Saturday, July 05, 2008

What Would Kit Say?

Abigail Breslin in Kit Kittredge: An American Girl;
Kit would be APPALLED at the gross misuse of a keyboard

Excuse me while I maneuver around this soap box and climb up on my high horse...
On this holiday weekend, with all this talk about independence, American Girl dolls, Kit Kittredge (brief movie review here: it's the best movie of the year) and my current state of raising four children (three are girls), I'd like to take a few moments to reflect on what an American Girl doll of 2008 might look like...if we're not careful.
Because people, if we're NOT careful and don't rein in some of this total CRAP, Molly, Samantha, Kit, Josefina and the whole AG Gang will be joined by the American Girl of 2008, "Tiffani, Awesome American Girl." If we're not careful, the doll of our time period will represent our place in history with a few traits that are, well, slightly embarrassing, or, as my mother would say, "low-rent."
Tiffani will have a Facebook account that is 90% ego, 10% lies. Her cell phone will ring non-stop, and she'll wear tiny sweat shorts with "juicy" across her rear. And she may or may not be waving an American flag. That sort of thing doesn't really matter to Tiffani. If an adult picks up the doll, her eyes will instantly cut to the side because Tiffani can't look an adult in the eye. Her backbone is abnormally large, because that's where she gets her boldness. And her head is disproportionately HUGE, compared to the rest of her body, because that's where her ego resides. (The ego, by the way, is not to be confused with self-esteem.)
Unlike Kit, she won't use a typewriter to craft kind-hearted stories and to extend a sympathetic hand to her fellow Americans. Instead, she'll carry a Vera Bradley totebag that holds a laptop she uses to post not-so cryptic tales about her weekend and will even occasionally be so bold as to include photos of her and her boyfriend that would lead you to believe they just returned from their honeymoon.
The doll comes with a tiny set of parents who fit easily into the palm of her hands. If the parents start to squeak or grimace, Tiffani squeezes them like a stress ball until they crawl off and hide in a tiny shell that she collected at the beach during spring break.
In the doll-based movie, "Tiffani, Awesome American Girl," Tiffani will be obsessed with her Facebook page. She'll brag about things that she has done, things she claims she has done and some unsavory things that she would like to do. She will give no thought to the fact that the entire free world has access to this information. She cares not whether her words and pictures might hurt someone's feelings or cast her in ... what's the word? ... a skanky light.
Are these things Kit would do? I think not.
Hey, wait, this isn't fair! Kit is FICTIONAL, you may be saying. Kids today can't be expected to be like Kit! Oh, really? We could raise an entire generation of Kits if we wanted to. And it wouldn't have to end after age 10. If we were more careful, teenagers wouldn't see community service as a high school requirement, but as a token responsibility. They would talk to each other without hiding behind a cell phone or computer. They wouldn't privatize their lives quite so much, and some would even return to using a land line so that parents would know who is calling their teenagers. And Facebook and MySpace would shrivel up and DIE. (And for those who haven't done so, I recommend you take a little adventure around Facebook and MySpace. You'll wish you were reading fiction. To come clean, I will admit that I hopped from page to page, landing only on those that are public. And that led me to ask, "Then what in the WORLD are these kids keeping private?" I learned so much about kids I know, kids I've only heard of, and others I hope I never meet.)
I am certain you are asking yourself, "Why, oh why, are you snooping around on Facebook and MySpace via your teenage daughter's password?"
I'll tell you why: Because I am her MOTHER.
And I would rather live with American Girls than Bratz dolls.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Our Best Opus of Spring 2008

(This piece was originally written 5/4/08, but was somehow buried deep in my log of entries and never posted; please accept my apologies for the untimeliness of this posting.)

It is not uncommon for children in the South to spend a sunny spring afternoon performing at a piano recital. Two hours before showtime, children across town are taking long baths as their moms iron their Sunday best. For girls, hair is combed and tied with a bow. Not since Easter have these kids been so clean. So presentable. Before leaving home, they spend a few minutes gathering their sheet music and maybe running through each song a time or two. Everyone gathers in a church sanctuary, auditorium, meeting room or dining hall to be entertained for more than an hour as child after child takes centerstage, performs music at a variety of levels, always earning grand applause as they curtsy or bow, and camera flashes flicker across the room.

Like azalea trails and debutante balls, we cling tightly to this tradition in the South. This is 90 seconds of fame, and you don't get a do-over. For a brief minute or two, all eyes will be on your child. And this is very important because your child is, after all, an extension of you.

So what does it say about a mom whose child arrives at a piano recital appearing as if she just returned from a three-day drunk? Absolutely nothing. But it speaks volumes of her FATHER, who had taken her and her sister on an overnight camping trip, where a stomach virus spread not like wildfire, but more like an errant spark that landed dead-center on this sweet 9-year-old child.
Throughout the night, she had vomited on herself, her dad's sleeping bag and a large portion of the tent's interior. But she didn't get sick once -- it was once, twice, three times not-so-much-a-lady. By morning, she felt better, but the effects were still evident. And without access to a shower and, apparently, to a washcloth and toothbrush, she spent the morning running around the campsite and through the woods like a feral child.

She was two hours from home, and by the time they loaded the car, time had ticked down to a just a little more than two hours from showtime. Only minutes before the recital was to begin, the car whizzes into the driveway on two wheels. She staggered through the front door like she was returning from a frat party, with briar scratches on her legs, twigs in her hair and reeking of a very long night. All I could do was hose her down in the driveway, iron her dress and hope for the best. ("Hope for the best" means "yell at her father for not leaving the campsite earlier so that we could at LEAST spray her with deodorizer and run a Brillo pad through her hair.")
While she probably wouldn't have passed a health inspection or even the most basic DHR evaluation, she never looked lovelier. We couldn't do much about deep scratches or dark grass stains on her legs, but we did manage to pull out the majority of the grass from her hair en route to the recital. And honestly, a wire brush and feminine hair clip can go a long way toward correcting the damage caused by a long and fitful night.
What had only 90 minutes earlier been a PROBLEM and likely grounds for divorce was ultimately another pleasant Sunday afternoon at a piano recital. If the recital had a Best of Show award and if a panel of judges had been on hand to hear our defense, I'm certain we would have walked away with a blue ribbon and an armful of long-stemmed roses.
Go us.