You prepare yourself as a parent with answers for the Big Questions™: “Where do babies come from?”, “Is there a God?”, and “What happened to the rest of the ice cream?” It never occurred to me that I’d have to provide explanations for the weird things human beings do to pass the time.
“Two people, who aren’t mad or anything, agree to punch each other to see who does it better.”
This is the atomic description of boxing I found myself giving my seven-year-old on a walk back home from The Diamond. We’d trekked to the Squirrel’s Nest to buy her a baseball cap, and while we were there, we saw the facilities crew setting up for their Charity Big Gloves Boxing Throwdown. The kid asked what was going on, and I realized that she had no idea what boxing was.
You prepare yourself as a parent with answers for the Big Questions™: “Where do babies come from?”, “Is there a God?”, and “What happened to the rest of the ice cream?”.1 It never occurred to me that I’d have to provide explanations for the weird things human beings do to pass the time.
How do you break a thing down into its raw components so that a kid can grok it? And how do you do it in a way that doesn’t inject your personal preferences that your kid will take as the Gospel? With something like boxing, it’s not my thing, but it’s a fine thing to like. Yes, they are punching each other. Yes, punching in anger is wrong. No, they aren’t trying to really hurt each other, but they are kind of, and they do get hurt.
I enjoy watching live baseball games, and I haven’t really tried explaining the rules to my girls. So far, they are mostly there for the junk food and atmosphere, but I try to point out some of the things I find interesting and answer any questions they have. They pretty much understand that three strikes is an out (because of the song), that there are four bases, and that a home run is super exciting. I’m kind of hoping that it just gets absorbed via osmosis so that I don’t have to try to explain how force outs work.2
On the other hand, my girls must have some Rules Lawyering in their DNA. I spent too much of my youth arguing about the nuances of THAC0 to not have some of this rub off on my offspring. I see hints of it in the loopholes they find in our everyday routine,3 and I’m excited for my kids to get into more complexity. The seven-year-old and I played our first game of Chess yesterday, and it far exceeded my expectations.
There’s also the matter of explaining the context of culture they are exposed to. We’ve been on a musical kick in our house, and it’s fun breaking the characters down to their raw description. Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s “Once More With Feeling” is a “sad vampire.” Éponine from Les Mis is a daydreamer. And the Six Married Murderesses of the Cook County Jail from Chicago are all, well… murderers.4
While not being kid un-friendly, the songs are written for adults. Take the song Popular from Wicked. It’s a delightfully silly song where Glinda sings to Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) all the benefits of being popular. A grown-up will hear the irony in the song and that Glinda’s hyperbolic performance actually gives the opposite message of her words. Will my seven-year-old get that? Will she think flipping her hair to impress boys is how things are done? Probably neither, but I worry. 5
I don’t remember how I learned stuff. Once you get somewhere, it’s easy to forget the path that you took (if you even noticed it in the first place). It is both fun and challenging to help figure out those paths for my kids.
Photo by: Leonid Mamchenkov
- Respectively: “Here’s an age appropriate book from the library”, “What do you think?”, and “What ice cream? You must be mistaken.” ↩
- “Because he must!” ↩
- “No punching! [Kick] Stop it! “I didn’t punch her!”. ↩
- “Don’t sing this one at school.” ↩
- We did explain the plot of Wicked to the girls, and now the oldest gets angry and sad at how mean the kids at school were to Elphaba. ↩