I take my camera with me wherever I go. You never know when something noteworthy will reveal itself and I like to be prepared. (Oh, and before you ask, no, I was not a Girl Scout.) For instance, yesterday while running some errands, I noticed an excellent juxtaposition of storefronts. In a strip mall up here in Rogers Park, there’s a very large candy store right next to a dentist’s office. Cause and effect? That’s probably overstating it, but there has to be some kind of cosmic symbiosis at play here. And, like every Gen Xer, I appreciate irony above all else, so I snapped a quick photo.
Generally, this photo-snapping habit is enough to quench my thirst for irony and humor in everyday life, but there have been a few times when I’ve wished for a video camera to record entire events in real time. This past Saturday was one of those rare times when I wished to all that’s holy I’d had a video camera on me. The resulting film would have been an instant classic (a term that is not thrown around lightly here at CHIRP). There was drama. There was action. There was comedy. There was even real vomit! It was a three-year-old’s birthday party and it was fantastic. Never before have I been so happy not to have been involved in any way with the success or failure of an event. I was a guest, as were my three-year-old twins and my husband; but truthfully, we were peripheral actors in a carnivalesque scene of absolute mayhem.
First, a little background: My kids attend preschool in the Gold Coast. Ironically, my husband and I chose this particular preschool for our kids not because it was posh and all the moms/nannies dropped their kids off in Lexus SUVs; no, we chose it because it was the cheapest we could find. (And for the record, I drop my kids off in a hand-me-down Ford with a huge dent in the front, a peeling bumper, and a semi-functional defrost system). Posh Preschool is even cheaper than the preschool classes offered by our neighborhood Chicago Public school—no joke! Oh, and the quality of education my kids receive at Posh is amazing. For what we pay, comparatively speaking, it kind of feels like stealing. (Win!)
So my kids attend Posh with other toddlers who will, no doubt, grow up to attend private schools around the city and then go on to become international ambassadors, brain surgeons, and multi-billionaire real estate developers—or so said schools would have you believe. Knowing that this road-to-achievement mindset is shared by school administrators and most of the parents of my kids’ classmates, it gives me so much joy to attend early birthday parties where these little would-be rocket scientists and diplomats behave like complete barbarians. Throwing tantrums, throwing shoes, in one case throwing smaller siblings…nothing is out of bounds for toddlers jacked up on sugar and adrenaline.
My son is usually freaked out by birthday parties, with good reason given the attendees, so he tends to hang out with me. My daughter, on the other hand, is content to find something to play with (at this last party, it was fairy wings and a magic wand) and will watch the wanton destruction from the sidelines with a friend or two. This is not to say that they abstain from barbaric behavior the whole time, comporting themselves with the utmost in proper etiquette. Quite the opposite. Yesterday, Squeaky and another girl rolled a third child headfirst down a slide and giggled maniacally all the while. The third child, understandably, was in tears. Winchie, who despises sitting in a circle for reading time, exacted his revenge on the unsuspecting leader of Birthday Story Time by hurling a large metal watering can full of fake flowers in her general direction and roaring at her like a monster. And while I quickly stepped in to curtail this kind of behavior in my children, I also enjoyed getting a glimpse of their completely unhindered ids at play.
Enter the wish for a video camera. When my kids are all grown up and have the obligatory white collar desk jobs that modern middle-class education prepares them for, there won’t be any opportunity for them to let their ids run free and participate in a truly wild rumpus Maurice Sendak-style. Instead, they’ll bottle it all up inside and release it in the form of mid life crises. At least, that’s my theory. How else does one explain old men with combovers buying up the world’s supply of virility substitutes—oops, I mean sports cars—and marrying bubble-brained bimbettes like it’s a perfectly natural thing? It’s funny, sure, but also kind of sad.
So I want a video of kids being kids because it’s such honest behavior. They’re too little to subscribe to the rules of society that further schooling and class consciousness will put upon them. It’s so great to watch them roar their little hearts out over the injustice of that kid over there getting a cupcake first and getting to see them stomp their little feet with righteous indignation over having to wait for a turn on the slide. I mean, really. Don’t we all want to get the first cupcake and be the first one down the slide? And when that doesn’t happen, don’t we want to scream and stomp our feet, too?
It would be so great to capture, just for a minute, the essence of all these little developing people. And before you run for your tinfoil hats or accuse me of stealing the plot of Dr. Strangelove, here’s what I’m getting at: One day, the little people engaging in birthday party shenanigans will be all grown up and messed up just like their parents. But they’ll still be the same basic person inside. Temperaments generally don’t change with age, barring unfortunate accidents and/or abuse of some kind. So here would be this little recording of a room full of toddlers just having a great time running, pushing other kids, screaming, chasing, pounding fists, eating too much cake, and generally behaving like the little primates they are. No lame posturing, no inhibitions, no affected ideological philosophies, nothing fake. Seeing how little people navigate the world in this state is one of the best parts of parenting. (Well, that, and getting to re-watch your favorite cartoons while eating ludicrous amounts of Rice Krispie treats). It’s nice to be reminded that we all start out on pretty much the same level and while we’re all destined for different things, there once was a time when even the seemingly all-powerful CEO of Amalgamated Conglomo Widgets R Us picked her nose and cried for her mommy when another kid stole her favorite My Little Pony toy.