and realize that it’s your biography.
“When we took [our 10-month old] to a birthday party this weekend, a 2-yr old head-butted her.”
Me: “When I was volunteering with a 3-yr old, he kept head-butting me, too–maybe it’s like a thing?”
Him: “Wait, how were you at head-level?”
Me: “Oh, no–he kept head-butting me in the crotch.”
Him & The Director: “…..”
Me: “Yeah, things got uncomfortable.”
When 3-yr old Rocco, one of the kids you’re volunteering with, repeatedly head-butts you in the crotch. And then he adds pushing you down into a chair via said crotch head-butting, and keeps his head in your crotch once you’re in a seated position. Things got uncomfortably intimate.
At other times, though, Rocco was NOT a fan of mine and wanted nothing to do with me. For example, I started to notice that he didn’t like to share. So I decided to teach him to share. My method was this: every time he pushed 2-yr old Ariel out of the way when she tried to play with whatever he was playing with, I told him to share. This quickly proved ineffective. So then I thought, ‘fine, if you’re not going to share with defenseless Ariel, you’re gonna share with me, because I can and will fight back.’ So I took an Elmo toy and gave him a matching one, and then encouraged him to share and play with me. He immediately tried wrenching the toy out of my hand, so I just held strong, telling him, “Rocco, you’re not going to get it from me, I’m stronger than you. I can be here all day,” and, “Rocco, you’re being kind of rude.” He then moved on to punching and hitting me, and telling me to “shut up” and “go away.” But still, I refused to budge.
But then, the tables miraculously turned. Ariel came back, and while Rocco still wasn’t really openly sharing with her, she’s the one who hit and/or bit him when she didn’t get her way. I kind of admired her balls and on the inside was secretly like, “you go girl! The bite is a nice move.” But in an effort to remain impartial, I told her to stop and commended Rocco on his surprising show of self-restraint in choosing not to fight back.
The best moment, though, was when a 4-yr old named Vanity just dropped trou and peed in the middle of the courtyard we were playing in. I was so proud of her–why should only males be allowed to pee in public? Leading the charge in the next wave of feminism.
Today I volunteered with special needs youth doing sports, art, activities, etc. I was paired with two brothers–we’ll give them pseudonyms and call the 15-yr old Victor and the 11-yr old Carlos–and here are some of the conversations we had and some of the things they said:
1. Me: They didn’t give me a name tag. Oh well.
Victor: I’ll call you Robin. You look like a Robin.
Me: Thank you, Victor. I’m going to take that as a compliment.
2. Me: Where do you want to go to college, Victor?
Victor: Somewhere that will give me help in the medical field.
Me: What do you want to do in the medical field?
Victor: I want to be a general surgeon because they make $125,000 a year.
Me: But you’d also be saving lives.
Victor: I guess. I may be a cosmetic surgeon.
Me: Victorrrrrrr noooooooo
3. Carlos: We have a cat, and when I go to sleep he humps me.
Me: yeah, my dog humps me too. It embarrasses my mom.
4. [as we are playing basketball and I am getting embarrassingly winded and sweaty]:
Me: Do you guys like the Lakers?
Victor: We like the Clippers. The Lakers have a brand but don’t have heart.
Me: YASSSSS VICTOR YASSSSSS
5. Victor: I just feel so lethargic right now
Me: Me too, Victor. Me. Too.
6. Me: Do you guys have other siblings?
Victor: No, thankfully.
Carlos: Miscarriages, actually.
7. [as we are playing soccer]:
Victor: Alex, you need to work on your aim.
8. Victor: Did you see Frozen?
Me: Unfortunately, Victor, yes–yes I did.
Victor: They made a short film based on it. Everyone’s not over the “Frozen fever” yet. But you can only see it if you see Cinderella.
Me: Ohhh I see what they’re doing there.
Victor: Yep, self-promoting.
9. Carlos [as he’s drawing with crayons]: Sometimes I imagine people as crayons, but bigger. Because when you take the wrapper off the crayon it’s naked.
Me: That is… correct.
10. Victor: Do you know South Park?
Me: Yes, it’s a funny show.
Victor: But not for Carlos. He’s not allowed to watch it. Because of the vulgarity.
Carlos: Do you know Kenny?
Me: As in, ‘who killed Kenny’?
Carlos: Yeah, do you know what he says at the beginning of the show?
Carlos: I shouldn’t say it here. I would never.
Me: Ok, it’s good you know when and where not to say things. I don’t.
11. Carlos: Restaurants always take too long. Especially the fancy ones. Because they want to perfect their food.
Me: I know! Like, I don’t care what it looks like, I just want to shove it in my face!
12. Carlos: I’m literally the worst speller. Like, in school, I try to spell and think to myself, “I’m not doing my best work here.”
13. Victor [re: his drawing, pictured below]: I call it, “Boredom”
Carlos: It looks like Picasso.
Me: Do you like Picasso?
Carlos: I like Van Gogh better.
Me: How about you, Victor?
Victor: I don’t view art.
14. [At the end of each session, we ask the kids what they did today that they are proud of]:
Me: Victor, what did you do today that you’re proud of?
Victor: Hang out with you.
Me: HEY-O can I get a high five and fist bump for that?!
15. Victor [to me]: Here’s an origami flower for you to keep.
Me: Awww thank you, Victor–this is the first flower I’ve gotten and probably will get in a long time.
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.