“Kids Corner”…WXPN Radio Host, Kathy O’Connell

This week we have two spotlights for Sunday Spotlight. The first one is about the radio program on 88.5 WXPN called “Kids Corner”. This is a program dedicated to children and today we’re talking to Kathy O’Connell, host of the program.

Photo by Mark Wilkens
Photo by Mark Wilkens

Thanks for speaking with me today, Kathy. You’re the host and producer of “Kids Corner”?
“Yes, I am. I’m Kathy O’Connell, the host and, my “title” says producer of “Kids Corner”, but Robert Drake is the actual, hands on producer of “Kids Corner”. I’m more the executive producer. But I am the one and only host. From the beginning to now.”

When and how did kids corner begin?
“January 4, 1988. I had been doing a call in show for kids called “Kids America” out of New York and we got cancelled because our funding ran out. Classic public radio story. WXPN had just picked up this show and started running it. The then manager, called me and said “How do you feel about coming to Philadelphia and doing a show by yourself, because you’re basically the show?” I said “Oh, yes. I’ll try it for a year.” That was 1988. The next day Robert Drake showed up and we’ve been together ever since.”

Tell me about the program.
“I’ll tell you who it’s aimed at and who the reality is. Officially, we say it’s aimed at kids 7-12. I know we get them younger. I’d say 6-10 is the key age group that we seem to get.  But we also get them a lot younger. That’s one of the things I’ve noticed; more and more we’re getting 4 and 5 year olds calling in. We also get a lot of grown ups. I lose kids when they get into their teens, but then they come back. I start being “hip” again. In their early 20’s.”

Kind of like being a parent!
“I love it! Yes! Exactly! I am a wonderful aunt. I am the greatest aunt in the world! I think that’s one of the great benefits of my job. I have all the glory and great stuff about being a parent and none of the very, really hard work of actually raising kids. So I get to be the really wonderful aunt for an hour a day. I play great music and say funny things and everything they do is wonderful. I really do believe that I have the greatest job in the world. It’s a call in show for kids on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and the rest of the week it’s not live call ins. On Monday it’s all devoted to our Kindie music party. Kindie is what we call the music. It’s kids independent music. It’s this amazing music that is sort of being made for kids that’s been made for years but started to get an upsurge and a name about ten years ago. You know when something gets a name…. For instance tonight (this interview was done on Tuesday, 7/7/15), I’m asking kids for advice about what you do when you have a new baby living in the house because they have more experience than I do. Two of my friends just had twins. They’re just bringing them home. So I’m asking what their advice is for Paul and Jessica. And if they’re a twin, to also call in. Last time I had a baby in the house, I was 16 months old. I know nothing.
Thursdays is science. We have a wonderful, revolving, array of scientists. Derrick Pitts, an astronomer from the Franklin Institute; Mike Weilbacher, the executive director of the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education; Dr. Lisa Chirlian, a teacher and chemist who does kitchen chemistry. I should also mention the first Wednesday of every month, Joe Hilton comes on with the Kids Corner book mobile. He’s a retired librarian from the (Philadelphia) free library and he truly brings in these massive stacks of books and we just talk books for an hour. It is the greatest job in the world! I am grateful every single day! I am so into this wonderful job.
My grandmother worked in a hat factory her whole life. I shared a bedroom with my grandmother my whole childhood. My grandmother got up every morning and stood all day in a hat factory so I could have this life. The classic wonderful American success story. Who I’m really grateful for, is the audiences in Philadelphia and WXPN. Kids corner was at the beginning of this big change at WXPN. We were kind of the anchor of it. Out of that, we turned into a real radio station. They wound up hiring Michaela Majoun (who just retired) for mornings, the World Cafe started coming out of Philly. I grew up in New York so I had no idea about David Dye and all these DJ’s. They were just my friends. And WXPN turned into this incredible community. I now have kids that come to WXPN events that bring their kids. They’re really not kids, the kids are in their 30’s. And then they have babies.”

You have such a passion for what you do. It really shows!
“I was very lucky. I was mentored, I guess that’s the right word, by Soupy Sales. He was like my dad. In my teenage years, my friends and I stalked him. We really did. If I ever write a book, the first line is gonna be “thank God my mother was crazy”. (Laughter) We lived on Long Island and would go into the city and just hang out outside his house all day and wait for him to walk the dog. When he would do the Carol Burnett show, we’d figure out (this is in the 60’s, before we had computers) what flight he’d take. I have home movies because one of my friends always had a movie camera with her. So, I have all these wonderful home movies from then. Then I grew up and started having a life. But I reconnected with him in about 2002. He and his wife really became my surrogate parents. They became my mom and dad. Through to the end of his life in 2009, he was my mentor. He’s the reason I’m really good at what I do. I got to see “proud dad eyes” through him. I lost my whole family when I was really young and to be able to see that look of pride from somebody that knew me since I was a dopey kid was really incredible. I’m so lucky!                                    My poor grandmother….we all had these life size posters of Soupy that they gave away with Clark gum. We all had them hanging. My poor grandmother had to get up every morning to go to work at the factory with this life size Soupy poster.”

