Monday, January 30, 2006

For the Kid Who Has Everything, Literally

I hit kindergarten right around the time Free to Be You and Me went into distribution. For those of you not familiar with it, this movie was an anthology of songs, poems, stories, and cartoons designed to free youngsters from the restrictions of traditional gender roles. One story was about a boy wanted to play with dolls, one was about "perfect little lady" who insisted on "ladies first" and got eaten by tigers, one was Rosie Greer singing about how boys can cry, and so forth.

Every time it rained and we couldn't go outside for recess, we watched either Free to Be You and Me, Paddle to the Sea or Really, Rosie. I think they were the only films the school owned. It was tough back then. The movies were probably expensive to buy, and showing them required setting up both a complicated projector and a screen. (The first time I remember a grown-up saying "shit" was an afternoon when my first grade teacher dropped a heavy film cannister on her toe.)

I loved Free to Be, and still do, even though "William Wants a Doll" was sort of a cop-out because the ultimate message was "It's okay for a boy to play with dolls as long as it's because he wants to practice being a daddy." This did nothing to help those of us who wanted Barbies so that our G.I. Joes would have somebody to go shopping with.

As I don't have children, naturally I'm not so in touch with what's out there for them these days. So I was most interested to run across Birdfarm's post about games and books for kids with problems. Problems too big, presumably, for Barney's sage wisdom or even a Very Special Episode of "Rugrats."

Birdfarm thinks that some of the titles suggest a series, including one called Sammy's Mommy Has Cancer. She's absolutely right. Write these titles in light verse, and illustrate them with whimsical pen-and-ink sketches, and Sammy might turn out to be the next Madeline.
Sammy's Mommy Has Cancer
Sammy's Daddy Has a Mistress
Sammy's Big Brother Deals Drugs
Sammy's Special Secret Game with Father Murphy
Sammy's Unusual Rash Down There
Sammy's Birthday Pony Falls Over Dead and Squashes His Pet Kitten
Sammy Flunks Fourth Grade
Sammy Gets Bashed in the Shower for Looking at Fred
Sammy Says Yes, Please to Heroin
Sammy Goes to Juvenile Detention
Sammy Is Unemployable with that Felony on His Record
Sammy Meets Betty Ford
Sammy Ends Up Dying Alone in a Cardboard Box Under a Bridge
I smell a Newbery Medal.

39 comments:

Bigg said...

Sammy Says Yes, Please to Heroin....

That is completely hilarious.

bluecanary said...

I am so inspired. I'll be getting these books for little Alec right away! Teachin the kids values, that's what it's all about.

Anonymous said...

It is so scary to raise kids! I do the best I can, but I do worry that I am raising a street bum. Particularily since our son as ADD and Tourette's Syndrom. And we didn't find out till later so there was a fair bit of tough love parenting in the form of "could you please just try harder in school?". That's sort of like telling a crippled child to just try harder to run. It's just not going to happen.

So we put him on medication, which I try to think of as a wheel chair for the boy. But ultimately, I already have a son on drugs and he's only 11.

How's that for good parenting?

Sockbug said...

Gosh, I haven't thought about "Free To Be You and Me" for eons. We did "William's Doll" for a school concert when I was in the third grade and I was the narrator. Who'd have thought...

Lorette said...

Somehow I don't think that the right-wing "family values" bunch is going to approve of any of these for the school library.

Yvonne said...

My son would rather read Sammy Learns Pole Dancing -- he is Gumby in human form.

Kathy Merrick said...

Sammy Puts His Therapist To Sleep
comes to mind for some reason....

Marilyn said...

Sammy Plays Inquisition with Lucky the Rabbit as Jeanne d'Arc.

(If it's any consolation, Anonymous, my sister also has a son with Tourette's and ADD. He's doing just fine this year, for the first time ever. He just turned 12. He is not on medication but has had terrific support at his public school. There is hope.)

TrickyTricot said...

Who's Betty Ford?

Fredda said...

