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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

It Takes a Village...To Build-A-Bear

...And other things I learned during the past 6 weeks.

First, I learned that schooling doesn't necessarily beat experience. For example, I'm sure academically trained teachers and psychologists would have handled a kid calling another kid "a gorilla and a lesbian" a specific way. I, however, having been raised by my mother - a woman who, to my brother's and my everlasting chagrin, had mall security called on her on at least two occassions during our childhood - chose to draw on his face and embarrass the hell out of him. This led to my second lesson.

Second, it's not very hard to make a kid cry.

Third, I learned Mike Newell is a prophet. After being chosen to direct the latest
Harry Potter movie, Newell said, "I [am] very anxious to break the franchise out of this goody-two-shoes feel. It's my view that children are violent, dirty, corrupt anarchists. Just adults-in-waiting basically."

Fourth, I learned that the reason why it takes a village to raise a child is essentially because kids are really fucking dumb.

One of the last outings for these kids was a trip to the mall. The other tutor who was supposed to go with me couldn't make it because of a doctor's appointment. Right. Anyway, this left me alone with five 7- to 10-year-olds...in a mall...for 5 hours.

After breaking a couple displays at Kay-Bee and being glared at by 5 different Kay-Bee employees, I rounded up the kids and took them to the very kid-friendly Build-A-Bear Workshop. I figured that would be a good way to kill an hour or two. One flaw in my plan - of the 5 kids, only 2 of them were girls. Two of the boys really had no interest in building a bear or anything else in the store. Then, there was the last boy - Mark.

Mark is a special boy. He's sort of like a mini-Larry David in that things just sort of happen to him. He also likes to talk, a
lot, and he likes to touch you when he talks - so much so that by the end of the day, I was slapping his hand away every time he grabbed my arm. Anyway, Mark's quest that day was to buy something for his parents. When we went into Build-A-Bear, I told him, "Mark, I'm going to help the girls make their bears. After we finish, we'll go find something for your Mom and Dad, okay?" Okay, things are going well, I thought. I helped the girls pick out a cute lil bear and we were waiting in line to get them stuffed. While we were in line, the girls were picking out sounds they wanted to put in their bears.

Then, I felt a grubby little hand on my arm. "
Teacher! I want to buy this for my Mom. I know she'll really like it." I look down and Mark is holding a sound box. Now, I don't know if you've ever been to Build-A-Bear, but the whole point of the store is to buy things to either put in or on a bear. That's it. So I see Mark holding the sound box that's supposed to go inside the bear and I say, "Mark, that's supposed to go inside a bear. Are you buying a bear?"

"No."

"Okay, then nothing in this store is really for you. Just wait a little bit and we'll go find something for your parents."

A minute later. Another hand on my arm.

I look down and this time Mark is holding two sound boxes.

"
Teacher, I want to buy this for my Mom and Dad. I know they'll really like it."

Kill me now. "Mark, I just told you that those are for the bears. Do you think your parents would really want a sound of Elmo laughing? Just put them down and play with Danny. We'll be done soon."

The girls and I had meanwhile inched closer to the front of the line. At the front, they have hearts that you can put inside your bear. I saw Mark reaching for one and said, "Don't even think about it. Those are for the bears. Your mom wouldn't want one." He looked surprised that I knew what he was thinking and he walked away. I thought I'd finally gotten through and turned my attention back toward the girls who were just about to have their bears stuffed.

After the first girl had stuffed her bear, I hear "
Teacher, teacher!" I turn around and see Mark barreling towards me with a huge grin on his face. He's holding a pair of pink bear slippers. "Teacher! I want to buy this. My Mom would really really like it. I know she would really like it."

This is a dream. This cannot be real. "Mark, is your Mom a doll? Is she the same size as these bears??" Pause. I see him pondering the question in his mind. "No, Mark, she's not! These shoes are for these toy bears. Your mom is not a toy, and she's not a bear. These shoes are not for her." I see he's still struggling with the question in his mind. "Just don't touch anything. Don't buy anything, don't touch anything. We're leaving soon."

So, after 6 weeks of Mark, Carl, and the Gang, I've realized something. Parents aren't incredibly patient, loving people. They're all just suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. How do I know this? Because I consider myself a rational person, and yet, despite what logic and rationality should dictate, I miss these kids like crazy. Even Tommy, the kid I made cry...twice, said to me before he left, "Teacher, you're going to write to me, right? Don't forget me." That sumamabitch (© Bernie Mac, Kings of Comedy) almost had me in tears.

So anyway, that's the story of my Stockholm summer. I hope everyone had a nice summer and enjoy what's left. I plan on capping mine off with a trip to Vegas. Did I tell you I saw Damon "the Butler" Jones there last time? He was sitting at a blackjack table right before Game 2 of Spurs-Pistons. He looked then like he looked throughout the Heat-Pistons series: lost and completely outplayed. During my next visit, I may have to kidnap a Maloof or two as retribution for Bobby Jackson.

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