16. Pus-Filled Pimple
Once upon a Texan-summer-camp time, I taught American kids American history. But I got it all wrong. Sorry kids, you shouldn’t have been trusting this Kiwi with your history anyhow. I should have said something like ‘A long time ago a bunch of Brits came over and eventually lost their head with their motherland. They killed some people, poked their tongues out at England and claimed the land under their feet as their own. Then because things sucked in Europe, a bunch of religious people called Puritans came over. These people installed in America a whole lot of really good Godly values. But it was just too good to be true. So one day the elders all sat round a table and said “Our new lives in America are fabulous, too good to be true, we need to change things.” And then another elder said “Yeah true, let’s find a good way to screw up the kids.” And thus Halloween was born. Then later came wars, depressions, Enron, more wars, Obama, scanning retinas at the airports and a whole lot of other stuff you don’t need to know about. But through all of this Halloween survived.’
I mean, what kind of nation encourages its kids to roam the neighbourhood at night knocking on people’s doors threatening to do mean nasty tricks on the home owner in order to receive sugar-loaded candy. Sorry parents, but it just seems crazy to this little ole outsider that you would send your kids out to either scare the crap out of people or to come home as little hyperactive bloated time bombs, just waiting to rage into a sugar-coated tantrum about something as trivial as who got the most candy. I just don’t understand it.
And as if that is not enough, in a relatively God-fearing country, you are encouraging your kids to dress up and act like witches, goblins, ghosts and basically anything that young minds could construe as evil. It is kind of like once a year your forefathers have given your kids the opportunity to try life without God. I just don’t understand. And the problem being that now it is so stinking entrenched in your culture, that if you were to tell your kids that no, you cannot celebrate Halloween, well they are likely to get just as screwed up by their peers at school who would ostracise them for not conforming. It is one big lose-lose situation. Simply weird and I do not understand.
Okay, okay, I jumped the gun here. I did enjoy Halloween, the family I stayed with are not evil, nor are their kids. So let me tell you about my first Halloween and I will try to write about this absolutely crazy and weird day in a neutral un-opinionated way.
So the first thing on the agenda for me this day was a Father’s Breakfast at the kids’ school. It is not very often at all that I get to see healthy kids, so with great joy I accept most opportunities to see what I long, hope and pray for with the kids in the orphanage where we volunteer.
And to jump on another bunny trail, this is one of the things that freaked me out about American parenting. From my limited experiences and to generalise once again, Americans just seem to be so darn good at it. Comparatively speaking American kids really respect their parents and treat them like adults, whilst even weirder for me, parents really seemed to respect their kids and treated them like kids. This was without a doubt the biggest cultural difference that I noted between America and the parts of Europe I have had experience in. Aotearoa New Zealand sits in the middle somewhere.
Here in Lithuania it seems that the kids rule the family. If the child wants something and the parents say no, then instantly the child enters into negotiations with the parent, until the child gets what it wants. Your average five-year-old Lithuanian would make an excellent United Nations negotiator. If Lithuanian kids were able to mediate in the Middle East, then the Palestine-Israel conflict would be no more. Of course the negative side of this means that making any decision here involves a long, complicated process of seemingly endless fights until we eventually decide that yes we need to make a decision. This being the opposite to my Kiwi culture, where someone just takes the authority, makes the decision and everybody else is just expected to get over it, knowing that sooner or later the cards will fall their way.
In America, I watched a potential father and son bust-up in a supermarket. And I mean I just stood there slightly around a corner, transfixed as I watched and listened. This kid was determined that he should have some brightly coloured, rather gross looking candy and after putting it in his father’s massive supermarket trolley, refused to obey his father and take it out again. It seems that disobedient children are not tolerated in America, but children who do not totally understand a situation are. This father crouched down behind the trolley so that he was at eye level with his son and asked him questions like ‘Does he know why he cannot have this candy?’. This discussion went on for about five minutes, the father neither raised his voice nor did the child cry. I am not doing this conversation justice, but my point is, both the father and son showed each other total respect and love. The child obeyed his father and his father never put down his son or entered into child-like arguments with him. It was beautiful to watch. And I watched this time and time again across the country. Most of the parents that I was with were and still are white middle-class Christians, it was a testimony to their faith to see how much freedom their kids were given to be the individuals that God had created them to be. I was awestruck just watching my friend’s parenting skills. Next time we visit, their kids will be hitting their teenage years. It will be very interesting to see how their parenting skills adapt to those challenges. But for now back to the Father’s Breakfast at the school.
Well, we jumped in the Honda, my friend, me, Hannah Montana, Batman and The Hulk. The kids looked very cute in their Halloween costumes. Now this is Texas and this was a Father’s Breakfast. The school was totally cloaked in pick-up trucks, there were almost no cars in sight. The school car park was full of pick-ups, as were most of the surrounding streets, it looked like a scene out of a science fiction movie. And indeed if all of these pick-up drivers who did not actually need a pick-up traded them in for an American built small car, well then global warming would not be an issue nor would the American auto industry need bailing out. But I totally understand, I am a man. Imagine having to trade in your Chevy Silverado for a Chevrolet Aveo; some things are just not possible, screw the environment, buy more trucks, ’cause they are men’s vehicles. Bummer of all bummers, this was the one time that I left the house without my camera so I did not get a photo of the herd of pick-ups. Maybe next time.
Anyhow we entered the school and it was just full of little monsters. I presume it is full of little monsters every day of the year, with Halloween just being the day that they get to reveal their true colours. We jumped immediately into the long food line. I really enjoyed this visit and it would make a good theme for a movie. All of these men on their way to work, all lined up with their little monsters… it looked like the men were having their own special kind of dress up party. Some where in suits, others in overalls, some in cleaner’s uniforms, some in building contractor uniforms. But pretty much everyone was in some kind of uniform. My friend was in his weekday American pastor’s uniform of tidy slacks(59) and a collared short sleeve shirt. I was in my weekday Kiwi-living-in-Lithuania summer uniform… tee-shirt with New Zealand written on it, Lithuanian-bought American trousers, a Marks and Sparks(60) ball cap and my newly gifted man-jandals.
We arrived at the front of the line after much idle chit-chat with other men who were forced to be in this un-natural environment. I collected for myself a doughnut and a flavoured milk and then we found a seat in the busy cafeteria and watched seemingly hundreds of kids proudly showing off their dads to their school mates. It was very cute.
My friend gave me a tour of the school and I got to see each of the kid’s class rooms as well as meet or at least see each of their teachers. Again the kids treated their teachers with earned respect and the teachers all greeted their kids with warm affection. There was so, so much visual stimulation in this school. Everything was covered in bright colours and pictures, it was a bit freaky for me. I am not used to such an assault on my senses. I actually left wondering just how the kids manage to cope with it.
The school was great, but one thing did very much so surprise and offend me. In one of the classes I found a globe and on closer inspection discovered that it was so old that Lithuania was not on it and the Soviet Union was. These kids were still in the cold war. I was shocked. Shocked that such a wealthy school in such a wealthy country could not get around to replacing a globe, but more shocked that such a blatant misportrayal of Europe and Asia did not worry the teachers or perhaps they haven’t noticed. Anyhow that was the school… hundreds of little monsters showing off their dads.
And next week, fast food kills on the main drag of Fredricksburg Texas.
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You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry 🙁
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Ta (Kiwi for thank you)