19 September 2013

Boy's Life

Kindergarten. Week 2.

I have a lot of concerns about kindergarten. A lot. Like, will the Doozer like it? Will he be happy? Will they be nice to him? Will he be one of the smart ones? Another one is the exposure to a whole lot of boys. I’m concerned about an excessive amount of boyness. And archetypal masculine crap.

See, we watched Tangled recently. If you don’t know it, it’s a Disney cartoon, a musical, a re-telling of the story of Rapunzel. We’ve worked our way through most of the Pixar flicks at this point and The Nightmare Before Christmas and even Madagascar. (The less said about that one, the better.) And right now, to him, they’re all the same thing. He doesn’t discriminate or distinguish. They’re just movies.

Here’s a kid who loved Dora the Explorer and, more recently, Doc McStuffins (though now he seems to have moved on to Scooby-Doo). So recently, we watched Pocahontas. And now Tangled. (The Princess and the Frog is next up on the DVR.) I don’t want him to lose this. This openness. I hope we can avoid the rigidity of gender roles. Boy stuff and girl stuff. It’s just stuff. Let’s keep it that way.

Because honestly, Tangled is kinda awesome. I’m not sure he was completely down with the love story and the whole thing with the princess being reunited with her true parents. He liked the action and the humor (there was an old drunk bandit who went over big—I tried not to think too deeply on that). But still. It’s not like he said Ugh or Gross or wanted to turn it off. And it wasn’t all adventure and comedy all the time. He was with it.

I’m afraid this is going to fade. Sure, it might come back when he gets older. But I like this right now. Where we’re not locked into boy stuff. Yes, we have a house full of superheroes and race cars and books about superheroes. And yes, I turned him on to Star Wars. But this is also a kid who likes playing with a dollhouse sometimes and who is just as apt to cuddle with me as try to wrestle.

I like to think of him as an ambassador of this openness. There was at least one girl in his preschool class that he got hooked on Star Wars. (Note to Doozer: You might want to remember her name even though she no longer goes to the same school. I mean, a girl who’s into Star Wars? You might want to marry her someday.)

One of his other favorite things at this moment is the song “San Francisco” by The Mowgli’s. Who look like a bunch of hippies and spend the entire video being all blissed out about love and all that mushy stuff. It’s super-gushy. And he loves it. I hope this is the kind of thing he continues to gravitate toward. I hope this is a sign that he’s going to be this sweet, sensitive kid for a while.

And if any of those kids with the light-up sneakers and the Ninjago T-shirts try to initiate him into a world of wrestling and G.I. Joe and No Girls Allowed, I’m going to punch them in the face.

Okay, okay. So I’m not going to punch little kids in the face. Unless they’re mean to my kid. And then they’re totally asking for it. 

12 September 2013

Kindergarten Confidential

The Doozer started kindergarten. He is officially a kindergartner. We were not prepared.

I mean, we just hand over our kid to strangers for an entire day and have no idea what he’s doing or who he’s with unless he deigns to tell us when we bring him home? And it’s all okay because he’s got a new backpack and a lunch bag and a Darth Vader water bottle? And because we call it “school”? We’re just supposed to place blind trust in the universe that everything will work out for the best? Screw that.

There’s just all kinds of stress. Would he like it? How would he handle it? Is he eating his lunch? Does he like the other kids? Do the other kids like him? I mean, kids are jerks. Other kids, especially.

Reports from the first week were very sporadic. We knew he’d been somewhere, we knew he’d done stuff, that he’d been around other kids. That he had a teacher. But there was also fatigue. Almost instantly. It’s like he wasn’t in kindergarten, but rather had started high school and most afternoons came home as a sullen teenager offering nothing more than one-word responses and vague hostility, preferring solitude and distance, seemingly annoyed by all the eager questioning.

And then out of the blue, an enthusiastic announcement: “We did yoga!” Or when he informed us that there was a girl named “Hyper” in his class and he met his music teacher, “Crabcheeks.” How I wish these were really actual names.

When we attended a thing called curriculum night after that first week of school, we learned a whole slew of things about the school day that we knew nothing about. “He’s not telling us anything,” my wife whispered to me during the proceedings.

