When Do They Become Awesome?

I'm pretty much a rock star with siblings.  If I pass the first grade in the hall with Tyson's little sister Maia, there are very loud whispers of, "That's my brother's teacher!"  A half dozen pairs of wide eyes follow me as I walk by.  I pause and give a casual look back, lift my sunglasses, toss my hair, and sign a couple of autographs.  Maia nearly faints.  The paparazzi snap away.

Many younger siblings revere their older siblings' teachers simply by virtue of how amazed they are with every aspect of that third grade brother or sister.  A kindergartener will come upstairs ("That is how amazing my sister is--she has to go up the stairs to get to her class!") to trade a mistakenly switched lunch bag with her sister and will stand at the doorway working up the courage to enter such an unbelievably grown-up classroom.  "They are such big kids up here," she'll say to the friend who has escorted her up the long staircase to the scary but amazing third floor, "They have the big chairs!"  Not to brag or anything, but we do learn cursive in third grade.

The older siblings, however, don't always feel the same way.

Towards the end of the school year this past year, my lunchtime conversations with students seemed to revolve largely around babies.  Tips for how to get them to go to sleep.  Name suggestions.  Tips for how to get them to stop crying.  More name suggestions.   

Image: open clip art - darren beck
One day over sandwiches, the topic turned to babies crying.  Based on his experience with his now five-year-old younger sister and his general third grade tendency towards giving advice, James shared that babies don't even cry so much when they're really little.

Ammari chimed in, "After that they cry a LOT!"  I added, "Yeah, and then when they're two they just say 'no' to everything."  James and Ammari nodded in agreement.

Since James' little sister was approaching six years old, well beyond the ultra high-maintenance phase, I figured he would be an expert on when younger siblings get past the cry-all-the-time stage and the Terrible Twos.

"So....when do they become awesome?" I asked.

James replied, "I haven't found out yet."

How to Be a Kid

Why?  WHY do seven-year-olds feel compelled to sharpen the metal end of a pencil?

WHY does the first letter of your writing require a little stick figure man to prop it up? (Well, other than the fact that "This is heavy," as the little man explains.)

WHAT are you going to do with those pencil shavings you are saving wrapped in an index card?

Well, wonder no more!  Hanna and Tyrica have created an entire manual for how to be a kid.  OK, so the "why" questions are not actually answered anywhere within their book and might just be unknowable.  But they do cover quite a lot of procedural information related to all things Kid.

Highlights of steps to living this "hard and easy" life of kids include:

*Text if you want to.
*Beg and plead (if needed).
*Make science at home.
*Don't fight unless playing.

That last one, though, comes with a note: "Only fight if they're obnoxious/rude or your enemy.  In that case, KNOCK EM OUT."

Hanna and Tyrica have also laid out the pros and cons of childhood for their readers:
As I write this from a hot tub (just to rub it in that I am a grown-up and I can!), watching forlornly as children flip themselves into a pool (because I'm a grown-up and I can't!), I still wonder, though, WHY one would ever need to include a little man to support the letter I.  Perhaps Hanna and Tyrica will come out with a sequel.

Well That is Certainly One Way to Put It

If you're out of school, we'll want to know where you've been.

Were you visiting your cousins in Cleveland?  Was your car stolen?  Did your mom have a baby?  Can the situation be described as "glove controversy" or "hair trauma?"

If it was a Thursday, Keisha and Deja were missing you for the weekly game of Spying on Kids during recess.  Michael might think you were actually just in the closet the whole time and Dominic has made you a "Get Alright Soon" card.

One day Selena came back from having been out of school for a few days and handed me a small booklet with a color photograph on the front.  Sadly, her grandmother had passed away, and Selena had gone to the funeral in South Carolina.

"Wow." I said, after looking at the picture and reading the short biography of Selena's grandmother.  "She sounds like she was a really special person."  I handed the booklet back, but Selena insisted that I keep it.  She had plenty more of them, she said.  "That's for you."

"Oh....thank you Selena.  I'll...I guess I'll just put this right up here on the closet door where we can see it."  I cleared some space in the ever-rotating collection of drawings and notes on the closet door and stuck the photo up with a magnet.

