Interviewing Asa shortly after his 10th Birthday

Asa recently turned 10 years old.  When I was a kid I remember my dad would occasionally make me endure what he formally called the “Father Son Chat.”  To honor the memory of sons getting grilled by dads, I decided to inflict the same on Asa.  He was a good sport.

Rogan:  So Asa, you just turned 10 years old.

Asa:  Correct

R:  What do you like to do?

A:  I like to play video games and read.

R:  What video games to you like to play?

A:  Team Fortress 2, Counter Strike, and all of the Half Life 2’s, and Left 4 Dead.

R:  Can you tell me a little bit about Left 4 Dead?

A:  Sure, it is this fun zombie killing games where there are four people that try to get to one place which is where the other survivors are and you fight zombies as you go.

R:  And what do you fight the zombies with?

A:  Different weapons.

R:  Like what?

A:  There is usually a normal version of a gun and an improved version.  For example, there is an uzi and there is a larger rapid fire version.  There is a pump action shotgun and a rapid fire version… and stuff like that.

R:  What books are you reading these days?

A:  Eragon series and The Great Brain.

R:  What are some of your favorite books?

A:  I finished the Harry Potter series which was pretty good and I liked Ender’s Game.

R:  What is your favorite subject at school?

A:  Probably reading.

R:  Do you enjoy writing as well?

A:  It’s all right, not the worst but not the best.

R:  And what physical activities do you do at school?

A:  Well, we do PE.

R:  What activities do you do in PE?

A:  Well, when there isn’t a big test coming up we do something like capture the flag, but when there is a big test coming up, like jump rope, we just do that every PE class.  But when we don’t have a test we play capture the flag.

R:  Do you do any after school activities?

A:  We do softball.

R:  Where you hit the ball with a bat?

A:  Uhhhhuhm.

R:  I didn’t know that.

A:  Softball is baseball but you use a soft ball.

R:  How about capoiera?

A:  That isn’t an after school activity.

R:  Well I was asking you about physical activities and you didn’t…

A:  Oh yeah, well yeah.  I have capoeira which is a Brazilian martial art and I like it.

R:  What do you like about it?

A:  It’s fun.

R:  Do you like to do capoeira with other people?

A:  Yes, I like sparring .

R:  What is sparring?

A:  It means fighting.

R:  Do people get hurt?

A:  No.  Well at least most people don’t.  Some times people get hurt but most of the time people have fast enough reflexes because they also train your reflexes in capoeira.

R:  Have your own reflexes improved?

A:  Yes, they have.

R:  Very good.  I’m going to change the kinds of questions that I am going to ask you.  What is something about the world that you would like to make better?

A:  Hmm.  I think that pollution is a big problem.

R:  What are some other big problems that you see?

A:  I see war, and the economy, because of this big bailout thing I think.  Yeah, that is it.

R:  What about pollution is bad?

A:  Well pollution builds up in the atmosphere and it builds this giant shield that keeps the sun’s ray in it… okay, the suns rays go through it but then they bounce up and they bounce off the atmosphere and come back down and it is making a lot of heat.  And also car pollution, I think that gas costs a lot and it is harder to find and if we made fuel efficient cars it would 1. Help the environment, and 2. It would help use less gas.

R:  What other things would you like to change about the world you live in?

(pause)

A:  I don’t know.

R:  If you could teach everyone one lesson, what would it be?

A:  I don’t know.  There are lots of things that I could teach them.

R:  What are some of them?

A:  I don’t know… umm dad, could you change it to yes and no questions?

R:  No.

A:  Why?

R:  Because I’m interested in learning your point of view about things.  So, speaking about your points of view about things, if you could learn anything, what would it be?

A:  Do you mean like for a profession or what?
R:  For a profession or…

A:  Engineering for a profession.

R:  … and for fun?

A:  Just for fun?  Skiing… or sledding maybe.

R:  What is your duty when it comes to other people and suffering?

A:  To help them.

R:  And you would help them no matter what?