Hearing about things from his teacher was like gaining entrance into a difference place. His secret world. The missing pieces of the day, a way for us to fill in the gaps of what was going on with him when we were not around.

And one thing that stood out to me was about writing. Apparently, there’s a whole portion of the school day devoted to writing. They encourage the kids to write in a variety of forms and mediums. To tell their own stories and just make stuff up. And this was a part of his day he definitely hadn’t mentioned. And maybe if he knew something that I know, he might have brought it up.

I’m a writer. That’s how I define myself. That’s who I am. And yet, this is something my son doesn’t actually know. Who am I? What do I do all day when I go to that office? I write. And after he goes to bed? I write. But he doesn’t know anything about this.

My secret world.

Is this our chance? For our spheres to intertwine? To connect over creating art. For me to explain to my kid who I am and for him to actually, maybe, kind of understand it?

I can hear the NPR interview where the Doozer talks about his father’s influence on his own work. But he never turns to me for editorial advice or anything like that. We are very different. But inescapably the same. We are storytellers.

In fact, just recently, he made up a whole story, a fake movie, called Justice 1, a bizarre, epic tale of aliens and zombies, which Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and others, watch when they have movie night aboard the Millennium Falcon. I am not making this up. He quickly went on to describe the plot of Justice 2 and then told us Justice 3 was also coming up—in about a month or so.

And while it wasn’t exactly Wuthering Heights, I’ll take it. 

We all start somewhere.

05 September 2013

Hoarding For Kids

In my weekly dispatches from Baby Center, that intrepid outfit that is with me every step of the way to encourage me on my journey of parenting—or rub it in that I’m not doing as well as I should be, I’ve never quite figured out their exact m.o.—I recently noticed a transition. The subject line of these emails now no longer refers to “my preschooler” but “my big kid.”

Big kid. Thanks a lot, Baby Center, way to rub it in.

Anyway. This particular installment was all about collecting. And it was something I could immediately relate to. I’m a collector. Of everything. This is well-documented. So this is totally a bonding experience for me. I love it. More than I should, probably. The desire to amass large amounts of something, anything, put them on display, show them off to others. This is right up my alley.

We have superheroes and Matchbox cars, Star Wars figures and Legos. That’s the big one. That’s the “major collection” that Baby Center was referring to. They’re so prevalent, in fact, that “Lego” is one of the first, most intelligible words that Little Brother can say. True story.

But it’s bad. We’re running out of room because of Legos. We’re going to have get a new house with an entire wing devoted to these tiny bricks. Maybe the Doozer could just build us a new house out of Legos. I’m pretty sure that we have enough.

Of course, he’s totally sucked me in to this activity. I’m way into it. I’ve reverted to the kid version of me who used to do Legos. The sense of accomplishment that I get from helping to assemble a toy that has been designed for the intellect and motor skills of 7- to 12-year-olds. Pathetic. Truly pathetic.

Sometimes these collections merge. And interact. The Doozer is genre-agnostic, apparently. We’ve seen a variety of action figure mash-ups. Scooby-Doo characters versus superheroes. Ghouls and ghosts invading the Star Wars universe. One day there was even a skateboarding George Washington minifigure visiting a Lego house. (The Doozer’s totally going to grow up and write for The Simpsons, isn’t he? That’ll still be on the air then, right?)

Is it wrong that I want to perpetuate this? Jamie Oliver recently posted a photo on Facebook of his own Darth Vader action figure case, saying he was bequeathing his collection of action figures, now that he’s 38. (I took this to mean that I still can hold on to mine for a few more years.)

Then Simon Pegg revealed to Marc Maron on WTF that he’s a 43-year-old man who has a proper Boba Fett helmet. It all made me feel a bit more normal, even if the wife disagrees on this matter.

But does she have a point? Do I actually have the personality of a 5-year-old?

Don’t answer that.

But again, seriously, space is an issue. Now with two kids, pretty much every room is a playroom in our house. This is not right. We need a new place. With a dedicated space where we can lock them in. Kidding, kidding. We wouldn’t do that. All the time. We’d let them out.

On occasion.