Dear Amelia Bedelia: what the hell is the matter with you?

Dear Amelia Bedelia headerMy first-grader was recently given the assignment of writing to her favorite fictional character. She picked Amelia Bedelia. While “favorite” may be a stretch– as you will soon see– I thought my seven-year-old’s questions were excellent and deserved a larger forum.

So here it is: an Open Letter to Amelia Bedelia.

wiy do you misunderstand

Dear Amelea bdelea

wiy do you misundrstad evrething? 

Yeah Amelia Bedelia. Why do you misunderstand EVERYTHING? One or two miscommunications a day might be acceptable in an employee. You get zero things right. Ever. Peggy Parrish established that you speak English, and that you are intelligent enough to walk upright, so I’m here to say it out loud: you are playing dumb ON PURPOSE.

spotsdressI mean, you have to be. Here you are “removing spots” from a dress. Okay, yeah, cute. We all know Mrs. Rogers is pretty high-maintenance so I’m figuring there were probably two actual food spots on the dress, tops. Otherwise she would have written down “take dress to thrift shop,” and you would have escorted the outfit to Goodwill for a full day of retail therapy. A dress trying on dresses. Oh Amelia Bedelia!

By the way: this super-wrong thing you are doing here would take (by my conservative estimate) about three hours longer than just scrubbing the two damn spots with a Shout stick. Is this all some sort of sick joke?

have you ever worked

Hav you avr wrkt as a hows cepr befor?

Sick burn from a seven-year-old. But I’m actually asking: Amelia Bedelia, have you ever worked as a housekeeper before? Have you ever worked before? Have you ever been on this planet before today?

You have no backstory; you never talk about your years as, say, a Rockette. Perhaps you’re in a Witness Protection Program of some sort. Your lack of history notwithstanding, despite your clear lack of aptitude for domestic service, you never try to do anything else. You have ruined homes, lives, entire bloodlines every day for HALF A CENTURY.

Have you heard what the definition of insanity is, Amelia Bedelia? It’s reading the same book to your kid for the thirty-seventh time that wasn’t even that funny the first time around.

pie

Wut do you put in your pie that maks it tast so gud?

eatingpie

Is it powdered heroin? What can you possibly put in your baked goods that would make Mrs. Rogers go from upside-down-triangle eyebrows to blithe acceptance in a single bite?

There is something UP with that lemon meringue pie and I hope Mrs. Rogers gets some forensic testing on it soon, because there is just no way anything you bake could tast gud enough to undo the world of fuckups you leave behind every day when you leave to catch the 5:08 bus to Simpletown.

 

not so sile

I lkie to read about you being so sile

I hop in your next book you are not so sile.

Here’s the thing, Amelia Bedelia. We GET IT. It is your shtick, it’s worked for you for fifty years, why would you change? But have you ever heard of something called “diminishing returns”?

Never mind. See, the real reason we keep reading is that all of us, fools that we are, hop you will NOT be so sile this time around. That you won’t RUIN EVERYTHING.

Amelia Bedelia ruining everything

The children of America are asking you nicely: in your next book, a little less of this, if you please?

Kali

In other words, do not be so evil sile.

good luke

I know, I know. Good luke with that.

how far should you push your kid? finding the “optimal push”

basketball boyI recently watched HBO’s documentary State of Play: Trophy Kids, directed by Peter Berg, creator of the TV series Friday Night Lights. (Since I still have my What Would Tami Taylor Do? bumper sticker on my car, I think Peter Berg has  modern parenting agita nailed.)

Trophy Kids follows four youngsters with have undeniable talents in their respective sports, but whose obsessive parents have pushed them so hard that the light in their eyes has gone out. It’s worth watching because you’ll feel like a great parent: hey, at least I’m not THAT guy. And it’s a cautionary tale for those of us who might be even slightly more invested in our kids’ chances at qualifying for Junior State Quarterfinals than our kids are.

But what was most interesting for me was the panel after the documentary, during which Berg introduced the idea of finding the “optimal push” for one’s child. Okay, don’t be a psycho parent, got it. Don’t overschedule one’s kids till they get ulcers. Got it. But don’t you have to push them some? Shouldn’t you help them find where their gifts lie, and then encourage them to pursue those gifts to the best of their abilities?

My husband and I ask each of our children to pursue at least one athletic and one artistic interest. (Guess which parent is pushing the “artistic” classes.) The particulars, and what sort of afterschool workload that creates, is up to them. In theory, this seems like a good plan, but it has led to our current reality:

FIRST-GRADER’S AFTERSCHOOL SCHEDULE:

  • violin
  • ballet
  • gymnastics
  • gymnastics again
  • CCD (also known as religious ed. Not her idea. But if you want to want to wear the first communion veil, you gotta do the time.)
  • homework
  • dinner
  • collapsing into bed at 8 pm

SIXTH-GRADER’S AFTERSCHOOL SCHEDULE:

  • basketball game, about once every two weeks
  • Xbox
  • Xbox
  • having friends over to play Xbox
  • dinner
  • brief homework interlude
  • second dinner
  • watching whatever sporting event is on ESPN till like 9:20 pm

My sixth-grader plays an instrument– but during band practice at school. He has basketball practice– during PE at school. Mostly my 12-year-old is really good at hanging out. In my rage to avoid an over-scheduled child, I have created an under-scheduled one.

This is supposed to be a good thing. This is supposed to lead to unstructured sandbox LEGO Cray-Pas time. And it did, back when that stuff was something my middle-schooler was still interested in. But in the middle of winter? If my 12-year-old has a friend over after school for “unstructured creative time,” they’re going to spend that using screens. And if I want my kid to do less of that? I need him out of the house. Taking an afterschool class.

So perhaps more structure, not less, is the right thing for older kids. Somewhere between “free every day after school” and “I go straight from model UN to my pitching coach to my Chinese tutor” is probably the optimal push for my sixth-grader.

And perhaps my first-grader needs more time to hang out and play with her dolls, although she seems perfectly happy to be as busy as she is.

So I’m wondering: what do you think is the “optimal push” for your child/ children? How do you know when you’ve found it?

 

State of Play: Trophy Kids is currently available for viewing on HBO Go. It is definitely worth your time. 

Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net.

This is not a sponsored post.