Kids, No Chaser

All Road Warriors Lead to Lake Wobegon

Saturday, July 28, 2007 posted by Henri


I’ll take the city. I’ll take the city over the country any time. I’ll take graffiti over wildflowers. Alleys over canyons. Pidgeons are my owls, bluejays, coyotes, frogs, minnows, bunnies, deer, and ocelots. At the same time being a parent means applying a whole other standard for your kids. For some strange reason I feel that the urban environment is not good for my kids. But is this really true? As a kid I was born in Seoul (Bladerunner on Earth) moved to Virginia (as rural as you get) and then landed in Hollywood California (a happy place). I was about 6 years old when we got to Hollywood, sharing a small apartment with a few relatives. I loved it. I loved the buildings, the graffiti, the asphalt and parking lots everywhere. I loved walking under a tunnel that reeked of piss and had every inch covered in graffiti in order to get to my Elementary school. I loved eating breakfast at school for free. I loved the old building that was falling apart. I loved people getting beat up on the street just like on TV. I was happy. I did not miss the Beagles and lakes and woods of my Wobegonian ham-smoked Virginia country home. Not for a second. That place was boring. Hollywood was full of life. My parents of course dreaded each day in that place and after a short 6 months my fun was over when we moved to the suburbs and away from all the good times.

Life in the suburbs was insane. Growing up on a street packed with latch key kids was hilarious. From 3pm to 6pm…this block was ours. Lord of the Flies in 3 hour episodes….and the summer, forget about it: 8 hour episodes. The majority of the time we spent building and testing weapons on one another. Crossbows, bolas, blowguns, and ancient firework powered projectiles. Of course wrist rockets and BB guns were standard issue, each kid had one. Smoke screens were made out of dry cement in plastic bags. Bikes were modified to hold little crossbows. Every lawn was a gladiator arena. Every day someone cried. Every now and then someone had to wait till their parents got home before getting to the hospital because the last thing you wanted to do was call your parents at work. No one wore helmets. We invented street luge years before it became an X-Games event. Our block drew others. When I think of my idyllic Road Warrior inspired youth I smile…when I imagine my kids in the same situation I piss my pants.

So what happened? When did we become so fearful? People used to let their kids run wild. When I was four years old in Virginia I lived by a lake and would spend most mornings fishing. I grab my army helmet my fishing pole and a bunch of sliced American cheeselike product, say goodbye to my Mom and walk down the block to the lake. I’d bait my hook with cheese and catch tiny perch and throw them in my helmet full of lake water. By lunch time I’d carry my helmet by its chinstrap home with me with the two or three fish I caught. These days you’d never give an unsupervised four year old a live hook and don’t even think about letting them go out by themselves to fish at the lake.

The countryside is for old people. The city is like Disneyland. Shiny lights, cars, people, action. I think my kids would like the city. I mean what really is the advantage of climbing a tree? You climbed a tree…big deal. Try climbing a telephone pole using a homemade grappling hook to reach the first rungs (leave out the part about the rock and bottle fight that ensues once you get to the top). I’ll give you three guesses which is more fun for a kid.

The quicker you learn about the dangers of life the better off you are. Cars are deadly, people are worse. You can grow up swimming in your backyard pool or you can grow up swimming in the ocean. Some kids only get to swim in the bathtub, some kids only get to run in the sprinklers. Some kids don’t even get to play in the rain. I’m not saying what’s right, but it sure does seem like there’s a lot wrong. As soon as a kid gets seriously hurt, obviously the parents were wrong. As soon a kid gets hazed in college and gets seriously hurt because he was too green to understand the depths of idiocy found in fellow man…who’s to blame then? I’m not saying you’re less naïve or more independent if you come from the sticks vs. Manhattan, but as a parent you start thinking about the results of the decisions you can make. I have the power to determine the physical environment of my kid’s childhood. I need to make a decision. The great and almighty NinjaDad once told me: Make decisions not predictions, and learn the difference between the two…and stop crying over little flesh wounds.

If my kid grows up in the country he’ll do meth. If my kid grows up in the suburbs he’ll smoke pot. If my kid grows up in the city he’ll do coke and meth and pot, but he’ll have a witty repartee and fabulous shoes. Hmmm…tough choices.

As in all things in life we all know the universal answer. All things in moderation. A balanced life with exposure to the country the city and the wickedness known as suburbia. Man, parenting is expensive. A weekend home in the country along with a Manhattan pied a terre to balance out the suburban picket fencer in the good school they say in the Pacific Northwest, kinda spendy.

What I really wanted to say is that we spent a wonderful day this week in Carmel attending a beautiful wedding on some amazing grounds. ConMan got to run and play with a gang of other kids through bocce courts and grassy fields underneath a working windmill. As I watched them run around I thought…hmmm maybe this is the life. The good life. Later that night my cynicism would win out, returning me to my sensibilities and realizing that a beautiful setting does not make a beautiful life. Home is, as always, where the heart is. But for a while there, underneath dappled afternoon sunlight filtered through beautiful oaks, it was easily to believe in that magical place called Lake Wobegon where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.


Blogger anthony said...

"If my kid grows up in the country he’ll do meth. If my kid grows up in the suburbs he’ll smoke pot. If my kid grows up in the city he’ll do coke and meth and pot, but he’ll have a witty repartee and fabulous shoes."

The best thing I have read in weeks. HILARIOUS!

12:30 PM


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