I laughed and then thought, "poor kids of today" (my adult daughter included). My elementary school years were a time of relative innocence/ignorance. On rainy days, when we couldn't go out to play, we watched cartoons and Abbott and Costello (B & W of course). We had air raid drills, where we either hid under our desks or lined up in the hallway covering our heads, to protect ourselves from a Russian-launched bomb! Then there was the bomb shelter , which was in the basement of the school. We could stay there with a seemingly unlimited supply of water and crackers until it was time to go home to Mom!

We definitely got the rebellion out of our systems in the 60s!!

Cheryl said...

So how does "Sammy likes to wear girl's underpants" sound???

Buzz said...
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Aidan said...
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Leslie said...

"Sammy's Special Secret Game with Father Murphy" - omgawwwd! You can sell that one NOW in the Archdiocese of Boston! Oh wait! - They've had in on the shelves for the past decade...

Stephanie said...

Sammy's Daddies knit too much.

(or is that only funny with the flooring fumes over here?)

Carol said...

To Anonymous --
I think it sounds like fine parenting. Your kid has a medical problem, and you are doing everything in your power to address it. If he had diabetes, would you feel as ambivalent about giving him insulin?

I have a tough to parent kid, too. It can be really hard. Have you read "Quirky Kids" by Perry Klass (yes, the same Perry Klass who has a column in a knitting magazine)? I'd have sent you a private email, but I couldn't.

David said...

Sammy's Sister Charges By The Hour;
Sammy's Grandpa and His Colostomy Bag;
Sammy's Adventure in the Liquor Closet;
Sammy Discovers His Right Hand;
Sammy and Mommy's Silk Chemise Blouse;
Sammy and The Nice Man from the Chatroom.
Oh yes, I do need help.

Rabbitch said...

It's not NICE to make your readers fall over and hit their heads on their spinning wheels from laughing so much.

=Tamar said...

Go pet some Koigu, or KidSilk Haze.
You know you need to.

Liz said...

Okay, TOTALLY unrelated to your post (which is indeed waaay funny, and I play the Free to Be You and me cd for my kids, thank you very much)--you're making one of the Orenburg shawls from Galina's book for the Olympics! I am so psyched for you. You are possibly more insane than I am (Miss Impossibly Skinny Yarn in an Entire Fair Isle Cardigan); I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or worship.

Sammy's Mommies meet Justin's Mommies

Anonymous said...

Franklin, How funny! I will display my Really Rosie doll next month at my library:-) I loved the video and Iam a great grandma!!

Mel said...

I don't recall Free To Be, but growing up in the Bible Belt about that time, we got to go see fun apocalyptic movies like The Late Great Planet Earth instead. I do remember Rosie Greer and his needlepoint, though.

I love the ideas for the Sammy series. It reminds me of one of those mass e-mails that circulated years ago with updated Peanuts titles. The only one I really remember is It Burns When I Pee, Charlie Brown.

Donna in Virginia said...

Sammy Falls in Love with his Teacher or Sammy's Teacher Falls in Love with Sammy

The other really awful thing about those old projectors was when the take-up reel failed and there was a huge mound of film on the floor. This only happened when you were showing the big 45 minute movie about the Pilgrims coming to the US -- obviously the day before Thanksgiving when no teacher gives a shit whether any learning goes on -- you just want some peace and quiet before the great T-giving cooking and eating binge. I was the only teacher who could ever thread the projector properly and I was so young then, so I got projector duty every time. I so enjoyed using that pencil to manually wind all that film back onto the reel.

Lee Ann said...

"Ladies first, ladies first!"

And so she was. And mighty tasty, too.

Andrea Rusin said...

Oh Jesus, Mary, and St. Joseph... that must mean that you're approximately the age of my children. They totally loved Free To Be You and Me. I remember Atalanta, whose father was trying to marry her off with some kind of road race that she won -and then she decided just to be buddies with the guy she beat. And wasn't there one about what your mother does all day and why the house isn't clean? It was sort of funny and it sort of pissed me off -like why isn't daddy cleaning the house? And a girl baby and a boy baby meeting in the hospital? What was the point of that one, again?

Andrea Rusin said...

Oh Jesus, Mary, and St. Joseph... that must mean that you're approximately the age of my children. They totally loved Free To Be You and Me. I remember Atalanta, whose father was trying to marry her off with some kind of road race that she won -and then she decided just to be buddies with the guy she beat. And wasn't there one about what your mother does all day and why the house isn't clean? It was sort of funny and it sort of pissed me off -like why isn't daddy cleaning the house? And a girl baby and a boy baby meeting in the hospital? What was the point of that one, again?