A:  What do you mean?

R:  Are there any times when you wouldn’t help people?

A:  When I can’t?

R:  Sure.  What makes you happy?

A:  Lots of stuff.

R:  What are some things that make you happy?

A:  Reading, video game playing, being with my family and friends, bike riding, stuff like that.

R:  What do you do with your friends?

A:  Play games.

R:  Like what?

A:  There are lots of games we play like tag or board games, or stuff like that.

R:  I’m going to give you the chance to interview me now.  So what questions do you want to ask me?

A:  I haven’t really prepared any.

R:  Neither had I, if you can tell.

A:   Ummm… well, Rogan… Ummm, do you read much, for leisure, and why?

R:  I don’t read nearly as much as I would like to.  I find that I get too distracted by things that are probably not as important as reading.  But I used to read as much as you do.

A:  Do you think that you get distracted easily?

R:  I do.

A:  I agree.  What do you do for leisure?

R:  I like to play games with your mom and with you.  I like to surf the net and spend time in my garden.  I like to watch a few shows, like The Wire.  I like to be creative.

A:  Do you ever take walks or get out of the house when you have time?

R:  Some times.  I like to go out and shoot photographs.

A:  What do you like to photograph?

R:  Some of my favorite subjects are our family and nature and the city we live in.

A:  Can you ask me some yes no questions?

R:  Why do you want me to ask you yes no question?

A:  Because I’m in the mood for yes no questions.

R:  What does that mood feel like?

A:  It is a mood feeling a bit lazy and not totally in focus and a bit sleepy and hungry because I didn’t finish dinner.

R:  What is your favorite food?

A:  Saag Paneer, and that bread they serve with Saag Paneer, called pita, I think.

R:  With Saag Paneer?  That is probably naan.

A:  Then naan.

R:  What would you like to accomplish in your tenth year?

A:  I think I will probably go to the fifth grade… I know I will go to the fifth grade.

R:  When do you wake up in the morning?

A:  Six o’clock.

R:  What do you do between 6:00 and the time you go to school.

A:  We start to drive to my school from 6:30 to 7:00.  In the time before 6:30 I usually eat cereal while watching a television program and then I get dressed in my uniform and then I go to school.

R:  What do you do at school?

A:  We usually wait until 8:00 when class starts.

R:  You have a whole hour before school starts?  What do you do?

A:  I read.  That first recess is too noisy and too crowded and too cold, so I usually read.

R:  And then school starts?

A:  It starts, and then we have a fifteen minute snack break, and then we have lunch for thirty minutes, because that is how long it takes some people to eat, and then we have half an hour for recess.  And then I go back to class until 3:00, and then it is after school.

R:  What do you do for after school?

A:  First we do our homework, and then we have electives, like they are after school activities…

R:  What activities are you doing?

A:  As I said, softball.

R:  Do you play softball there, at the school, or do you go to some other place?

A:  We usually go to the parking lot across the street and play there.

R:  What happens when your mom picks you up?

A:  She usually picks me up at around 5:15 or 5:30ish, and she brings me home.

R:  What happens then?

A:  I practice my guitar for forty minutes, then I wait for dinner and eat, and then I go to my little cave, called my bedroom, and I play video games and read.

R:  Then what?

A:  I go to bed at 8:30, but I’m allowed to read in bed until 9:00, and then I go to sleep.

R:  So that is your typical day?

A:  Yes.

R:  Is there anything about your routine you would like to change?

A:  Ummm, I think after school should not be so long.

R:  What would you do if you were to get home earlier

A:  Spend good family time!

R:  What kinds of things do you like to do to spend good family time?

A:  Play games, but usually my parents are either watching news or playing Hive together, which makes it hard to butt in.

R:  Is that something you would like us to change?

A:  Not really.  I got used to it.  I think we’re good.

R:  Me too.  What do you like about your room?

A:  It has a computer in it.

R:  You’re the only one in the house with his own bedroom.

A:  Yep.

