The Truth About Dating

I thought I’d stumbled upon the Watergate story of the Parenting World, complete with an anonymous source.  But there are no break-ins, wiretaps or tapes.  There are no cloak and dagger-style espionage or late night meetings in semi-dark parking garages where my informant is wearing dark glasses and a trench coat.  It was simply through solid investigative journalism that I cracked this story wide open.

In the spirit of Woodward and Bernstein, I will protect my confidential source.  You can subpoena me, make me pay fines or throw me in jail like Judith Miller.

Because I’m not talking.

I will tell you that I call my secret informant Smart Girl.  And that won’t narrow it down one bit.  Because as far as I can tell, there are a whole lot of them in this valley.

While I will not reveal her identity, I will share the intel I obtained on that fateful cloudy day.  It was so shocking, as a member of the Parenting Tribe, I knew this information could not be dispensed on a need to know basis.  Because parents You. Need. To. Know.

Smart Girl told me Middle Schoolers are Going Out.  That’s right, they’re dating.

Sensing this story was Big News, I remained objective as a good reporter should and asked a well-reasoned line of probing questions.  “WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY ARE GOING OUT?” I shrieked hysterically. “YOU ALL ARE TWELVE AND THIRTEEN YEARS OLD.  NONE OF YOU CAN EVEN DRIVE YET!  WHERE ARE YOU GOING AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, HOW ARE YOU GETTING THERE?”

I’m glad I was driving so I couldn’t see her roll her eyes.

Without giving Smart Girl time to answer, I continued my careful inquiry. “HOW LONG HAS THIS BEEN GOING ON?” I screeched at a windshield rattling volume.  “AND BE STRAIGHT WITH ME, IS MY KID GOING OUT?”

That was about the time that Mango Melon SoBe hit the windshield.  Smart Girl was laughing so hard it shot out her nose.

When she regained her composure, Smart Girl asked me, “What do you think Going Out means?”

“It means that you Go Somewhere, like to dinner and a movie,” I replied.  “You know, like a date.”

Smart Girl remained remarkably poised although it was clear she was trying hard not to spray the windshield with SoBe again.

But she continued.  “It’s not like that at all,” she explained.

“YOU HAVE TO TELL ME,” I loudly blathered on, “WHAT DOES IT MEAN?”

Thanks to my line of razor-sharp questioning, I had her exactly where I wanted her.  “It means they sit together at lunch and don’t talk to each other,” she said matter-of-factly.  I can’t confirm or deny this but I’m pretty sure there was another eye roll at this juncture.

So nothing has changed since I was in 7th grade.

Except when I was in junior high, there was one boy who really could have gone out.  Elvis Ray James flunked 7th grade so many times by the time I landed there he had already voted in a presidential election. He routinely inquired when they were adding a student parking lot.

Elvis Ray was every mother’s worst nightmare.

So on that day with Smart Girl, I’m glad I didn’t overreact.  It was a relief to learn that the Middle School version of Going Out story wasn’t even worthy of the National Enquirer.  But I remain on Red Alert for the Next Big Story.  You never know where Elvis is going to turn up.



The Piano Man

Older Boy announced he wanted to go to Europe with the language class during spring break, a plan that I fully support. But there was only one major question: how to pay for this little adventure.
I love travel. I believe in travel. I wish someone would pay me to travel. But I also know that if you don’t work for something, you don’t have the same level of appreciation for it. So we decided that Older Boy had to earn half the money to take the trip.
When trying to figure out what to do for fundraising, I asked a friend who’d been through the drill years ago for some advice. “What are his talents?” she asked. “He’s pretty good at the piano,” I told her. “So have him play,” she said. So we did.
While he did the requisite lawn mowing, pet sitting and flower watering this summer, the bulk of his fundraising time was spent twice a week on Main Street. Armed with my electronic keyboard, a homemade sign and a donation jar, he played everything from Maple Leaf Rag to Misty. And he rocked.
Not only did he make some cash, he ended up with some great stories too. Like the day he met the French tourists, young cute women, who stood and watched him, put money in his jar and before leaving, kissed his cheek. Or the jazz society patrons stopped at a red light who jumped out of the car with a fist full of ones for him. Or the day he found a fifty dollar bill in the jar. People wished him luck, took his picture and video taped him.
He also ended up with some fans. One afternoon at a burger joint a young guy came up to him and said, “You’re the kid that plays piano on Main Street – you’re awesome, dude.” Another day, I was sitting on the park bench across the street when two young men were going into the bookstore. “Did you hear that kid playing the piano across the street?” one guy said to his friend. “Yeah, he really rocks,” was the reply.
I think he learned a lot – about people and about himself. And in the process, he earned almost $1200 this summer. No small feat for a kid. And I have to admit, I’m pretty proud of his efforts.
But he’ll take to Europe more than the cash that he earned himself. He’ll take with him the knowledge of the effort it takes to earn a buck. And if you know how much work it takes to earn it, you are certainly more careful about how you spend it.
I think it’s pretty cool that he wants to continue playing on Saturdays in the fall. And I think it’s a pretty safe bet that he’s going to make half his money as we agreed.
I also know that if I ever need a quick buck, I’m going to dust off my piano skills and hit the street. But I’ll never make as much as he did. I’m just not as cute. Or as talented.

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