I never realized Soupy Sales was such an idol!
“He was! In New York from 1964-66, even a little beyond that. He did a broadway show and I even went to the “Tonight Show”! He was on and we’d hang out and get to see all these great shows. His New York kids show was the biggest thing going. It was like the Beatles at the time on this local level (and beyond). He was also on in other cities. He was this huge phenomenon. It was about 75 of us…kids..high school mostly (and a couple of sad adults). We’d go to the studio. That’s how we spent our vacations. Years later, one of my friends asked her mother why she let her do that. Her mother told her she needed it. Our lives were built around that in high school. Thank God I had that.”

Is that what inspired you to go into kids radio?
“Not at all. I fell into it. I was in radio in New York at WBAI, a radical, “let’s be political” radio station. I did an overnight show where I talked about television. I moved to California for a couple of years to work in commercial radio because the rule was, that if you wanted to work in radio in New York, you have to work outside of New York. I did that for a couple of years and came back to New York. I was working at a radio station as an engineer at WNYC. I was occasionally on the air, I was still on WBAI at night, but occasionally my voice would get heard (during the day). I was an engineer for a show called “Senior Edition”. The guy who hired me was named Larry Miller, a program director at WNYC, the single meanest man on Earth (horrible boss, terrible bully) had created this kids show called “Small Things Considered”. He made me edit it even though it wasn’t my job. I had to edit down the best of “Small Things Considered” to run on Saturday. The woman who did the show with him (Barbara Rosen, who’s husband was one of the hostages in Iran, she was a pretty nice woman). One night I’m sitting there babysitting a tape for some show and they come barreling in and start grabbing records and headphones and stuff. I’m just sitting there watching all this go on because I grew up among crazy people, so I was used to people fighting around me. About ten minutes later, all these people with suits come in and said they needed me to help them out. Larry and Barbara had just quit and the show’s gonna go on live. I said “you let me talk and I’ll help you all you want”. Larry wouldn’t leave because he was still director of “Small Things Considered”, (he and I wound up co-hosting small things considered that night). Half way through it, I said “this is what I want to do.” It was like three hours and God knows how we filled it in. Betty White talks about how she had a live five hour TV show in the 50’s and she says how she didn’t know how they filled the time. That’s what happened with “Small Things Considered”. But somehow we filled the time. We got a Peabody award for it. My first Peabody award. We got money, finally, from the corporation for public broadcasting and that became “Kids America” which was an hour and half call in show for kids.”

What made you love it so much?
“I just felt at home. At WBAI, and at a show I did in California, you’d get these adversarial calls. People would just want to argue about everything. And this (the kids show) was just positive and nice, kids calling in and being kids. Talking about stuff and not having to worry about getting into a fight with somebody on the radio. This was before Rush Limbaugh and all that. It was just really nice. I connected with an old friend of my mothers about 20 years ago and I was filling her in on what I’d been doing. She said “no wonder you wound up doing radio for kids…because of Soupy Sales”. I do think something was planted with Soupy years ago (and I mean that in the best possible way [laughter], he was always a gentleman). Something came to fruition. I never thought I’d still be doing this. That was in 1983, 30 years ago, all that happened. I leapt into it. That’s why I’m grateful every day.”

I’m attaching a photo of Soupy Sales, his wife Trudy Carson Sales & Kathy at Ocean City, NJ in 2007 The photo is by Terri Greenberg
I’m attaching a photo of Soupy Sales, his wife Trudy Carson Sales & Kathy at Ocean City, NJ in 2007
The photo is by Terri Greenberg

So what do kids typically say when they call in?
“Mostly it’s the subject, whatever the question is on any given night. They call to tell their story. A lot of times it could be to recommend a movie, a TV show, books, that sort of thing. But then sometimes it’s to give advice like how to deal with being the new kid in school, some serious topics as well. Bullying, loss. In 30 years enough awful, horrible things have happened that we’ve had to deal with on the radio. From the Challenger to school shootings to 9/11 to war. The war started at 7:00, the first Iraq war (1991). We were on the air when it happened. It’s a judgement call sometimes on just what we’re gonna talk about. When it’s something serious or in the news. I don’t talk about things like the OJ [Simpson] story for example. We talk about stories that kids are going to be affected by, even if it’s in talking about it at school. One of the things that I like to do is arm kids to tell their parents to turn off the news. I never went to bed before 11:30 throughout my childhood because we had a TV In our room. I never asked questions. I thought guerrilla warfare was actually gorillas at war. When you’re a kid, you really need context and explanation. My friends daughter was about 5 on 9/11. They kept showing the pictures of the planes hitting the twin towers and she thought it was happening all over the country, all over the world, over and over again. So to arm kids to say “talk to me about this” or “can we change the channel”. Just to make adults aware of that has been a really important part of the show. A lot of times it’s just for them to talk about what’s going on in their lives. All kinds of things. In Philly we’re really lucky to have such great resources. Tracy Thomasey from the Support Center for Child Advocates, has been on with me several times for the serious stuff. Bringing the social workers point of view on it. That was such a simple question and I just went on and on.”

