Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Jack the Ripper (Among Other Things) Makes My Neighbors Nervous

Birdie exploring the yard
My family has lived in our current house for nearly five years now, and it has been just recently that the neighborhood kids have really started to "get" my girls.  I know this comes as a shock to you, but Princess and Birdie aren't exactly-- how should I put it?-- "down with" kids their age.  They are reeeee-ally not into most of the outdoor games their peers like to play, either.  (You know, like tag, or riding bikes, or soccer-- just about anything requiring physical contact or eye contact.)  THAT is a problem.  When you are seven and you don't usually like playing seven year-olds' games with seven year-olds, making and keeping friends can be challenging-- to put it mildly.  But my kids and my neighbors' kids keep trying, so there is still hope.

The way my kids play-- or don't play-- with other children makes everyone else in the 'hood nervous.  With Princess and Birdie, you can count on lots of scowling and shouting and very little sharing and sportsmanship...  Unless, of course, by sportsmanship, you mean that they are going to win.  Then there is lots of sportsmanship-- right up until it becomes unsportsmanlike gloating.

Let's start with those rare occasions when Birdie tries to play group games with other kids in our neighborhood.  (Betcha noticed the very conspicuous absence of Princess's name here.  If I included her in this part of my tale, it would be fiction-- Princess doesn't do group anything voluntarily!  I have tried to press the issue once or twice, but always backed off when I realized the welfare of others was at stake.  Getting sued over a game of Duck Duck Goose ain't worth it, y'all.)  That brings me to tag-- oh, how I hate thee, let me count the ways!  Tag is a problem.  A very big, ugly, noisy problem.  Everything about tag is contrary to everything my girls find fun.  There is running and chasing and touching involved-- OMG, why does Birdie keep saying yes to this game?!!  In five years, I can count on one finger how many times that game has ended without tears!  One finger!  Birdie always gets tagged and never does any tagging of her own, and thus the crying and complaints of injustice.  "Tag with bases is dumb!  The bases are for kids too lazy or dumb to win tag without them!!"  I'm sure the bases would be less "dumb" if my darling ever made it to said bases.

As bad as tag is, it is much less painful to watch than when Birdie tries to explain her own game to the neighbors.  She sooooo badly wants the kids in the 'hood to play the game she made up called "Where in the World Will That Punk Go?"  Huh?-- Don't worry, that was my first reaction, too.  Her objective is to spot "suspicious people" she doesn't recognize (aka punks) and try to guess where they are going.  Her standard response is usually jail.  Or they are on their way to perform some nefarious act that will then result in jail.  You have to try to figure out the destination by the way the "punk" looks and then tell how you know.  (ex.  He is going to write graffiti on the overpass.  You can tell because he has paint on his shoes and since he's not in school he's probably a bad speller like graffiti-ers.)  The responses from other kids range from scared to WTH?  The neighborhood friends try to politely decline, but they are all 1st and 2nd graders, so their responses to her offer just sound like a freaked out "NO!"  I can't imagine why the other kids aren't clamoring to join the fun.

Birdie's pet dino-- her escort for many months

P can catch.
P can throw.

Princess caught on film moments before the poor child
behind her got the "no touching" lesson
*Note:  These are just random pictures of my kids playing happily.   I know I have taken pictures of my kids not enjoying playing outside.  Those pictures just never seem to make the final cut of Keepers.  All these pictures come complete with the Hallelujah choir singing in the background, because many of these shots (especially the one right above this) are miracles caught on film. 

Recently, Birdie has really been scaring the living bejeepers out of my neighbors and my friends.  She likes to play alone in the yard, running and yelling, and acting out scenes from her Pokemon battles.  That by itself makes most people wonder about her mental stability.  Add to that the fact that, now, when someone comes up to say hi, she will yell out something strange and scary like "NOOOOO, JACK THE RIPPER!!  DON'T BITE HER!!" and pretend to be racing toward something just behind the person approaching.  (I hate to admit how funny it is to watch these people jump out of their skin, but it is hilarious!  And I'm talking our definition of hilarious.  I am pretty sure one of my neighbors had to go change their Depends after their little encounter with Jack the Ripper.)  After their mild heart attack, Birdie introduces the victim neighbor to her imaginary pet Rottweiler, Jack the Ripper.  She also usually shows them some of the tricks he can do.  Not weird at all, right?  I'm certainly getting used to it!

