Saturday, January 03, 2009

Boys are from Rome/Girls are from Byzantium

So the little Goofs and I wander over to carpool buddy's house one weekend afternoon. This way Mama Goof will get a break. The carpool buddy clan actually has four children: carpool buddy who is Goofboy's age, a daughter who is Goofgirl's age, a daughter between the two (she's in the carpool too so we can call her "Carpool Gal"), and a younger son.

Goofboy and carpool buddy greet each other, grab a football, and go to the front yard. They practice running plays (which they have been known to do without a football at all - just spontaneously like characters in a musical, if they make musicals about football.) Then they square off for one-on-one bowl games. We don't hear from them again, unless there is a major wound. They are satisfied.

Goofgirl sees her friend and immediately they revive an ongoing dispute they have about who is who's friend. Apparently my daughter likes to blurt out at random several hundred times a day, "You aren't my friend!"

I am not sure if she is actually mad at anyone or if this is a sort of emotional sonar she has evolved in order to figure out who is paying attention to her. We had a little boy over and they played together for a long afternoon (they both like to wash their hands - an excuse to splash water.) But the next day at school, Goofgirl told him "You aren't my friend anymore."

The boy was crestfallen, having told his parents the night before that he hoped to marry my daughter.

Goofgirl's carpool clan counterpart (let's call her 3C) is made of sterner stuff. But she demands the truth, what did Goofgirl say! Carpool gal offered her services as a go-between. Of course, she had her own agenda - keeping the two mad at each other so she could play with one of them. Naturally, I stepped in, and using the same techniques I would have used with the boys, tried to identify an activity all three of them could jointly undertake. "Let's claim!" I proposed, "Let's race!"

I soon found myself but a pawn in a three-sided power struggle. 3C is a stickler for historical accuracy and had to get to the bottom of Goofgirl's verbal assault. Goofgirl denied everything, but carpool gal was more than prepared to remind everyone.

"Look," I said, "the important thing is not what my daughter said but that we find something fun we can all do together."

"No," 3C replied, "the important thing is what she said, because I think she said she wasn't my friend anymore."

"Right," chimed in carpool gal, "That's what she said, I heard it, she's not your friend anymore."

I look at my daughter, "Do you want to play here or not?"

"I do, but..."

"No buts, we have to find something we can all do together," I said firmly.

"She was going to say that she isn't my friend anymore," began 3C.

At this point I threw my hands up and walked away to have a beer with carpool dad. He told me that every night he cuddles up with 3C before bedtime and she proceeds to tell him, in exhaustive detail, everyone who has wronged her over that day. If he asks about events from days previous but mixes up names or specific events she corrects. It is for the best that 3C has no twin (besides the fact that I am running low on pseudonyms) because she would no doubt remember grievances suffered in utero. (Carpool mom is also pleased that they weren't twins, although she had another later so she might as well have gotten numbers three and four of the way all at once.)

I shared that when I bring Goofgirl home she details for me who did and who did not play with her in quiet room, which boys are smitten with her, and who can be in her secret club. I am strictly forbidden from belonging to the club (along with other stinky boys).

Historical Precedents

I told carpool dad about chat with my aunt, who had two boys and a girl. She said between her sons and the boys in the neighborhood there could be 40 kids in her yard. Games would be invented, leagues formed, championships held. Cars could be stripped to their component molecules and painstakingly reassembled. Fortifications were built, wars were waged, civilizations rose and fall. All before they were called home to dinner. My aunt never heard from from them (beyond the occasional sounds of heavy machinery.)

Injuries were taken in the time honored way of boys:

"Dude, is that blood?"


"Walk it off."

However, my aunt reported, a playdate involving a plural number of little girls quickly devolved into arcane disputes involving notes and phone calls to outside honest brokers (who were never truly honest.) I imagine in this day of text messaging this will only be more complicated. Hopefully by the time my daughter is a teenager this can all be done with telepathy (which I - as an old fogey - will never quite understand) and then she can fight with her friends silently. If she can keep it quiet I'll pay when she goes over her mental minutes.

Carpool dad and I sip our beers, talking about men and women and the evolution of civilization. Boys are builders and breakers (mostly breakers), girls have mastered intrigue (although maybe I shouldn't talk since my wife invariably fixes broken things at our house).

The girls have found some complicated game to play, that breaks every few minutes for negotiations. From the front yard we hear an oddly beefy sound - as though a football had hit someone in the head. Then we hear the immortal words, "Walk it off, or they might make us quit."

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