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?!
The other day we were talking about teaching my 10 year old to drive the wave runner by herself. She is tall and she always wants to drive, but having her sit in front of someone is difficult since you can’t see around her Amazonian body and Mowgli hair. In the middle of this conversation between me and my dad, my mom stopped us and said “you know it’s illegal for her to drive those alone right?” to which we both stared at her like she was speaking Greek. I quickly said “Only if she gets caught!” And this is where it is clear I am my father’s daughter, and my child is following right down those rebellious misguided footsteps. We all looked at my mom like she was crazy to say out loud that breaking the law was probably not a good idea.
My Dad gave me my first motorcycle ride before I was a year old. Apparently I caught a cold shortly thereafter and my grandma quickly put the blame on the bike so I wasn’t allowed back on until I was 3. I also got my first helmet that year. It was orange and loud and too big. I loved it, and I loved the motorcycle. So much in fact, that by the time I was seven I was demanding to ride alone. My dad made me show him that I could hold it upright unassisted and operate it alone before I was able to take my virgin solo ride. By the time I was ten I was a little terror in the trails down the street and ripping up the baseball field at the elementary school. I was also very clear on the rules which were “if you see a cop, turn off the bike and say you are out of gas and waiting for your dad to come back.” I was then to walk it home with the cops following me. I partook in this parade quite a few times before the police finally told my mom if it happened again they would see that I did not receive a license to drive at 16. I guess I shouldn’t have been all that concerned since I actually drove myself to driver’s education classes in my own car at the age of fifteen, but at the time it scared my mom enough to make my dad sell the bike. Although that was just the beginning of my tendency to push the limits, the lesson I learned was you don’t get in trouble unless you get caught.
This lesson has trickled down to my daughter. Fortunately, she isn’t doing anything she feels the need to hide from me yet, and with my experience in jackassery, she will probably have a hard time doing so. Right now she is still wondering if she is allowed to do things on her own and when she is given a yes by mom or grandpa she follows up with dad or grandma to get the real story. I just keep telling her not to worry. She won’t get caught and if she does, mom will be in trouble which is a pretty familiar place for mom to be. Apparently my kid is totally okay with me paying the price for her misdeeds as well since as soon as I explained I would be in trouble for making her drive, she grabbed the keys and tried to take off on me. Luckily, the wave runner takes a few seconds to start or we may not have seen her again until she ran out of gas. Although, she drives like a grandma, so I probably could have caught up to her with a quick doggy paddle.
I have had a lot of great experiences in my life, party because I was not afraid of much. I have had some bad experiences for the same reason, but that is a whole different story. Little things like laws and rules have rarely deterred me from trying something new and have often times made me learn a new skill, like jumping off a roof with a skateboard or moving through spaces that are too narrow for a cop car to follow. I am hoping that my kid can learn some of these life lessons from my stories rather than having to touch the ot burner herself, but only time will tell. For now, I am grateful that she will take a chance now and then but drive slow enough for her mom to still catch her.
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.
Every year I ask my daughter what she is going to ask Santa to bring her on Christmas morning. Every year I am confused by her requests. This started very early in life. The Christmas before her third birthday she asked for the Hulk. She had a major crush on the big green guy for a few months prior and wanted a 12″ plastic action figure which she then slept with and carried around for months. The following year, she asked for a Catman stuffed animal and Velma barbie doll. Both of these things took months to find and cost more money than the drum set that also arrived Christmas morning.
The nearly unattainable gift requests have continued almost every year. The problem seems to be that my kid, much like her mother, leans toward the unconventional. Last year she asked for a KISS onesie (which do not come in kids sizes), Hocus Pocus dolls (which do not exist) and a hand written note from Santa placed under her pillow (good thing she is a heavy sleeper and I can forge almost any handwriting). I’m not sure if she makes these requests to test Santa’s abilities or if she is just really high maintenance, but at this point I am almost looking forward to the day she no longer believes in the fat man.
I am guessing that day may be around the same age she gets her driver’s license. I believed in Santa for years after my peers gave up. In my defense, my dad was an elfing genius. We took off for midnight mass every Christmas Eve and when we returned home hours later, the tree was packed with gifts. I found out years later that he had some guys who helped with the gifting. I am still impressed that someone was able to get a giant gymnastics mat through the door and into the living room alone.