R:  What makes you feel loved?

A:  Lots of things.  How my parents care for me, and how they help me and treat me nicely… just lots of stuff.

R:  What is something about yourself that your parents don’t know?

A:  Nothing really… they know most of… well they know everything, well everything that I know, but there might be something they don’t know.

R:  Do you have secrets?

A:  No.

R:  Are you just saying that because I’m interviewing you?

A:  No.  Actually I do have a secret.  I think this interview has gone on too long.

R:  You want a break?

A:  Yes!

********************

R:  Right now I am scratching Asa’s back.  Asa, why am I doing that?

A:  To get me to cooperate with this interview.

R:  And getting your back scratched helps?

A:  Yes, it make it a bit more bearable.

R:  What is unbearable about being a Ferguson.

A:  Getting interviewed by my dad.

R:  Do you get to do everything you want when you want?

A:  No.  If I could do everything I wanted, numerous things could happen, so that isn’t lucky.

R:  If you could do anything you wanted, what would you do?

A:  Well, nothing.

R:  You wouldn’t change anything?

A:  No, I like my life.

R:  What does it feel like to have turned 10?

A:  Double digity.  You know.  Most grownups have been through this.

R:  What about turning 10 do you want your future self to remember?

A:  I don’t know.

(Asa starts to assume a yoga pose)
R:  What are you doing with you body right now?

A:  Doing the candlestick.  It is a pose where you lay on your back and stretch your legs upward, and if you have socks, they are the flame.

R:  Is this a yoga pose?

A:  Yep,  but this isn’t (shifts body).

R:  What is that?

A:  The perfect farting position.

R:  Why is that the perfect farting position?

A:  Because, your butt is above your head and then you can (makes farting noise with lips).

R:  Can you describe that position?

A:  I’m on my back except then I bend my legs forward and put my head above my legs.

R:  Can you put your legs behind your head?

A:  I’ll try.  (tries but can’t quite make it).  It is not as easy as it looks.  But I can do this (does something with his hand).

R:  Can you describe what you are doing?

A:  I am bending back my thumb to touch my wrist.

R:  Are there any other things that you can do that no one else can do?

A:  Yes!  I can bend my fingers at their top knuckle only.

R:  You are double jointed!  You have a very flexible body.  Does that help you in your capoeira?

A:  Not really.

R:  When you go to school, who are your best friends?

A:  Uba.

R:  No others?

A:  Well you can only have one best friend.

R:  Who are some of your other good friends?

A:  Gilberto, Adahn, Cooper, James, Elliot, Isaiah who moved to a different state, Kojo, Marley, A.J. and D.J.

R:  Wow, that is a lot of friends.  Are you hoping to have them all at your birthday party?

A:  Yes!

R:  What did you get for your family only birthday?

A:  A DSi, which is  DS with cameras on it and which is way better than a regular DS.

R:  What do you want to do when you grow up?

A:  become an engineer.

R:  What kind?

A:  A robotic engineer that also fixes things.

R:  What can you tell me about growing?

A:  What do you mean?

R:  It has been getting a lot longer since I stopped growing.  Maybe grownups don’t remember what it feels like to grow.

A:  It hurts.

R:  What do you remember from when you were younger?

A:  I remember when I was a baby, I rode in a red car on my mother’s lap.

R:  I think I remember that too, because you were crying, but your mom wanted you to be in your car seat.

A:  I also remember vomiting.  I was sitting in my car seat, and all of a sudden it was all over everything.

R:  Do you remember the last time you were sick?

A:  No.

R:  Are you romantically interested in anyone at school?

A:  No.

R:  Are other kids romantically interested in people?

A:  Sort of.  But mostly they just like people.

R:  Do you have a friend that you like?

A:  A girl named Rhada.

R:  Does she know you like her?

A:  I don’t think so.

R:  What does that mean to you that you like her?

A:  Nothing really.

R:  Would you like to hold her hand?

A:  Kind of.

