Ruining My Life

Sophie made a sad announcement about her day on the way home:

Sophie: Today, Brandi ruined my life.

Me: You mean your day?

Sophie: No, my whole life.

Me: What did she do?

Sophie: Well, she did a nice thing too. She let me take a drink of her water. It was colored water, and I liked it. And she had it in a water bottle, and she wiped off all her germs, and she told me that she would share with me, and then she let me have a drink.

Me: I don’t understand. That sounds like a nice thing to do. What bad thing did she do that ruined your life?

Sophie: I already forgot.


Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

Sophie at dinner:

If this were in the newspaper, it would say, “The silliest family in the world is the Fensters. They have a dad, a mom, and a daughter. The daughter is the silliest, then the dad… no, then the mom, then the dad. And if you want to visit them, they’re in (Our Neighborhood), (Our Street), (Our House Number).”

And if people read that, they’d keep the newspaper forever.


If You’re Angry and You Know It

Sophie threw her first full-scale temper tantrum as a first grader today, with the requisite tears and screaming, shutting herself in her room, threatening not to come down to dinner unless we met her terms, screaming “I’M SORRY!” in her angriest voice, and other general unpleasantness.

When she finally calmed down, I sent her upstairs to get ready for bed. And she skipped up the stairs singing, to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”:

If you’re angry and you know it, throw a tantrum.
If you’re angry and you know it, throw a tantrum.


The Modern Soldier

As Sophie went to bed this evening, she announced:

I want to be a soldier!

(suddenly excited) No… wait… a musketeer! I could wear all pink! And a feather!

Well, sure. I totally see your train of thought.

Life With Google

Technology is ruining us.

I walked into the living room the other day to find Sophie watching live television and frantically pressing the pause button to no effect. She didn’t ask me, “How does this work?” or even “Which button do I push?” She just sighed an exasperated and frustrated, “The pause button’s broken!”

I diagnosed the problem immediately: we don’t have TiVo on that television. She was holding the remote control for the DVD player. But in the short months we’ve had a TiVo in the other room she’s learned that it’s possible to pause live TV and skip commercials, and has apparently concluded that all television has always worked that way, and it’s just that nobody ever bothered to tell her before.

Life Before Google

Life Before Google

That’s not an unreasonable assumption for a child at age five. She also learned recently that cars have red lights on the back to tell you when they’re stopping — which really is how it’s always been; she just hasn’t been tall enough to see them before. The difference between something that’s new to her and something that’s new to the world is subtle.

My understanding of modern technology will always be colored by growing up as it was invented. Cellular phones are a natural progression from cordless phones, which followed from wired phones before them. Dial-up modems led to wired networks and then (recently) to ubiquitous Wi-Fi. Understanding one technology goes a long way toward understanding its successors.

But to a child growing up today, a “computer” by definition has instantaneous access to the whole of human knowledge. She’s never had to wonder about anything, since if she asks a question I can’t answer we just sit down with Wikipedia and Google Images and surf until all curiosity is satisfied. That’s what computers are for.

When Sophie was playing with a slinky yesterday I bemoaned not having any stairs in our apartment, and she didn’t understand what use stairs could be with a slinky! Without missing a beat, the next words out of my mouth were, “Let’s find a video of a slinky going down stairs on YouTube.”

And all that brings us to Julia Sweeney’s cautionary monologue titled Sex Ed on (among other things) the dangers of turning too often to the Internet for answers:

Held on the Runway

I gave Sophie a jetBlue Airport Playset for Christmas a few years ago and when she began playing with it again today I joined in. The set includes a catering truck, baggage cart, pushback tug, various cautionary signs and pylons, and of course an airplane — all in jetBlue’s livery.

One can’t help but recall The Phantom Tollbooth, of course:

“One (1) genuine turnpike tollbooth to be erected according to directions
“Three (3) precautionary signs to be used in a precautionary fashion
“Assorted coins for use in paying tolls.
“One (1) map, up to date and carefully drawn by master cartographers, depicting natural and man-made features
“One (1) book of rules and traffic regulations, which must not be bent or broken.”

