Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fatherhood Lesson #692: STFU and Be a Good Sport

Halloween's creeping up on us, and I'm dreading it.

I've always hated dressing up, and I've never had a sweet tooth. Ok, maybe there were one or two Halloweens when I was a kid when my friends and I would shaving cream rival gangs of pre-teen suburban sugar hounds, or go on midnight missions to t.p. houses, and maybe I really enjoyed those. But I really hate wearing masks because I hate how warm and moist your face gets, and I hate re-breathing my own CO2.

Truth is, I'm kind of a curmudgeon when it comes to holidays in general. I'll resist the temptation to rant and merely say that the tragedy of holidays in America is how commercial interests, public rhetoric, and local cultural practices all conspire to water down their most salient aspects, to the point that they become incoherent without their accompanying imagery.

Anyway. The point I want to make is that as a father of a six month-old who's about to attend his first Halloween party, I realize that I'm going to have to smother the curmudgeon and learn to be a good sport.

A GOOD f-cking SPORT.

I will have to show excitement for pumpkins and ghosts and green corpse fingers. I will have pretend to enjoy listening to the Ghost Busters theme song, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" (fine, I admit it, I hate that track), that creepy piece of organ music apocryphally attributed to Bach, and the "Monster Mash." I'll have to ask other kids what they're supposed to be and then act frightened or enchanted when they roar at me or blow fairy dust in my face. At some point I suppose I'll have to talk to some parents, and since it's the Bay Area they'll undoubtedly mention something about how they won't buy this or that candy, or how they watched that YouTube video by the UCSF professor about how sugar is toxic, and I'll have to grunt and groan and shake my head and look somewhat upset.

And, to top it all off, I'll have to wear some sort of costume, likely accompanied by some mask, and I'll have to put some effort into it -- because I certainly don't want to teach my son to half-ass anything.

"This is just the beginning," I hear you more experienced daddies thinking. Yeah, yeah... I get it.

But the other important issue that holidays bring up for the over-educated parent is the tension between conformity and knowledge. In other words, when he finally achieves full sentience and acquires language, I'll have to figure out a way to teach my son enough about the holidays that he doesn't just think that Thanksgiving is just about turkeys, Christmas just about presents, and Martin Luther King, Jr., just about some dude -- while also being sure to teach him how to enjoy the holidays (even though I clearly don't) enough that he doesn't become a total social outcast and snob.

I'm sure for most holidays I'm just going to have to default to the version in the Old Navy commercials, because it's just too difficult to arrange this kind of pedagogy for everything. But maybe I'll comfort myself knowing that history and social justice in our household won't only be taught on special days of the year, or commended in regard to specific figures; that both will be inextricable from our daily life.

If we can manage that as a family, that'll definitely be something to celebrate.


Anonymous said...

Chris, Nah... you will still be yourself and you will share the passions that YOU have with your kid (whether it's sports, the outdoors, sci-fi, gaming). But, you will stretch and experiment with activities you didn't necessarily enjoy as a kid simply because you want your kid to try new things and you will love to see the joy on your kid's face.

Enjoy fatherhood.

Parenting changes you, but you're still you and you can still have your own preferences. All the best.

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