R:  What do you think that would feel like?

A:  I don’t know.

R:  Would you like to kiss her?

A:  No, why are you asking me these kinds of questions!?

R:  I’m just curious what your answers are.  I wouldn’t care if you did want to kiss her.

A:  Well I didn’t so… oooh, this looks really cool, the way the light looks outside!

R:  What looks so cool about it?

A:  Look how it is all awesome grayish, like fog.  But it is light.

R:  Would you like to hug Rhada?

A:  I told you I’m not answering any more of those questions!
R:  About Rhada.

A:  Yes.

R:  Are there any other girls you like?

A:  Or any questions like that!

R:  Ok.  You said earlier that you wanted Yes and No questions.  May I ask you some of those?

A:  Sure, but it depends on what type.

R:  Ok, are there any other girls that you are interested in?

A:  (laughing)  I’m not answering!

R:  Ok, we can get back to the long answer questions.

A:  No, NOO!

R:  You could have Yes and No questions…

A:  No, Daddy!  This is evil.  You’re acting not nice.

R:  What does evil mean to you?

A:  I didn’t say evil.  I said “Not nice.”

R:  You did say evil.

A:  I said THIS is evil.

R:  What is evil?

A:  Mean.

R:  Evil is mean?

A:  Yes.

R:  What else is evil?

A:  Dad, just get back to the yes and no questions.

R:  Do you like any other girls besides Rhada?

A:  (giggling) ummm, a little bit.

R:  Do you like any girls more than Rhada?

A:  No.

R:  Do you like some girls AS much?

A:  Nope.

R:  Is there any other girl whose hand you would like to hold?

A:  Nope.

R:  Is there any other girl you would like to kiss?

A:  I never said I would like to kiss anyone!

R:  (laughing)  I was just checking.

A:  I just like being around them.

R:  Do you like the way they look?

A:  Can I skip that one?

R:  Sure, but why?

A:  It just give me an ominous feeling.

R:  What does that mean?

A:  It just gives me a nervous feeling.

R:  Do you like any boys the way you like Rhada?

A:  No.

R:  Do you think you would like a family?

A:  Yes.

R:  With more kids or fewer than we have in our home?

A:  I think I would like two, a boy and a girl.

R:  What would you do to be a good father?

A:  I don’t know.  I’ve been trying to notice what you have been doing.

R:  What do I do that are some good father things?

A:  Make me read.  And other things.  Act kind… I’d have done that anyway, but I notice you do that to me.  And help.  Stuff like that.

R:  Do you want to be good?

A:  Yes.

R:  Why?

A:  Because.

(pause)

R:  Why do you want to be good?

A:  Because I don’t want to be a monster.

R:  What does it mean to be a monster?

A:  To be bad.  I thought we were going to do more yes and no questions.

R:  But you stopped answering the ones about girls.

A:  Then ask me some about other things.  Why are you interviewing me?

R:  Partly because I wanted to write our interview down and share it.  But also because I’m interested in what you are thinking about.

A:  Ok.

R:  Do you try to do what your parents say?

A:  Not all the time, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t try to please them.

R:  Why do you try to please your parents?

A:  Because they act kind.  They try to please me.  I want to give some of it back to them.

R:  What is the kindest thing you can remember anyone doing for you?

A:  What happened to yes and no?

R:  What are some of your strengths?

A:  Reading… math… kindness… just being smart overall.

R:  Are you the smartest kid in your class?

A:  I don’t know.  It depends on how you define smart.

R:  How do you define smart?

A:  I define smart as intelligent in all of the things that are required for a certain thing.  Like for class, you have to be good at all of the subjects.  Some people are good at one subject, but to be smart you have to be good at all of them.

R:  Do kids at your school like to be smart?

A:  Who doesn’t?

R:  Do kids at your school read?

A:  Not like I do.

R:  Is there anything else you would like to say at the end of this interview?

A:  Not really.

R:  What words of wisdom do you have for people in the world?

