When I was born, Mr. T was the wave of the future.
There was no internet, no rap, no videotapes, the phone in my childhood home didn’t even have buttons.
The USSR was going strong when I was a kid, Muslim fanatics in Afghanistan were the freakin good guys – even Rambo thought so.
My father didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing when he was born.
Sometimes I think about the last 30 years, and imagine what my son’s life will be like. It’s stupefying to think of the robot uprisings, Klingon first contacts, and Morgan Freeman presidencies he’ll be witness to. I can no more predict what he’ll do than I could count all the fools to suffer the pity of the T.
I can, however, tell you a few things he won’t do. I have a small list going in fact:
He won’t ever own any hyper color clothing of any sort.
He won’t come home from school and watch TV for 6-8 hours.
He won’t go the entire day on a single meal thinking it will make him lose weight.
He won’t buy pants two sizes two big thinking the bagginess will make him look thinner
He won’t go to the gym for the first time when he’s 20. (actually, we got that beat already- he toddles around the Y with a basketball as big as he is 3-5 days a week).
He won’t skip gym class because he’s afraid to change clothes in front of other kids.
He won’t need sweet fatty food as a consolation, reward, or emotional painkiller
He won’t hate himself, hate pictures of himself, or hate his reflection in the mirror.
Basically, he won’t grow up obese.
Also, he won’t ever confuse a phaser rifle for a blaster, nor warp speed for a hyperspace jump.
But really, he can be a stripper, he can live in my basement well into his 40’s, he can even vote republican, but if I manage to get one goddamn thing right as a father it will be to make sure he eats healthy and is active throughout his life.
And when you think about it, the odds are against me: we are, after all, Americans. Land of the free, home of the Old Country Buffet. Pizza is a vegetable and two chicken patties surrounding a hunk of ammonia-polished “beef” qualifies as a sandwich. Of thee I sing, baby.
Plus, we’re in Minnesota. Spam? That was us. So was Pillsbury cookie goo.
I’m pretty laid back, but lines must be drawn, right? This is what good parents do: make the hard choices, fight the tantrums and screen the commercials for the good of the kid, right? For the good of the kid. Because this has nothing at all to do with the fact that I grew up obese. That I went through all that piteous mess. That doesn’t factor into the decision at all, does it?
There’s a feel-bad rainbow of different little ways that you can screw up your progeny, but I do think they fall into a few broad categories: Neglect. Overindulgence, and the Project Kid. This last one can be sneaky, and usually involves the parent trying to compensate for their own shortcomings or fulfill their own stupid grandiose visions through their child. Like failed high school athletes pushing their kids to make the NFL, or the plot of the musical Gypsy. Or any given Ninja (they train from birth, you know).
It’s sneaky because it’s not necessarily bad. In theory, sparing your kid the painful lessons you yourself had to learn is good parenting. But you have to remember: your son is not you. He didn’t sign up to any life-long quest to become the best rodeo clown in Georgia -his goals are not yours. Nor are his failures.
That’s the key, in my book -we’re all entitled to our own failures. Just as a certain amount of dirt in a child’s life (or their mouth, more specifically) helps develop their immune system, so the odd failure now and again will help build their character. For myself, this will be one of the hardest parenting mantras to keep running.
I am lucky, though, in that my particular obsession is pretty much in line with being healthy. I just have to keep from overdoing it and making the poor little dude a Vegan or something.
*shudder*. A life without bacon….eeugghhhh.