It’s great though because it’s a complex question that isn’t cut and dry. It’s important for people to know because sometimes parents don’t know how to handle tough situations like that and it’s good to have someone in your corner (no pun intended) to help. My son was 3 1/2 when 9/11 happened and it was a tough thing to explain. We watched the news all the time for days. But when you see your toddler recreating scenes from the event with his toys, you become aware that turning the news off is probably a good idea.
“Exactly. And I’ll tell you what song has served me well over the decades: “The Rainbow Connection”. The producer of “Kids America” was a guy named Keith Talbot. He said, to this day, he laughs whenever he hears it. When the Challenger blew up, I said that “sometimes you just don’t know how to explain things. You just gotta wonder, so here’s Kermit the frog.” That’s my go to.”

Radio has become almost a secondary source of music since the popularity of iPods, iTunes, satellite radio and things of that like. Why do you think it’s important to have something strictly for children on the RADIO?
“That’s a really good question. Because it is a radio show, even if you’re listening to it online, it’s still presented as a radio show. It gets back to the definition of radio as the theater of the mind and the most intimate medium. This is a part of the discussion we used to have at WBAI all the time…why radio? I’ve had friends that have been predicting the end of radio since I got into radio. They’d been trying to get me into other mediums. I just really think there is something so intimate and personal, specifically about radio, that somehow it works. If a parent listens to XPN and the really great music sources that there are now, the parents have some pretty great music collections. A Kindie rip off of the Beatles will never be the Beatles. And God bless them, I know some bands try to do all Beatles and I’m like “No. Throw in “Yellow Submarine” every once in a while, but turn them on to the real thing”. But I think them [kids] having their own music, having ownership of that music, is a big part of it. And having ownership of that hour on the radio is really important. The comedian Paul Tompkins, a Philly comic, was on years ago. To this day, he will still answer, if he answers honestly, if you ask him what the worst week of his life was, he would tell you the week he filled in for Kathy O’Connell on Kids Corner. Because he’s very quick and very funny and a lovely man, but the kids were like “you’re really not doing this right. We have to tell you how to do this show. You have to do this…” They really take ownership of it. We may have grown up on radio, but to a lot of kids…it’s kind of foreign to them.”

Do you believe radio has a future and why do you think it’s so important for radio to survive?
“There’s this new thing, Beats, that just came out…our program director was just talking about it. And they say now that this will really kill radio. He pointed out that there’s XPN’s now all over the country that prove that we can do this. It’s not gonna work everywhere. I’ve been waiting 30 years for kids radio to take off. On Sirius satellite radio, they have Kids Place Live. I have friends who do the kids channel on Sirius and they’re still waiting for it to be the next big thing. It’s never gonna be enormous but I always feel it’s gonna be there. I guess if I were younger, I’d be more panicked about it’s future.”

Does WXPN host any kids concerts? If so, when do they take place?
“All the time. One of the big things we do on kids corner every year for the last few years is a conference for Kindie musicians called KindieComm. The “Comm” is for community that came out of the Non-COMMvention that XPN does every year. That was like our template for it. In connection with that, when we have all these musicians from all over the world, kids musicians gathering in Philadelphia. Attached to that, we do the Kids Corner music festival every year on that Sunday. So, next year I think April 2 or 3, is the Sunday. I also attach onto every concert by certain bands like Trout Fishing in America, my favorite band in all the world. Truly, they’re a great example of doing this kids thing. Then they got word that this crazy lady in Philadelphia had fallen in love with the band and all of the sudden they’re doing a concert for 800 kids in a book store in New Jersey. It’s this amazing thing. So I attach myself to a lot of music events. There’s a big one coming up in a couple of weeks. It’s called Kidchella. It’s gonna be at the Smith Memorial playground on July 24. Jeff Bogle, the kids blogger, has put it together. It’s a concert with Play Date, Shine and the Moonbeams and The Alphabet Rockers. (Here’s the link to that event: http://smithplayground.org/kidchella-july-24/)
The zoo does a Tuesday music series every summer. So there’s a lot of stuff.”

How can people keep the program going?
“Go to http://www.WXPN.org. The best way is to tell people with kids about it [Kids Corner]. Tell teachers about it. Tell librarians. I just assume everybody knows about kids corner just because I’ve been doing it so long, but until you have kids, you’re not aware of what’s out there for kids. It really isn’t on your radar. So that’s the most supportive thing you can do to support the show. Pass it along.”

When I Was Your Age….Poll Results

Thank you to those that took our poll this week about kids and if you could do it again. Some results weren’t surprising, some were. Every generation deals with nay sayers of the generations before them. Some of it stems from fear of losing touch, unfamiliarity, and let’s face it, some people are just mean. Wherever you stand on these topics, we hope we all find a way to help one another, including our children, be our best version of ourselves for the rest of the world.
Here are the results:

1. Do you think kids have it easier today than when you were a kid?
50% said yes
25% said no
18.75% said it’s about the same
6.25% chose “other”
COMMENTS:

“Way more peer pressure growing up to quickly too much pressure on their little shoulders”

“Social media, makes it harder to be yourself, sorta get bullied into doing things they normally do.”

