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Popular… It’s All About Poppppuuuuulllar

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Any of you Wicked fans out there will understand my title. Pip and I took in the show a few weeks back and, as luck would have it, she had to go to the bathroom right when this song started. Turns out there was a monitor near the concession stand. As Pip munched on her leftover Starbursts, we watched the scene from an empty foyer. When the applause started up, we quickly scurried back to our seats.

It’s always fun to watch conflict from the comfort of a theater seat – likely because you know it’s going to work out in the end. Real life isn’t as easy. Tonight was no exception.

As Stink and I were walking our feral beast dog around the neighborhood, we started talking about school. Instead of just asking, “Hey, how is class?” as I used to do, I asked him a question that would require more than a one word answer. This is my new ploy to get my hormonal tween to stay connected to me. It’s a clever tactic, and so far it’s working.

While often I get a sentence out from him, tonight I got twenty minutes of chatter. On one hand, I’m relieved my kid is still willing to communicate with me. On the other hand, it’s not as much fun as watching Glinda and Elphaba¬†banter on stage. Perhaps if there was an orchestra and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, my heart would be less likely to break in a million pieces. Since that wasn’t the case, I had to listen to like a grown up and not say much. After all, a blubbering, defensive mother would hardly encourage my kid to continue to confide in me.

Here’s the gist of the conversation.

Me: Who do you play with the most at school these days?

Him: I play with A, B and C. I used to play with J, K and L but now they kind of do their own thing.

Me: It’s normal to drift, huh?

Him: I guess. But actually, I’m thinking it’s because I’m not really that popular.

Me: In what way?

Him: I don’t know. I guess… you know… because I’m kind of considered the odd one.

Me: Like hell you’re the odd one you’re the most incredible kid I know those bleepin bastards How so?

Him: I don’t know. I can just tell. When other kids make a joke, people laugh. When I make a joke – which I like to do because I’m really funny – the kids laugh kind of weird. Not at me – don’t worry…

Me: I’m not worried! I’m a fat liar.

Him: Just, well, they kind of laugh that laugh that seems to say, ‘He’s not really that funny.’

Me: And that makes you feel bad?

Him: Not really.

Me: (Relieved) That’s good!

Him: I’m kind of used to it.

Me: (Heart sinking into a million pieces) Well, that’s not really great. I mean, it’s no fun when people aren’t that nice.

Him: It’s not that they mean to be like that. I’m thinking that it’s because I’m not really that popular.

And we’re back at the beginning again. I try a new approach.

Me: Is it really that important to you to be popular?

Him: Well… kind of.

I consider launching into a spiritual direction about how God doesn’t care about popular. He cares about us as people. But I was in sixth grade once. I remember only too well how much I wanted to be part of an “in” crowd. Instead of bolstering him with words that will fall flat, I say nothing. That worked out well, as he kept talking.

Him: I am looking forward to high school… where I can start over and not be at school with the same kids. Then I have a chance at it.

Me: At what?

Him: AT BEING POPULAR MOM! 

Me: Ah ha! Well, good luck with that! For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t get your hopes up. Lord knows that I was not popular in high school. I tried, but it didn’t really work out.

Him: What did you do?

Me: Ah, that’s nice of you to care!

Him: (Arms crossed in ‘you’re such a dip shit’ bravado) I just want to do the opposite so I don’t make the same mistake as you.

Me: Got it. (I run my fingers through his mop of hair.) Dude, is it possible you’re not popular because you have hair like a Muppet, wear mesh shorts in 60 degree weather and wear shoes that are only hip in the hole-in-the-toe homeless crowd?

Him: Moooooom. No one should have to dress like everyone else to be popular.

Me: Stiiiink… that’s what often happens!

Him: I’ll break the rules, then!

Me: What else is new.

We arrive at the house.

Me: Shall we go in?

Him: Want to have popcorn with me on the porch first?

Me: Okay.

I look at my kid. At five foot five with size 10 shoes, he’s a man child. Part vulnerable, part defiant, 100% original. I love him so.

Me: For the record, being popular isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes just being with someone you love – LIKE YOUR MOTHER – is pretty awesome, too.

Him: Yeah. I guess. And, um… can I tell you something else I’ve really been thinking about? I don’t want to sound weird, but I really think I am headed in this direction.

Me: Please don’t tell me you want to wear dresses and play the flute.

Him: Weirder. I would like to learn wrestling.

Me: (Stunned) Let me get this straight: You want to be a Jew-frowed, comic book reading, wrestler? That’s your plan for popularity?

Him: Pretty much.

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Prayers are welcome, people.

For your entertainment, I will leave you with the song that always makes me laugh. The show always reminds me, too, that being popular for a crowd never works. Being true to oneself? That’s the way to defy gravity.

Talk at you soon.

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The Kids Got Talent

for dom

Today my kids auditioned for the school talent show. Pip is singing “For Good” with her bff, Miss L, while Stink is going to do a magic act to entertain the crowd. I don’t want to give away his shining moment in advance, but let’s just say that it involves taking a wand, forcing a platter to rise out of a box, and making food on said platter magically disappear.

Translation: Pip will hide in the box. Stink will take a Barbie doll (which he finds funnier than a wand) and scream: “Rise! RIIIISSSEEEEEEEEEE!” Pip’s hand will then appear through the hole in the box with a plate of cookies. The great magician will then take a cookie and toss it in his mouth, making it disappear.

Afterward, Stink will ask for volunteers. He’ll choose four children. Once on stage, he will ask them, “Now, which one of you want to make things disappear?” Once again, he’ll point to the box, but this time, pizza will rise – hopefully to every mini-foodie’s delight. He will then work his way up to cupcakes. Finally, over 25 of his rubber ducks will explode out of the center of the box. Why? “Because ducks are funny, mom. Duh.”

I bring you this little slice of silly because it reminds me that life doesn’t have to be so friggin’ serious all the time. Is it a piano concerto? No. But Stink isn’t interested in impressing adults in the audience with his musical instrument talents. He’s interested in making a whole lot of kids laugh. Because, really, kids find this stuff pretty funny.

I like that about Stink.

As we were sitting in the car in front of the driveway, he sprung the loaded question on me. “So, Mom, can I play video games NOW?”

He’d been on restriction for a few days. I had to. The tics were crazy. I couldn’t take it.

“I know you think they make the tics bad, but truthfully, Mom, I’ve been crazy anyway. I can barely concentrate in class. You know, PUBERTY and all.”

That made me laugh. But it also made me sad, because he loves his gaming. And really, he’s right. Video games or not, his tics are just up. Who am I kidding that it’s going to make that much difference.

“But look how mellow you are now, baby,” I said. “Your energy is so even. The lack of video games does make a difference.”

Enter exasperation on his part. “Moooom,” he sighed, “I’m holding them in so you will think my energy is okay so I can play.”

This made me feel like crap. “But you’re not supposed to hold them in at home, buddy. This is your place to let them out!”

He just looked at me and shook his head. “If I do that, you’ll just have one more reason for me not to play, so let’s just decide I can play a little bit and work on diet and exercise. And hey, why don’t you go back to drinking wine? You like it. Go for it!”

The upshot of this is that my kid is upstairs, playing an hour of video games. I am not drinking wine because, well, that’s another blog post. And we’re just going to take this day by day until we see the naturopath on Tuesday.

Until then, Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the tics I cannot change, change the tics I can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.