For my last day of the ‘Five Photos, Five Stories’ Challenge (for more info on what that is, click here), I wanted to write about one of my recent experiences volunteering.
This past Saturday, I volunteered to read to/with kids. I ended up pairing with two 2nd grade girls. One (we’ll call her Bad Egg) was kind of a bitch to start–she didn’t seem very into sharing, and was sort of rude when I tried to involve her. I tried not to take it personally, even though I was kind of feeling like a beginning-stages Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls. But, I gave her her space, and focused on the other girl (we’ll call her Good Egg), who was just FA-BU-LOUS. She was so happy and nice and just, like, had her shit together.
Good Egg left the room to get water from a drinking fountain, and when she came back, she said, “There was an adult down there.” She started talking about this adult stranger as if his mere presence was a threat. I was really worried the conversation was going in the direction of, “and then he invited me to his van,” because I am NOT qualified to deal with that. But, luckily, she didn’t go there. Although, she did say, “if strangers try to take you, you scream!” I joined in and said, “YES. You scream, kick, fight them, do whatever you have to do,” and then tried to bring the conversation back down from the level of alarmist paranoia to Saturday morning chill–I was, after all, sleep deprived and hungover, so I could only handle so much intensity.
As Good Egg was reading out loud to me, she would occasionally come across a word she didn’t know, so I would try to help her by explaining how to pronounce it and what it means. One such word was “roadkill.” Not knowing how else to explain it, I said, “you know when you drive by a dead, squashed animal on the road? That’s roadkill.” I know it’s harsh, but does a way to sugarcoat roadkill even exist?
Bad Egg started to turn around when I told her I liked her shirt. “It’s a leotard,” she said–it was, in fact, a full body, hot pink leotard dress-thing with a sequins collar. I mean, l would like one of my own please. We started doing a craft project–making paper bag puppets of characters from a book we’ve read–and Bad Egg also, surprisingly, demonstrated polite sharing skills. See, it’s NEVER too late to change. Good Egg wanted to make a puppet of Elsa, of course (because APPARENTLY there’s a Frozen book in addition to the overrated movie?). She was so insecure about her ability to make the puppet, it was kind of sad and endearing. I helped her by drawing the outline of the dress–(although I tried to throw in a quick gender equality plug by saying, “But she doesn’t have to wear a dress. Let’s not box ourselves into gender norms.”)–but tried to encourage her to believe in herself. I just wanted to cry, “It’s not too late for you! I may be too far gone, but you can still love yourself! Don’t let the patriarchy bring you down!” Also, as you can see from the photo, her puppet is BOMB and totally fucking awesome and I could never make anything so perfect, so her insecurity is completely unjustified.
Bad Egg decided to make a puppet that was a hedgehog or something, from the book she was reading. She said she doesn’t like Elsa because “she makes a huge deal out of things that are just, like, WHATEVER.” Ok, this girl was starting to grow on me. Her mother arrived early to take her home, and she was having none of that–she was adamant about finishing her puppet. I quickly realized that it is, of course, her mother’s fault she has issues socializing. This woman seemed fine or whatever, but too stressed and unhappy. She told Bad Egg that “Ella is in the car” as she insisted repeatedly they had to go. I said, “Ella is your…” thinking surely Ella must be the dog. But, nope, Ella was the YOUNGER sibling. So, this mom had left her younger-than-2nd-grade (no idea how old that is) daughter in the car alone on a hot SoCal day (can anyone say pedophile bait?) while she went to pry her older daughter, who she must know by now is stubborn, away early from an activity she enjoys. I fully expect to see this family on Dr. Phil in approximately 12 years.
But Bad Egg made me proud, as she refused to leave until she got to finish her puppet [I mean, too bad for Ella, and maybe Bad Egg should demonstrate a little more compassion towards her, but I’m Team Bad Egg all the way–that’s where my loyalty lies in this scenario, and rightly so, I feel]. As her mom got progressively more aggravated, Bad Egg said, “Mom, stop! You’re giving me TENSION!” I thought, “Wow, you. get. it. You already understand the issues your mother is imparting on you which will haunt you your entire life.” So, I left feeling confident that these two second grade girls are far more emotionally and mentally well-adjusted than I am. And, as sad as that is for me, it gives me hope that there are some good eggs in the upcoming selfie-/tablet-/Kardashian-obsessed, social media-sedated generation that doesn’t even understand why they should cringe when they hear “Bill Clinton” and “cigar” in the same or adjacent sentences.