“Simple differences, walking everywhere, no phone usage, very little TV .Large geographical area to play.”

“Spoiled”

“I have two grandchildren. we all are making them too old too quick. when I was six mom did it all. Now they do it for themselves which I find sad they grow up way too fast.”

“They have so many more opportunities, so many more material things, and so much less discipline and punishment.”

“Way too much pressure on so many levels; there’s no learning curve for a lot of things, esp. social media. Nothing to do at night, e.g. dances. Feel sorry for them.”

“Technology has made some things easier for kids in my opinion.”

“They have better technology to help them. Everything is politically correct & socially acceptable now which makes things easier on children. I also think the education system is more laxed”

“There are things on both sides of the docket. Kids have more of a sense of entitlement. They have information more readily available with the internet. But they seem to feel more pressure to succeed. I, as a child, had fewer rules because of societal changes.”

“I think that there is much more violence among young children. We may have had fist fights but young kids are getting shot and stabbed.”

2. Do you believe the generation, that are now young adults, are on the right path to creating a good future for our country?
52.94% were undecided
29.41% said no
17.65% said yes

COMMENTS:
“When playing any game, there is always some one who wins, and someone that doesn’t. That’s not what kids are taught today, they don’t keep score, so there aren’t any “losers”. Just because you don’t win, doesn’t make you a loser, you learn from that and try to improve. If there are no winners or 2nd place, why try to improve.”

“Better informed in technology. Instant access to information.”

“Only the nerdy ones though, the rest of them are idiots.”

“Too materialistic. It’s rush rush. They need time to be children instead of pushing them so hard let kids be kids bring more joy less stress.”

“I think some are, some aren’t.”

“Seem to be doing better, more honorable things than previous generation, but only time will tell.”

“For some of the reasons I mentioned above, I don’t think this is helpful to our children/young adults”

“There are too many other variables.”

“They think they are entitled to everything they want without having to work for it. There are some exceptions.”

3. What do you think is the greatest attribute of the young generations?
37.5% said technology
37.5% said tolerance
18.75% said forward thinking (outside of the box)
6.25% said compassion
0% said better decisions as to where our money is spent

COMMENTS:
“I can’t think of 1 attribute, nobody takes blame for anything they do.”

“They seem to accept everything on face value.”

“More awareness/acceptance of special needs, gay rights, interracial couples …..Things that have always been around but nobody ever talked about. Social networks have helped (I think)”

“With forward thinking all is possible tolerance compassion”

“They have a lot of advantages and live in a time where they can have very progressive thoughts and run with them without fear of censorship or retaliation.”

4. What do you miss most about being a kid?
56.25% said no responsibilities
31.25% said playing outside
6.25% said Saturday cartoons
6.25% chose “other”
0 said school

COMMENTS:
“Naps”

“Life was slower, easier. Our biggest problem, can not compare to the problems children and young adults face today.”

“Not just less responsibility, less awareness of anything outside family or neighborhood.”

“I’m immature. Paying bills and going to work sucks. Even though I love my job, I don’t like paperwork or dealing with administration.”

“Everything lol”

“All of the above”

“All of the above”

“Watching the Saturday cartoons was the best part of being a kid.”

“Just to have more time to do it would be great.”

5. If you could, would you want to go through childhood and adolescence again?
57.14% said no
28.57% said yes
14.29% chose “other”

COMMENTS:
“Maybe early 20s”

Only from like 18 on.”

“Even though being young should be the best times of your life, I’m ok with that stuff behind me. Sure I would like to get up in the morning, no aches and pains, but then I’d have to work for 45 years, go to war, all the bad along with the good. I couldn’t be in a better place, got really lucky, ended up in Hawaii, retired, with the person I want to spend the rest of my life with, how much more could you ask of life.”

“I was very self contained, shy. Became much more outgoing and social.”

“I would only if I had the knowledge of what I understand now.”

“Maybe this time I’ll get it right”

“I’d like to correct some mistakes I made.”

“But only if I could do it back then, not now”

“If you got to keep all your knowledge and experience then, Absolutely! Who wouldn’t and why wouldn’t you?”

“I had epilepsy as a child. It was not an easy childhood. I have no desire to do it over”

“No, I am generally happy where I am. It would be cool to experience the good times again. But not the entire stage of life, too many emotional ups and downs.”

“Been there done that. Looking forward. Not backward”

“Hated school. Of course I hate working too.”

We Asked, They Answered. Straightforward Answers to Simple Questions From Kids Ages 5-10.

