Too Cool for School

I just went to parent/teacher conferences and was reminded just how much my kid and I are alike. She has been talking for weeks about her Latin teacher and how cool he is. When I met him, I couldn’t help but notice he was a lot like her dad, both in looks and sense of humor. Within five minutes he told a story about how he described an ancient poet as “punk rock” to a group of eighth graders. When they asked what that meant he explained how punk was an attitude. He went on to say that he does a presentation where he teaches the differences in poetic styles by playing music. He gives his high school classes a taste of epic poetry through the Who with their seven minute rock operas and the Sex Pistols with their ninety second in your face anthems. I warned him not to refer to anything as “punk rock” around my kid unless he wants to hear her twenty minute monologue on the subject. The good news is he will most likely be her Humanities teacher next year combining one of her favorite subjects with one of her favorite teachers.

My child has always brought her big personality into the classroom with her. In third grade she gave a rock a nose ring and mohawk and named it “Punk” for a science project. In fourth grade she persuaded her music teacher to include a music history lesson on the roots of punk rock music and helped pick songs that were appropriate for a group of Catholic school kids. And now, in fifth grade she has a Latin teacher who talks about the philosophy of punk. I’m expecting by next year she’ll be writing a paper on why “Get In the Van” is one of the most important pieces of American literature. I’m glad she has the freedom to do this, because I certainly didn’t when I was her age. Granted, there weren’t a lot of nuns and 70 year old teachers who had great taste in music, and the punk genre hadn’t even been around that long, but I can’t remember a single young, cool teacher that I connected with. Luckily I get to live through this self-expression with her. I show up to help once a week in her art/design class where she is making a skateboard from scratch. A bunch of fifth graders are using saws and power tools to build their own skateboards from gluing the layers of board together to screwing on the trucks and wheels. They are even using a CAD device to laser cut designs into their boards if they choose a logo that’s too intricate to hand sketch. I’m hoping I get to tag along when these girls bring their boards out for their maiden voyages.

Seven years ago my husband and I researched pre-schools like our life depended on it, and we ended up right where I started school in second grade. Within a few years we realized that we created a mess of anxiety in those preceding years for nothing. By kindergarten my daughter was being taught music by the wife of the studio owner where all of my bands recorded. Her after school activities were led by a retired musician who reminisced about the best and worst venues with me and dubbed my kid “Rockin’ Riley” after she jumped behind a drum kit like she owned it. Somehow a bunch of amazing, artistic people made their way to the same school under the direction of one of the wisest, most loving headmistresses in the country. It’s a small world for sure. Sometimes I still get side eye when I show up at a lacrosse game wearing glow in the dark skull Vans and a Pennywise hoodie, but I think I can safely say that would happen anywhere my kid ended up. It’s hard not to look twice at the middle aged mom dressed like a teenage boy. At least the teachers can match the kid to parent when my daughter shows up the next non-uniform day in a Distillers t-shirt and camo joggers. If anything, they are thanking their lucky stars she hasn’t developed my mouth just yet. Never fear, there is still plenty of time.

**I wrote this blog while thinking about my formative years and listening to my favorites from my middle school years – GBH**

Rebel Girl

My child has taken up roller skating. This is an unexpected turn of events since she went to a roller skating party once in the second grade and hated every second of it. She had not tried it again until a few weeks ago when a friend asked her to go skating. Apparently she loved it because since then that’s all she has wanted to do. So much that we had to run all over town finding her a pair of skates so she would be ready next time.

Next time ended up being yesterday and it was with Mom and Dad. I hadn’t skated in at least 20 years, probably even longer, but I agreed to lace up and skate with her. After about three minutes I felt horrible about having sent her skating with her friend who had to endure hours of holding my kid’s hand while she tried to simultaneously hold the railing and make her way around the rink twice while barely moving her feet. This child was so afraid of falling that she barely let go of the hand rail. When we skated up behind someone standing at the rail or moving even slower than us (hard to imagine), she stopped behind them and waited. I finally started grabbing her hand and pulling her along with me. I tried a few times to pull her away from the rail and you would have thought I was trying to drown her watching her arms flail.

