Time on their hands

You may wonder what elementary school aged boys, stuck at home with no school to attend, do with the large part of their days in which there is no online learning happening. Very possibly you don’t wonder this, never have, and never will, but I have a post to write, so let’s pretend you’re yearning to know.

The favorite activity is to distract Mom and Dad from their work-at-home worlds. This is a fun and interactive pastime, but it sometimes results in excessive scolding, because, to a child, any amount of scolding is excessive.

When they can’t bother their parents directly, the next best thing is to fight with each other. Specialists in the field sometime refer to this as indirect bothering of parents. Eventually, this will also lead to excessive scolding. 

Too much parent bothering can lead to lockdown within a lockdown, a condition known as double lockdown, wherein the brothers must separate, not only from general society, but also from each other.

During double lockdown the kids must look inward for quiet forms of self-expression. As parents of boys must learn, quiet is not any kind of synonym for non-violent.

One afternoon, I stumbled upon one of Big Man’s quiet, self-expressions.

I found this out of context, so there is no way to know the backstory. We don’t know why Spidey and Ironman needed to be restrained. For all we know, these are not the real Superheroes, but their evil twins instead. Then again, maybe they just distracted their parents from work for one minute too long.

Buster’s masterpiece of quiet self-expression has been growing over time.

I can imagine some childless child psychologist insisting this represents repressed anger. While I would agree that children have plenty to be righteously angry about today, I recall that I also drew war scenes in 3rd grade. So far, I have made it through without ever using a weapon in anger. As long as none of the soldiers getting shot at are labeled “Dad,” I’m not going to worry.

Besides, I think this depiction demonstrates some childish brilliance.

Why would this pilot say “999”?

I’ll give you some hints:

  • Note: the colors of the plane.
  • Note: the back of the plane has burst into flame (terrible news for the pilot).
  • Note: the artist is an eight-year-old English speaker, who knows only one word of a particular foreign language, which he has heard, but never seen in print.

Got it? If you’ve cracked the code, feel free to put your answer in the comments.

I’d hate to risk all this artistic expression, but I still think there should be someplace kids could go, four or five days a week, to be among friends and maybe learn a thing or two. But maybe I’m just a dreamer.


Daddy may not be very bright, but he still makes an awesome stick figure

Yesterday Buster went to work with me for a couple hours because I had to be at work and he had to be off the streets until Mommy could collect him.

He brought the Kindle Fire with him so (in theory) he could play games while I worked. We’ve had some trouble with this theory in the past: he would try to play games he didn’t understand. This led to frustration, loud whining, and tears. This is not a good result for a usually quiet office setting, even when the loud whining was coming from him and not me.

Yesterday, the theory played out well. He’s getting better at figuring out games. More importantly, he’s getting better at figuring out which games he shouldn’t attempt to play until his skills are more accomplished: learning to read instructions, for example.

Everything went as well as could be expected, except he wouldn’t eat his muffin because he was too busy understanding how to play games.  The important point is that he was not disruptive for big chunks of minutes at a time.

He played, quiet and happy, until he attempted a game requiring internet access. We have Wi-Fi at work, so I took his Fire from him to set up the connection. That’s when it hit me that I don’t know much about how to work a Kindle. I’m used to the iPad; the boys are the only ones who use the Kindle. I swiped and swiped but could not figure out how to find the Settings menu.

“I’m sorry,” I told him. “I can’t find Settings to connect you to the Internet.”

Instead of being disappointed and whining, my little boy who doesn’t know how to read said, “Maybe you should type in Settings.

Well, I’ll be damned if there weren’t a search field beckoning from across the top of the screen. Before I made it past the second t in Settings, the little gear icon popped right up. A few seconds later, Buster was playing his Wi-Fi enabled game.

No doubt, he was thinking how dim the old people are. That he wasn’t saying it out loud only shows what good manners his parents have instilled in him.

I, too, was thinking how dim old people are, specifically, me. I was also thinking about how disappointing it must be for him to discover how old and dim his dad can be.

Mommy came to get Buster and I went on with my work. I took consolation that I do my work with, and for, other old people; consequently they wouldn’t be bright enough to judge from it how dim I am.

Later, my wife sent me an email with the following attachment.

The hair alone is awesome.

The hair alone is awesome. It reminds me of the hair I had when I was young and could program the VCR.

And this text:

Mom: That’s a great picture. Who is it?

Buster: It’s Daddy, awesome Daddy. 

Old, dim, and awesome. I guess I’ll take it.

The stubborn contrarian doesn’t fall far from the tree

We had our spring parent conference with the boy’s kindergarten teacher last week. The good news is that the boy is doing well academically. As I often tell him, he’s too smart for his own good.

On the citizenship front, he’s not quite the hotshot he is academically. He’s getting better at focusing on his work, but he still has too much of his parents in him to be the most conscientious pupil. Like his mom, he’s a social butterfly, getting lost in chit-chat when he should be working quietly. He is too much like his dad when it comes to being a stubborn contrarian who knows it’s enough to be right – they don’t have to know why you’re right.

Even with the burden of his chatty, mulish genetics, the teacher likes having him in her class, so we ended the conference feeling good. But the most enlightening things were yet to come.

Outside the classroom, the kids’ projects were on display. For St. Patrick’s Day, each child had cut out a pot of gold, with coins labeled as things that were more precious than gold to them. As we walked down the line of these, the recurring words were, Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, and the like. It was sweet to see how the children valued their families. At our boy’s pot of gold, we squinted to make out the names on the coins. Don, Mikce, Leo, R-something – who were these people? They weren’t family members. They weren’t even kids in his class.

The teacher was still with us. Noting our confusion, she explained. “That’s Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael. The Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

More precious than turtles?

It’s not that Mommy and Daddy aren’t precious; they’re just a little trite for this pot.

The way I’m going to spin this is that the boy doesn’t value cartoon turtles more than his parents; he just didn’t want to do the same thing all the other kids were doing. That’s plausible, isn’t it?

Next, we looked at a book called If I Were President. Each child did a page on which they wrote a phrase to complete the sentence, “If I were President, I would . . .” and drew an accompanying picture.

The book was full of compassion. “Help the world,” was the common theme, with variations toward “Make the whole world safe,” or “Help poor people.” The pictures were of the Earth or of a group of presumably poor people.

On my son’s page were drawn fighter jets and soldiers. It said the following: “If I were President, I would control the Air Force.”

My son (you may call him, Mr. President) is the big, blue guy. He is commanding the troops to put on their saucepans and scramble their brown jets to go save the world.

My son (you may call him Mr. President) is the big, blue guy. He is commanding the troops to put on their saucepans and scramble their brown jets to go save the world.

As I see it, he’s not limited by the naïve idealism of his classmates. If you want to protect the world, you need to formulate a specific plan for doing so, and that plan had better entail adequate air power.

This boy has as much compassion as any five-year-old, but he understands that caring goes a lot farther at Mach 3. I’m sure Don, Leo, and those other guys who are collectively my son’s favorite people would agree with me.