I love how kids are so definite about everything. They don't need to have any expertise or experience--just answers.
The other day, we were riding in the car when Johnny's friend asked, "If you could have any kind of car, what would it be? Would it be a limo?"
"No, you can't do that," Richie said immediately. "You have to have another car; not just a limo."
Johnny nodded. Yes, that sounded right.
His friend shrugged. The limo rule had ruined his car fantasy, but what can you do? You can't fight city hall.
How did Richie know this obscure limo law? Does he own a limo rental business on the side? Well, that would explain a lot.
J.J. asked me at dinner, "Mom, do you play basketball, or are you a cheerleader?"
"I play basketball," I said.
"No, you don't," he said. "You're a cheerleader. Boys play basketball and girls are cheerleaders."
"That's right, J.J.," Justin said.
Justin is so committed to raising enlightened young men.
"They can do either," I said. "Basketball or cheerleading. Mommy plays basketball."
"But I'm going to play football and Francie's going to be the cheerleader," he said.
"Well, that's fine," I said. "But she can play basketball, too."
"But you're a cheerleader," he said.
There was a time when I would have argued this point. That ship has sailed.
"Fine," I said. "Sis boom ba. I'm a frickin' cheerleader."
J.J. smiled. "Yay! You're a cheerleader."
When Richie gets home from school, the first thing he does is takes off his shirt. Then he changes into jeans, but without a shirt, so it's like The Dukes of Hazzard around here. Unfortunately, I'm playing the part of Uncle Jesse. He does his homework and eats dinner this way. And let me tell you, our house is cold--65-68 degrees. Justin's friend once told me that when he would go over to Justin's house as a kid, Justin and his brothers never wore shirts. So maybe it's a family thing. Or a boy thing.
Yesterday, the boys played a football game outside with their friends. When they came in, Justin asked, "How was your game?"
"We took our shirts off," Richie's friend answered.
"Yeah, we took our shirts off," Richie agreed.
I remembered another time that Johnny and Richie had friends over. It was rainy and about 40 degrees and they were playing football over at the playground. I walked over to tell them something and saw that, not only did they have their shirts off, but they had smeared mud all over themselves. At the end of one of the plays, they yelled and beat their chests. I turned and walked away. The children had gone tribal. Once they go tribal, there's not a thing you can do. You can only keep them off your couch.
What is going tribal? It's when kids, left without adult supervision, form their own prehistoric tribe.
You've probably seen this happen at a pizza place--where several parents are eating and drinking beer, thinking, "Isn't it nice to have a night out without the children." Only they actually did bring their children...they've just gone off and gone tribal. They're playing hide and go seek in the bathroom stalls. Or loudly telling ghost stories under some young couple's table, who swear that when they have children, they're going to supervise them. (The parenting plans of young couples are so adorable.) Or violently shaking the machine that sells tatoos, bracelets, and superballs for 25 cents, hoping to get a freebie. They've gone tribal.
Or maybe you've seen it in a church basement. Parents are watching a Christmas program. Their kid is hungry. He has a stomach ache. His head hurts. If he sits still for one more minute, he will die. Then he sees another kid head to the back of the room. The tribal drum sounds. He signals to his parents that he's going to find his friends.
"Yes, by all means," his parents say. "Get the heck out of here."
Meanwhile, 50 other kids leave their seats, too. Pretty soon, they're swarming in the back of the basement. The girls and boys make up a game that is a mixture of freeze tag and war. They get loud. One parent goes over to quiet them down, which works for 5 seconds. That parent tries again. To no avail. Tired of being the heavy (Are the other parents deaf?) she makes her kid come back to his seat. But the other children have gone tribal and they do not care.
At the end of the program, the parents hopefully remember to retrieve their children, and they go back to civilization. Until next time.
Is going tribal bad? I guess it can be--if the kids go Lord of Flies tribal. But I think most kids want a good tribe rather than a bad one. And nobody polices each other like children do. (Have you ever seen one kid tell another to shape up? They are tough cookies!)
In the tribe, the kids make the rules--not just for the games they play, but for everything. They're deciding if, in a game between boys and girls, all is fair in love and war. And who gets to tell the next scary story? And also all the really important things. Like can a limosine be your only car? No, of course not. That's ridiculous. Duh.