Lenore Skenazy and David Brooks (two of my favorite reads, by the way) touch on the tendency of parents of a certain age (mine) toward ultra-over-protection of their kids.
The theory from Strauss & Howe is being borne out today. It goes: since we generally grew up as latchkey kids as children (and perhaps grew up to be Latchkey Men, with a nod to the excellent Wek) and were largely left to our own devices as our parents granted us freedoms (partly out of their own absorption in their own lives), that now, as grown-ups with kids of our own, our generation tends to over-compensate as parents, and thus overprotects our kids to the point of stifling them.
We’re familiar with talk about how Vietnam permanently shaped the baby boomers. But if you grew up in or near an American city in the 1970s, you grew up with crime (and divorce), and this disorder was bound to leave a permanent mark. It was bound to shape the people, now in their 40s and early-50s, reaching the pinnacles of power.
It has clearly influenced parenting. The people who grew up afraid to go in parks at night now supervise their own children with fanatical attention, even though crime rates have plummeted. It’s as if they’re responding to the sense of menace they felt while young, not the actual conditions of today.
From Skenazy, advocating “Take Our Children to the Park…& Leave Them There Day”:
As you readers know, I believe in involved parenting — teaching our kids the skills they need to be safe and self-reliant. But there’s not a whole lot of chance for a child to put any of that into practice and get good at it, if mom is by his side for a full 18 years.
As a parent who admittedly trends toward overprotection, I’ve also left 3½-year-old Icepick Jr. in the backyard (which would make me a bad parent, according to the pediatrician in the Daily News article) for a whole 90 seconds while running inside to pee (with the windows open and an infield-full worth of outdoor toys, fully safety-approved, to occupy him). We’re fortunate in that we live less than a city block from the elementary school Junior will eventually attend. I’m looking forward to walking with him to that school someday. And someday later, (gulp) letting him walk there by himself.
You may find my lack of faith disturbing, but no amount of Jedi mind tricks is going to get me to buy into the concept of May 4 as “Star Wars Day,” as in, it’s “May the Fourth Be With You,” often closely followed by “Get it?” Charming, to the last. But let’s call that a pun too far, shall we?
No, if you really want to do it, Star Wars Day should be every year on the Wednesday before Memorial Day, which in 1977 was May 25: the day the original Star Wars was released and began to change the world for Hollywood, not to mention the worldview for millions of Generation X kids like me. (And, hey, no kidding, I looked up “Star Wars Day” on Wikipedia, and see that the Los Angeles City Council beat me to the punch by three years. And here all I knew from the L.A. City Council was from L.A. Confidential.)
(Aside I: It’s “Star Wars,” or if you’re picky, the “Original Star Wars.” None of this Episode IV or A New Hope crap needed for explanatory purposes — those are subtitles, and using them buys into George Lucas’ neverending, profit-mongering revisionism; see: Greedo shooting first; see, also: the computer-animated Clone Wars series, which further entrenches Anakin Skywalker as a good guy product line along with his annoying teenage girl sidekick. Like those jawas, I can’t abide those Clone Wars. Let’s see, Anakin’s good, but then he’s eventually the worst person in the galaxy, going from a sort of bratty John Wayne to a sort of galactic Hitler; good luck explaining that to a hero-worshipping 3½-year-old like mine, but I digress).
(Aside II: There’s a reason why experiencing the saga from episodes IV to VI, and then from I to III, works as a cohesive and satisfying narrative, and why I’m planning on having Icepick Jr. watch it that way (as best as I can control these sorts of things). Though in a bout of drinking inspiration one time, my friends and I thought it would be great to watch the entire saga Quentin Tarantino-style by shuffling the six DVDs and watching them in random order. I’m not sure we got very far with that concept that night, and I think I’ll stick with Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars and Kung-Fu Kenobi’s Big Adventure for my Obi-Wan/Pulp Fiction mash-up fix, and yes, I am digressing again.)
