topics. When action is needed, we assess options and decide as a group of adults what actions we should take to accomplish the needed goal.
The action plans the group chooses are decided in a predictable, adult fashion. There is nothing childish about the process.
We all know that business meetings can be the most boring things ever experienced. A bit of humor during a serious meeting can be as refreshing as a cool breeze on a steamy, hot day. I must admit that I have supplied humor during a few tense meetings. People tend to work better and more effectively when they have a smile on their face or at least a smile in their heart.
There is nothing childish about that.
Childishness is seen when one adult purposefully and intentionally makes fun of another. It is also seen when lies are told casually and repeatedly. Over 70 years of watching politics, consistently childish behavior was rarely seen.
Sadly, it has happened several times in the past five or six years. When it happens, it stands out.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Trump frequently mocked his opponents and anyone else who upset him.
Marco Rubio started a string of insults when he commented on the size of Trump’s hands. He made the comments in retaliation for Trump consistently mocking him and calling him “Little Mario.” Rather than letting Rubio’s childish comments slide, Trump used those remarks over and over to belittle Rubio.
Also, during the 2016 campaign, Trump was upset with Serve Kovaleski, a New York Times reporter, who had butted heads with Trump years earlier. Butting heads or having a long-standing disagreement with someone is absolutely no reason to publicly mock their physical disability.
Kovaleski has a condition called arthrogryposis. It’s a congenital condition that causes deformity of the arms and restricts movement. In a campaign event in North Carolina that year, Trump mocked and grossly imitated Kovaleski’s disability.
There is absolutely no excuse for that. It transcends mere childish behavior. For an adult to do that is not only mean spirited, but it also borders on being vile. This is not the behavior we should expect from any adult, especially not an adult who wants to be our political leader.
Now, as always, we are entering another series of political campaigns. We have already been exposed to some of this childish nonsense.
For me, it is sad that I will not be able to make a decision on who deserves my vote based on positive campaign statements they make or their stance on the many important issues that face us. Instead, I will probably make decisions based on their behavior. The more childish they are… the more likely it is that they will not get my vote.
Speak to me like an adult. Tell me where you stand on the many important issues that face us. Tell me your plans.
Act like an adult. Then, you might get my vote.
Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.