I have to say that walking into that place brought me right back to being a teenage girl. I’m not sure how they manage to stop time but there are a lot of 60 year old women looking for whatever magic lives between those four walls. Time has actually not progressed in almost 40 years at this rink. Even the carpet is exactly how I remembered it. All of a sudden I had the urge to smoke a cigarette and rat my hair. Walking past the bathroom on the way in brought me right back to the time a girl threw a slushie at me because her boyfriend asked me to couples skate on a Friday night. And lacing up the rental skates brought me right back to lacing up my speed skates, getting ready to win whatever crappy ribbon and free snack bar treat was waiting at the finish line.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to be on wheels again. It had been a long time and lets be honest, breaking a hip after a fall would not be all that unlikely for me. I have made it through 5 years without a stupidity-inflicted injury, but it’s only a matter of time before I trip, slip or fall. But apparently skating is a lot like riding a bike because once I was on the rink, it was like I had never taken off skates. Within a few minutes I was skating backwards and spinning in circles. I even got a little gutsy and sped around the rink a few times only wobbling a bit while trying to do a crossover on a turn.

I refrained from getting back on the rink when they called an adults only skate and opted to watch the crazy old black guy who kept waving and fist bumping people as he made his rounds. I am always up for embarrassing my kid, but not to the extent that she’ll never leave the house again. A bunch of boys from our neighborhood were there who would have tortured her relentlessly if I made an ass out of myself. Plus, if there was a time for me to fall and break a hip, it would have been in that moment. I try not to temp fate, especially with the kind of karma I have earned. I saw that old black guy’s wife as well, and she looked like she had thrown a slushie or two in her lifetime. 

I have to say, I never thought I would be hanging out with my kid at the same place I used to flirt with boys and smoke cigarettes. But here we are, and I honestly couldn’t ask for much more. Well, maybe that my legs didn’t feel like I ran six marathons the next day.

*Spending the day in a time warp had me listening to some music from my youth – Violent Femmes.

 

Terrorize

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. I mean, what’s not to like about free candy and having an actual reason for peeing your pants in public. I have always decorated indoors, but since we are rarely home on Halloween night, we have not done much decorating outdoors in the past. I changed all that this year and decided to buy as much spooky décor for the outdoors as I could get my grubby little mitts on. For the last month I have been slowly turning our yard into a mess of zombies, witches and bones of all kinds. It’s hard to walk to our front door without being harassed by an animated doll or wolf.

Before going all out on the decorations, I talked to a few of the neighbors who have young kids. The people across the street assured me that they loved scary decorations and their kids weren’t afraid of any of it. Since their 5 year old told me there was no such thing as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny within an hour of meeting me last year, I figured they would be cool with a few screaming witches and howling wolves. As I watched them hang up their decorations in their own yard I quickly realized that “scary” is a pretty subjective term. It was clear that their idea of terrifying was a fuzzy spider, not a glowing eyeless doll head. The little boy has cried at least three times after our life sized witch asked him for a kiss and offered him candy. I guess at least I can say I asked them before I put it out. The mom informed me that the kids keep looking out their window at night at all of our floating heads and glowing eyes, afraid they are coming to get them. I told her just to tell them they aren’t real. I left out the part about how she already ruined Easter and Christmas for them with that line, she may as well turn another holiday into a giant dumpster fire.

The rest of the neighborhood seems to be enjoying the decorations. Almost daily I hear the grim reaper and witch screaming out to kids on the front porch and I have come out a few times to find a child crammed up under the witches dress trying to figure out what makes her tick. I even caught the UPS guy laughing at some of the one liners coming from the grim reaper. I suppose you see and hear everything when dropping off running shoes and tampons on suburban porches. I am guessing by the time Halloween actually rolls around, most of our visitors will have already heard plenty from all the animated ghouls posted in our yard.

My most recent purchase was a couple of howling wolf skeletons and barking dogs. As soon as I came home from the store I set the bones up in my flower beds and listened to them howl as the kids ran in front of them. I next heard the same howling and barking at 6 am the next day when it started raining. The screaming beasts actually managed to wake the dead, since that’s about as heavy as I sleep. I had to run out in the rain in a tank top and pajama pants to pry open their mouths and find the switches to shut them up. By the time I was done, I had a giant mound of plastic and cobwebs screaming and barking at my on the porch. If the glowing red eyes from the zombies didn’t traumatize the kids across the street, the sight of me beating up a bunch of bones at the crack of dawn surely did.

