Survey Says…

I wrote in Summer 2010 about Dante’s interviewing style, in which he tries to find out the weirdest, the best, the worst, etc., pertaining to some particular topic, and sometimes starts moving down the ranks into second best, third best, and so on. Well, it’s a year and a half later, and that habit is still going strong.

Right now it’s very frequently about Christmas, about which he is as excited as a 6-year-old. “What’s your favorite thing about Christmas?” he’ll ask me, and my answer is always “Giving.” Which, along with being what I want to teach him, is the truth. I’m quite scrupulous about not lying in my answers to him, though I will frequently get weaselly. “I don’t think I could name my favorite [insert topic here], but I can name one that I really like.” Then we move on to my second favorite thing… or just another thing I really like a lot.

Now I’ve gotten smart, and started turning the questions around on him, so after I give my answer, I make sure to ask him the question. “What’s your favorite thing about Christmas?” His answer is always the same too: “Getting presents!” Laura and I are trying to teach him about the joy of giving, but he is 6 after all. At one point when Laura was trying to extoll how great it feels to make other people happy, he said plaintively, “Mama, was there ever a time when the getting was your favorite?” At which point she reassured him that of course there was, and it’s totally fine with us if getting presents is his favorite part of Christmas right now. It makes sense! Getting presents is awesome! (Well, except for passive-aggressive presents designed to change you into the person the giver wishes you were. That’s a good way to make sure that receiving gifts drops from the number one slot. We’ll try to spare Dante that one, at least as much as we can.)

A few days ago, we got up to FIVE rankings, and so for posterity, here are Dante’s Top Five favorite things about Christmas as of 2011, in order from most to least:

1. Getting presents!
2. Seeing someone give something to somebody, and seeing the somebody go, “Cool!”
3. How the presents come in all shapes and I just don’t know what present I’m going to bring out of a package when I rip the first tiny bit of paper off.
4. Looking at the tree.
5. Setting up the tree and all the Christmas decorations.

He also asked me my least favorite thing about Christmas, which I said was the fact that it can be kind of stressful making sure you get everything done in time. I asked him his, and he copped out. “Well, I totally love Christmas, so I don’t really have a least favorite thing.”

He’ll often ask, “What’s the weirdest thing about [x]?”, followed up by “What’s the least weird thing about [x]?” Strangely, I find the second question much more difficult to answer. Every time I think of an answer, my brain starts to say, “Well, that’s still kind of weird, though, isn’t it? When you think about it?” I can think of plenty of weird things about, say, food, but when scrutinized, things that might seem completely ordinary about it start to seem pretty strange. I mean, really, the way we operate is that we keep having to stuff bits of water, fiber, and cellulose into our bodies, mixed together in various combinations? Isn’t that a little weird?

Yesterday, he asked me, “What’s the funniest mistake you ever made?” As usual, I put a bunch of qualifiers around my answer, but I did answer him with a completely true story, which is that when Laura and I were in Mexico, the resort we stayed in had placed a bowl of fruit into the room. We maybe had a little, but it became clear that we weren’t going to eat the rest, so I tried to leave a note for housekeeping asking them to take the bowl. Relying on my long-ago high school and college Spanish (at which I was never terribly talented in the first place), I wrote a note reading, “Take these please. We are finished.” Except, when we returned to the room that day, we found the bowl still in place. It was only after I scoured my phrasebook a little more closely that I realized I had actually written, “Touch these please. I am finite.”

Dante’s answer to this question: “The funniest mistake I’ve ever made is… well, it’s actually mainly sad, but a little bit funny. One time when I was taking my dinner dishes over to the counter, I put a dish too close to the counter, and it fell and broke. And that made me sad, but I think that when the dish fell it was still just a little bit funny.”

Earlier this week, as we were all getting ready in the morning, he’s putting on his shoes, looks up at me earnestly, and says, “What’s your favorite thing about life?”

PAUL: Wow, that’s kind of a deep question. I don’t know that I could name a favorite thing about life, but I can tell you something I really love.
DANTE: What’s that?
PAUL: I really love how many choices and options there are in life. I love that there are so many different things to see, and learn, and experience. Different places to go, different things to read and watch, different people to meet. There’s just an endless amount of variety.
DANTE: Okay!
PAUL: What’s your favorite thing about life?
DANTE: Honestly, it’s just being able to have a family, and food, and clothes to wear, and a steel-reinforced house, and toys to play with, and all of the things I need along with some of the things I want, too.

And that is why I want to give my child 84,000 Christmas presents.

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8 thoughts on “Survey Says…

  1. Me too! Just love that kid to bits..
    Sure wish I lived closer but give him
    an extra hug from me for being such a great kid and a
    big hug to his wonderful parents.

    • Em, that’s actually a whole other story. This summer, when Hurricane Irene was hitting the northeast, Dante ended up seeing a bunch of images of it on the Weather Channel. Now he gets nervous at the sight of clouds. He will frequently say something like, “Good, I think that cloud is moving away from us.”

      This, along with the usual high winds we get a few times each fall, prompted lots of questions about our house’s ability to remain intact in severe weather. At some point he started questioning whether the house was steel-reinforced. After some experimentation with magnets and walls, we concluded that it is. Not the most rigorous proof, but it sure makes him feel better.

      • Ah, that makes sense. I don’t think I was scared by wind as a child, but when I was a teenager we moved to a place where winter would occasionally down a tree on something in the neighborhood, and suddenly I was a lot more nervous. So I sympathize entirely!

  2. I also enjoy the specificity. What a great post – I always love hearing these updates on Dante and what is going through his head. I don’t know if this is the funniest mistake I ever made, but it comes to mind. I was in high school and a friend of mine was having her birthday party in a park that I often went to with my family. I was walking along, telling her about how well I knew the park, but I wasn’t watching where I was going, and I walked right off the edge of a creek and tumbled into it. I didn’t get hurt, but did get very wet and muddy. It would have been funny any time, but the fact that it happened while I was bragging just made it even better. Feel free to share that with Dante. I miss you guys!

      • Another good falling-down story I have is this one: My senior year, the geology club went rafting on the Rio Grande, which is very silty. We were all filthy. One afternoon, Mark Johnson and I hiked up a side canyon and found a pool of clear water, so we got cleaned off. As we returned to the rafts, Mark was giving some of the others on the trip a hard time, saying how wonderful the clear water was and what a shame it was that we didn’t have time for another hike up there. And then he fell in the mud. Very poetic!

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