Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Don't know much about history . . .

“Did you know that New York was really bad in the 70s?” said Primo this morning as I was making his lunch.

I don’t know about your six year-old but mine has never before referred to a decade with such breezy authoritativeness. His historical perspective doesn’t have that level of specificity, where it can hone in on a decade at a time. Usually the periods in history he refers to are vast, like “ancient times” or “revolutionary war times” or “when Nonnie was a little girl” – and sometimes he thinks all three of those periods happened at the same time. So, this casual cocktail party talk about “New York in the 70s” was a departure.

“New York was really bad in the 70s?” I repeated: “In what way?”

“There was a lot of garbage on the street.”

This is why it’s good to ask leading questions of your child, rather than reply to their vague questions right off the bat. I was about to launch into a speech about how Bronx was burning, while he was just imagining a bad case of litter.

“Yes, I’ve heard,” I said, “Who told you that?”

“Mark, from school,” he said.

Ah, yes, it all makes sense. I’ve found you can always tell which kids have older siblings by how much they know about history. The other day, we were having a playdate with one of his friends from school, and he was chatting on and on about Hitler. Guess whose fifth grade sister had just finished a report on World War II?

I’d rather have a talk with my first grader about New York in the 70s than Hitler any day.

“Not only was there garbage in the streets,” I said, “But you should have SEEN what people wore. Have you heard of bellbottoms?”