Practical Dad

...and a child shall lead them

Part of me believes that I should sit down with my son and watch the first half hour of the Democratic debate tonight.  And then the other part of me remembers that the media (hint, CNN) is actively trying to get Biden to run and I realize that it's a complete circus freak show.  Seriously, a week in advance and CNN is holding a debate podium for a guy who hadn't declared?

I think that I'll just wait for the Bad Lip Reading version and take bets on whether they give Hilary a man's voice.

          -comment on personal Facebook page on day of first Democratic debate

I posted the above comment on my Facebook page late this afternoon as an expression of the intense frustration with our present political gridlock.  It's ingrained that my principal job as a parent is to prepare my kids to take their place as productive and moral adults in the great wide world and part and parcel of that preparation is exposure to Civics and the political process.  Yet the frustration lies in the understanding that the political process is presently captive to the monied interests, much as it was during the days of the late 19th century Gilded Age.  Top it off with the knowledge that the corporate media isn't just reporting the news but actively trying to massage it on both sides of the political spectrum - thank you, CNN and Fox - and I was sincere in my desire to blow off the entire thing in order to share a good action flick with Youngest, now in middle school.

With Mom out of town on business and his elder siblings off at college, he and I are doing the bachelor thing.  We opted to watch a recently released action film but as we paused periodically for one thing or another - typically involving snacks and fridge raids - I commented on the debate, which was scheduled to air in another half hour.  Understand that Youngest is living proof that the kids are capable of playing up, provided that you make it a habit of taking the time and effort to discuss the world and events with them.  He's listened to conversation with his older siblings through the years and there have been instances when he's returned to me for clarification on whatever he's been privy to hear.  Youngest has known for years who Bernie Sanders is because I made it a point to have him and one of his siblings listen to a short clip of Sanders' 2010 filibuster, made immortal by the common refrain ...and they can't afford diapers; it wasn't a lengthy clip, but it did accompany an explanation of what a filibuster was and how rare it was anymore to actually hear one.  After a short break, I thought that even if I was frustrated, I should at least give him the choice of what he wanted to watch and my frank expectation was that he'd opt for the film.  It was a real surprise when he looked over at me from the sofa, took the lead and said no offense, Dad, but I'd kind of like to see a bit of it.  We can finish the film tomorrow.  It was an internally jarring moment as I realized that I was ditching my responsibility, one that I'd pursued regularly with his siblings, and that I was doing him a disservice.

At 8:29, we flipped off the movie and turned on the debate for the opening introduction through the question on gun control, at which time we turned off the television to start the bedtime routines.  During that interval, he and I would take turns making comments - surprisingly serious and not the usual snark - and there were multiple instances in which I commented that I'd be coming back to a particular point.  There are now multiple issues and comments written on a notepad in the kitchen for referral over the next several days and I'll make it a point to periodically visit those points in short conversations.  And yes, the two predominant issues will be wealth/income inequality as well as gun control, those items covered in the first part that we watched.  As time passes and more is discussed, we'll go into some of that as well.

So what's the takeaway as I sit here on the sofa, writing?  The first, and probably most important, is that parenthood is a marathon instead of a sprint.  As your family grows and then begins to move out into the world, it's easy to slack off a bit either because you think that you've got it all down pat or more importantly, just because you're tired.  Trust me, teenagers can take it out of you and when you're onto teen #3, the wear on the tire can be a bit much.  Tonight was a gentle smack in the figurative face that I was willing to forego what I absolutely wouldn't have ten years ago and that it was a disservice to a child who deserves as much as his older siblings.  The second was the misconception that Youngest would be willing to skip the whole thing and stick to the movie instead of checking out the debate.  It's a knock on his generation that they're tuned out and while I do subscribe to that in the main, tonight makes me wonder whether it's because they truly don't care or whether we simply don't give them the opportunity of playing up to adult issues.  It certainly was almost the latter in Youngest's case tonight.  My role as a father and parent is changing in terms of the two older kids, now off to college, but it hasn't changed with Youngest and it's something about which I'm going to have to remind myself.  I will, however, have to also remind myself to not just rule out the current event conversations just because I don't think that they'll be interested.

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