This year when I asked my daughter what she would be requesting for gifts she exclaimed “a grappling hook and a bullhorn!” without missing a beat. I have no idea what she plans to do with either of these items, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the grappling hook is to climb up to the roof and the bullhorn is to yell at me to bring her things while she is on the roof. Maybe I should get a second grappling hook for my inevitable rescue mission. Actually, I should probably get three so my husband can make the climb once both of his girls are stuck on the roof.
The most ridiculous part of the requests from Santa is that every single year she talks about something she wants for months and then decides she doesn’t really need it at the last minute, but really needs something else (like a KISS onesie). Every year I tell her Santa must be watching her when she receives the Harry Potter onesie she talked about all summer, so I guess it actually helps the cause. This year I was sure she wanted an enormous Harry Potter lego set. I was wrong and I don’t mind being wrong, but it would have been a lot easier to swallow four months ago when I had an additional $400 in my bank account. The good news is both bullhorns and grappling hooks are pretty cheap. But then she did what she does best and informed me that in addition to the two items she already mentioned that she was going to ask Santa for a gaming system and a dozen video games… at least it’s not a pony!
**I’m just elfing around listening to some punk rock Christmas music over here while I simultaneously shop for electronics I know nothing about and try to list a brand new lego set on eBay!!
The best part about this pandemic has been watching people try to use technology when they have no idea what they are doing. Last spring, I laughed watching a bunch of third grade kids do things like wander into the bathroom while holding their tablets or walking off in the middle of a zoom meeting because they forgot what they were doing. That was understandable, and I have to say, all of the kids who have had to navigate using technology over the last six months are going to be better for it and more skilled teenagers. Adults are a whole different story.
I am in graduate school with a bunch of people who can’t figure out zoom. Sure, everyone quickly figured out how to turn their camera off so nobody could see they were lounging around with no pants on. Unfortunately, many of the same people could not locate the mute button. In one class, 25 students were muted and one was not. The one who was not muted had an entire conversation with her boyfriend about what to get her mom for her birthday and about how she somehow got makeup all over herself while the other 25 called her out in the chat area to shut up. There has been at least one incident like this per month. I even have a professor who kept using his personal account to open zoom calls so the entire class got kicked off after a half hour. It took him a full three sessions to figure it out and half that class still can’t log in to his new link.
But by far, the best people to observe on zoom calls are older retired people who are not adept at technology but think they are. I do a lot of volunteer work, so I am often surrounded by older people trying to be helpful. One of the organizations I volunteer for provides tutoring services for elementary aged kids. Since the pandemic, we have gone online. The kids are pretty skilled at zoom and the various platforms they are using for their schoolwork. The volunteers are great at tutoring, but are lost when it comes to technology. Luckily, a bunch of college kids were recruited this fall and have been able to help out. Unfortunately, many of the volunteers who are lost online have no idea they are lost online. I knew one woman in particular was going to be a problem when we had our tutor orientation and she was confused when people were explaining how to use some of the zoom features. When people told her to click on a dropdown menu she couldn’t find it. She didn’t even understand what we meant when we told her to click something. She finally said “I don’t have a mouse. I have a tablet!” to which most of us just threw our hands up. We were trying to show her how to get the drawing feature. I finally said “Put your finger on the screen and move it.” It was similar to teaching a caveman how to use tools if the tools were made of play-doh.
After the orientation, a second orientation was scheduled to get the half dozen elderlies comfortable using their devices. Apparently, even after the second session, this woman still didn’t get it. Tutoring has been going on for a month now and she still has no idea what she is doing and rarely even makes it into the breakout rooms when the host sends her there. She spent the first 15 minutes of the last session talking to her husband about how she couldn’t sign in to zoom. She didn’t realize she was signed in and we were all watching her as she peered at her screen barking “I don’t know where it went Stan. It’s normally right here! There is no picture.” She must have been continually touching the unmute button on her screen as she poked at it since the host continued to mute her every 30 seconds the entire time.
Virtual learning has certainly been an education for everyone. All I know is next time I am having a computer problem, I am calling my kid to help instead of my husband. And, I am thinking maybe this tutoring program I am part of should make the tutoring reciprocal. First the kids can help the old folks figure out how to use their computers and tablets and then we can teach them how to do math the correct way!
**One thing I know how to do with a computer is find music. I’m listening to some new material these days.