I kidnapped my friend's 10 year old a couple weekends ago. We had lunch at food carts and shopped around in junk stores and got our toes did. And all while doing so - I sought to understand the world of the pre-teen of now...
"What's hot now with the 4th graders?"
"Squinkies. They're little animal and people shapes that come in clear plastic balls and you collect and trade them."
"What do you trade them for?"
"Other Squinkies. I only have a turtle 'cause I'm not that into them"
Realizing instantly that I have completely lost touch with today's youth, I had a moment's silence in memorandum for Garbage Pail Kids and kep the convo going only to discover that this particular 4th grader's suburban grade school no longer allows running at recess.
I had to ask her to repeat that. No running. No getting from the slide to the swings at a faster rate than a speed walk. Which means if someone else is heading for it at the same time, it will be the saddest race one could witness.
Around the same time, I was having brithday drinks with my awesome cousin who is a Phys Ed teacher at a middle school. Since there's been nothing but talk of cuts to education programs and staff, I plied her with liquor and hesitantly asked her if everything was kosher at her school. The good news was, she was still employed. The bad news was that she was no longer the Phys Ed teacher, but the Electives teacher. When I asked what that meant, she said she wasn't totally sure because they just cut a bunch of things including Health and Home Ec. Health would now be taught as part of P.E. and Home Ec was just out, period. I still have the Christmas shorts I made in Home Ec in 7th grade (circa 1992). They're...tighter...but they still fit. It's still my most successful sewing enterprise to date.
Another good friend - and 2nd grade teacher extraordinaire - just had a delightful little baby. I stopped by this weekend to bestow an ironic onesie and coo. I asked if she was looking forward to going back to work at all and her response was yes for the kids, not so much for the current environment. She went on to explain that the P.E. teacher had been forced to retire and now all the elementary classroom teachers had to include Phys Ed in their daily lesson plans. Music was also cut completely. Music. Fucking music. No recorders handed out to each student to take home and practice Hot Cross Buns and Somewhere Out There (Theme to An American Tale). What's truly tragic about this is I still remember the classical pieces of music that I fell in love with in 4th grade music class, Danse Macabre and Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf.
Here in Portland a measure to raise property taxes to support schools just failed. I don't know if the measure was the right thing for the city, but I know the result will be less music, less physical exercise, less everything. It's starting to feel third world. I realize that's an extreme statement - but when considering we're the United States of Fucking America, I think it's appropriate.
I don't have kids yet. I don't mean that to sound like I've been trying to - I haven't. The reasons for this vary depending on the amount of wine I've imbibed on any given night. However the only explanation I'm willing to give here is that Brendan and I are still figuring ourselves out and until we do, it's just not happening. That being said - it's almost too depressing to contemplate. I know they're a blessing, they change your life, etc., but I imagine being in my friend's shoes when she's told that her child can't run on the playground and I just don't even want to do it.
That being said - I also woke up at 9:30 AM this morning. Something I very much enjoy.
I don't have any fixes - I don't know what the answer is. I have some ideas, but they'll never be reflected through my local or federal government body. So all I can do is sit on my balcony in the sunshine, drink a beer, rock out to Kanye and write a pissy blog. And I'll do it. Because this is America.
Nevermind, I don't know what the fuck that means. Maybe I've had too much of the beer.