A couple of months later, Selena and I were trying to find her missing assignment in a pile of papers on my desk.  Something caught her eye and she looked up.  "Hey!  It's my grandma!" she exclaimed.  I followed her gaze and saw the picture peeking out from behind a smelly-marker card from a student.  "We have her at my house, too."
image: heartlandurns.com

"Oh--you have one of those photos of her on the wall at your house, too?" I asked absentmindedly as I continued rummaging through the stack.

"Yeah," Selena replied.  "And they burnt her so we got her in a box."

(May Work, May Not)

One important skill when working with children is to be able to manufacture and sell The Next Best Thing when The Actual First Best Thing has gone terribly wrong.

One year, the Actual First Best Thing was a field trip to go skating.  Clearly, ditching any tests to get on a bus and slip and slide around all morning on some ice was a great plan.  Unfortunately, when the mechanisms that create the frozen wonderland of slipping and sliding malfunctioned the morning of the planned trip, Actual First Best Thing melted into a sad puddle of disappointment.

Think, think!  I told myself when I got the news from the rink.  I cannot break this to a class full of expectant would-be ice skaters by saying, "Actual First Best Thing is not happening, children.  We have been let down.  Now take out your vocabulary books."  I must quickly manufacture a Next Best Thing and then sell the heck out of it as the replacement. 

Fortunately, sock skating around the gym was a cost-free, set-up free, materials-free, miracle of a  Next Best Thing.  Phew!

This skill is no less important with blog readers.  I'm afraid I have let you down with the Actual First Best Thing that one tunes into a blog for.  You know, um, blogging.  Yep, that is precisely what I haven't done in far too long, but how about the Next Best Thing--sock blogging!  Or maybe that was just a situation-specific Next Best Thing trick....

The Next Best Thing to having kept up with posts sharing funny kid stories over the past two months is that I'm back with a new post every week for the next two months!  Yep--tune in every Monday throughout July and August for new kid stories and quotes.  I've got a stockpile! 

On with the typing of things onto the computer!  At least, I think that's how I remember this whole blogging thing working.  After all of this ado, we're now getting to the actual post within this extended post.

(May Work, May Not)
Recently, I've taken a couple of measures to generate some pretty excellent blog material.  Measure # 1: Get pregnant.  Measure # 2: Tell third graders I am pregnant.  Measure # 3: Give third graders survey to ask for their advice about babies.  It's all for you, readers, and has paid off pretty well.

Third graders keep extensive stores of advice on hand for really any situation you could think of, just waiting for someone to ask them.  Over the years, I've had the opportunity to benefit from eight-year-olds' advice about love, Parent Night furniture arrangement, nutrition, travel, and marriage.

The subject of babies is no exception to the list of topics about which kids will liberally advise.  Most of the baby advice I received was heavily focused around diapers and crying (as my life will surely be as of October....).

Caden, though, was adamant that the most important thing to know about a new baby is what job she will do.  To accompany this advice, he illustrated an extremely complicated picture of, well, it is unclear.  However, after much analysis I have determined from at least one section of the illustration that Caden's fear is that if I don't choose a career path for the baby immediately, she will end up with a trash can on her head playing football.   You know--the profession of that.

Ammari alone provided as much advice as the entire rest of the class combined, and I am determined to follow all of it.
  • Always celebrate birthdays for more fun.
 Yes--I am definitely going to celebrate the baby's birthday.  I mean, who doesn't like more fun?

  • Have good times with the new person in the family for life.  
There is a certain resigned tone to this one.  "This kid is going to be around for a looong time whether you like it or not, so you better have some good times with her."  But at any rate, I will plan for good times.
  • To stop a baby from crying, turn on the vacuum cleaner (may work may not).  
I appreciate the disclaimer on that one.  Ammari is under no illusions that these tips will reveal any magic solutions for a crying baby, and wanted to prepare me for the possibility of failure.  But with all the good times and more fun, there will surely be hardly any crying anyway.

This is perhaps the best advice of all.  None of my baby advice books (by supposed professionals!) ever made this suggestion, which I feel is a definite oversight on their part.  I am making it my mission to indeed have a small baby.  Surely they have got to be easier to take care of, and I can only imagine how pleased I will be with Ammari's advice and my decision to follow it once labor rolls around.

See you next Monday!

We are NOT Joking Around, Here

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