I clearly have a lot to learn when it comes to parenting. Well, a lot to learn when it comes to just about everything. But let’s focus on parenting for now. Bite-sized pieces.
When I was a boy, my mom and I adopted a poignant Helen Reddy song as our theme song. It was called, “You and Me Against the World.” The song was released in 1975, so I must’ve been about 8 or 9. That would make my mom something on the order of 29 or 30. I had a pretty pleasant childhood. No complaints. Certainly didn’t harbor any notions of the world being against me, or against me and my mom. Nor did my mom harbor any such notions, I don’t think. Instead, our affinity for the song probably had more to do with a short-hand way of affirming our bond. Of her assuring me that she would always be there for me. No matter what. By the time our pushbutton car radio gave currency to “You and Me,” my mother had only been a mother for 8 or 9 years. That is roughly half the amount of time that I have now been a father to my own children. And I started the parenting thing later in life, so in theory, I should have a pretty decent idea of what’s what.
But this morning’s walk to the school bus stop revealed yet another parenting failure on my part: No theme song. As a direct result, my children have been completely deprived of the “I’ve-got-your-back-no-matter-what” sense of security that my mom lyrically guaranteed me as a child. To my emotionally-neglected sons, the entire world is against them. As am I, apparently.
I lump myself in with the rest of the world in opposition to my kids because my 11 year-old told me so. This morning, maybe in a tiny bit of a rush out of our flat and up the street to the schoolbus (blinking its lights impatiently), Everett absentmindedly neglected to close our garage door. He pushed the proper keypad buttons in the proper sequence, mind you. And the garage door, in fact, obligingly started down its path to 100% city living security. But just as Ev bounded out into the driveway, already onto the next thing, the door bounced right back up again. Leaving our little home completely vulnerable to the sharp-clawed raccoons I read about on the NextDoor app, and to the elderly ladies who crunch recyclable cans underfoot curbside on garbage day. I can’t have any raccoons pilfering our dog’s gourmet treats we keep in a plastic container on the garage’s workbench. Not to mention the horrors that would befall my household if the can-crunching lady began crunching cans in my garage. What would be next? Locusts? Horsemen?
So with this parade of horribles in mind, I said to Everett, “Hey, careful bud, you didn’t quite close the garage door there. Your backpack or your heel must have triggered the sensor. Kind of important to make sure the door closes, you know?” Pretty sure this is exactly what I said to him. Pretty sure I said it, too, in an intentionally calm, measured tone. I didn’t want to indicate to Everett the true enormity of this event. The unimaginable catastrophes that would surely transpire due to an open garage door.
But alas, we have no theme song. So Everett’s immediate response? “Dad, why are you always against me on everything?!” And then he stormed off up the sidewalk towards the waiting bus. I follow behind him, more or less speed-walking to keep up. The thought crossed my mind of humming a few bars of “I Am a Gummy Bear” — perhaps the one song that Everett might associate with his father from my playing it for him once or twice many many years ago. But there is no real message in there, I quickly concluded, at least not one that would fit this moment. So instead, still walking at a brisk clip on my son’s heels, I try logic. I even manage to turn the thing totally around, a little impressed with myself, such quick thinking on the spot and on my feet: “Ev, I’m actually not against you on anything. I’m trying to help you out. This is called ‘parenting.'” My explanation — perfectly rational, probably 100% factually accurate, too — was a remarkably poor substitute for Helen Reddy. No doubt Everett climbed the school bus steps feeling totally alone. Abandoned. Theme song-less.
So now I will spend the next several hours scouring the Internet for an age-appropriate, non-explicit, secular, non-mysogynistic, non-materialistic, not-about-gummy bears song that I can use to make my son believe that I am a good father. I do have his back, of course. I just don’t have a theme song. Yet.
Thanks for reading.