Had it been my turn I would have tapped two fingers against my left forearm. “Two syllables!” my teammates would have shouted. Holding up two fingers and then grabbing my ear, I would have communicated, “second syllable!” and “sounds like!” before going on to pantomime “fear” by throwing up my arms, eyes wide. When that didn’t work, I would have tried galumphing about the living room like a bear before realizing that throwing a spear would be easier to decipher. A similar silliness would have ensured when I tried to act out first syllable “sit” to—eventually—rhyme with “Britt.” It is entirely possible that the timer would have run out as my partners helplessly screamed, “baseball! Olympics! Epilepsy!” And thank goodness for the timer because all civilization could come to an end before my teammates could have determined what I was trying to act out.
Whereas all the 20-something had to do was move her hand over her hair indicating—apparently—a shaved head for which—again, apparently—the singer, Brittany Spears, is well known.
Boom. Done. Two seconds off the clock. The other team now resoundingly in the lead.
And even more so when, again, they were able to communicate the clue “Kim Kardashian” by one gesture, pointing to a backside. Obviously, this person is known to—known for—having (pardon the expression but there’s no other way to say it) a big butt.
My point this week is not about playing Charades with your kids, a hoot and a half for sure. But that your kids are communicating with their peers in a language with which you have no familiarity. They are fluent in a language you don’t even know exists.
The curmudgeon in me refuses to know who the recent bald-headed pop star is. I vigorously decline to be aware of the identity of the person with the large backside. I have enough trouble remembering that Isaac Newton was born the year Galileo died (1642), or that George Washington Carver had only three patents among his 300-something inventions. Everybody makes choices and just as I prefer fish to chicken in the cafeteria line, I choose the history of science, about which I know little, over current knowledge of fashion or hairstyles or tushes, about which I decline to know anything.
But I have to have some awareness of what my children are communicating about with their peers. Not the specifics of who has a shaved head or an oversized backside, but the fact that the kids are able to share this intel with a simple gesture.
I want to my kids to have the authority and autonomy to choose their own friends, books, heroes, and information. But I don’t want to be exposed to, never mind learn about, their brave new world. Is the best I can do to be aware that they know stuff I don’t without knowing more exactly what that stuff is? Is it possible that my adult children are as interested in Galileo and George Washington Carver as I am in Britany Spears and Kim Kardashian?
Maybe the best we can do is encourage our kids to join us in the world in which we find meaning. And we best dig our well before we get thirsty. Could the answer be as simple as reading to them when they’re little, sharing values with them when they’re older, and inviting them to family game night when they’re grown?