Let’s face it, kids are funny. They say funny things. They make funny sounds. Okay, they do things that at times makes you wonder what the hell you were thinking having children, but most of the time you look back on those things later and find that they too were pretty funny.
For almost 7 years I wrote in an entirely satirical and sarcastic style. I wrote mostly about babies, and kids, and the parenting of those two groups. I wrote about the midnight feedings and the lost brain cells; about the late night glasses of wine chugged down hidden behind the laundry room door while everyone was finally, FINALLY sleeping. Wait. Did I write about that or just think it out loud?

kidstalkEither way, co-producing all of the content here at One Unified with Noelle has been a big departure from what I typically do, from what I thought I knew. Co-authoring pieces of sometimes such a serious nature has been a whole new world for me personally. It’s interesting and it’s exciting. This week though, getting back to talking to kids, talking about kids, and poking fun a bit at the whole parent/child dynamic, has been so much fun for me. It was like a return trip to my comfort zone. I hope those of you who never read any of my previous writing and may not be familiar with my style, weren’t too offended by anything I may have discussed with the kids, or written in our posts.
(This is the part where I’d usually say, just kidding! I actually don’t care a bit if you were offended! But, I’m embracing the more serious, professional side of me these days)

In any case, it’s been a lot of fun this week. The teenage girls, well, let’s just say I’ve had pelvic exams that went more smoothly, and the father and son, I think my ears are still tired. Although 45 minutes after the conclusion of the interview I was still learning why Hulk would beat 99% of other superheros in a street fight. So, there’s that. Please enjoy this final installment of kid’s perspectives and come back and see our kid-themed double Spotlight of the week this Sunday!
– Michelle

We grabbed some kids and asked them the same simple questions. Here’s who they are and how they answered.
A- an 8-year-old boy
B- a 6-year-old boy
C- a 10-year-old girl
D- a 5-year-old girl

Do you know who the President of the United States is?kidstalk2
A: Barack Obama
B: Barack Obama
C: Barack Obama
D: I learned it in Kindergarten but I forget.
I’m almost certain I did not know at 5 or 6 who the President was!

Do you know who the Vice President is?
A: Not really
B: No
C: I can’t remember his name.
D: Ummmm no.
I still am not sure who the Vice President is! 😉

What state do you live in?
A: New Jersey
B: New Jersey
C: New Jersey
D: New Jersey
They’re so proud. For now…

Do you know who the Governor is in that state?
A: Chris Christie
B: That guy on t.v. I forget his name.
C: No but my D.A.R.E. paper was signed by him. I forget.
D: Hmmmm.. not really.
Sure, these questions were answered a few days ago when the state still had a Governor.

How old is your Mom?
A: 44
B: 40
C: 43 I think
D: 25. No 30.

Do you think that’s old?
A: No
B: A little old. Not as old as my Grandma though, she’s like 68!
C: Middle-aged
D: A little.

Where is someplace that you have been on a trip?
A: Vermont
B: New York
C: Tennessee
D: The shore. We go every week.

How far do you think it is from your house to that place?
A: 10,000 miles
B: Like 5 hours by car or 3 hours by boat.
C: Like 6 hours or something. I forget.
D: A long time in the car and my brother bothers me the whole time in our car.
Apparently one of them is sailing to the great island of New York State!

What do you think you might want to be when you grow up?
A: A person who does special forces, like military special forces.
B: A guy who says the weather on t.v.
C: A Marine Biologist
D: A ballerina or Belle.

How much money do you think that job pays?
A: I guess like $70 per person they save.
B: I think like a hundred. But probably less if it rains because people will be sad and not want to pay you.
If only weather really worked that way.
C: I don’t know. Like a thousand maybe.
D: A ballerina probably makes, I don’t know a lot. Belle probably doesn’t make that much but its okay because she already has a big house.

Do you think you’ll get married someday?kidstalk4
A: Yes.
B: Yeah I guess.
C: Yeah.
D: Yes.

How old do you think you might be when you get married? What’s a good age for that?
A: 25. No, actually 27.
B: Like 25.
C: 25
D: My mom and Dad got married when they were 25.
Again confirming that the kid-approved universal age for marriage is approximately 25.

OMG! We’re Talking (Barely) to Two Teen Girls.

Do you have a teen or pre-teen child? If you do you know that they can be, at times, less than cooperative in nature. How about daughters? I’ve been a parent a long time. I’ve known hundreds and hundreds of parents. I have talked to, interviewed and written about parents for years. I can’t remember one time where a person with children of both genders said that they thought that daughters were easier to raise than sons. Not one time (barring special circumstances of course). So when you put the two together, a teenage girl, well let’s just say there is a special place in heaven for those of us who make it through. And in the meantime, we have the bar.

I was tempted to just post the audio that we use for our interviews, rather than transcribe it to write this post. I thought only then could you fully appreciate the heavy sighs, the barely audible responses, the giggling at the questions. I thought that would help you feel the vibe of complete and utter annoyance being put forth. To think that these two young girls, who shall remain anonymous, had to take 10 whole minutes out of their busy lives to do something so incredibly lame as answer the silly questions of an adult. AS IF?

Rather than post the audio, and risk their identities being revealed, which would of course send them into a spiral of shame and unpopularity that would surely last them well into their college years, I decided to just go ahead and transcribe the post. Besides, it’s not like you can see the dirty looks and the eyerolls on the audio anyway.

How old are you girls?
A: 13
B: 13

What grade will you be going in to?
A: 8th
B: 8th

Do you have any brothers or sisters?
A: 1 brother and 1 sister.
B: I have a brother, 2 step brothers, and a step sister.

Do you like them?
A: Makes funny faces and a strange noise.
B: Shakes her head and makes a strange noise.

Do you guys get along?
A: Eh. It depends on the day.
B: Mmmmm… no not really.

