Alarming News: I like Morgan Freeberg. A lot.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: We were following a trackback and thinking "hmmm... this is a bloody excellent post!", and then we realized that it was just part III of, well, three...Damn. I wish I'd written those.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: ...I just remembered that I found a new blog a short while ago, House of Eratosthenes, that I really like. I like his common sense approach and his curiosity when it comes to why people believe what they believe rather than just what they believe.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is an intriguing guy...[he] asks great questions and answers others with style, flair, reason and wit. On the blogroll he goes. Make him a part of your regular blogospheric reading. I certainly will.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is brilliant.
Common Sense Junction: Misha @ Anti-Idiotarian never ceases to amaze me. He keeps finding other good blogs. I went over to A.I. this morning for my daily Misha fix and he had found this guy named Morgan Freeberg in Fair Oaks, California, that has a blog, House of Eratosthenes. Freeberg says its "The Blog That Nobody Reads" but it may now become the blog that everybody reads.
Jaded Haven: Good God, Morgan, you cover a topic from front to back with a screwy thoroughness I find mind boggling. I'm in awe of your thought proccesses, my friend, you're an exceptional talent. You start by throwing in the kitchen sink, tie in someone's syphilitic uncle, bend around a rip tide of brilliance and bring it all home in a neat, diamond dripping package of an exceptionally readable moment of damn fine wordsmithing. I love reading you.
Mein Blogovault: Make "the Blog that No One Reads" one of your daily reads.
Philmon: When Morgan meanders, stick with him - he's got a point and it'll be worth it in the end. He's not a hit-and-run snarky quip kind of guy. The pieces all fall into place like tumblers in a lock and bang! He's opened a cognative door for you.
Rightlinx: Morgan at House of Eratosthenes is one of the best writers out there. I read him nearly every day because he manages to provide an interesting perspective, even though I don't always agree.
Poetic Justice: Cletus! Ah gots a laiv one fer yew...
MSN, which is convinced I’m female — regularly plying me with such delightful tomes as “Make Him Commit” and “Slim Down for Bathing Suit Season” — today, parades before my eyeballs, a subject on which I am uniquely qualified to comment.
Would you let your fourth-grader ride public transportation without an adult? Probably not. Still, when Lenore Skenazy, a columnist for the New York Sun, wrote about letting her son take the subway alone to get back to her Manhattan home from a department store on the Upper East Side, she didn’t expect to get hit with a tsunami of criticism from readers.
“Long story short: My son got home, ecstatic with independence,” Skenazy wrote on April 4 in the New York Sun. “Long story longer: Half the people I’ve told this episode to now want to turn me in for child abuse. As if keeping kids under lock and key and helmet and cell phone and nanny and surveillance is the right way to rear kids. It’s not. It’s debilitating—for us and for them.”
Lenore’s interior plumbing notwithstanding, there is a clean and tidy demarcation between the hens and the roosters on this issue: The mother attends to the child’s daily needs, making sure he is safe, happy and whole, while the father has a stronger tendency to plan for his own demise, to make sure the next generation can get along without him.
Each of these gender roles reaches across the divide from time to time. But not much.
As our son’s face loses it’s spherical shape and becomes elongated with looming adolescence, this has become more of a thorny issue between “Kidzmom” and me. The cosmetic presentation is that, as his parents, we both have the same interests at heart. I want him to live to see another day just as much as she does; she wants him to grow up to be an independent man just as much as I do. But that is packaging. That’s not substance. The wiring that was put in place by thousands of years of evolution, is gender-based, and you really don’t have to listen to us go back and forth about it for too long before it becomes not only obvious, but undeniable.
I remember once, in exasperation at her latest umpty-fratz protest that he can’t cross a street by himself because he’ll get hit by a car, I yelled back “then the human race would be better off overall, if he’s such a weakling that he can’t manage that at his age” or something. I think she knew I was kidding about that. But there’s a point to it: We, as parents, don’t get to decide that our children are disposable chaff. Nor do we get to decide they are not. The world will make up it’s own mind on that question, based on what the specimens can and can’t do.
The other recent event to make this a more prickly issue, is her relocation. She’s not twenty minutes up the road anymore; she’s eight hours away. So instead of handing him off back-and-forth throughout the week, we hand him off back-and-forth throughout seasons. I think, overall, that’s a good thing. He’s shown signs of understanding that the “packaging” of his parents’ arguments, does a poor job of reflecting truth — different things are expected of him in different households. Better to shake the soda can once every couple of months, than twice a week.
But are kids coddled? Oh, absolutely yes. I remember that dirt field down the street; the one my brother and I explored, in our bare feet, sometimes with each other and sometimes alone. Where the hell was it? How am I supposed to know…we left that neighborhood right after I turned SIX.
