So this year we drove to a AAA baseball game in two cars. The boys in ours did not say a word the whole way. Not one word. They know Adam through his various activities: karate, soccer, sailing, marine biology camp, Chinese, baseball, etc. and Adam was in the other car, with his father.
First, we went into the birthday pavilillion, where things loosened up: bouncing, bungee jumping on the bouncer, hotdogs, cake, presents, excited conversation....and then the game, where the boys all sat together in the front row and we grown-ups (Adam's parents and I) sat in the shade. Somewhat to my surprise, we were soon joined by two of the boys. They sat next to me, and we spent much of the game trying to figure out things like why they put some Errors on the scoreboard and not others. (In case you don't know, either: an errors is scored only when someone gets on base because of it and -- the confusing part - it is put on the score of the team benefitting from the error, not the team making it.)
Adam's mother was kept busy walking boys to the bathroom and then waiting outside, putting on sunscreen, keeping track of everyone's hats, gloves etc. (the boys moved around a lot and, also to my surprise, didn't all sit together), making a list of the presents so Adam would know who to thank for what in his notes, etc. His father was getting beer and then, later, sitting with Adam who wanted to sit next to his dad.
At the beginning of the ninth inning, the home team was losing 17 to, I think, 1. Adam, who is intensely competitive, said he was going back to the Birthday Pavillion:
"I don't want to see the ________________s lose."
All the other boys went with him and I moved down to the front row, so I could photograph the kids running around the bases at the end of the game for this blog (above), something the kids had been very excited about doing.
The most interesting part of the day for me was the ride home. I began talking to Adam's mother (the boys were all in back -- it's a law that children can't sit in the front seat until they are 12).
"What are you talking about? What are you talking about?" they said.
So I told them and then we had the kind of conversation that makes me love being around kids, once they are 8 or so. This was Adam's 8th birthday. Some of the topics were: the different state quarters; The 300 ("I really want to see it but my parents won't let me until I"m 11 -- or maybe 14"), Harry Potter (one child said he didn't like it and I said that was reassuring, I didn't, either); Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which one of them had seen "parts of"; aliens; outer space -- and at this point, someone said, in a very polite voice,
"Excuse me, I know this isn't what we're talking about --" he hesitated. "But I want to ask you a question." Clearly, it was a very, very important question; he paused again and said with a look of great earnestness, "When you were a kid, did you like the show The Brady Bunch?"
Sometimes, when children ask questions you sort of know that they're important but have no idea why. But I had two clues here: this was the child who hadn't liked Harry Potter. And a friend had once said that the BB was his favorite show when he was a child, adding quickly: "But you're not allowed to tell anyone that."
So, I was able to say not only yes, but that the friend I'd mentioned earlier, the one who'd loved The 300 but told me I shouldn't see it because it was too violent, had loved it too. And that was the right answer -- I could tell by the relief on his face.
It was a really fun party, but exhausting. I don't see how parents and teachers do it, day after day. (Does anyone else feel this way at the end of a school visit?)
And I'm going to remember that conversation the next time I do a school visit and feel awkward saying I don't like Harry Potter. When I'm asked about it, I always do tell the truth -- most kids look disappointed (and I always add that it doesn't matter if I don't like it, the point is that THEY do), but there are always some who look relieved. Maybe next time it will be easier to answer that question.