What Seven-Year-Old Girls Think About

Elder Girleen has over the past few months reached a stage where she likes — no, is obsessed with — jump-rope chants.  You know… Miss Mary Mac Mac, all dressed in black, black, black. Whenever she and one or more of her cohorts gather, you can bet they’re off in the corner or up in the playground play structure, playing intricate clapping games that involve saying convoluted rhymes over and over until their mothers go insane.

Meanwhile, of course, all the boys of the same age are all kicking each other in the shins.

And that right there, as if you hadn’t already figured it out, shows the difference between the genders. Talk about social currency!  The deftest hand-clapper of today might just be … the PTA president of tomorrow!  Girls are like that, you know.

I must’ve missed this stage when I was seven (which explains why I’m not PTA president this year), because I’ve been wracking my brains but can’t come up with versions of these chants from my childhood.  The current ones though, are a lovely snapshot into what’s really important to the youth of today.

Underwear, for instance:

My mommy gave me a penny

My daddy gave me a dime

My sister gave me a boyfriend

His name was Frankenstein.

He made me wash the dishes

He made me wash the floor

He made me wash his underwear

So I kicked him out the door.

I kicked him over London

I kicked him over France

I kicked him over Disneyland

Without his underpants.

Or punching people:

I went to a Chinese restaurant

to buy a loaf of bread.

She asked me what my name was

and this is what I said:

Choo Choo Charlie

I know Karate,

Punch you in the stomach

Oops, I’m sorry!

Cheese, Cheese, wonderful cheese!

Why don’t we do our elbow squeeze?

Or  even more punching of people (or at least the threat thereof):

Brick wall, waterfall,

Girl, you think you know it all.

You don’t

I do

So — poof with the attitude.

Welcome to McDonald’s,

May I take your order?

See my pinkie,

See my thumb,

See my fist,

You better run!

Dada is alive and well and roams the nation’s playgrounds.

That Time of Year Again

Oh, mothers of school-aged children, those odd disheveled creatures! (the mothers, I mean, not their offspring).  Unless they work really really hard at it (or take Adderall) they’re usually a day late and a dollar short.  Their cars are filled with crud and crumbs.  They’re forgetful. They wear ugly sensible shoes.  They are the faint ghosts of whoever it was that they used to be:  sexpots or rockers or type A overachievers.  Until you’ve become one yourself, they’re offputting.  So offhand about things, and Good God, can they kvetch.  

Especially at the end of the school year. Yeah, yeah, we know.  Plates are full, and overfull:  End-of-the-year t-ball picnics.  Recitals.  Awards ceremonies.  Potlucks. Field Days.  Fundraisers.  Committee meetings.   

When you’re a brand-new mom hoisting your first six-month old everywhere in a sling, listening to the end-of-the-year schedules of the parents of school-aged children can be like hearing about Mayberry, or wherever Beaver Cleaver and his family lived — or maybe even hell.  The way parents of school-aged kids spend their time is so different from the way you spend yours.  Hell, if all you’ve produced is a single six-month-old, you’re still probably propping up the illusion of an adult life.  You might even have conversations with your spouse now and then — your child doesn’t talk, or talk back yet.  

And — oops! – there I go, off and running, with that blithe, offputting, parent-of-the-school-aged callousness.

But here’s a secret:  there is much we’re attempting to hide under all that nonchalance.

Yesterday was what was called Portfolio Share at the Elder Girleen’s school, and every family made sure to have at least one parent representative there — to hear the song the class had practiced for them, to be shown the classroom mice and hairless pink eraser-like mouselings those mice produced in April that, along with a pregnant teacher, brought many interesting birds-and-bees type discussions to our dinner table this spring.  To applaud at the “awards” and hand tie-dyed t-shirts the teachers presented to each child in the class.  And o yes, to see the above-mentioned portfolios of drawings and writings and addition and subtraction.  

There they were, the parents, perched precariously on first-grader sized chairs at first-grader sized tables, shoulder to shoulder with their offspring. In suits and ties, in yoga pants.  Cell phones blatting at inopportune moment; nursing babies in the corner of the room or with younger sibling toddlers in tow.

They all had one thing in common.  When they looked at their children, they were completely stripped naked.  Love, fear, anxiety, pride …as they sat there on those uncomfortable chairs, their hearts were in their faces, no matter what cool customers they might be in other areas of life.  

Babies are beautiful, and gee, they’ve got such lovely little toes, but our kids, once old enough to push and pull at us — they unman us.  They keep us real.

As the fifth-graders said at the end of the assembly at Elder Girleen’s school this morning:  

Peace out.

And Happy Summer.  

Clap Your Hands if You Believe

We are at the age: Elder Girleen has left princesses and their overly-sweet attendant glitter and frills far far behind, putting them aside as childish things.

We are at the age: she’s become all arched feathery eyebrows and long strong scraped-up legs, and mind that works and works and works, so quickly that it takes my breath away (would that I had such a mind, still).

We are at the age: for fairies.

Even fairies, poor things, have been painted by the broad marketing brush that colors every stage of childhood nowadays: they populate Target, genus Disney (most specifically, Tinkerbell). Those fairies are of little interest to Elder Girleen, or the other seven-year-old girls who talk fairies over, dissect fairy behavior, and attempt to ensnare them, during recess.

Maybe they (those commercial fairies) are too spunky, too bouncy, too easy. They’re too easily purchased, too easily possessed.

The ones that have cast their glamour over Elder Girleen and her crew are more hypothetical, and thus, more seductive. They don’t like the color red. They might pinch your toes while you are sleeping. They are well-inclined toward girls, but most of the time they can take them or leave them. They are other, they are magic, they are wild.

They are all id, and reckless. They are the part of childhood that’s already passing out of Elder Girleen’s life, so very quickly.

The sort of fairies the seven-year-old girls in Elder Girleen’s set are besotted by resemble most the ones in Peter Pan — and not the denatured Disney version, which rubbed off all the sharp edges and dark corners and left nothing but cute.

No where else is there a better depiction of the engaging and brutal heartlessness that is sometimes part-and-parcel of childhood than in Peter Pan, for it’s a story that, along with fairies of the sort it contains, reminds us that magic isn’t necessarily all sweetness and light.

Which doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary. Magic isn’t magic if we can get a handle on it, and this is something that our children haven’t lost the knack of knowing.

Of course we don’t ever want our children to want, or to fear. But at the same time, we are so well-meaning, and we sanitize so much!

And how much smarter our children are than we are, to pick the complicated over the easy, the old-school fairy over the new.