The NO FUN ZONE that was the town from the 1984 classic musical film Footloose, has relocated to a ten foot mobile radius around my person. These are the stories of that mobile home.
In the fifth grade I moved to a new town. It was a small town west of Chicago where I would go on to spend my formative years and eventually graduate high school. But in the fifth and sixth grade is when I started the relationships that would stand the test of time. We were a lovable band of misfits but we weren’t always on our best behavior or the absolute top of the class. We certainly weren’t cool and most of my friends discovered their relationships with Jesus after we met. I’m not really sure what my parents were thinking letting me hang out with these kids. I mean there was some built in piece of mind. If you saw us all together you see why our parents weren’t worried we were going to lose our virginity at any moment. More like we might not get that eighth computer networked in time to play StarCraft and watch WWF. But I mean it when I say I could not have asked for friends who were more fun, loyal, true, hysterical, and encouraging. So why my daughters feel the need to hang out with little delinquents is beyond me!
Now I give advice to my girls like, “Every time you get in trouble at school you mention the same three kids that you are with. Who are the kids who never get in trouble? You should hang out with them! Let them tell you what to do since you can’t make good choices on your own. No, what ever it takes to make them your friend. Just do what they do and think what they tell you to think. Do you need to bribe them? I’ll send you to school with money and toys. I know you think that other girl is your friend but she talks while the teacher is talking and gets you in trouble. Scrape her off! Unfriend! Well you could hang out with her a recess… or you could use that time to ingratiate yourself with smart, better friends. Quit wearin’ those red boats and hanging out with that boy! He is nothing but trouble.”
I hope you know this is a slight exaggeration. I’m okay that my kids are misfits, but every time I hear about their friends I become Reverend Shaw Moore. Seriously, if I could pass a law to make our town a town where you had to get all A’s and no disciplinary actions to hang out with my daughters I’d pass that law and let the kids dance in the next town over.
I actually go on class field trips to vet the students in their classes. Sure it might look like we are going to Red Barn Farm, but really this is an interview to be my daughter’s friend.
My youngest kept coming home and talking about a six-year-old boy in her class. “RJ is soooo nice. RJ gave me this pencil, isn’t it cool? Today I played with RJ. I’m going to marry RJ someday.” And with each story my eyes would narrow, my brow would furrow and I’d start planning little RJ’s demise. “Who is this RJ? What does that even stand for? Ray Jay? Who does he think he is just giving away pencils? Did he give any other girls pencils? What do you really know about him?” Well, a field trip is coming up… looks like I’m taking off work.
So off we went to the pumpkin farm. I started my day with “Eye of the Tiger” on the radio and a plan to destroy (Real Juice or whatever RJ stands for). But being faced with the reality of 27 first graders I got caught up in just getting them from point A to point B. Until, this very small mixed race, close fade, well dressed little boy with one diamond stud in each ear walks up to me with a confident grin on his face and says, “Are you are rock star? You look like a rock star.” Well, no little guy, but that’s sweet of you. “Are you a rock star?” I reply. “No. I’m RJ.” DUN DUN DUN
“Oh, you’re RJ…” He just has the biggest smile on his face and says, “Yup. So really… are you in a band?” I watched this kid answer every question about pigs. He taught the other 6 year olds about the roles of bees in the hive. He shared his pudding cup with a little boy who was crying and he never left my side.
Absolutely you can hang out with RJ. Oh RJ. I am okay with RJ. This is a polite, well-mannered, intelligent young man with style to spare. Actually, I’m starting to wonder if I should have a talk with RJ about the company he keeps. He might not want to hang about with my girl. She might bring his vibe down. I bet his parents are great people. We should invite them over and…
As I look around the circle a few of the kids had made around me because I was sharing Goldfish crackers… there is my daughter sitting criss-cross-applesause… there is RJ laying down wItH HiS HEAD iN hER LAP!!! “RJ!” I snapped. “That is not your body and we keep our bodies to OURSELVES!” That sneaky little player had wormed his way into my good graces with his more than accurate knowledge of insects and barnyard animals. I was caught unawares… but oh no… not anymore.
“Honey, I don’t know if you should hang out with RJ. That boy is no good.”