Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Forget Square Dancing

We as a society are right in the midst of torpedoing an entire generation of kids. “How?” you might ask as a parent, in an earnest effort to learn what you can do to stop this catastrophe.

Cell phones.

“Cell phones,” you ask, confused. “What’s wrong with my child having a cell phone?”

A lot of things, in my opinion, but that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s the fact that we parents have cell phones that’s the problem. Specifically, cell phones with built-in video cameras.

You see, God gives us finite and imperfect memories for a reason. If we remembered everything, the species would never survive. Parents, you can totally back me up on this one: If you truly remembered what a sleep-deprived hell it was to have a newborn baby, you would never have another kid.

But those foggy, early-morning memories fade away, and pretty soon, along comes another newborn. Suddenly you’re up at three in the morning again thinking, “Wait a minute, I remember this now. This sucked. Why did we do this again?”

And then the third kid comes along and you have the exact same thought. God is sneaky like that.

It’s the same thing with growing up. The only reason we turn out OK is because the memories of all of our failures and painful mistakes fade away. At least, that was the case with my generation. That’s because our parents were not able to instantly record every single moment of our lives with a device they had in their pockets at all times.

For example, I just came from the elementary school year-end talent show. Sons Number One and Two played the piano, and their mom was not able to make it because she and her mom selfishly went gallivanting across three states on a road trip, leaving me here all by myself to manage three boys that do nothing but fight with each other for every minute that they are awake, driving me to the point of insanity each afternoon around three o’clock, making me want to run screaming away from the house, but I don’t, because I am legally responsible for their safety, and if left alone they would devolve into a three-boy Lord of the Flies scenario in less than fifteen minutes, but mostly because I just don’t like to run.

Where was I? Oh, yeah; recording…

Their mother was unable to be at the talent show, so she asked me to video them. No problem. I can do that with my phone. I dutifully recorded their performances and they both did just fine, despite their acute daily allergic reactions to piano practice.

They weren’t amazingly brilliant. They weren’t horribly bad. They were just good. As such, this time the video recording of their performance is not a big deal. “Here you are, son, performing well. Good job.”

The problem is, we record everything. If their mom had not chosen to abandon us here to fend for ourselves while she merrily tours the west coast, she would have still recorded their performances, even though she was there watching it herself. Go figure.

If we record everything, we will end up capturing all of their highlights, and all of their failures, along with all the regular, standard, unexciting, middle-of-the-road efforts. Depending on the parental video editing, kids these days could grow up thinking their childhood was one big victory lap. They will naturally forget the failures, but if we keep showing them the highlight reel, that’s how they’ll remember things.

On the other hand, if we don’t edit, showing them everything, they won’t be able to forget the failures. Neither one of those outcomes is good.

A better example might be square dancing. I was probably in a talent show as a kid, because talent isn’t a strict prerequisite for an elementary school talent show. I don’t really remember, and I can assure you there is no video evidence if I was, which I can also assure you, is undoubtedly a good thing. I know that I square danced, however.

When Son Number One announced in a dejected voice earlier this year that his fourth-grade class was square dancing at P.E., I said, “We did square dancing when I was your age. It was fun.”

Well, of course it wasn’t fun. It was probably horrific and painful. But God erased that memory for me so I could go on to lead a happy and productive life.

Well, the big hoedown day came for my son, and this time, unlike my childhood, all the parents showed up at P.E. to watch their kids square dance. And there I was alongside everyone else, cell phone in hand, recording the whole traumatic event for him.

He was in agony the entire time, being forced by the wicked gym teacher to do-si-do with actual fourth-grade girls, holding their hands and touching them, and having them smile at him. Ick. It was awful, and he will never be able to forget it.

He won’t have the luxury of that memory fading blissfully into the background fog of the elementary school years like I did, because it has been recorded for posterity. How will he ever reassure his children that square dancing will be fun if he has permanent video proof that square dancing is, in fact, awful? What if his kids see the video before they reach the fourth grade?

No good can come from that. The logical end result will be a nationwide fourth-grade revolt, causing a curriculum shift to remove square dancing, resulting in the first generation since the dawn of time to never learn to square dance, followed by the inevitable worldwide decline and eventual disappearance of square dancing altogether.

Hmm… That actually doesn’t sound bad.

Never mind everything I just said. Keep recording your kids. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go figure out how to get his square dancing video to play on the big TV downstairs so we can all watch it tonight.

Maybe a beer first, though. The kids will be home soon.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2015 Marc Schmatjen

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