Mary-Heather said...

Oh, my goodness, that is so funny! I grew up on Free to Be You and Me, too. I even directed a children's theatre production of it a few years ago. I love that show to this day, and was getting all memory-filled and misty... until I got to the end of your post. Hilarious.

Marie said...

I'm inspired to finally "de-lurk" on this one!

How about Sammy and His Track Marks?

I totally grew up listening to Free to Be (although I have never seen the movie!) I still sometimes get the chills listening to the title track. So now I have my own kids, and I finally played it for my kids the other day. My 4 1/2 yr old daughter - for whom I've played Sweet Honey in the Rock, The Violent Femmes, Mozart, you name it - which track did she like the best? "The one about the girl who wears white shoes please, mama?" Oh my god, and I'm trying so hard not to raise a girly-girl. Who knows which will be my son's favorite when he gets old enough?

Oh, and one minor point (and I only mention this because you seem like the type who likes to get things right): there's only one R in Newbery Medal.

I love your blog - you've made me laugh out loud several times in the past few weeks - a great way to start the day.

Mama Lu said...

Oh my! Sammy's Special Secret Game with Father Murphy reminds me of Pleasant Irish Priests in Conversation, the Codco* sketch that the CBC refused to air. And then a few years later they were showing Father Ted.

I strongly believe that children should be read fairy tales and fantasy (and I include books like Where the Wild Things Are). Stories about real-life probems set up expectations that everything is going to turn out okay--and what a bummer if it doesn't. With fantasy they can at least escape and imagine what they would do if they could ______ (fill in the magic power).

* Codco was an extremely funny and irreverant Newfoundland comedy troup that featured biting satire and a lot of cross-dressing.

Jon said...

OMG! I loved Free to Be You and Me. I wonder if it's available on NetFlix? I'll have to check it out.

We also had The Red Balloon. I never could understand the point of them showing us this movie about some kid's love affair with a balloon. Then I heard about some porn star who loves to get off with balloons and figure, he must have been trapped in a room with that movie. Oy.

Franklin said...

Marie, thanks for catching my typo. Double letters always have been and will forever be my stumbling block in spelling!

Laura said...

Well, at least Sammy said please when he asked for his heroin. Always polite, that Sammy.

Now I have to go dig out my 'Free To Be You & Me' album.....

carla rey said...

Remember the helping song by the Smothers Brothers? So acoustic, so folky. "And some kind of help is the kind of help (deep breath for the big finish) We all can do without!

God, my sister and I wore that record out.

Knitting Painter Woman said...

I am to old to have enjoyed these as "a child"... but I did enjoy them as a not quite parent... Especially Really Rosie... All that rockin' Carol King... and Piere with his "I don't care"..
You definitely have Newbery material with your list... though don't expect it to launch well in the Red States...

Liz said...

Some kind of help is the kind of help that helping's all about/And some kind of help is the kind of help--we all could do without.
(curtsey)

sahara said...

I must be old. Free to be you and me?
Folks was wearin' poor Rosie OUT after his football career.

It's okay for boys to cry? If Rose had've told them it's okay to do needlepoint, they wouldn't be crying; sometimes, busy hands DO make for a happy heart.

Shelly Hattan said...

It's funny I came across this post this particular day. My three year old was upset with me when I dropped her off at school (she goes to Montessori) because I wouldn't let her take her book in (Of course it was "Free to Be"). We must be around the same age because FtBYaM is an all time childhood favorite. Of course, the feminist side of me loved the story about the princess running the race and winning. :) My daughter will occasionally tell me that "it's alright to cry" with tears coming down her face - and yes, it's Rosie inspired.

crazycatladymel said...

I can't think of how many times I saw Paddle to the Sea! I was recently trying to remember the name of it, so thanks (and thanks for the link too). I only saw Free to Be You and Me once, but I have the CD somewhere and the book, and plan to teach my niece "William's Doll" (her dad's name...how he HATED that song)...

Pat said...

You are too funny! I want the complete series....where can I order them?