The 8-year-old is entering a new phase: a Calvin and Hobbes phase, which is excellent news! Because Calvin and Hobbes is great! It's so great that I don't even mind when it's read to me in a real-time nonstop stream of consciousness manner from the backseat on a two-and-a-half-hour car ride home from Florida, hypothetically, and by "hypothetically" I mean "I found possibly the only way to make a lengthy drive through the South feel slower." 



 

 


The 8-year-old is entering a new phase: a Calvin and Hobbes phase, which is excellent news! Because Calvin and Hobbes is great! It's so great that I don't even mind when it's read to me in a real-time nonstop stream of consciousness manner from the backseat on a two-and-a-half-hour car ride home from Florida, hypothetically, and by "hypothetically" I mean "I found possibly the only way to make a lengthy drive through the South feel slower." 


Is this a thing with all 8-year-olds, the reading constantly from the back seat? Because he was basically chattering away and speed-reading comic strips that were filled with the wonder of youth and occasional bruising existential sadness with surprisingly little awareness that:


1. He was in a car. 


2. Other people were also in the car, some of whom didn't necessarily want to absorb comic strips read by a third-grader throughout the whole of Georgia.


3. I asked him what he wanted for lunch, even though I was 110 percent sure the answer would come in the form of a nugget.


4. We pulled up to the house 10 minutes ago. 


But, hey, reading! Right? (OK really, I'd be lying if I said I didn't consider giving him a Bad Piggies extension for like four minutes of pure, soulful quiet.)


But it's OK! Because Calvin and Hobbes is great. Also because this may mean we're temporarily leaving the Peanuts phase.


The Peanuts phase went on for a long time. And look, we're big Peanuts fans in the house, but we've never previously had an 8-year-old in those house, particularly one who's taken to internalizing everything Charlie Brown suffers, deeply, emotionally, with that vicious kind of claws-in ferocity that 8-year-olds enjoy. I'm not sure if I missed much of the writhing undercurrent of hideous abuse in the Charlie Brown strips when I read them as a tot myself, but when you're watching your kid read them it gets REALLY HARD, and you find it hard to explain why it's funny that the girls in the neighborhood seem to have no qualms about telling him about all the parties they're specifically not inviting him to. 


A short list of some of the things we've had discussions about, whether at the dinner table or after lights-out: why Lucy is so mean, why Charlie Brown keeps losing, what a goat is, why everyone laughs at Charlie Brown when he's a goat, why Lucy hates everybody, and what the atomic bombs dropped on Japan were called although, to be fair, that last one may have been due to social studies and not Peanuts. 


These sort of issues come up a lot with "A Charlie Brown Christmas," which we watch every year, constantly, sometimes in July, because the Apple TV lists everything alphabetically and we have not figured out how to hide it from the Movies menu yet. 


"A Charlie Brown Christmas" is of course a beloved kids show that is basically full of the kind of behavior that if seen on the playground I would react to by marching over and having a very stern talk with someone's mother, because I am not a lot of fun to have around on playgrounds. And it is FULL of logical disconnects. For instance: It was Lucy's idea to make the manic-depressive guy the director; it's not like he was out there clamoring for the job, especially since by the time he showed up everyone else had apparently had at least a dozen or so rehearsals. Charlie Brown KNOWS he's getting a jacked-up Christmas tree, so I'm not really sure why he's all mopey when everyone tells him he got a jacked-up Christmas tree. And again, they MADE him be the director! It's not like they didn't know what they were getting themselves into. It'd be like making me the coach of your kid's basketball team and then acting all surprised when they go 0-12.


Happily, the story has a happy ending. One morning, on the way to school, in the midst of a rapid-fire reading of a series of strips in which Charlie Brown is humiliated at a camp, he announced, "I think I'd be Charlie Brown's friend." SCORE. Attaboy back there, Linus.


Jeff Vrabel didn't think it was such a bad little tree. He can be reached at http://jeffvrabel.com or followed at http://twitter.com/jeffvrabel.com.