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Dad's Eye View - New Year's Resolutions

01/06/2011 13:24 ● Published by Anonymous

Well, here it is January and we’re yet one more year into The Future. I knew The Future would be like this – with robots bringing me snacks and my self-navigating solar car moored near my front door. Not that I drive much. I telecommute. A few minutes on the laptop, and my contribution to the world of work is e-mailed away, and I can spend the rest of the day cavorting with my kids. They don’t attend school anymore because the sharpest educators in the world are giving them their lessons over the Internet. I can barely remember those awkward days when the past was long-gone, but The Future hadn’t quite arrived yet.

Back then, I’ll admit that I had been yearning for the past, the days I’d grown up in...

  • When kids played ball whenever they felt like it and for as long as they felt like it, without insurance, umpires, referees, spectators or other adult involvement.
  • When you could admire a TV cowboy without being forced to acknowledge that cowboys were actually uncouth, alcohol-abusing, tobacco-enjoying rednecks who were gleefully taking part in genocide.
  • When toys were toys. Baseball cards, comic books, dolls and stuffed animals were not purchased for preservation under plastic, but for actual consumption by kids with grimy and active hands. (Have you heard a baseball card popping against the spokes of a bike lately?)
  • When kids would disappear for an afternoon and you could feel confident they’d show up for supper.
I also missed the real materials – the steel cars, leather baseball gloves, wooden bats and canvas tents. And as more time is spent staring at video screens, our kids will miss the real sensations of a non-digitized adventure, whether it’s falling into a creek, reading a book under a tree, or throwing clods of dirt at their friends.

Could be I’m just romanticizing my own long-gone youth. Back when I had no past, and was consequently a creature of the present.  With a few exceptions, we parents are creatures of the past. We were shaped during our Wonder Years to function perfectly in those times, whether they were the ‘50s or the ‘70s.  And then those times went and changed, and we’ve been off-balance ever since.

But our formative influences aren’t wasted if we drag some of the past along with us. So my own strategy for dealing with the future is to drag along as much of the past as possible.

Here are my New Year's Resolutions:

  • Once a month, as a spiritual “re-centering” exercise, I’ll watch an old movie starring James Stewart, Kirk Douglas, Fess Parker or John Wayne.
  • Whenever I am going to confront someone tough, I will picture Gary Cooper in “High Noon” (1951). If my foe is really tough, I will invoke Tarzan (as written by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912) or “Dirty Harry” (as played by Clint Eastwood in 1971).
  • I will require that any boy who comes to pick up one of my daughters for a date must creep out of his car, slither up the front steps and knock on the door. Eye-contact will win him a hearty handshake.
  • I will get my hair cut by a barber who would laugh at anyone asking for an appointment.
  • I will use good old words like “library” and “hospital” and “prison” and reject new juiceless terms like “media center” and “medical center” and “correctional facility.” And every so often I will make reference to “Red China,” and use the word “gay” to mean joyous.
  • When a homework assignment requires one of my kids to bake a cake in the shape of Sri Lanka or render her spelling words in pieces of pasta, I will phone the teacher and ask why.– I will stare at people who have pierced their noses, tongues or eyebrows. I can’t believe they do it for beauty’s sake, but I CAN believe they do it to disturb me. It’s only polite to let them know it’s working.
  • I will carry the 20th-century standards and attitudes of my father ever-deeper into the 21st century. I’ll try to keep alive his respect for civility, culture and knowledge and his old-fashioned common sense. (When appropriate, I’ll say things like: “Liars need good memories” and “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” When someone “ought to be horsewhipped,” I will say so.) Dad’s sayings reflected his own upbringing, including the teachings of HIS father – a man who’d spent his own Wonder Years in Russia, without electricity and indoor toilets and not even knowing he ought to have them. It can be a good and steadying thing to drag the values of our ancestors behind us in a long line that disappears back into the distant past. Like a sea anchor that helps keep a storm-blown ship from going too far off-course.
  • And above all, I will refuse to be intimidated by The Future. Honestly, I really don’t think it has arrived yet.
(I was just kidding about the robots bringing me snacks.)

Rick can be reached at rickepstein@yahoo.com

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