When I asked Mookie to grab a jacket this morning, she chose the poncho her guidemother Darcey made her. Ever since then, she’s been from Peru. She’s chattering in Spanish, quite fluidly, about how much she likes to climb the mountains of Peru, and chatting in English with her invisible llama, whose name is Aunt Verpa. (“As in vapor.”)
Mookie had been sniping steadily all the way from music class to the BART station.
Mama: No scootering on the platform.
Mama: Because it’s dangerous.
Mama: I’m not answering that.
Mama: Because you’re in one of those moods where you argue with everything I say.
Mookie: Not everything.
At that point I cracked up and said I had to share this conversation with the world. She helped me transcribe, giggling the whole time. I love that she gets what was funny.
Conversation from this morning.
Mama: I think that outfit looks great. The socks and sneakers, and the dress–you look terrific.
Mookie: That’s right, I do.
We are having a bit of a tussle about hair-brushing. I brush Mookie’s hair almost every morning, and while it is a pleasant ritual much of the time, I would like it to be something I do now and then to be close, not something I do because she can’t or won’t do it herself. This morning, I handed her the brush when we got in the car, because we hadn’t had time before then. She showed no signs of brushing. So I gave her my Appearance is Communication speech, the first of many, I’m sure. I said that what we wear and do with our hair expresses something. The man who wore old jeans and an untucked shirt to his mother’s memorial service (I may never get over this) seemed to be saying that it was not a very serious and special day, the way you would expect of the day someone says goodbye to his mother forever. When you don’t brush your hair for school, it seems like you’re saying that school and the people there and the things you do there are not very important to you. This all went over about as well as you would expect.
Mookie: What I’m saying when I don’t brush my hair is “Hi! Want to play?”
Mama (after getting laughter under control): Well, it’s true that hair and clothing aren’t very precise communication. Some people might take it just that way. Other people will take it as a sign that you don’t care about school.
Mookie: You know how many people will take it that way? (holds up one finger, looking all the world like an experienced litigator) One! And do you know who that one person is? You.
Seven years old or 37? You decide.
I decided I might get further with the pragmatic argument: if you have long hair and you don’t brush the knots out at least once a day, you will end up with huge knots that don’t come out no matter what, and you will have to cut your hair off above the knots. She saw some logic in this, but insisted, “It’s just one day!” Yeah, well, kid, if you don’t do the brushing this one day, and then you don’t do it the day after because it’s even harder, then before many days have passed, the hair is going to grow a rat’s nest of a knot. I told her that to keep long hair, she needs to show me she can brush her own hair, and that means that when I run my fingers through it, I don’t hit any knots. She did not achieve that level of prowess this morning. We’ll keep trying. Anyone know any romantic movies that show the heroine giving her hair a hundred strokes with the brush?
Earlier this summer, Mookie and I walked by a camp program (not hers) that clearly had a Star Wars theme, as all the kids were in costume. Among the boys, there were a variety of Star Wars characters. Among the girls, there was one: several versions of Princess Leia. It was kind of like an Elvis impersonator contest, with a wide variety of complexions, hair colors and sizes all in flowing white gowns and cinnamon-bun hairdos.
I said, “That’s a lot of Leias!” to the counselor, who gave a wry shrug–”They all want to be the Princess.” Now, Princess Leia is a badass, so, they could do worse for a role model. But as we headed home, I asked Mookie what character she would be if she were in that camp. She considered carefully and said, “First choice, the big hairy thing.” Chewie? I said. Yes. “Second, Darth Vader. Third, Princess Leia.”
Sounds like a plan!
Mookie and her two-years-older cousin N. were sharing lots of giggles over dinner tonight as Mookie engaged N. in one of her favorite pastimes, Math Quiz. She posed math problems and he solved them. They quickly got into Math Nerd Humor, Elementary School Division:
M: What’s 13 x 1?
N (feigning puzzlement): Um . . . 13?
M: (collapses laughing)
M: What’s ten times zero times zero times zero times zero . . . (collapses again)
Then he started giving her problems. “What’s -42 divided by 2?” Mookie had no idea what he was talking about. “Negative,” in this context, was a foreign word; she literally said “Huh?!” I suggested to N. that he explain negative numbers to her–she’d enjoy them–but then we heard this:
N: What’s negative 300 plus negative 301?
M: Um . . . 601–wait, no, negative 601.
At this point Joy’s eyes and mine met across the table, both clearly saying, How the hell does she know that?
This child’s intuition for math is astounding. Maybe she gets it from Joy.
I picked up Mookie from camp and announced that I was going to put on some music and do some cleaning. I hunted around a little for Sgt. Pepper (she loves the Beatles), but, not finding it within a couple of minutes, I decided on Bringing It All Back Home instead, and told her I was putting on Bob Dylan.
Mookie said, “I hate Bob Dylan!”
“Sorry about that,” I said, and started washing the dishes and wondering where I had gone wrong.
“Maggie’s Farm” came on. “That’s not even music!” Mookie declared. I admitted to her that other people have said so, but that they’re wrong.
With some reluctance, I reported this conversation to Joy, Mookie’s Mommy. Her response, after a hoot of laughter, was “I swear I didn’t tell her to say that.” My response was I clearly should have begun this process a long time ago. But it’s not too late. Honestly, how is one to become a properly rebellious, righteous, revolutionary teenager without the likes of “Maggie’s Farm”?