My cousin recently posted a conversation on Facebook that she’d had with her 4-year-old after telling her son that she had to punish him so that he would learn how to be a good human being.
His reply was, “You need to try something else because this isn’t working.” TOO FUNNY, right? These days my conversations with Max, my 21-year-old, are all too often merely my asking questions, and his grunts, shrugs, and/or one-word replies.
So, I long for the days of dazzling and thought-provoking conversations between me and my children like one particular day when Max was eight. His homework was to write a one-page essay on someone from a different culture or a different religion. Max was hell bent on making his best friend, Alex, the subject of his paper. But Alex, who lived across the street, was also in third grade, was born in America, and his family is Protestant.
“You can’t do a paper on Alex because he was born in America,” I replied.
“So was Oscar.”
“Yes, but Oscar [another 8-year-old friend] is Mexican, and his family moved here when his mom was pregnant with him. They’re Catholic, which is not like our Presbyterian church, and the Mexican culture is very different as well.”
“But Oscar doesn’t have a moped, and Alex does. And he’s the only kid on the street who has a moped.”
I smiled. I could see his point if the inventory of one’s toys was considered one of the factors for his homework, but such was not the case.
“That doesn’t matter. His moped was a birthday gift. Where you were born, the language you speak, the way you dress, your religion, that’s what matters when defining someone’s culture.”
Max frowned. “Oscar doesn’t wear jeans, and Alex does.”
I shook my head, trying not to laugh because I knew that Max didn’t give a rat’s ass what the cultural differences were. He wanted to write about Alex’s moped, and he wanted to turn in photos of the moped also (because you got extra credit for photos). You see, Max was in love with that moped. He’d been begging for one since the moment he caught a glimpse of Alex tooling around on it in front of his house. But at the same time, he obviously didn’t understand the difference between one culture and another.
“Yes, he does. Don’t be silly. All your friends wear jeans.”
“Nuh, uh, he does not,” he sputtered, his lower lip puffing out in disappointment.
I smiled. “Try again, Sport. How about doing your paper on your friend, Kareem?”
Another frown. “Why?” He retorted angrily. “Does he speak Martian or something?”
I laughed, and Max smiled, knowing he was just being goofy.
“No, people from South Africa speak English and Farsi, I think. But Kareem doesn’t speak another language, right?”
“No,” Max said grumpily.
“And he’s Muslim, so that’s very different, and–”
“So, what? Who cares if Oscar is Mexican, and they go to another church, and Karim was born in another country and isn’t a Christian. We’re all Americans, right, Mom?”
“Well, my teacher said because of your culture, your family is different – like some people in Africa sometimes all live together with their moms and dads and grandmothers and cousins and uncles, all in one house. Most people in America don’t do that.”
“So, Alex is the only one who lives with his dad and his Dad’s girlfriend, instead of his mom and Dad. And he’s the only one who doesn’t have any brothers or sisters, and I’ve got four brothers. And Oscar has two brothers and a sister, and Kareem has a sister and a baby brother, right?”
“And if we’re all Americans, we’re all the same, doesn’t matter where you go to church or what language you speak you’re still an American, but Alex’s family is different, and he’s the only one of my friends with blue eyes, and my teacher said that sometimes the way you look makes a difference. So, I don’t see why I can’t do my paper on Alex.”
Man, it was hard to argue with that logic…if only most Americans felt that way, it’d be a better place, would it not?”
Max ended up writing his paper on Oscar-albeit begrudgingly. As I recall, he got a B- on it, and then, he ripped it up and threw it in the trashcan. I didn’t say anything. I just let that go, but, apparently, Max could not let this issue fade into the night. Finally, when I thought Max had forgotten all about it, his teacher, Mrs. Childers, called about the other paper Max wrote.
“What other paper?” I asked.
“Another essay about someone named Alex. He handed it to me saying all that culture stuff is a bunch of ca ca, and this the one he should’ve done and that it was an A+ paper!” Mrs. Childers explained cheerily. “Afterward, he stomped over to his desk, crossed his arms, and fumed until recess. He didn’t do any work, but he didn’t bother anyone, so I just let him be. Eventually, he started drawing pictures of Alex’s Moped. After lunch, he was fine on the playground and very attentive all afternoon.”
“I’m sorry to hear that he blew up like that,” I replied, trying not to laugh. “Is he in trouble? Did he say or do anything else?”
“No, I just wanted you to know how much this unit on culture upset him, but I think he vented his frustration in a very positive manner.”
“Well, thank you,” I said with relief because too often Max expelled his aggravation by screaming at people, breaking things, kicking his desk, or unfortunately, slugging a classmate, on occasion. “That was very nice of you to call and let me know.”
And…as they say…was that…
Over and out from CRAZYTOWN – where the CRAZY store never closes…:)
Tenacious BITCH and her band of truth-spouting hippies