A few posts back in the Adventures of Bubble and Sparkle I happened to capture a conversation between my boys that was a perfectly classic and totally spontaneous example of the funny (and ridiculous) conversations that go on around my household every single day. I got lots of positive feedback from readers who loved ‘hearing’ the voices of my gang of boys. “You should do that again” said Oami. And thus a seed was planted.
Would it be possible to transcribe the fleeting, endearing moments and conversations that make up an average day in this sweet madness of parenthood? Could I be the official stenographer of Boyland??
The answer is, sort of. Armed only with whatever writing tool was at hand (pen, pencil or crayon) and whatever piece of paper I could grab (sometimes my official notebook that I carry in my purse, sometimes one of the old paper airplanes that litter every square-inch of my house) I’ve been attempting to record events for posterity.
I tried a couple of different approaches in my effort to capture testimony in Boyland. In search of good material and to get them talking, one day as we were sprawled around on the couch I tried ‘interviewing’ my three boys :
Mom: So, what do you like about having a brother?”
Lincoln: To play with them.
Mom: Like, what do you play?
Linc: Like…the stuff you see.
(not much help there. I turn to the older brother)
Maceo: To get them to do stuff. Like get you a glass of water.
Mom: Do you mean wait on you?
(I try another question, this time framed in the negative and the response is a little more lively)
Mom: What don’t you like about having a brother?
Maceo: They are always trying to get me to play with them.
Maceo: That he barges into my room (the proverbial ‘He’ I take it…meaning any of his brothers)
Lincoln: Maceo…he….ummmm…sometimes gets into MY room”
Maceo: you are imagining things.
Lincoln: When Maceo always, always, almost every day says “NO”.
(note: at this point the interview begins to break down while middle brother has a big fat feeling about this ongoing issue of being excluded by his big brother. Tears and self-pity ensue. Meanwhile, big brother ignores these accusations and is lost deep in thought, apparently revising his original statement as I discover a few moments later)
Maceo: Mom, this is my answer – “most of the time, their sheer annoyingness.”
The car is always a place to catch some good boy-talk. All sorts of stuff gets discussed on the road and lately when Keith is the one driving, I’ve had the chance to get some of it on paper.
Here is Lincoln describing a superhero of his imagination to his Dad while I try to transcribe the conversation. As usual the really good stuff has already been said by the time I realize what I’m missing and I dig into my purse to find notebook and pen. Trying to capture a fleeting moment of brilliance in my kids imaginary worlds makes me wish for some kind of machine that I could hook up my brain and that of others, that could instantly transcribe the genius of free-associative conversation:
L: “And Dad….Strike Colander Comrade, he’s the master of the good”
Dad: “Wait, wait. Who is Strike Colander Comrade?”
L: (with a tone like, Duh!) “He’s a good guy. He turns into goo. Covers you in goo, turns back into himself and then you are inside him”
L: “This is about the laser. And then…”
Dad: “Are you done?”
Lincoln looks at him like, are you CRAZY? I’m just getting started…
Dad: “Oh. Go ahead.”
L: “So…then if you laser him from the inside, that just makes him stronger… and then to the other guy on the bad team…he’ll just punch them into space.. and then one of his good guy mates in space, he’ll just laser him up.”
(I believe what he is referring to now is a battle tactic familiar to kindergarteners known as ‘tag teaming’. His description of the adventures of Strike Colander Comrade and his good-guy assistant who rid the world of bad guys goes on and on, a constant stream of jabber. Until of course he suddenly changes tack and decides that SCC is actually a bad guy because, “in my universe, the bad guys always win” )
Dad: (half-listening now as he sleepily follows the narrative) “so….he wears tight red pants, huh?”
L: “Yeah. No actually. His pants are blue.”
L: “He’s super fast. Faster than a motorcycle, and a dirt bike. And a jet plane is faster than an airplane”
Royal who has quietly been listening to all this, has one simple yet definitive statement to make:
“Airplanes are good!”
Here’s another funny thing that happened in the car once that I jotted down in my handy-dandy notebook. Keith and I and all the boys were in our car on our way to Berkeley, and this is what I wrote:
“On highway 80. Pick-up truck in front. Couple of kids are waving to us. Their hands protrude from a small back window that’s open. We laugh and talk about it and wave back. About ten minutes down the road Lincoln who is sitting in the very backseat of the van and has apparently been oblivious to all our conversation about the wavers, suddenly shouts out with total and complete amazement:
“OH MY GOD!!! There are hands sticking out of that truck!!”
