Did you ever watch kids with a piñata? You can tell a lot about a kid by the way he handles a piñata and the ensuing explosion of Dum Dums and Tootsie Rolls. Some kids will take that bat and despite being spun silly, will swing wildly in every direction trying to connect with something.
They want not just to get the candy but to be the hero that will be talked about for tens of birthday parties to come. “See her, right there? That’s Maddie,” you might hear a mother whisper. “You know, Maddie, the one who beat the hell out of that poor Dora the Explorer last year? Every party we’ve been to since, I don’t even bother to have my Jacob line up if there’s a piñata. I don’t want him to look stupid and if someone else will do the work, what do I care as long as he gets the candy? I just position him so a good chunk of candy will fly in his direction. He’s got asthma, you know, so I don’t want him to over exert.”
There are the kids who are calculating. They try to get their bearings before swinging. They plan, they measure, they adjust. They are smart about trial and error and listening to the voices of the observers: do they say “Ohhh,” meaning he’s close or do they laugh because the attacker is chopping at someone’s grandma who just came out of the ladies room.
Then there are the cheaters. Those bottom-feeders.
You can tell what type of a person the kid is going to become by the way he approaches a piñata.
And the parents. That’s probably the most telling element of all. Some of the fathers are clearly piñata engineers and give their kids all this advice on height and swing angle, others are dropping a shoulder and scrambling on the floor to make sure their little oompa loompas get their fair share. Or maybe not so fair. I mean if you’re sitting in a chair crying about how no one let you have any and you saw that tootsie roll first and now it’s squashed flat…Stop being such a pussy.
This isn’t how life works, kid. It’s just like education. It’s hanging right in front of you but you actually have to work to get it. Dora is not going to female ejaculate her Smarties of knowledge and Blow Pops of skills all over you as you stand there diddling yourself. And your parents can scrabble around like crabs but how humiliating is that? You’re such an infant that your parents want you spoon fed that which everyone else is learning to acquire on their own.
So please, Dakota, have your mother write me another email, and be sure she copies it to the principal, about how I didn’t respond to her last email. Have her mention how upsetting it was that I instead spoke to you about questions you had on how to better develop the ideas in your writing. Crazy talk, I know. It’s important that she continue to ask me the same questions over and over again and pretend I haven’t answered them, patiently, every single fucking time. “How can we help Dakota with her writing? What does she need to do to improve her journal entries? What do you mean by elaboration? Maybe you can work with her one-on-one? Is there extra credit she can do?” they ask again and again. I understand how it’s a mystery to everyone in the family about how to construct an intelligent paragraph. After all, I’ve been the recipient of these rambling epistles via email.
Of course I will act surprised when she shows up tomorrow for a conference I didn’t agree to so we can all just shake our heads in frustration about what a dilemma this is, just to get you to learn.
If nothing else, please understand that the less you do, Dakota, the more I am supposed to do.