Hippie School is working on some sort of family history/family tree/civil rights mashup project right now—at least, I think they are. Monkey tends to be a little obtuse when it comes to telling me about what’s actually happening at school. Somewhere in his brain, the fact that I oversee his HOME homeschool days gives him carte blanche to tell me only select snippets about what happens when he’s over at Hippie School. As a result, if I am to believe his version of events, on a regular day at Hippie School all that happens is: He plays D&D with a couple of his buddies, someone does something wrong which Monkey then feels the need to correct (and he either does so with self-righteous gusto OR he proudly restrains himself but has to vent to me about how hard that was), he forgets to eat his lunch, and someone builds something fantastic out of found objects. So, uh, I always assume I’m missing some pieces of the story.
[Sidebar: I do not mind the whole “What did you do today?” “Nothing much,” interaction, actually. It’s so developmentally appropriate! Hooray! And I do have my ways of finding out what’s actually happening there, and I feel confident it’s not all Lord of the Flies and they really are doing work, so whatever.]
In general, Hippie School doesn’t include homework. But this past week, it did. And I could’ve told you ahead of time that this was going to be entertaining.
Granted, I do not yet understand how the various facets of this particular project are going to fit together, but Monkey had two things to work on at home. First, he was tasked with interviewing a grandparent or “other old person” (HAAAAAAAAAA) with some specific questions about what life was like when they were young. I asked Monkey who he’d picked to interview, and without hesitation he told me he wanted to talk to my dad. This makes sense, because while Monkey has a multitude of grandparental units, there’s only one grandfather still with us, and plus, my dad is pretty silly and so that was likely to be the most fun.
Arrangements were made. At the designated time, Monkey sat down with his notes at the kitchen table and the phone and told my father, “Well, I have some questions to ask you.”
Naturally, I eavesdropped from the safety of my office. It started out reasonably enough; Monkey would ask a question, there would be a pause as my dad answered, and then Monkey would ask him to spell something as he scribbled down the responses. It went this way for quite a while.
Then Monkey got to the money question: “So, Grandpa, how were things different for girls when you were young?” There was a pause as my father replied. I didn’t know (at the time) what he was saying. But after a few moments, Monkey said, “Well… is Grandma home?” Another pause, then, “Well, Grandma is a girl. Is she home?”
When the interview was over, Monkey gave me the phone, and I asked Dad what had happened there.
“He asked me how things were different for girls when I was young, and I said I didn’t know because I’d never been a girl.” Funny, right? But also… what? I may have suggested (and by “suggest” I mean I prefaced my statement with “OH MY GOD, DAD”) that perhaps he had OBSERVED some differences simply by, I don’t know, being a member of the human race?
“I don’t think there really were many differences,” said my 73-year-old father. There was a moment wherein I tried to decide if he was going senile or if he really and truly just always believes the best about everyone. I concluded it must be senility. I pointed out that when he was Monkey’s age, girls weren’t allowed to wear pants to school, for starters. First he argued that surely they were allowed to. Eventually he conceded that maybe I was right. And then I told him I was worried it was time to push him into the lagoon. (We have a deal, me and my dad. Should he ever truly lose his mind, that’s how he wants to go. I’ve agreed, but what he doesn’t know is that I don’t think I’ll have the heart to push him. I’ll just put a box of JuJuBees on a fishing line and cast it out there and point and assume he can take his own damn self out to drown.) (Also: PANTS. Truly the biggest issue of his day for women. Or, y’know, NOT.)
Anyway, this afforded me the opportunity to talk to my son about how various ridiculous sexist and racist foibles of our past are so unthinkable by today’s standards that Grandpa has chosen to block them out entirely, isn’t that NEAT? Fun!
The other thing Monkey had to do is my most hated school exercise ever, which is that he was tasked with drawing a family tree. There are a lot of things I hate about family trees, but the main one is that our modern notion of family cannot, I think, be accurately represented with this kind of old-school construct. People divorce and remarry. Some people are adopted. Some people who aren’t related to us by either blood or adoption or even marriage are family by every other definition. It just feels… limiting… to me, I guess.
Nonetheless, Mr. Logical had soldiered onward with this exercise, and by the time he brought his rough draft home, he’d done a really excellent job of including everyone and finding ways to visually represent the connections between various folks. Still, there was a single high point in his drawing.
I should’ve taken a picture. It didn’t occur to me until he’d already left for school this morning, so you’ll have to trust my artist’s rendition of this particular facet of his family tree. It looked like this (but more adorable, and written in messy pencil):
“Uh, Monkey?” I said, trying to stifle giggles, once I saw this. “Did you mean to make this look like Otto and I had a child together, and that child is Licorice?” (This felt like a safer question than the issue of his drawing making it look like I’m practicing polyamory.)
“Of course!” he said. “You always say that Licorice is your baby. AND YOU ADOPTED HER.”
He had me, there. And I guess we don’t need to worry too much about Monkey ever being constrained by any particular box, now, do we? Surely not. Monkey will break free of racism, sexism, and speciesism. POWER TO ALL THE
PEOPLE SENTIENT CREATURES!