I was a few months away from turning 5 when Star Wars came out, and I saw it in the theater multiple times over the next 2 years. It was re-released in 1978 and 1979, and, oh yes, I went in for repeat viewings; apart from the occasional commercial-filled and edited-for-TV broadcast of a film, that was virtually the only way you could see a movie again and again in those days before Betamax and VHS, before the cable TV boom, before the dark times, before the empire (OK, I’ll stop).
The 1979 re-release was in anticipation of The Empire Strikes Back coming out in 1980. I’m almost certain they tagged a sort-of trailer for Empire onto the ′79 Star Wars re-release (though, hell, I could be remembering this as a trailer tacked onto any other flick released in the months before Empire’s premiere).
Beyond all apparent reasons of logic, I was given a supervisory role recently. For whatever reasons, all I can think of for supervisory role models are Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan and Jon Hamm as Donald Draper in Mad Men. At least I’m thinking in the cocktail era.
Perhaps it’s my own underlying feelings of general inadequacy— in work, in parenthood, in writing, in playing softball — but all Laurie at Punk Rock HR needed was four words to describe what I’m feeling: “Ur Doin It Wrong.” Yep.
Maybe it’s a function of not feeling fully grown up, somehow. When I was a kid, 37 seemed beyond grown up. I turned 11 the year my dad was 37, and he seemed plenty grown up to me. Hell, even the aforementioned, if fictional (and not really the best role model), Don Draper is right around that age. So how is it that I still have a hard time seeing myself now, at age 37, the same way I used to view other “grown ups” — though, truth be told, people in real life (as opposed those on to TV shows) around my own age don’t seem any more grown up than I do (or don’t). Not that I feel like a kid anymore; far from it. But it’s a sort of purgatory; neither here, nor there.
Is it a function of having poorly defined career goals? I want to write for a living, but I like to eat, too. And I like supporting my family (or, at least, half-supporting — Mrs. Icepick works, too, and we’re making about the same bucks). I like having and meeting responsibilities, but I somehow feel like I don’t meet them very well.
Is it a function of what Laurie writes of, in not achieving the results she’s hoping for in life and work? Is it a function of our generation? Or do I simply not have clear-enough results in my mind to shoot for to begin with?
I’m in the mood for a re-boot. Or at least, a bit of a re-imagining of the blog, maybe just for a couple of days or weeks, maybe permanently.
I suppose, I’m tired of being angry. When your 3½-year-old can self-ignite a Three-Mile Island-sized meltdown — seemingly with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe — over shutting off the TV, or leaving for preschool, or coming to dinner, you start to wonder if you’re looking in the mirror at a Yoda-sized image of yourself, and that maybe you should be a better dad in changing that image — on both sides of this metaphorical mirror — for the better. Or perhaps it’s an extension of the Terrible Two’s (or Trying Three’s, or whatever they’re called).
Anger seems to be enveloping us all, a lot of it warranted, a lot of it unfocused, a lot of it downright scary, and almost no one is looking in the mirror. When a person like this can attract a following by both patronizing and stoking that anger, when a person like this can incite near riot-level rage without any personal accountability and deflecting the blame onto her perceived enemies, you have to be worried about where the country is going (and, no, retromingent tea partiers, er, pirates, I’m not talking about our government, or, to borrow FDR’s sometime sobriquet, That Man in the White House). And that’s to say nothing of the anger people pour forth that reveals, unintentionally or not, once privately held prejudices and racism, an impossibility of identifying with anyone who doesn’t look exactly like you, and a lack of simple empathy and self-reflection (again, look in the mirror; or look at 1930s Germany; take your pick).
OK, so there’s that.
Then there’s baseball. Readers of this blog sort-of know I was once a sportswriter. To borrow a baseball analogy, I never made it out of the Short-Season Class A newspapers up the organizational ladder to The Show, though I twice covered MLB games (call it my own version of a September call-up, if you will). That was more than a decade ago. No, I’m not still bitter.