A:  Study hard.  Get smarter.  Get better.  Learn more.

R:  Are you done with this interview?

A:  I guess.

R:  What are you going to go do next?

A:  Finish my dinner.

R:  What present do you want more than any other present in the world?

A:  I don’t know.

R:  You are saying ‘I don’t know’ a lot.

A:  Because I don’t really know what I want.  There are so many things.  I don’t really care for anything right now.  I cared for the DSi because I broke my old DS, but right now I seem happy.

R:  Happy with what you’ve got?

A:  Yup.

R:  Alright babe, I love you so much.

(walking out of the room)

A:  No one can have everything.  Even some times when they have lots of stuff they still aren’t happy.

11 responses to “Interviewing Asa shortly after his 10th Birthday”

  1. Jeremy says:

    Wow, this is so utterly fantastic. If I had known how long it was going to be, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have started reading this interview, but I have to say–I’m really glad I did… it’s a pretty compelling dynamic you two have there.

  2. lane says:

    thumbs up for the onlys!

  3. This post is for people who enjoy watching strangers interact on the train, and for those who delight in the banal. I had originally intended to distill it down to something more essential, but then worried that I would lose what is good in the cracks between the questions and answers (it is edited, but not very much). Two 25 minute sessions. Poor kid! Poor Whatsit reader!

  4. Scotty says:

    “No one can have everything. Even some times when they have lots of stuff they still aren’t happy.”

    I’m glad I made it through and got to this line, and the best part is that it wasn’t prompted by an annoying dad question (I say that in the kindest way possible). I hope you gave your son a sip of your beer for putting up with your grilling!

  5. 5. LOL! Indeed.

    Those of us with children probably tend to remember all of those beautiful ‘from the mouths of babes’ moments when the kids prove to be more wise and more observant than we had previously thought. I have been busy with a big work project, and had been worrying about this Whatsit post. So about a week ago I came up with the idea, that I would interview Asa, and then let myself procrastinate writing anything until two days before my deadline. Twenty minutes into the interview I realized that those ‘from the mouths of babes’ moments are memorable, in great part, due to their scarcity. So I kept grilling, hoping for something to post about, and the clock kept ticking. I was in too deep, committed to the interview as a post, and worried that the result wouldn’t work (and it doesn’t, in a traditional blogging sense).

    Once I had typed up the interview I figured I would edit it, looking for Deborah Solomon moments of childhood genius, but then that seemed weird, and I worried that as intolerable as a near-one-hour interview might be for a ten-year-old kid, a parent who, through careful editing, tries to make his child look more perspicacious than he is in reality, would be even more insufferable.

    Ahhh well. Sometimes when the due date comes, you’ve just got to paste and post and hope that next month might hold something more creative or insightful.

  6. Dave says:

    I loved it, and the length of it was really great — I felt like I got to know you and Asa much better than if it had been edited. It’s an internet gem.

  7. Tim says:

    Wow, Asa, the big one-oh. Life’s first wake-up call. Seems like you’re already fully awake, though.

  8. I like this: “If I could do everything I wanted, numerous things could happen, so that isn’t lucky.”

    It’s definitely a gem. That and, “Growing hurts.” Amen, even when you’re in the womb, growing hurts someone.

  9. Marleyfan says:

    The Great Brain and Enders Game. Fantastic books. Your kids a stud!

  10. PB says:

    Rogan, this was wonderful. And I LOVE the length, if Asa can read Ender’s Game, we can make it through a few thousand words. What I appreciate is what has already been said, that children are wise not in edited sound bytes but in how they are in the world. The honesty, the physicality, the boredom, the distraction. Asa clearly lives in a world where he is safe and cared for but not sheltered. He is aware of what is outside but also aware that he can take it in as he sees fit. Growing does hurt and he knows he has a posse of family and peers to see him through. What he knows at 10, many of us have to wander through years to find out. This glimpse of everyday-extraordinary parenting makes me happy to think that my kids will live in a future with your kid. That is hope.