In an odd coincidence, my daughter and I had a similar writing theme this month. She had to write a paper about a favorite ritual. I have been ridiculously indecisive about what ritual or routine I have wanted to write about for this issue of Modern Creative Life.
As I’ve gotten older, pondering these things takes on edges of nostalgia and love that feel overwhelming. That much emotion sometimes leads to the equivalent of writer’s freezy brain. Unfortunately it doesn’t go away as quickly as Slurpee freezy brain.
So, in desperation I went hunting for inspiration through my 5th grader. “Umm, so what ritual did you end up writing about for school? Easter with your cousins? Summer weekends at Grandma and Grandad’s? New Year’s Day cheese grits?” I ask.
“No,” she says, “I wrote about Video Fridays.”
I try to probe more, get specifics in her words but for her it is something we do every Friday. She and her sister love this small 30 minute activity more than almost any other treat I could offer up. And this started kind of as a fluke.
The last days of summer we tend to spend being really, really, lazy. I have been known to pull through the McDonald’s drive thru at 3pm in my pj’s, girls in the back in their pj’s, for dunch. Our afternoon version of brunch. We just combine lunch and dinner. Then around 6pm we have ice cream and hot chocolate chip cookies; custom made 4 at a time from the tube. On these days, when all the play, and crafts and swimming are spent, the days when the Texas August heat has beaten us down into our nice cool house cave, the girls binge on their favorite YouTube videos.
These binges are epoch.
Lauren can watch 3 hours non-stop of Cookie Crumble. A woman whose face we never see but who has lovely, well manicured finger-nails. One of her YouTube channel activities is opening 100’s, perhaps even thousands of mystery Shopkins. The latest craze in Kiddom is to buy mystery toy packs. My kids love them almost as much as Video Fridays and apparently, Lauren can watch someone with unlimited resources open one after another for hours on end.
For Helen, her favorite YouTube diet consists of people sampling different mods and playing Minecraft. She is a connoisseur and should you ask, she would recommend Pat and Jen as the best of the lot.
Does the previous two paragraphs seem foreign to you? It absolutely did to me. I realized one day that listening to my children talk about this stuff was like interacting with martians. Granted, perhaps if my husband and I were better parents, the kind who meticulously screen all the content going into their young brains, we would speak Minecraft lingo and Cookie crumble.
We are not those parents. We were 70’s kids.
We lit matches in the street. We climbed in houses being built during the early 80’s housing boom. We wandered for hours unsupervised on foot and on bikes without cell phones or bicycle helmets and survived. It is not in our DNA to super screen. But, we do like to communicate with our kids, and our kids, who are just starting to get an inkling that we are dorks, still like to hang out with us. In fact, I was being followed constantly through the kitchen while chopping onions or putting a roast in the oven, “Mom, mom, look at this video. It is hilarious.” You cannot learn YouTube martian lingo in these moments. I realized I needed a dedicated time to be immersed, undistracted.
“Girls,” I said, “why don’t we sit down after I get this in the oven. In fact, Fridays while dinner is cooking is a good time. We can all share a favorite video we have watched from the week.”
In that moment, a family ritual was born.
I had no idea what an instant sensation this idea was going to be. It has spent at least 20 weeks at the top of the charts. Any week we miss, we double up the next week. I cannot tell you how many times I have watched the “Puppy Monkey Baby” commercial in horror. The girls never tire of watching me cringe. In fact, a lot of the videos are cringe worthy but occasionally I will shout with glee over a particularly fun pumpkin carving Minecraft competition or the very cool movie theater mod someone created. It never gets old trying to mimic Cookie Crumble’s high pitch munchkin voice. In fact I think she uses some sort of machine to make her voice do that.
I, of course, torture the kids with inspirational TED talks and nature videos. All 5 minutes or less. After Helen’s first 35 minute Minecraft video we had to set time limits. So the whole thing is usually wrapped up in 20 minutes.
Seriously, it is only 20 minutes every Friday and yet, it is the ritual the kids talk about before bedtime Thursday night. It is what we discuss at Friday morning breakfast. It is brought up after school. It is what Helen chose to write about above all the other rituals we have so carefully crafted over the years.
Perhaps it is because in those few minutes every week, they know, I want to know what they find funny or interesting or intense or silly. I want to see their world, not to snoop or make sure they are not watching something they shouldn’t. It is a ritual set aside with no purpose other than letting my children know that their world matters to me.
Years from now, when they think back on Video Friday and they have a moment of emotional Freezy Brain, I hope that is what they remember. Well that and I hope they suddenly get the urge to look up Puppy Monkey Baby as adults and experience the cringe!
About the Author: Jeanette McGurk
Jeanette McGurk is a Graphic Designer who entered the world of writing through advertising. She discovered writing a lot of truth with a little fluff is a lot more fun than the other way round. Now that she is no longer spending time making air conditioners, tile floors, IT and Botox sound sexy, she writes about the unglamorous yet wonderful moments of life for people like herself; in other words, anyone looking for interesting ways to put off cleaning and doing laundry.
She is a curmudgeon and doesn’t Twit or Instagram. She has heard the blog is dead but since she has finally figured out how to do it, that is the museum where you can locate her writings. http://jmcpb.blogspot.com/.