She isn’t discovering the wonders of science or the exciting possibilities before her. Her eyes aren’t open wide in awe. Instead, she’s giving me a look that says, “Really? You think I’m not prepared for this?”
She’s learning that grown-ups often don’t act like, well, grown-ups.
Over spring break, we went to a session of the Illinois House of Representatives as part of an independent social studies project assigned by her fourth grade teacher. We took the tour, and then sat in on a session for about 30 minutes during which time lawmakers passed four laws. I will admit to being surprised at how there was a general din of conversation, and it was quite loud. It was hard to hear the debates on the pending bills. The legislative session seemed more like a cocktail party, one where the two different groups of people invited mingled better than two sides at a wedding.
I asked my daughter what she thought about witnessing democracy in action. She was unimpressed.
She said, “It’s a lot like 4th grade. There’s somebody standing up front who is supposed to be in charge, and a room full of people talking and not paying attention to that person.” Then she added, “One difference – they’re aloud to have cell phones. And they talk on them. A lot.”
Not only did she take away that lawmakers don’t respect each other or the Speaker of the House, but she extrapolated that what they were doing couldn’t have been that important, that you don’t have to pay attention to the individual in charge, and that it’s okay to talk on your cell phone pretty much anywhere. Three strikes with one pitch. Amazing.
When she returned to school after spring break, it was a busy week with the art show and band concert on the same night, on a week with standardized testing. The scheduling led to a tense exchange between the art teacher and the band director. My kid had a front row seat. After recounting their bickering in great detail at the dinner table, she declared, “It was a big sissy fight!”
I think she’s right. Sometimes life really is like fourth grade.