That’s unthinkable now. When’s the last time you heard a mother bitching away that her kid(s) failed to turn up by dinner time? Or, in exasperation, sending a brother/sister out to collect them? It’s been awhile for me. And now, we have a childhood obesity epidemic:
The prevalence of overweight children tripled from 6.5 percent in the mid-1970s to 18.8 percent today for children between 6-11 years old, and 5 to 17.4 percent for those 12–19, according to a survey by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
There is more evidence. Men don’t have gab-fests like women do, usually; but there was one that came to mind after one of the more talkative fellows in our office announced his plans to acquire a sidecar for his newly-restored motorcycle, for the benefit of his eight-year-old daughter. One Monday morning he reported on his weekend long-distance argument with his ex-wife, about the safety merits or lack thereof. Enter that male-female divide. Look, it’s not like I’m going to do something to her that will make it likely she’ll get hurt — she’s my daughter, too! Exactly.
It’s those two things: They’re our kids too, and we’re not going to put them in situations involving certain doom. And — Ms. Skenazy’s point — if the kids aren’t ever challenged in anything, they’ll grow up being able to do exactly nothing.
Sorry, gals. I know when you act all funny, it usually means I’m the one missing out on this-or-that critical point. But on those two items above…looks to me like the fairer sex hasn’t quite yet thought things out. Not, I hasten to add, that they have a monopoly on this.
If you think this is going to turn into a bitch-pitch about video games, you’re right. My kid’s got it pretty bad. I blame myself, and Columbine. Back when he was about to turn two, the Columbine school got shot up, and the big controversy was about whether kids could play violent video games and still have respect for human life afterwards. I was distracted by this, looking back on it. The evidence clearly indicated our son remained concerned about the health and well-being of his playmates, even after hours spent shooting at zombies with shotguns. And so, I insisted, a mentally healthy child will be able to distinguish between reality and fantasy.
Well, I was right on that. But I lost my sense of perspective on the other issue…a good old-fashioned addiction. He’d form bad habits, we’d take away the video games, he’d do things right and then get his video game back. Then he’d go back to being weird.
I think we’ve got a handle on it now. Once he got a little bit older, we’d discuss this with him at a higher level. It started with Pokemon. He’d ask why I don’t like it, and I started to explain it doesn’t have anything to do with personal tastes: Frankly, after you’ve been playing/watching Pokemon for awhile, you start to act like a helpless whelp and I get tired of watching that.
Pokemon, if you’re not familiar with it, is a series of cartoons and games in which these kids mouth off at each other and challenge each other to fights, and then get these adorable creatures to do all their fighting for them. The kids only do one thing to alter the outcome of the fight toward their favor: They whine. All the work is left up to these imaginary creatures.
It got worse before it got better. Pokemon became the “Forbidden Fruit.” But, sooner than I thought, he outgrew Pokemon. He won’t admit it, but I think he began to see it my way. The kids talk smack to each other, and then pull out their adorable creatures and explain to said creatures, “Okay I just got us embroiled in a fight with this mouthy kid, now you have to do the dirty work.” If the boy has any streak of independence whatsoever, he’s going to get tired of it. Really, I never understood the appeal of it in the first place.
Pokemon is both a symptom and a cause, the way I see it. A generation ago, it would not have had appeal. It’s going to be fun to imagine yourself as the cockfighter — er, I mean, the mouthy kid — if you imagine yourself winning all the time. Permit an old man his own generational turn to utter the timeless words “back in my day” — in my time, we got our butts beat constantly. We were forced to learn to cope. We lost at baseball. We lost at football. We lost races. We lost Capture The Flag. We learned to imagine ourselves losing, because we had no choice but to so imagine.
To the best I can perceive it, Pokemon’s allure depends on never imagining yourself losing. Yes, on the TV show it happens pretty regularly, about a third of the way through. There really aren’t too many things the protagonist can do. You’ve never seen anything more pathetic. There are no skills to be sharpened, there are no post-mortems to be conducted on the match-up that was just lost…just whining. “Awww, Pikachu, why didn’t you listen to me?”
So I think the latest generation does have a problem, and I think the problem begins there. Not with Pokemon, quite so much…but with reckoning with the potential of defeat. And that is why it’s scary, lately, to let them do simple things like cross the street. Peripheral vision, taking the initiative to look both directions, etc., these are all secondary. The primary skill is understanding the potential of failure. If he has mastered all the skills of crossing the street, but doesn’t understand that the possibility exists of his getting killed, then the skills aren’t going to very much matter and he’ll probably end up getting killed.
Oh, how’d we solve the video game problem? I’m knocking on wood, imagining the worst is behind us. Now that Pokemon isn’t cool anymore, that’s probably a safe bet. We began a “minute for minute” program. You do an hour of playing outside doing dangerous things, playing ball, riding something with wheels — doing something in which it’s possible to get physically hurt — you get an hour with the damn game. It’s barely better-than-nothing…but it works. I think it addresses what’s really busted.
Parents have to be conscious, not so much of what their kids are doing one hour to the next, but what kind of world it is in which they are living. And not so much what is in that world, but what is missing from it. The irony is, that without that potential for defeat, the child won’t comprehend a potential for victory either because the whole concept of competition will be foreign to him. And so confidence won’t germinate and grow until some losing has been goin’-on.
What’s written above is fairly obvious. The real puzzle is, how come we have this new generation of parents, that needs to have it pointed out to them. Perhaps it’s our fault; the problem began with us. This spirit of “If I do not play, then I cannot lose.” Insisting on more safety, and more, and more, and more until life itself is no longer being lived.
That really is the crux of the whole problem, isn’t it?
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