by DA Rist
A day of myself and my children at a park in Eugene, Oregon - maybe even a moral
|One day, while in Eugene, I stopped at a park with my four sons. I don’t recall the park’s name, or even exactly where it was located. What I do recall is that it had a nice large play structure with a set of Monkey Bars. My boys were running around, climbing the play structure, much as boys have played for as long as man has bothered to keep track of such things.
Knowing that my children would call my attention to any problems (and often to things that weren’t problems), I relaxed to the side. I believe I was reading some book or another, and looking up, periodically, to verify that the children were all present, and that the littlest was not stuck somewhere. You would think that a child of four, having had three years of mobility, would have figured out what size of hole he can fit through and what size holes will trap him with his toes barely touching the ground so that he cannot move downwards, nor upwards (or forwards or backwards as the case may be). I digress.
Now my family did not have the park to ourselves. Several other families were there, most with one or two children. To be more specific, there was a mother and one or two children that I assumed belonged to her. These mothers were your typical Eugene middle-class agents with their faces having that weathered hippy look which passes for “cred” in the Eugene micro-reality. I had Jello Biafra’s cover of “Love Me I’m a Liberal” flowing through my brain when I saw them. They were in their earth-tones, I was in a band T-shirt (Laibach, if you care) with black slacks and Engineer boots. Their hair was artfully styled to look natural, and I had a a shaved head. However, this story is not really about me, so let us move on.
My second son, being rather outgoing (he’s a Leo), had somehow managed to have a group around him as he stood on top of the Monkey Bars. He looked a bit hesitant as he stood there in a “I’m about to jump” posture. He saw that I was aware of his predicament. My guess is that he had said he was going to jump and was now having second thoughts. He asked me, “Dada, can I jump?” My response was “Sure, buddy! I’ve got insurance.” I could hear the psychic bubble clamping around me as all of the other parents issued their psychic gasps of shock and dismay. My son jumped the whole 7 feet or so into the sandy ground which surrounded the play structure. He then immediately climbed back on top to do it again.
My primary mission completed, I turned my attention to making sure the other children had not wandered off, that they were not setting fires, mugging the old, or some such similar tomfoolery. However my attention was then called back to the Monkey Bars when a woman called out to her son, “Don’t you do what that other boy just did.” It may be hard to believe this, but another boy, seeing that no harm had come to my incredibly charming and adventurous progeny, had resolved that he would also jump. Crestfallen, the other child did as he was told. Now, when I was a child, we would have jumped and said that we had already started, so we couldn’t stop. We would then promise to not do it again, and add to the end “Look, I’m alright, are you sure I can’t jump again?”
Evidently, things are different now. Parenting is no longer about raising competent children, but in making their lives easy. There is even a term for it, “helicopter parenting.” Despite the growing evidence showing the irreparable harm such “parenting” inflicts on the next generation, many helicopter parents are proudly unrepentant about their actions. I am reminded of how Ludovici wrote that while parenting was about teaching children how to balance their pleasure principle to the reality principle, we now had children being raised by adults who had never learned this lesson. He wrote this in 1948, two years prior to the golden age depicted by Leave it to Beaver. Hopefully, I have managed to instill in my children a sense of pride sufficient enough to shoot down any helicoptering to which I may be tempted.