Saturday, May 10, 2008

Unhappy Birthday?

Tomorrow, my only begotten son turns eight years old. Wow! That sure makes me feel at least a year older than I am! I can still remember when I was eight (and feeling nine-ish.) I too was in 2nd grade, in Weslaco, Texas (the Rio Grande Valley) losing marbles at recess to the Mexican Mafia, getting licks in the principal's office for jumping over puddles at recess, and doing everything I could to stay out of fights after winning mulitple rounds of tetherball at . . . . yep . . . . recess. At 8, I already had to fend form myself: in a predominately Hispanic school, white glaringly white skin and platinum blonde hair (I TOLD my mom not to bleach it, but she said it made me look like a Scandinavian "Louse Boop") made me stand out like a extroverted mathematician at an introverted mathematicians' convention. Needless to say, not all confrontations were entirely avoidable, and I got my share of punishment.

Fast forward 26 years to my son's (soon to be) 8-year-old 2nd grade experience. Not only is he already a grade ahead of where I was at his age (he's the youngest in his class,) but he hasn't had to fend for himself (physically, at least.) I fact, his situation is in stark contrast to the defining moments in my situation that I believe made me so much more independent and self-determined at that age. While I was playing "smear the queer" (a free-form TACKLE football game, also know as "tackle the idiot with the ball"), he's playing the teacher-mandated "quiet game" at recess (the winner gets to have fun . . . tomorrow . . . . maybe.) While I was breaking patella's from high jumping onto concrete slabs and climbing trees to retrieve and eat blackberries (at recess, of course,) my son is playing tag, in a structured single-file line (which means "duck-duck-goose" is too controversial.)

I was tough, because I HAD to be. My son is soft, because he CAN be. Demographics are NOT the issue. Politically correct trends in education, and society in general, are. By "protecting" everyone's feelings, and trying to equalize everything for everyone, we are no longer providing students with the "natural selection" or ability to adapt that is so crucial for character growth. There is no more trial by fire, sink or swim, burn or be burned, bloody or be bloodied, cry or make cry, etc. We're overprotecting our kids to a fault!

At the time, I surely did not like the struggle, the ridicule, the mortification, or the beatings, but looking back now, I'm so appreciative of how they shaped me into who I am today. To be coddled then would only mean that I would be worthlessly dependent and lost today. I almost felt a sense of pride when my son came home yesterday with a mother's day card in which he wrote "Mothers are necessary because Dads are too harsh, and we shurly [sic] need SOMEBODY to love on." I love my son more than you can ever know, but I worry about the man he will grow up to be. His turning 8 has me taking stock of how I've done so far as his father.

We all want what's best for our children. In fact, we want them to be better than we are, and we expect that they will benefit from our own experience. Let's see how my son measures up to my standards: He's funny and has a quick wit (check) He enjoys math (check) He's handsome (check--thanks mom) He enjoys music (check) He is sweet and unselfish (check, check) He has the focus required to master any challenging thing he wants (x) He likes to eat (check) He likes to eat everything on his plate and try new things (x) He faces his fears and deficiencies head on (x) He drives a car as well as I do (x) He can keep up with me on a 26 mile run (x, x.)

Perhaps most of these are unfair comparisons, but then again they are only guidelines for me and not performance checklists for him. He'll be the first to tell you that I'm hard on him. He'll also be the first to tell you that his dad loves him. He'll also be the first to tell you how much he LOVES his mother.

Anyway, back to the party. His situation at school this year has left him with few friends of the male variety. Last year, for his birthday, we took 3 of his good buddies on an all-day train ride originating from Cedar Park, Texas. This year, we're reluctant to invite his 3 closest friends, which happen to be all girls (who seem to feel as if he bothers them.) Instead, we're spreading his special day over several days. Friday at school, he shared cupcakes with his classmates, where he was serenaded to a shouted version of "HAPP-HAPPY BIR-DAY TAT-TATE" by in disharmonious classmates, which was nothing more than a warm-up for their after-school musical program at the PTA meeting.

With the after-school-program dinner at Freddy's hamburgers involving both sets of grandparents, aunts and cousins, and hamburgers, ice cream cones and regurgitated ketchup (please don't ask . . . ) Today, we spent the day at the Witte museum in San Antonio, doing everything to avoid the display involving the diced up human bodies on display. After a full day of great fun with mom, dad, sis, and a host of other inconsiderate children (whose mouth-breathing parents thought nothing of their child's inconsiderate sense of "me, me now!!",) we spent what was our second Saturday night in a row with our dear friend Hunter and his wonderful family.

Tomorrow, his actual birthday and mother's day as well, the kids and I are getting up early to wash, wax, and detail mom's car. Then, we're off to the special destination to get her the special gift (I can't give away the genius of it here, lest she log on, read, and not be surprised, or even worse, dissatisfied.) With a clean car and happy mom, we're then heading off to McKinney Falls State Park in Austin, Texas for the day, where we'll spend the afternoon hiking and catching fish. The grandparents might join us, and you can bet that all the mosquitos we invited, although didn't RSVP, will be there with us, hungry, no doubt.

Tomorrow night, after what will hopefully be a fun-filled day for us (or at least the mosquitoes,) we'll return home where we'll let our new 8-year-old get his choice of shower or bath, with cherry or blueberry body wash. Then we'll likely let him sleep in bed with us (on account of his birthday,) where I'll lay awake all night with heels in my ribs and elbows in my face thinking aboutt how I'm so not looking forward to his 9th birthday next year.

He may actually want a cake and real presents with real people there. When I turned nine, I considered a happy day if I could avoid getting beaten up at recess. . .


Anonymous said...

How about in honor of your son's birthday, YOU act like an eight year-old, do something without thinking, and spend the whole day suffering for a poor decision?
Hopefully, you've finally learned a lesson that you should have learned on the playground 25 years ago. And, maybe, if your child does not jump off the roof at ten years old, he won't think he can at 34 years old - and, maybe "overprotecting" him is not so bad after all.
-The Wife

kwkorpi said...

Thanks, honey. Today's blog is dedicated to this sentiment.
--The Wife's Foolish Husband

Anonymous said...

Oh boy!

Anonymous said...

litsten up here, buster! I AM NOT THE SHORTEST PERSON IN MY CLASS!!! "busill,asey cindinna wagin,bubasstkd" phu! Yecinia! How horribbile was she? phu! Yecinia! the perfect name::: litte miss horrible actress!how foolish were you tou jump off those 9-foot-high monkey bars? oh well, this is getting really random! --The birhday boy!

Dmac said...

The conditions that tested our generation:

1. Hang on tight to the merry-go round in the park as Johnny's dad gives it his all. We all saw what happened to Billy when he was sucked under the whirling metal disc.

2. Soft mulch or ground tire to land on? You make me laugh. We had compacted clay soil that was as hard as concrete when we fell from the slide.

3. Jumping off the roof holding an umbrella seemed logical, and we all saw Mary Poppins do it.

4. The game is called, "Run from the stray lawn dart." I can't understand why these aerodynamic and sharp toys were banned from stores.

Survival of the fittest occurred on the playgrounds of the 70's and early 80's. They all represent chlorine in the gene pool. Then came "Baby On Board" and it all changed.

kwkorpi said...

Please come back, dmac!