Saturday, July 26, 2008

Summer Edu-ma-cation


The girl and i tramp through the winter months merrily -- hiking and biking, keeping things interesting; but also swinging around in the same tame routine. We go to the library, she goes to the babysitter's, we watch movies, make hearty meals, and she goes to school a few half-days. She learns how to line up, how to get along with kids, how to sing songs, how to listen to the teacher.

In the summertime she does a lot of the same things -- only the locations look a little different. Instead of the bark-chipped schoolyard, she learns lessons on the dusty lots of festival grounds. She picks up pieces of other lives, as she digs through her traveling backpack. During the year she learns from her peers; in the summer she learns from older kids, younger kids, and lots of conscious adults. And so it should be.

I watched my baby and two kids around her age follow two eight-year olds around the grounds of Horning's Hideout (where peacocks don't hide out, but city folk do), playing chase and their own form of follow the leader last weekend. We were part of the first aid crew at the show -- a crew we help out with a few times a year. It's fun to meet new people, camp out, chase the peacocks for their plumes, and listen to music all damn day. But most of all it's fun just to watch the 'chillens. One night the two eight year olds were the leaders of 'families' of a couple ragtag four and five year olds. One was a cat family, the other a dog family. When they wanted the little kids to follow them, they'd bark or meow, and the little ones would bark/meow back. They also developed their own set of commands to make the younger kids sit, lay down, and roll over.

How calming it was to watch my little revolutionary obey each command willingly and easily. Even though i raise the kid to question authority, and i revel in the fact that that's how she lives her life, i do question myself about that decision. I wonder how she will fare in these delicate dances of work and love and life, that take so much trickiness to master -- so much discpline to succeed at -- so you don't wind up destitute, couch surfing and wearing a colostomy bag in the woods, unable to support your own kids. I wonder what her life will be like when she's telling prospective bosses to fuck off because they are not looking out for her needs. Or telling her mom to kiss her ass because she doesn't need college to be happy. I wonder these things when she does the opposite of what i say at every turn -- and she's not even in the contrary teenage years yet. I worry that it's ADD walking, or worse. I am a jumble of what-ifs and what-have-i-dones.

Then i see her follow commands she just learned -- goofy thigh-slaps and head-taps in the woods, and i remind myself that there's really not much to worry about. She is testing me and everyone around her at all times -- doing what her revolutionary spirit tells her to. But when it comes down to a good game of "simon says", she's committed to the cause and able to focus. This is her summer edu-ma-cation -- a time to run free and learn different things. No routines. No real discipline. Just a bunch of ruffs and meows that help a kid learn something new.

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