I heard once that in order to find out what is really going on at school, you ask your daughter what she did at recess. I find that usually this works out well, but then I worry that by asking that question (instead of the old standby: "What did you learn at school today?") I'm inadvertently emphasizing who plays with whom, and, you know, sowing the seeds for that favorite middle school past-time: clicks. Using this excavation tool, however, I've discovered that Blue and her friends like to play school. I think it's probably some type of group therapy, like art for kids with PTSD.
After a few days of this, and given last year's history with the bully-girls of 1st grade, I initiated a little chat:
"You know, Blue, sometimes kids can use playing school as a way to boss people around."
"It's not like that."
"Are you sure?"
"We're playing and we all get to pick what we do."
"But you said the same girl is always the teacher."
"But that's because she Likes to be the teacher." They also have the school dog, apparently.
"So what are you?"
"I'm always a student. Actually, I'm always the new student, which I guess I am."
"Do you like being a student?"
"I love it."
"Why do you love it?"
"Because I get to get in trouble."
"That's not scary?"
"NO!! It's so much fun because you're not really in trouble! You just get to pretend you are. So the other day I got a Step 10!!! It was SO fun!" The system actually only goes up to Step 5: expulsion. I can't imagine what Step 10 is! The dungeon? The plank?
If you didn't already know, Blue is a HUGE Jane Goodall fan, has seen her speak and talks about her all the time. Although Blue clearly has a scientific mind, she so far doesn't show much propensity for sitting in one spot and quietly staring at animals. She loves to take notes on observations of squirrels and feral cats, however, these boisterous expeditions usually scare the animals off. Typically, her notes are about how the animal acts when a human is jumping up and down in front of it. For instance, "running" and "scared" are common activities of the aforementioned animals. Anyway, Blue wore her Jane Goodall shirt to school and this is what happened:
"The kids didn't like my shirt. They said I had a retarded monkey on it."
"Did that hurt your feelings?"
"No. I told them it was a chimp. I said, 'Haven't you ever seen a Chimpanzee?'"
"And what did they say?"
"They hadn't seen a chimp before. So then I said, 'Haven't you ever hear of Jane Goodall?' And they hadn't. Can you imagine never having heard about Jane Goodall?!!"
"Did you set them straight?"
"Yeah," She said. She stood there silently, zoning out, and then said, "Man, she ROCKS!" Emphasized by a head bang.
I'd like to say that these two stories illustrate why I admire that girl. She didn't even consider for a minute that the kids were right to tease about her shirt. As far as she was concerned they were simply uneducated. And she knows that getting into just a little bit of trouble is a lot of fun.
Coyote and I headed out to the skate park again today. He tried out some new tricks on the now emptied concrete waves. He noticed some litter and said, "I bet the other skaters left that. The mans." This summer they called him "little dude" and when he heard it he asked me, "What's 'little dude' in American?" So anyway, this brought up the issue of the type of people that skating sometimes attracts. We witnesses middle schoolers smoking at the park this summer and that concerns me. And since he's rather good at skating and there's a chance he might stick with it, I decided to have the peer pressure chat with him today.
"You know, sometimes when we have a hobby like skate boarding we end up being friends with other people that skate board. And sometimes those people have habits or do things that we don't do. But when we're hanging out with them, we might feel like we should do the same things they do. So some times we have to make a choice between doing the same things our friends do and doing what we think is right."
He got very serious, looked in my eyes and said, "Mama, I promise that even if my friends litter, I will never, never litter. I promise." I guess that's what I was technically talking about...
"You're a strong boy, Coyote."
I've discovered that Coyote on his bike with training wheels and a jogging Sarajoy both go about the same speed. This is VERY convenient. Again today, we went out together. And I discovered something new about myself. Check it out: I run better than I jog! I was still grinding through my 1/2 mile at a mediocre pace. After the 1/2 mile we walk back as a cool down. But Coyote wasn't quite done riding and this time he wanted to go really really fast. So I told him to go ahead and I'd see if I could keep up with him. And that is how I found myself running. It was a liberation: my chest opened up, my legs stretched out and my back even felt better. So I ran all the way back and it felt almost effortless. I'm so delighted that at the ripe old age of 32 23/24ths, I can still surprise myself.