Why do you think you guys don’t get along?
A: Because they like to irk my soul. (Yes, you read that right. They IRK HER SOUL.)
B: Shrugs.

Okay clearly the sibling thing is going swimmingly. Let’s move on shall we?

What are you guys doing this summer? Going anywhere? Done anything good so far?
A: I went to the beach.
Who did you go with?
A: My family
How was it?
A: Two thumbs up.
So if you could go anywhere you wanted to this summer, do anything in the world, what would you do?
A: Go shopping in Paris.
By yourself? Would you take your take your family?
A: I’d take my friends.

How about you, doing anything fun this summer? Going anywhere? Done anything good so far?
B: I went to the beach in Ocean City. We’re going to Myrtle Beach too.
Did you go to OC with your family?
B: Yeah.
Are you excited to go to Myrtle Beach?
B: Yeah.
So if you could go anywhere you wanted to this summer, do anything in the world, what would you do?
B: Um, (2 minutes of total silence). Um, (2 minutes of verbal prompting). I’d go to Hawaii.
Ok. Would you take your family?
B: No.
Would you take your friends?
B. Yeah.

Alright… enough about summer time. Summer’s clearly overrated anyway.  Let’s move on to school. Why not?

So, you’re both starting 8th grade in the fall. What’s your favorite subject in school?
A: Lunch. Kidding… science.
Why is that your favorite?
A: It’s fun.
What’s your least favorite?
A: Math
What don’t you like about it?
A: Too much work! (Work? In school? No way!)

How about you, what’s your favorite subject in school?
B: Math.
Why is that your favorite?
B: I’m good at it.
What’s your least favorite?
B: Language Arts
Why is that your least favorite?
B: I’m not very good at it.
(Makes perfect sense to me)

If you could add any subject to the curriculum that they don’t already teach, what would you add?
A: Shopping.
Really? How would that be good to teach in school? How would you pitch it?
A: How to manage your money and get what you want while shopping.
And you?
B: How to bake something without catching it on fire.
(Give me strength)

You guys have both eaten lunch at school, right? How’s the food at school?
A: It’s okay sometimes. I guess. Depends on what they made.
B: Depends on the day.

Is there anything on the menu now that you’d keep if you were changing the menu?
A: They have good mac n cheese.
B: Shrugs.

If you could add anything to the school lunch menu what would you add?
A: Mozzarella sticks that aren’t greasy. Grilled cheese that’s not disgusting.
B: Pizza.

You girls can add anything to the menu. Anything. Ice cream sundaes, fettuccine alfredo, cake, anything! Are you sure you’d pick pizza and grilled cheese?
A: Blank stare
B: Shrugs.

At this point I wish it were over. I truly do. But… it’s not.

Who was your favorite teacher this year (without a name just a subject)?
A: My science teacher.
B: Math.

What made them a good teacher?
A: They didn’t make us do work.
B: Because she was really nice and she let us talk more than any of my other teachers did.

So, one more thing I want to talk about. As 13-year-old girls, what do you think is the biggest problem that you personally face every day?
A: Too much homework.
So, too much homework is your biggest problem?
A: Yes. I just worked all day for 6 hours and now I have to work at home too.
So, out of all the problems teenage girls face, family problems, peer pressure, bullying, not fitting in, boy troubles, too much homework is your biggest huh?
A: Mmm hmm.
Well, I would say that you are one very lucky 13-year-old girl and you should remember that.
How about you?
B: Ummmm I don’t know. My brother bothers me a lot. He annoys me every day after school.

Clearly, I have selected the 2 most problem free teenage girls in town.

So, what about all teens? What do you think the biggest problem is for kids your age in general?
A: Trying to fit in at school.
B: Yeah I agree.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing the world? What do you think is the greatest issue that we all face, as kids, adults, everyone? What do we most need to fix in the world?
A: Starving people. Homeless.
A lot of discussion among themselves. And silence. And sighs. Always the sighs.
B: Violence.

Do you think there is a good way to address those problems?
A: People who are hungry, like homeless people, sometimes they ask for money, sometimes they hold signs on the street. And you want to give them money because they might be starving. But sometimes people take advantage of that and they try to get you to give them money when they aren’t really homeless or they aren’t going to use the money for food. So they kind of ruin it for the others, because people don’t know if they can trust them so they won’t give them money.
(Ah, a glimmer of hope)
B: Unsure.

One last question just for fun. Do you think you’ll get married someday? And if you do, how old do you think you might be? What might be a good age to get married?
A: 13. (laughter) Just kidding. I don’t know. In your 20’s I guess. Like 24, 25, 26. Around there.
B: I guess mid 20’s.

What I learned: Teenage girls irk MY soul. Most 13-year-old girls would much rather hang out with their friends than their family. The universal age for getting married according to children between the ages of 3 and about 16 is in the 20-26 range. I missed writing for/about kids. Mostly because it’s so damn entertaining. And lastly unless you can capture the many faces, eyerolls, sideways glances, and goofy looks, it’s probably not a great idea to use 13-year-old girls as your interview subjects.

