Thursday, May 15, 2008

Don't let your babies grow up to be...

I've been dogsitting this week at a house not too distant from my place of employment, allowing me to partake of eco-friendly transportation methods such as walking and biking. The Jeep has not moved in three days.

The other day while ambling slowly home, I passed a yard where a large group of kids ran around, kicking balls and chasing each other. It was an almost utopian scene: a mix of boys and girls, several races, kids varying in age by a half-decade or more, all getting along and all seemingly happy.

When I was nearly past this scene, the sound of a man yelling made my head turn.

"Did you wear makeup to school today?" he shouted at a girl I assumed to be his daughter, and who looked, to me, to be about eleven years old. "Don't lie to me. I heard about you. If you do it again, I'll beat your ass."

While I don't advocate the beating of any child's ass (though some might argue that it worked for earlier generations), I felt a twinge of sympathy for the man. I don't know what it's like to raise a child, but I can't imagine it's easy.

Recently, the Boston Globe published an article on single-sex classrooms. The idea of segregating boys from girls has a lot to do with the theory that the sexes have different learning styles.

But the line that most caught my eye was this:

Enter the flirt-free zone at the Mario Umana Middle School Academy in East Boston, one of the few public schools in the state experimenting with single-sex classes as a way to tame raging hormones, refocus students on their studies, and begin addressing a worsening achievement gap between boys and girls.

Boys still will be boys - and launch their paper planes - but their antics have toned down, teachers said. Girls have stopped preening in class.

Perhaps the difference is not so much learning styles, but the fact that young minds drift elsewhere.

This is where I could leap into a diatribe about the oversexualization of our culture and how it affects younger and younger children, and how our technologically "advanced" culture is physically causing this earlier sexualization.

But we've heard it all before.

I'm at the age where I am questioning the biological imperative of fatherhood. The answers divide themselves:

If I answer no, I must realize that it is a decision that is not completely my own.

If I answer yes, I also have to deal with the same concern as above, but a new question arises: When?

If I decide to have a child, I want to have it before the baby-making process goes all Gattaca on me. And this potential reality is getting a little too close for the comfort of some of us.

And the thought of bringing a child into this current world mildly terrifies me. I feel like an old geezer when I say it, but the world seems less safe than it did when I was a child, and I don't know how much of that is my changing perspective or a changing world.

And what if the child was somehow different, with mental, physical, or emotional problems? Am I strong enough to deal with that?

The last several times that I called my brother, I was struck by how much my brother's voice sounds like my father's. And when I see some of the pictures I have of myself with a mustache, I realize that there is no doubt that this apple did not fall far from the tree (my dad has had a mustache for the last forty years).

One of the weird things about being a parent, I would think, is that our children are, in a way, us. If we fail them, we fail ourselves. And how can anyone deal with that?

Just some thoughts to consider as we linger in that time after Mother's Day and before Father's Day.


Seth said...

Thanks for leaving your comment...I've been reading your blog since it was on myspace, even if I don't comment.
Can you quantify the drive for fatherhood? Has anyone not failed a child? If it happens to me, I want it to be the result of crazy sex with someone I love, and then it will be what it will be...
Tell everyone you see I say hello.

Kurd said...

You are right. I don't think you can quantify parenthood: you don't fail as a parent if you get below sixty on the test. But I believe you can qualify it based on feelings, and what is parenthood (and I am assuming here because I obviously don't know) than som esort of subjective reckoning of emotions? Every parent has probably failed his or her child at some point in time, but that does not make him or her a failure as a parent in the greater scheme of things. Finally, crazy sex is good, as is any sex. I hope you have much of it.