We played for a while in the manner the toy’s creators probably imagined: loading baggage and food at the gate, pushing back, following signs to the runway, and then of course flying around the room.

And then Sophie decided the next time the plane asked for permission to take off she would just say “no”. Even when support vehicles and eventually every toy car in her room lined up waiting to cross the active runway, the “tower” refused to let the plane move. After a while I announced that the passengers had run out of food and the plane had to go back to the gate to get more and the answer still came back enthusiastically “no!”

So I guess the major question we have to ask is: is there something about jetBlue aircraft that encourages controllers (even at age five) to leave them sitting on runways?

I Pledge Allegiance

Politicians love to defend the Pledge of Allegiance almost as much as they like to oppose burning our nation’s flag. The wholesome, patriotic, downright American tradition of reciting a pledge of loyalty in schools every morning is the sort of thing only an America-hating terrorist would ever oppose.

Unless, of course, you believe that America stands for theological freedom, and find the phrase “under God” at odds with certain religious beliefs. Or you believe that America stands for political freedom, and find the entire notion of mandating allegiance from citizens a bit… Red.

I always got hung up on the “under God” bit. I’m on the record of being in favor of liberty and justice for all. Rainbows and puppy dogs aren’t half bad either. But then some clown crammed an “under God” in the middle of the thing (nearly 60 years after the pledge was first coined, mind you), and didn’t even add meaningful content with it. Instead, the extra appositive phrase just makes the whole sentence almost impossible to parse to a child who’s still trying to get the hang of correctly conjugating the word “is” on a regular basis.

But apart from the atrocious grammatical implications, the phrase implies a certain basic religion: that God presides over our country. Thus anyone who believes in more or fewer Gods than just the one is unable to faithfully pledge their allegiance to the entire country, if following the scripted pledge.

While this makes for an interesting academic argument (and occasionally affords politicians some good sound bites), and while I still believe it wholeheartedly, it may overlook some important details.

My daughter, now in kindergarten, was playing quietly in the living room this morning when she spontaneously launched into this recitation:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the bepuplic for which it stands: one nation, under God, in-invisible, with ligerty and jujace for all.

So she’s not developing a sense of God watching over us, or of mandatory loyalty to an ineffable and eternal nation. She’s trying to figure out what a bepublic is and what made it invisible.

Homer Fenster

When I changed the channel to see which episode of The Simpsons was on tonight, Sophie got excited immediately. She leapt up and announced:

It’s Homer Fenster!

Uh oh. That can’t be good.

I’ll Get More Money Too

Sophie has earned her first-ever allowance. Beginning this week, she gets $5 every Monday to spend on anything she wants (that she’s allowed to have).

This strategic amount allows her to buy a few small items immediately, or save it for just one week to get a bigger toy in the $10 range. Being a generally responsible child, she listened patiently to my explanation of how an allowance would work and why she might want to save it, and then tucked the money safely in a wallet she’s apparently had stashed away.

And to celebrate, we took a trip to the Dollar Store. As Sophie browsed and weighed the pros and cons of buying each toy she encountered, Mom reminded her that she might want to save some money, in case she needed to buy anything later in the week. Her response, with the most exasperation I’ve ever heard her use:

Mommy, did you forget? I’ll get more money!

Well, that’s almost what we were hoping to teach.

Blast Off!

Tonight began like so:

Sophie: Can we play dolls? Please, please can we play dolls?

No. No, we cannot.

Instead, we took my globe off the bookcase and played the classic “spin it and point to a place” game. When the real globe got boring, we switched to Google Earth, and zoomed into Street View in each of the places Sophie picked. Thus we had a little world geography lesson combined with fancy computer graphics to occupy our imaginations.

Next we switched to my lunar globe and naturally started talking about how people have walked on the moon. This naturally lead to YouTube videos and footage from Apollo 13 of Saturn V liftoffs, men bouncing across an alien surface, and ocean splashdowns.

Tonight ended like so:

Sophie: (running down the hall with a kite in tow) 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… blast off!

Now we’re talkin’.