Disclaimer: *** These statement are of course not true of all 13-year-old girls. Just of the two I spoke to on this day. And my own. And all of her friends. And all of the ones who I have met. But probably not every single 13-year-old girl on earth.***

When I Was Your Age….A Poll

Kids Talk: One Unified Talks to a Younger Crowd This Week

We’ve all heard that kids say the darndest things or kids say the funniest things. The idea has spawned television shows, books, blogs, and more. If you have kids, no matter how old they are, I’m sure you can recall many occasions where your child has said something so goofy, so silly, that it sent you into a fit of hysterics. I like to jokingly say that they were made to be cute and funny when they are young because that is what keeps us from giving them away when they drive us absolutely crazy!

It’s not just humor though. Another expression, out of the mouths of babes, although it’s roots are of a biblical nature, has become an idiom to represent a moment when from a child comes words or ideas that show a very adult like mentality or sentiment. Did you ever hear the story about the semi-truck that got stuck going underneath a highway overpass? It didn’t make the clearance and became wedged in underneath, holding up traffic, and causing problems for the truck driver, his cargo, and the other drivers. For some time police, firemen, road crews, and workmen all tried to free the truck using a variety of equipment. It wasn’t until an 8-year-old boy driving with his parents in a car going the other way came upon the scene and asked his parents what was going on. His parents, describing the scene, told their son that the truck was stuck and that the crews were working hard to try to get it out and under the clearance. The little boy to the surprise of his family, said simply, “why don’t they just let the air out of the tires?”

There’s some speculation as to whether or not that story is true or if it’s just one of those urban legend, folk tale type stories, that get passed around from person to person, and eventually pulled out when it fits the situation. Today, it fits the situation. All this week we are letting the kids do the talking. We’ve interviewed many people about many things in the months since we began this project. We’ve asked lots of questions and heard many opinions. Our goals? To find common ground for people. To find things that people would like to share and like to do together regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, class, and so on. To give people a platform to talk, and an opportunity to listen. To write material and conduct interviews that people can identify with. All of the people we’ve talked to have been different from one another in so many ways. The one thing that has been true of each and every one of them is that they were all adults.

We’ve done the grown-up thing here on One Unified. Now, we’re taking this entire week to a different level. All of our interviews, questions, polls, and even our Sunday Spotlight will be by the kids, for the kids, and about the kids. It really is true that kids say the darndest things. It can be pretty amazing just to hear the difference in perception that a child has when faced with the same question or problem as an adult. You’ll see if you follow along this week. Whether you have kids or not, you’ll surely be able to identify with our kids talk week, so stay tuned all week for more…

And now, we’re sharing the comparing perspectives of a parent and child. The only “grown-up” we interviewed or spoke to this week (apart from getting parental consent of course), we thought this started the week off right. Goes to show how differently a grown up and a kid will answer relatively the same questions. Also goes to show how verbose some 6 year olds can be. And of course, this particular interview shows that sometimes 42-year-old men are really just 6-year-old boys with a car and a job.

Our grown up is 42-year-old man. Our kid? A just turned 6-year-old boy. They are father and son.

Have you ever bkidsweek2een interviewed before?
Dad: I was interviewed for a local paper when there was a fairly serious accident at my workplace.
Kid: That’s boring.

What’s your favorite tv show? 
Dad: Game of Thrones.
Kid: I really like Little Einsteins but my mom said that it’s not on tv anymore and the player for the dvd broke because the dog knocked it off the table. I think my sister threw it away though.

What do you think is the coolest job in the world?
Dad: Navy Seal is a pretty cool job.
Kid: Superhero. Like if I was gonna get a job as a superhero I’d want the job to be Spiderman or Hulk. I think Hulk more. I kidstalk3don’t think I like being green but he is really strong and then I could keep away all the bad guys that try to break in to my house.

Do a lot of bad guys try to break in to your house? 
Dad: Not that I’m aware of. Unless this goes on when I am at work.
Kid: Not right now, like today. But if it happens then I could be ready and shoot them with my laser gun.


So, you are a laser shooting Hulk. What about another job besides superhero? Can you think of another cool job?

Dad: I think being a brain surgeon is a cool job. (At this point I call the dad out for saying that just to try to subconsciously implant the idea of becoming a doctor to his laser gun wielding Hulk wannabe. He concedes.)
Son: I think a cop or like an agent. Like, you know, a secret agent or a spy. yeah, a spy. That’s a cool job.

What do you think your wife (and your mom) does all day at work? (She is a social worker)
Dad: She assists people who are struggling with paying their utility and other bills on time. She tries to get them on payment plans, find out of they are eligible for grants, and so forth. I know she spends a lot of time on the phone with various people and agencies. Probably about 80% of her day is spent on the phone.
Kid: I guess she talks on the phone. I don’t know. I know she talks a lot on the phone at home so she maybe probably talks a lot at her work too. I know when she picks me up sometimes she looks very very grumpy.

