Today was the annual “field day” at my seven year old’s elementary school. Since my older cluster of kids were home schooled for the most part I came to know about field day only as my now 16 year old was in middle school, now subsequently with my little one. As an older parent of a young child something happened today while I was out there. Something (for me) profound, but dealing with what is really obvious.
If it had been a movie the scene would have me standing and the camera circling faster and faster with blurred images of the kids in the background becoming little more than swirling colors and an electric swooshing sound growing into a loud crescendo at the moment the thoughts congealed. The moment had a catalyst.
We, my wife and I, were standing in the classroom prior to the beginning of the outdoor activities. The “room mom” was
asking grilling the teacher on what the arrangements for lunch would be. The teacher explained. The room mom would not relent…”what about napkins, what about fruit, what about this and that?” The teacher is the rare 30 year old who isn’t fallen into the over-do-everything way that today’s guilt driven parents all seem to be so she was flustered. I just watched. My wife chomped her bit. And we had just watched Parental Guidance last evening so the parody of those ridiculous parents was standing right in front of us.
Sit that aside for a moment.
Outside we went. My wife was charged with a group of eight kids from the class, and she was to move them from station to station. No big deal. At each station was a parent assigned to facilitate the activity. Boy honey did they facilitate. Imagine the Bataan death march being managed by frozen faced smiles hiding clenched teeth, manufactured cheerfulness and an exuding desire that these kids have a good day….dammit! These women were bought in and sold out. And it showed.
It showed because I suddenly noticed that my wife, at 47, was one of maybe three attractive women in the entire crowd. The rest looked worn out, overweight, poorly dressed, pale, and unapproachable with attitude. My wife, bless her, after four kids is still within five pounds of the 120 she weighed when we met. And its not a product of obsession, not even a little bit. To the contrary, the other mom’s unattractiveness IS a product of their obsession, and their obsession is their kids. And this hit me as one arm of the divorce epidemic that we know instinctively, even discuss tangentially, but is bigger than we give due.
I once heard my wife take a call from the school. My daughter had grabbed a hot bar on the playground equipment (sun heated) and it had burned her hand. My wife asked, “is it blistered, visibly burned?”. No “Well is she crying?”yes she cried. “No, I mean is she crying right now?”. Well, no. “Then send her back to class.” I’m sure that cemented her reputation as an uncaring horrible mother. The scandal that she didn’t drive right down there and rescue the child from the school and maybe take her somewhere and buy something special to make up for the badness of the day. But…what they didn’t know is that I had stole home from work in the middle of the day and we were alone. Nuff said. Betcha she is in a small minority.
What is driving parents to be those absurd people in that movie? I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry because the parents portrayed are more the norm than the grandparents, who to me, were the normal ones. It had a good message when Bette Midler told her daughter to go and be with her husband because the kids leave and the husband stays. How many of the moms I saw today would be moved by that scene? And how many would lump that scene in with the humor and yuk it away?
I work with a guy. His son married a woman who is a medical Dr. Top of class, Vanderbuilt. Smart gal. They had babies. The babies are the kids from that movie, the parents too. It drives my colleague crazy. The kids are vegans, they eat hummus, they have speaking protocols, and they recycle dontcha know. They make my colleague take all his guns to a neighbors house when they visit. He has a steel, locked gun safe. Not enough, its the aura of eviiilllll that the steel cannot contain. They are devoted parents indeed. But are they a couple? Time will tell.
There are two levels of Utopia being pursued. One is just the secular liberal idealism that says that our lives really are like The Game of Life…where if you just set the rules correctly we will move in an orderly fashion around the board, happy in whatever block we land in at the moment.
But the other is for the kids, and it is insidious in so many ways. Life isn’t even real like that. It produces adults who move on to chase the other Utopia. And God is not truly a part of either, because who needs Him when all of life’s corners are padded, and all the outlets have plastic inserts and the cabinets where the organic cleansing products are kept are triple locked and no one holds anyone accountable for anything except not buying into the Utopian dream?
The church adds to the foundations of this false fortress instead of blowing the literal hell out of it.
I’m not sure if I said anything new but I feel better