Dad? What are cooties?
It’s one of the oldest questions known to human existence, right? Okay, well, that might be slight exaggeration, but it does seem to be a “right of passage” sort of question that all kids face at one point or another. More on how to tackle the cooties question in a moment.
In the meantime, here’s an assignment for parents, uncles, grandparents, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts and caregivers with a copy of “Fifty Dangerous Things” close at hand: ask the kids your know and love to flip through the book and pick out the five or ten dangerous things they’d most like to do.
What you’ll discover is that children select items that reflect their own personalities and wishes, their own need to experience what they typically cannot through the common everyday sort of activities. You’ll also discover what things they don’t want to experience. Use it as a basis for discussion and learning, and a basis for getting them involved.
I asked my own sons to flip through Gever and Julie’s wonderful book, and to write down the projects that appealed to them. Here’s the list I got back:
#8 – Throw a Spear
#11 – Throw Rocks
#15 – Throw Things from a Moving Car
#19 – Stand on the Roof
#21 – Spend an Hour Blindfolded
#23 – Break Glass
#26 – Learn Dramatic Sword Fighting
#27 – Make a Slingshot
Why did you select these items, I asked. What I heard was, throwing things is just fun, and I’ve never gotten to go up on the roof before. One of my sons asked if we could use the slingshot to break glass – a thoughtful combination of #27 and #23. Great idea! Let me get the safety glasses from the garage.
I asked my sons what things they DIDN’T want to try and they identified two:
#1 – Lick a 9-volt Battery
#4 – Kiss Hello Like the French
Again, I asked why. Well, won’t I get electrocuted if I lick a battery? And, what if electricity tastes yucky? Reasonable questions indeed. Let’s find out!
But what about the kissing bit? Why not kiss like the French? After a brief pause and a blush, I got another question – what are cooties?
Like any good parent, I thought about how best to answer this question. I considered the symbolism of cooties the invisible result of doing something unknown or unfamiliar. But didn’t think that would work and in the end said, “hey guys, who wants to go throw rocks?!” After all, throwing things is just fun … and distractions can be great learning experiences too.