Do you think grown ups are grumpy a lot of the time? Why do you think that is?
Dad: I try not to be grumpy. Or at least not when I am around the kids. Everyone gets grumpy sometimes though, right? Sometimes people are just having a bad day.
Kid: I don’t know about kids. I see kids who cry sometimes and kids who laugh sometimes if something is funny but I don’t think there’s that much grumpy kids. If they are grumpy they probably just play X Box or have a snack and then they feel better. Like my mom she has ice cream sometimes. When she sees me and my sister and when she has ice cream. Those are the two times she cheers up fast.

What do you think is the prefect age to get married?
Dad: Is this a trick question? I’ll say 30. I was actually 27. I think you need to be a little bit established. I think you need to be sure, be ready. But if you plan to have kids, you don’t want to wait too long. You need all the youth and energy you can get to deal with these guys!
Kid: Like a thousand (laughs). I don’t think I am gonna get married really because then I will have to live in a house that has kids and stuff in it like my house. If I have to get married though I think maybe 20 or 25 is a good age.

Well said.

Stuck in the Middle With You: A Middle Child Speaks.

Perhaps the most talked about, the most controversial of all in the birth order spectrum, is the middle child. Middle children often get a bad rap as being needy attention seekers stuck somewhere between the assertive and confident oldest and the precious and coddled baby. I mean really, who isn’t familiar with the famous ‘Marsha, Marsha, Marsha’ syndrome!? But middle children possess their own set of unique and wonderful traits and today I spoke to someone who had no problem sharing all of the wonders of the middle child.
(Hint: If you can’t tell after the first question or two, the subject of the interview is literally a middle child. She’s 10 years old.)

3kidsHOW MANY BOTHERS AND SISTERS DO YOU HAVE?
One sister and one brother.

WHERE DO YOU FIT IN? ARE YOU THE OLDEST? YOUNGEST? MIDDLE?
My sister is older and my brother is younger. I’m in the middle.

DO YOU EVER HEAR ANYTHING SAID ABOUT BEING THE CHILD IN THE MIDDLE?
I know people say some people have ‘middle child syndrome’ and I have no idea what that means. I think middle children are the best obviously. The oldest is all old and the youngest are like babies.

SO DO YOU THINK MIDDLE CHILDREN ACT DIFFERENTLY THAN THE OTHER KIDS?
We’re obviously just better. We act awesome.

AWESOME INDEED. BUT SERIOUSLY, DO YOU BELIEVE THAT MIDDLE KIDS ACT A CERTAIN WAY THAT MAY BE DIFFERENT THAN THEIR BROTHERS AND SISTERS?
Not really. The oldest has been around the longest so your parents already have done so many things with them. Then when you come along they’re not as nervous and worried about everything that you are gonna do. I think the youngest gets most of the attention because they’re all cute and they’re the babies.

SOMETIMES PEOPLE SAY MIDDLE CHILDREN NEED A LOT OF ATTENTION SO THEY ACT SILLY OR DO THINGS TO TRY TO GET THEIR FAMILY’S ATTENTION? DO YOU THINK THAT’S TRUE?
I think my sister does more stuff to try to get attention than I do. Teenagers are always trying to get attention. I don’t want more attention. My parents already pay too much attention to what I’m doing. Why would kids want more attention from their parents. If their parents aren’t paying attention they can do more of what they want and less of what they have to do, like clean their room and stuff.

GOOD POINT. THAT’S CALLED ‘FLYING UNDER THE RADAR’. HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF THAT EXPRESSION?
Not really.

IT MEANS TRYING ON PURPOSE NOT TO GET NOTICED SO THAT WAY YOU DON’T GET ANY CRITICISM OR CRITIQUE EITHER WAY? DO YOU THINK THAT’S A GOOD THING OR A BAD THING?
I have no idea. I just do what I do and if it’s something I’m not supposed to do, I hope my tattle-tale brother and sister don’t tell.

DO YOU OFTEN DO THINGS YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO?
Um. I really don’t want to say anything incriminating.

INCRIMINATING IS A PRETTY BIG WORD FOR SOMEONE YOUR AGE. DO YOU THINK A  GOOD VOCABULARY IS ANOTHER TRAIT THAT MIDDLE CHILDREN POSSESS?
It could be. My friend (name omitted) is a middle child and she knows like every single word. She always gets A’s on like, assignments that have to do with writing and language arts.

HOW ABOUT YOU? DO YOU DO WELL IN SCHOOL?
I don’t want to say.

IT’S OKAY TO TELL US. BEING A GOOD STUDENT IS A GOOD THING. HOW DID YOU DO ON YOUR LAST REPORT CARD, TRUTHFULLY?
I got like 3 A’s and 2 B’s. I got a B in math. I do not understand math most of the time. I literally have no idea how I got a B. I just do good on all the tests for some reason.

DID YOU EVER WONDER IF MIDDLE CHILDREN ARE USUALLY BETTER AT MATH? OR SPORTS? OR ART? OR ANYTHING?
I never even thought about that. I think everyone is probably good at a lot of different things.

ARE THERE ANY OTHER THINGS THAT YOU THINK YOU MAKES A MIDDLE CHILD DIFFERENT?
Middle children are just awesome.

Famous middle children include:
JFK, Katy Perry, Madonna, Martin Luther King Jr., Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, and Princess Diana.