Royal, at two-and-a-half, definitely wins the award for uttering the most adorable and totally random statements. Sometimes they make sense and sometimes they don’t but his delivery –with a wee lisp and great sincerity – never fails to make me laugh. These are some of my favorite recent Royal-isms:
“My favorite thing that’s white is cream cheese”
“Mom.….I don’t have any more guns in my room.” (great)
“I found twenty dollas” (holding up a scrap of paper)
“Spider man has a hooker”
(this last remark elicited a series of questions from me until I could ascertain that he was in fact describing the ‘hook’ mechanism by which Spiderman climbs up walls and not some kind of escort)
Inspired by Dave Chappelle’s infamous skit Home Stenographer (not okay for kids or work) I also tried capturing the madness of first-hand by simply transcribing everything they said. Due to the mercurial and bizarre nature of children’s imaginary lives, this is not an easy task – akin to trying to capture the wind in your hands. One day Lincoln and Royal and “Arabella” (the little neighbor girl from down the street) were playing in the bedroom and I got my chance to try my hand at the art of amanuensis.
(Slight digression here – this neighbor girl is what I would describe as “a real piece of work”. She is extremely precocious and hyper-feminized and brings to mind the tender sweet young thing from Free to Be You and Me. In fact she really deserves her own blog post but as she’s only Five that is a little unethical and kinda mean. So in order to protect the innocent I’ve changed her name, but wanted you to have a mental picture nonetheless )
So, in part to supervise their play together and in part to practice capturing their dialogue, I sat the room with them in a miniature chair with pencil and an old bit of construction paper and tried to keep up:
Arabella: Pretend I’m like – ‘oh! Why are you scaring me with that knight costume?’ I thought you were going to sword me…
Lincoln: Pretend it’s the Haunted House part now. Go in!
A: No. I don’t want to.
L: Go in. Try it.
A: No I can’t.
Royal: (As usual, contributing a singular reasonable comment in the conversation, in his sweet little baby voice with a slight lisp)
“It’s not freaky.”
(Arabella peeks into the makeshift cave created with blankets over the bunk bed screams a piercing scream that could wake the dead, and runs away)
A: (recovering slightly) Pretend I’m the ghost.
L: Pretend I’m not
A: Pretend I am.
A: Pretend you’re the ghost but I’m still the girl (more screeching and running) ‘Oh! my hair!’…
L: Pretend your hair is screwed in all the way
A: Pretend I have a magical whip (whip, whip with a rainbow scarf)
L: Pretend I turned you into my friend
A: No! No! I’m a nice girl….
L: Pretend I’m up here (as he sits atop the bunk bed) and I point my sword and it gets you.
A: Pretend it doesn’t.
Besides all the obvious Freudian imagery on display, I was fascinated by the spontaneous role-playing and the tension of the boy/girl worldviews at work. I felt like an anthropologist, Jane Goodall of 25th St, observing animal instincts at work. It was amusing to simply watch and record their behavior and not try to intervene. I think would be so hard to be a wild life photographer when your job is to sit back and capture such battles for supremacy without intervening.
Caught on Tape! Weird scenes inside Boyland!
|Noun1.stenographer – someone skilled in the transcription of speech (especially dictation)|
This job that I always assumed belonged to assistants and young clerical workers, is harder than I thought. In researching stenography online, I found an elite and very self-proud culture with its own marketing approach. One bumper sticker available to order boldly stated :
“Being a good stenographer is 3% talent and 97% not being distracted by the internet”
Anyone who can achieve their work (and that includes parenting) in this day and age without being distracted by the internet deserves praise. Hey! maybe I need to get me one of these tank tops after all?!
So, I don’t know if my experiment as home stenographer was successful or not. Or if it is even possible to permanently capture the ephemeral passing moments of life with little children. What I do know is that if I’m the assistant that handles correspondence, then Boyland is mostly definitely the organisation that I work for. And like any good organisation, where chaos is maintained under fragile authoritarian control, the work just keeps on coming.
Boyland never rests. It’s inhabitants never stop amusing and confusing me. Trying to keep up with their minds and conversations is nearly impossible but they never fail to give me food for thought, make me laugh, or wonder what it will be like when these boys are grown and I won’t have the daily spectacle of their ridiculous interactions to enjoy.
Until then…..where’d I put that pencil?