The Unwritten Rules (aka: Young-at-Heart)

image Do you know what I really felt like doing today? Skipping. I mean, there I was, walking downtown in my cute, professional-looking dress, when I was suddenly overwhelmed with an urge to skip to the train station. Why? Oh, I don’t know — because the sun was shining, and the sky was so blue, and because I am still young and coordinated enough to skip instead of walk.But I did not skip. I took a deep breath, then continued to walk at a dull, steady pace, like the rest of the grownups. Because skipping is one of those things that just isn’t done.

As far as I know, there is no grand master list of written rules for things which one mustn’t do after the age of 21. But nevertheless, the rules exist. It is not proper to show up at a friend’s house uninvited. It is not appropriate to grow vegetables and flowers in place of a square, green lawn in many suburbs. It is not okay to go about speaking in a fake British accent (and definitely not in PigLatin). It is okay to feel young-at-heart, as long one does not wear a bikini over the age of 35, or blow bubble-gum bubbles, or eat Lucky Charms cereal, or watch cartoons.


Adults playing

But why do we have so many rules? Why, in order to be accepted in society, must we dress and speak and move a certain way? Now, I agree that some rules are necessary. Rules that keep people safe, for example, or rules created for ethical reasons, or to keep order in society. Clearly those are useful and necessary. But what about the unspoken rules — the ones which tell us what is and is not socially acceptable? I mean, yes, we should all look down on people who wear socks with flip-flop sandals, because ew. So déclassé. But if, while standing in line at the supermarket, I were to break out singing Seasons of Love (and secretly hoping that everyone else would join in, like in Improv Everywhere), then I’m pretty sure I’d get a lot of oddball looks, and maybe even kicked out.

So, I do not break out singing in the supermarket. Or wear flip-flop sandals without socks. But you know what? Tomorrow morning, I may just kick back with a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal while I watch an episode or two of Adventure Time. Because life is short. And some rules are just stupid. And maybe it is the giving in to those occasional bursts of feeling young-at-heart that actually do keep us young. Not to mention happy.

And so, when I stepped off the train today, I chose to give my inner wild child permission to break the rules. I tilted my face up toward the shining sun and blue sky, and skipped, carefree, across the parking lot. And felt a lot better for it.



Weapons, Wars, and Wicked Witches

Andy FairhurstOur family has quite the stockpile of weapons. Last time I checked, we owned three swords, four handguns, one rifle, one crossbow, and one rather large scythe. My sons are becoming quite skilled at using them. In fact, just yesterday —

Oh relax. They are toy weapons. You know — Nerf guns, foam swords, etc. Yup…our household is a never-ending battle zone of good guys vs. bad guys, superheroes vs. supervillians, humans vs. giant alien robot vampires. Thanks to my 8 and 12 yr.-old sons, my peace and quiet are constantly disrupted as wars break out and foam bullets whiz past my head.

In the public schools where I teach, weapons play is strictly forbidden. But in our house, it is not only allowed, but I am happy to supply the toy arsenal and provide ideas for war strategy. Too violent? I disagree. Through their play, children work through the issues that frighten them, and have the ability to overcome or understand their fears. When my son swings his foam sword and slices off the head of the imaginary zombie, he then becomes more powerful than the creature in his imagination. When my daughter assumes the role of antagonist and becomes a wicked witch, the reversal of roles allows my daughter to lose her fear of the witch whom she portrays. And when my oldest son aims his gigantic nerf blaster at his me and shoots me in the forehead with a suction dart, he learns that I can become a monstrous creature who snarls and shrieks and takes all the weapons away.

(Well, okay. That’s a different lesson. No shooting mothers or other unarmed civilians). Andy Fairhurst

This Halloween, like millions of other typical American children, my three kids will dress up in costumes and go out to beg for candy. My youngest son, who was The Grim Reaper last year (hence the scythe in our arsenal), has decided to be a protagonist this year — a good king who only fights bad guys with his sword. My daughter will be a witch. My oldest son has decided to be a spooky ghost. As for me, I am thinking of dressing up in costume too. Maybe I will duct tape our entire collection of weapons to my body and go as a contestant in the Hunger Games.