During the past month as I have been purchasing an entire gang of life sized decorations and their once furry friends, I failed to think about the future (as I often do). My basement is already packed to the gills with other holiday decorations and I have at least 5 orange and black storage bins of indoor décor to contend with. I’m fairly certain that at the end of the year we are either going to have to buy a bigger house or rent a storage unit. We already have one skeleton that stays out year round. I put festive hats on her for different seasons so I don’t appear completely insane. One house skeleton makes you quirky, a yard full of skeletons and witches year round makes you bat shit crazy. So at some point before the lights go from orange to green and red, I am going to have to find a home for all these beasts. I don’t know how the rest of my family feels about taking a shower with a talking witch, but the idea is growing on me. Either that we are going to have a receiving line in the foyer to ensure we never have house guests. That kind of seems like a win to me!

And in true Logan fashion, I just learned that we are not in fact going to be home on Halloween night. I guess I will totally deserve it when the first kid on the porch dumps the entire bowl of candy into his bag and eggs our front door. Hopefully the screaming grim reaper at least makes him wet his pants on the way out.

 

**Halloween is the best time of year to listen to the Misfits. Just sayin!

 

Queercore

While my daughter was doing volunteer work at school last week, the organization they were working at passed out a survey to get some background information about their volunteers. While in theory, this is a good practice, the volunteers on this day were fifth and sixth grade girls who didn’t even understand many of the questions, especially about sexual identity and orientation.

I received an e-mail later in the day from the head of school explaining what happened and offering an apology. The surveys were collected by the school since the girls did not have parental permission to be giving their phone numbers and addresses to strangers at a homeless shelter. I’m sure the surveys were pretty useless anyway since most of the girls had no idea what the options meant. I just felt bad for the teachers who had to field questions about the meaning of terms like pansexual and transsexual.

After reading the e-mail I asked my kid about the survey since she had not even mentioned it. She said her concern was that she couldn’t remember her phone number. Luckily an older girl next to her instructed her not to write her address or phone number on the form. I asked if any of the questions were confusing and she assured me she understood them. When I prodded for more information she told me that she answered “female” for her gender and “straight and homophobic” for her sexual orientation. This second answer gave me a little pause. I will concede that a lot of straight folks like myself are pretty vanilla, but we are not all bigots. Either she misread that question or the survey takers think all straight people are homophobes. I was leaning toward her not remembering the answers so I asked if she knew what “homophobic” meant. She informed me she did not and when I said it means you are afraid of and dislike gay people, she was horrified. I told her the term that meant the same thing as straight was heterosexual and she started laughing and said “yeah that was it!” I could not even contain myself to continue the conversation by that point. I guess we are getting to that sex education part of parenting a little sooner than I expected!

**Of course I am listening to the Queers while writing. How could I not?!

Get Up Kids

We have been playing a lot of games as a family lately, and after the first few games, I really don’t know why we weren’t doing this more because it is hilarious. The best kind of game seems to be any kind where my child has to give an answer. It doesn’t even really matter what the question is because her answer is going to have us all rolling.

Last month we played a game my parents bought from some redneck comedian where you get a bunch of answer cards with phrases like “that’s what she said” and “you’re not supposed to do that to a melon.” A card with a scenario is drawn and everyone has to pick a phrase from their cards that they think fits best. No matter how hard I tried, my answers were totally inappropriate for a child to hear. Somehow I brought the game to a whole new level of dirty and we quit playing. On the plus side, my kid had no idea what I was crying about when I played the card that read “is it supposed to be that small?” repeatedly.

Last time we sat down with a deck of question and answer cards, they were a little more benign. My mom had chosen a game where kids answer questions that adults would know and adults answer questions kids would know. Strangely, my dad appeared to know the most kid trivia and none of us could answer a single thing about Sean Mendez or Ariana Grande.

Here are some of my daughter’s best answers:

Q: What was Flipper?
A: A clown

Q: Sikhs wear what on their heads?
A: Those things with feathers…. The tall things. Oh I don’t know…. to which I replied “do you mean a headdress? That’s the wrong kind of Indian.”

Q: Fill in the blank – Smokey the…
A: Pig! (In her defense, my answer was Bandit)

Q: What did Michele Obama plant in the White House garden?
A: John Kennedy (If this were true, Milania Trump would have dug him up….)

Q: What president was also a famous actor?
A: Kennedy (I guess she has a thing for Kennedy. Who knew?)

We learned a lot last game night. Mostly that we know nothing about the things most kids do (which explains a lot about our family) and that I can make any game dirty. If you don’t believe me, just challenge me to a game of Scrabble. 

*I wrote this while listening to the new Unsane.

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