Sunday, September 27, 2015

Inclusive Little Goofs

When GoofBoy came home from his first summer at Camp Ramah several years ago, one of the very first things he told us about was meeting and getting to know the kids in the special needs program. He relished his time with them. Many had limited vocabularies, but he appreciated how funny they could be given their limited tools to communicate.

Each year GoofBoy was a "buddy" to one kid. He took walks with him on Shabbat and visited with him regularly throughout his time at the camp. One year his buddy was there for eight weeks, but GoofBoy was only there for four. He was disconsolate when he learned GoofBoy was leaving. But GoofBoy introduced him to some of his friends who would be there all eight weeks and could keep him company.

GoofGirl also spent time with the kids in the special needs program. She mentioned visiting them to play games and to dance. She said not every kid in her bunk went out of their way to spend time with the special needs kids, but no one was mean to them - all the kids treated them with respect.

But this inclusive attitude wasn't learned at camp, just encouraged. The little Goofs brought it with them and, as always, I am very proud and touched by their deep kindness. (They are also great about visiting sick, elderly relatives and friends - no easy thing for children, or adults for that matter.)

One day during carpool we saw a social services bus in front of a house. A wheelchair-bound young man who we know from synagogue was being taken to the van. GoofBoy and Carpool Buddy enthusiastically exclaimed, "We know him from shul! So that's where he lives!"

Another time we were sitting at Panera's having lunch. A man sitting near us we gesticulating (a little) and muttering. Out of the corner of my eye I diagnosed him as having Tourette syndrome. In the car on the way home I asked if they had noticed him. They hadn't. I asked if it might have bothered them.

The boys answered in chorus, "No way! Why would it? There was a guy with Tourette on American Idol. He was awesome!"

As it happens, I have a pair of developmentally disabled cousins. They are in their 60s now. One is in a group home near us and comes to our synagogue. The little Goofs are always nice to them and happy to see them. They mention them proudly. My cousins have been told they are "uncles" and are very pleased with this.

This is all very different from when I was a kid. I don't remember us being particularly interested in special needs kids, and almost certainly not particularly nice or respectful.

This is different and different can be wonderful.

People with special needs face enormous challenges to living full lives. But the distances they have come have been enormous and the changing attitudes of today's kids hold promise for an even more inclusive future.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Under the Bus: Lessons on Horrible Humor

Once after buying something at CVS I made a donation with my purchase.

GoofBoy, observing this, said, "Dad, that was really great that you gave that money to kids with diabetes."

"Buddy, I gave it to help kids with diabetes. I wouldn't give it to the kids with diabetes, they'd just use it to buy candy."

GoofBoy laughed hard and then said, "Dad that's really horrible."

"But funny. Lots of things that are really funny are also really horrible. That's how humor works."


Driving we like to put the GPS in other languages. For a while we had it set on German, which is fun because even if you don't understand a word, it is very insistent.

As I drove GoofBoy and his friends around to their practices, I translated the GPS.
Make a right in two minutes.Make a right now!You haf failed to follow instructions. U-turn immediately!U-turn! Schnell! You vill be late.Clearly you vill not follow ze instructions.Alternate route plotted.You vill take ze train. This train vill haf no stops!
GoofBoy laughed, and then said, wisely, "Dad, that's horrible."


I came home from a meeting at the synagogue and observed, "Could we have one synagogue meeting in which someone didn't invoke the Holocaust?"

Note: if we ever really wanted to debunk Zionist conspiracy theories, we should just invite anti-Semites to a synagogue meeting. They will pretty quickly be convinced that Jews can't run anything or keep a secret.

"What was it this time?" MamaGoof asked.

In a bellowing old man voice I yelled, "No gefilte fish after Shabbos services? It's like the Holocaust!"

Everyone laughed, but GoofBoy, again the voice of reason, noted, "Dad, this is horrible."

"But funny," I said, "And you know why? Because there's no business like the Shoah business."

This quickly became a punchline around the house. "We're out of the good maple syrup? It's like the Holocaust!"

"Ten minutes waiting for the ATM? It's like the Holocaust!"

Another aside: So far I've made fun of diabetics, Germans, Jews, and the Holocaust. I hope any outraged comments (assuming I have any readers) are similarly balanced. Also, in fairness, I regularly threaten to sell my kids on the dark web and make fun of their friends mercilessly. I also do truly terrible things to the Spanish language.

It resonated. GoofGirl came home from school the other day and said, "A lot of kids in my class were complaining when the school ran out of their favorite juice box. And I was like, 'We're out of raspberry-lemonade? It's like the Holocaust!'"

Here I sat up, "Did you say this?"

"No," GoofGirl answered, "But I was thinking it."

"OK. Good. Because a lot of people will, as your brother says, think this is horrible. You will get into big trouble. And I will have to go to lots of boring meetings at school. No one wants this. So if you slip up and say something inappropriate - I'm throwing you under the bus."

"What does that mean?" the Little Goofs asked in unison.

"It means that I'll tell them you are out of control and should be sent to juvey."

Just so we're clear.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

First Day Jitters

Lots of first day jitters around Goof Manor earlier this week. The little Goofs returned to school. They weren't worried about bullying since they go to a Jewish day school where the quality of bullying is definitely sub-par. Although there is occasional litigation.

The little Goofs primary worry was other kids in their classes who, by misbehavior, might distract them from focusing on their school work. Really, they were stressed about this.

I was pretty nervous though since I'm starting something new. FatherGoof has been accepted for a prestigious fellowship for brilliant scientists (despite the fact that yours truly is neither brilliant nor a scientist - apparently they have a quota to accept a certain number of middle-aged acerbic goofs to balance the brilliant young biochemists). Having made my own hours (i.e. worked from home while wearing sweatpants) for over a decade, having to go somewhere every day, I mean every single day, while wearing pants and a nice shirt, seems impossible. 

When will I work out, when will I blog? What's that tiny violin sound I hear?

I will be driving less carpool, which is - in a word - wonderful. The children of the Carpool Clan are pretty happy too. Carpool Mom, less so.

But I was pretty nervous. The fellowship includes an extensive orientation. Scientists can be pretty mean. I was afraid the big scientists would take my reactor core, leaving me with nothing but a middle school microscope for looking at slides of snot (remember those, they were pretty cool at the time - I thought I was seeing snot molecules.)

MamaGoof knowing how jittery I was kept tabs by text and email. GoofGirl was doing ok, in her Advisory Group (which used to be called Homeroom) she is in with an old friend. They used to design guillotines together, but now they are working on a laser cannon. (Does the school not know it is a terrible idea to put them together?)

GoofBoy had normal jitters, but things calmed down when they spent math discussing swords. I guess this is part of geometry?

But I was in trouble. When I got there it was just like I thought. No one would let me sit by their table.

I knew what I had to do, I saw it in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Here are the texts MamaGoof recieved.

So everyone had a good first day.