But I still love baseball, more so now as a fan, more so since my still-current rooting for the Mets since I left the Yankees (er, since the Yankees left me), and even more so for a reason I’ll discuss in a moment. The Mets came in fourth place in their division last year, finished 12 games below .500, are off to a dispiriting 2-4 start, and are losing 8-0 in the fourth as I write this. The Yankees won the World Series. I’ve always been a big believer in buying low and selling high, but I digress.
As for my generational viewpoints, I feel like I’ve written a lot on the topic, and I’m not sure what else I have to say on the intersection of American generations. By dint of my very age, I’ll still be writing from the perspective of a person born between 1961 and 1981 (or 1965 and 1979, or what have you). I love reading about the world from the perspective of my fellow members of Generation X, and I would direct you to any of the blogs listed in my primary blogroll for unique insights by these talented writers, all of whom put my meager skills to shame. Bravo and Brava!
So, more baseball. Burying my head in the sand to avoid the national mood, or simply a mood swing by a mercurial blogger? Who knows. Or perhaps in the words of John Bender, who cares?
Well, one person, at least, makes me care.
(h/t a Facebook friend who is actually someone I don’t mind newly sort-of keeping up with from high school).
On the one hand, I want to say, good for you, plucky Millennial from the great abbreviated State of Calif! Your future as a leader and inspiration is secure! When I was your age, I was trying to score a Ratt T-shirt and avoid getting beaten up by big, fat kids who either later became illiterate drop-outs or scored jobs at IBM; I forget which.
On the other hand, I want to say to his dad, WTF? To think, I thought I was a pushy Papa for trying to get my 3½-year-old son to hit a curve and to keep his batting stance more like a left-handed David Wright and less like a left-handed Brandon Inge, even though he likes it. (Icepick Jr. sure can drop down and nail those low-and-outside pitches, though, but I digress).
Meanwhile, the Calif Kid has already Klimbed Kilimanjaro … at age 10. Which, naturally, leads me wonder if he discovered and can explain what the frozen leopard was seeking at that altitude.
At age 10, I was still wondering how Leia could be Luke’s sister and did that make the banter and smooching in the first two films less PG-flirty (to my fragile adolescent mind) and more icky incesty? And should there be a fourth film, would we discover Han Solo was secretly her uncle? But I digress.
Still on our Vermont trip and only one deer down. Here’s some random stuff Icepick Junior, age 3, said.
To me and Mrs. Icepick, in a roomful of lunchtime patrons in a diner: “I need to go to the bathroom. I have to poop!”
So pleased with the diner experience, Junior pretended to be a waiter later that evening, complete with a pad and red pen. Upon taking down someone’s “order” of a hamburger with lettuce: “We don’t have any lettuce. We only have numbers.”
What is it about baseball, or base-e-bol as The Baby calls it? (He says it almost like Chico Escuela‘s “beisbol been berry berry good to me,” which Sammy Sosa would sometimes pay homage to in 1998.)
What is it about a late afternoon game under sunny skies and lightly breezy temperatures, about sharing a game with two people you adore and love, about a guy walking around with cold beer to sell you, about hot dogs, about soft-serve ice cream in miniature helmets, about no matter how much The Game pisses you off because of steroids, big-ego players and (shamefully) most of my fellow Yankee fans (not the Bleacher Creatures of the ’90s before alcohol was banned in Sections 37 to 43, but the loud-mouth and obnoxious ones lugging along in SUVs with Yankee decals on their trailer hitches; perhaps many Red Sox and Mets fans feel the same way about their cohorts)?
Despite all that, what is it that makes the game still great to see live, even if your toddler can only sit still in awe for an inning and-a-half? Is it the clichéd pastoral nature of a game that for the formative years of its inception was really a city game1? Is it summer evenings under a waning sun? Is it the pure simplicity and complexity of the game, the only major team sport without a clock?
Whatever, we took The Baby to his first real game last weekend. He can’t stop talking about it. Though this was his favorite part: