Sunday, August 24, 2008

Our Daughter Survived the Bible Challenge

Roger Z left a comment on one of my posts from yesterday in which he describes the Pillowfight Fairy as "awesomely weird". You know, my wife and I really, really like that description. In part that's because the term is ambiguous, since "awesome" has a couple of different meanings: it can mean "magnificent" or "awe-inspiring" or "beyond comprehension" (as if it were an extreme version of the word "very"), or it could take on its more colloquial modern meaning of "cool", "praise-worthy". So depending on how you parse the phrase, "awesomely weird" may mean she has a strangeness about her that is cool, worthy of respect and praise; or it could mean she has a level of weirdness that is beyond comprehension.

Either way, Tonya and I like the description. And from now on, when the Fairy does something completely unexpected, something driven by her own internal logic (which operates on a completely different plane of logic than what drives any other human), Tonya and I will proudly chalk it up to her being awesomely weird.

And to her being homeschooled. :-)

Had another reminder of this fact today. Once a year, our church puts on the Bible Challenge. This is a little like a trivia game show; all the kids who participate sit on the stage, and each in turn gets called to the front to pick a written Bible question out of a big bowl. The host reads the question. If the kid gets it right, he or she gets a ticket (to be redeemed later for fabulous prizes!); if not, the kid is eliminated. Now, every kid gets a ticket at the very beginning of the game, so even those who get eliminated get to pick out prizes. But all the kids who remain when the time (or the questions) run out are deemed winners, to be issued trophies at a brief ceremony a month or so later.

Now not only is the Bible Challenge like a game show, it's like those underhanded game shows from back in the '50's, where they give lists of questions and answers to the contestants in advance. The goal is not to eliminate players; the goal is to get kids to learn their Bibles. And many kids find this sort of game-show format to be a good motivator to learn their facts.

This is the first year that the Fairy was eligible to participate. When she learned about the Bible Challenge, she became very gung-ho about the whole thing. She wanted that trophy, badly. So we got that list of questions at the beginning of summer, and started going over them. The Fairy, who's always been good at memory work, had them down cold in no time flat.

So we started working on the game rules. The trouble, you see, is that our awesomely weird girl doesn't handle game rules very well. She's more of the Calvinball type; she prefers to make the rules up as she goes. If she doesn't like the way things are going--or if she just gets bored--she will start making up her own rules. Or at the very least, she will start trying to negotiate with the one in charge to make the rules change; that way the game stays interesting, you see. So we had to start role-playing Bible Challenge in our living room in the hopes that she wouldn't do something, um.... memorable when she finally got up on the stage tonight.

(I don't want to think of all the "memorable" things my daughter could have done tonight. It might have involved anything from using the written questions as confetti, to suddenly making up a story while standing at the microphone, to blurting out answers out-of-turn, to showing everybody her belly button, to bursting into tears for no discernible reason, to absent-mindedly pulling her dress up over her head while someone else was answering a question. You never quite know what our girl is going to do next--especially in a new situation like this.)

So Tonya and I--proud though we were of our little girl on stage--were a little on edge tonight. Especially toward the beginning. She was very excited and wiggly, to the point where she could hardly stay in her seat; every time another kid got a question right; she almost (but, thankfully, not quite) got up to do a little dance.

There were a couple of moments where Tonya and I got that OhNoOhNoOhNo... experience. The first time was when she got the question, "What did David take with him to the fight with Goliath?" and she blurted out, "Two smooth stones and a slingshot." The right answer, of course, is "Five smooth stones and a slingshot." At that point I had this horrible, sinking sensation that the Fairy was about to show everyone what she's like when she's really really disappointed. There were other kids who had been eliminated by this point, and they had been really good sports about it; but I wasn't sure that the Fairy was going to take Defeat gracefully. She had been working on those questions all summer, and she wanted that trophy really badly. And she has been known to throw some unholy tantrums when she doesn't get her way. This, of course, gets her no sympathy or lenience from her parents; but that doesn't stop her from causing a scene. But, thankfully, the host said, "I'm not sure I heard you right; could you say that again?" and this time the Fairy gave the right answer.

And she also had this way of trying to start up conversations with the host, instead of just doing her thing with the questions. The other big OhNoOhNoOhNo moment came when the girl sitting next to her was eliminated. She and the Fairy had been in quiet conversation pretty much the whole time--whenever other kids were doing their questions. They were counting the tickets they'd earned, and talking about whatever it is that little girls talk about. But then the friend was called up, and she got her question wrong--and so the Fairy didn't have a friend up there with her anymore! She was rather put out at this turn of events. It almost looked as though she was about to get really mad. She was next up to answer a question, so with furrowed brow, she got up, stormed right up to the host, and told him to his face that she thought he'd called her friend out of order.

That's one thing about the Fairy; she's usually not intimidated by adults. She will go right up to them and tell them exactly what's on her mind. The thing is, her mind is often on remote planets where Spaceman Spiff is being tortured by hideous aliens, and when she strikes up conversations with adults, they often have no idea how to respond to her. If she met you, she'd probably walk right up to you, say Hi, and then say something along the lines of, "I've just been eaten by a hippopotamus." And then she'd expect you to respond....

Well, the host handled it about as well as could be expected--he mumbled something about setting everything right, and had her pick out her next question. Which, of course, the Fairy got right.

At the end of the night, she'd scored five tickets, and she'd earned herself a trophy. She was rather put out that she has to wait until September to get it. We explained to her that they now have to get the trophies made and engraved, and that will take a little time; but I think she felt a little cheated. That's one thing about kids, and about the Fairy in particular; they have a strong sense of justice.


All in all, we're proud of her. She's still got a lot of maturing to do--after all, she's just five. I don't know how she would have reacted had she missed one of the questions; she's not known to take failure well. But....

She's a very eccentric five-year-old, who doesn't know to be ashamed of her eccentricity. I don't think that kids her age know how to deal with her (although she gets along great with several of the older kids--pre-teens on up). She doesn't know to cover up her weirdness; she just extrovertedly puts it out there for the whole world to see. And if my wife and I have anything to do with it, we're going to let it stay that way--and she'll reach her adult years as an awesomely weird young lady.


Big Doofus said...

Back in the day I used to be a big fan of a magazine called "The Wittenburg Door." Often it was just referred to as "The Door." You would have loved this magazine. It was put out whenever they felt like it. Yes, it was a "Christian" publication, but unlike anything you had ever seen. They really pushed the envelope. Anyway, they had a book they put out which was sort of a "Best of The Door" type of publication and it was called, Fearfully and Wonderfully Weird.

Oooh, I just looked it up and the magazine is still around. Might be worth checking out...

Chris said...

Good gravy, heavens to betsy (whoever she is), and golly gee whiz; boy have you been busy lately. I'm just a slacker - no bones about it. Not to mention the fact that we have no fruit trees, no crops, nothing edible growing on our acreage.

Plus, you've posted like every 6 hours for the past 4 days!!! Maybe I'll post sometime later this week.

Love to the family . . .

Roger Z said...


I'm so proud I've gotten into your litany of word terms, thanks for the honor!

TD you'll be happy to know this is the first time a *good* term I've come up with has made it into someone else's vocabulary. Sandra will be glad to know I occasionally, once in a blue moon, have an onion to give, too (if you've read your Dostoevsky, you'll understand)... :)