Regardless of her imaginary play, Birdie does find success playing outside with the neighbors when she leads a treasure hunt or shows the other kids how to build a bird nest or plant a seed.  These activities are in her area of expertise.  All of the goofiness and weirdness she displays during tag and "Punk", or when playing pretend, melt away during these activities and then she's just a geeky kid enjoying some geeky fun.

Miss Safetypants, getting wild and
crazy without her helmet
Birdie and Princess both have fun riding their scooters or bikes with the neighbors.  They almost seem be normal in this respect-- racing around on the sidewalk, giggling and going just as fast as they can.  But upon closer inspection, you see a different dynamic taking place.  Every kid but mine is chasing after each other, trying to catch up to their friends, racing, rounding corners at full speed, and having fun.  Birdie, you notice, is constantly looking over her shoulder, afraid of being run into from behind.  She is always coming to a complete stop at every turn, like any good little Miss Safetypants would.  Princess, by comparison,  is oblivious that the other children are even there!  I sit and watch her, clenching my jaw and waiting for the time when she will make a speed bump of some kid that gets in her way.  Luckily, the others have known Princess long enough to know that she does not brake for pedestrians.  As far as she is concerned, if you have wheels, you have the right of way...  I see a lawsuit somewhere in my future with that one.  Can't you just imagine the meltdown that would occur if she broke her scooter on some kid with the audacity to get in her way?!  And what if I make her apologize?  We'd all need therapy after that!

Love my EZ Roller scooter!
As with when riding her scooter, my Princess can be best described as playing "near" other children rather than with them.  She will jump rope, draw with chalk, hula hoop, play hopscotch, or play with a ball near the other kids, and sometimes even chat with them.  The longer we are outside, though, the farther she moves from the others and the less she will respond to direct questions.  The toys she chooses are always easily portable so that she can make a quick getaway, and often double as weapons if she is dealing with a particularly stubborn "friend".  Have I mentioned how good at apologizing I have become?  I'm a freakin' diplomat, these days.

Princess, ready to play Come Back,
Usually, if Princess instigates play with another person outside, that person is her dad or me.  She has little patience for most kids her age.  I think this is so mainly because she is not as physically adept as her peers-- and it frustrates her to no end.  At least with us grown ups, she expects us to be less goofy than her, and therefore she is less offended by being outperformed by us.  Her choice of activities are typically pretty low-key, like kicking a soccer ball with her or throwing frisbees.  Lately, she has asked to play her game "Come Back Butterfly", where we try to catch a whiffle ball out of the air with a butterfly net.  (Her own invention, obviously, since it contains a princess's favorite insect.)  Too cute!  She is so proud when she catches the "butterfly".  And so pissed when someone her age wants to play too.  For some strange reason, P's screams quash any interest her friends might have had to play with her.  We are working on quashing the screams, in hopes that, one day, Princess might feel up to playing with someone her own size.  (I cringe to think I might still be her playmate in her high school years.)

For now, I will be happy that we are making progress.  When we first arrived here five years ago, my darlings would run for the front door, begging to go in whenever the neighbors came out to play.  These days, Birdie runs to greet her neighbor friends, while Princess keeps plugging away at whatever she is doing. The fact that P no longer needs to immediately dodge the other kids is such a relief!  Now, if only I could convince Birdie to cage up that damn Rottweiler and stop scaring everyone, we may get to see continued progress in the future.


  1. I could totally watch the punks with Birdie--sounds much more fun than tag :)

  2. Where in the World Will *That* Punk Go sounds like a game right up my alley! Maybe more like when I was 12, rather than 7, but hey, it still sounds fun. :-)

    Did they watch the shuttle on Tuesday? I wonder if they wanted to stay in the classroom like my little one did...

    1. My Birdie saw the shuttle and was very excited to see it. Princess missed seeing it and couldn't have cared less. She wasn't crazy about leaving the classroom when I called them out to see, and her dawdling made her miss it. Oh well... I thought it was FANTASTIC!! I have always been a bit of a space geek, though.

      Glad you got to fulfill a dream by seeing it. So cool! :)

  3. Replies
    1. Yes, you are! I remember watching the Challenger launch in AG... You and I were the only teary-eyed kids in the whole bunch that day.

  4. Love your writing, I feel like I'm right there watching. B is simply in training for an FBI/CIA position in her future!!! Mary

    1. Thanks, Mary!

      And maybe Birdie IS training to be a secret agent! She needs to work on being stealthier, though. Currently, I believe a herd of rhinos would be less conspicuous than she is when trying to sneak around. LOL!

  5. I want to play where in the world will that punk go!!! My husband and I play what does that guy do for a living...we could easily adapt. Have a great day!