Monday, September 20, 2010

Why Your Dad is Like Othello

I'm not a big fan of justifying behaviors by explaining them but I do believe in understanding behaviors in order to help soften their negative blow to our world. 

People have been pointing a certain group out for a few years now: "helicopter parents".  There are jokes about them and horror stories of these clingy parents accompanying their adult children to job interviews.  Every teacher and, these days, every professor, has to deal with them.  They do all the work for their kids, from picking classes to disputing grades -- they even do their homework.  (Oh, yes you do, sir.  I didn't just fall off of the rhubarb truck. )  If they could, they would walk everywhere in front of their kids wielding bubble wrap, deflecting everything from falling acorns to smart bombs.  It's all a result of the intensity of parental love -- a love that some people simply can't handle with reason.

Love can heal cancer, some say, but it can also ruin lives.  Ask Othello.  Oh, wait, you can't because he let his overwhelming obsession with the purity, faithfulness and the well-being of his wife, Desdemona, drive him into insane fits of jealousy, brought on by Iago whose paranoia-inspiring whispers completely cracked the Moor's confidence and ability to think rationally.  So what did he do?  He smothered his wife.  Smuh-thered.  Art thou with me?

So, take out the "romantic" and leave the intense, all-consuming  love and we have parents in the role of Othello and our society and media in the role of Iago.  (Please don't forget the part about taking out "romantic" -- I don't want this to turn Freudian and gross.) The kids?  Smuh-thered. 

Like with Othello, it's crazy, but I do get it.  Iago is constantly telling parents how children are abducted from their front yards; how most child-molesters are members of our own families; how kids get sick and die for no reason; how teachers are no good and lazy and sometimes seduce their innocent students; how all kids rebel and do stupid stuff to impress their friends and sometimes die as a result; and, most horrifically, how our kids will someday no longer be our cuddly little pals who tell the truth and who run to us when the thunder claps . . . 

I mean, we spend about eight years being capable of saving our kids from nearly all harm, then the little ingrates have the gall to start wandering off on their own to friends' houses -- next thing you know they are sneaking kisses with the neighbor's daughter (or son -- let's be fair).  Then what do these rotor-equipped parents do?  They try to control what they can in a desperate attempt to keep protecting the thing they hold dearest -- the precious child that the world wants to kill, maim, make sick and, ultimately, seduce into leaving them. 

The seduction begins with video games and moves to  parties, random independence and, finally, fat, shiny jobs.  That hurts.  So if the parents can't have their children, no one can.  They get jealous.  They control, guide and cover.  Smuh-thered.

Obviously, we need to be stronger than this for our kids.  But let's not go in the other direction, either: "We never wore seat belts and we were okay!"  Who is this "we"?  Not the kid who smashed through the windshield and died in 1949 when his dad bumped the car in front of him at twenty five miles per hour, surely.  Let's just agree not to say stupid crap like that.

So what message can we give to these parents?  Maybe it's that kids are like kites.  You put them together with love, carefully carry them to where the wind is -- taking care not to rip the thin paper or break the balsam bracings -- then you run them into the wind and let them rise up on their own, gently guiding them.  But when they are up so high they are out of sight, you need to sit down in the sand -- still holding the string so they don't fly away and crash somewhere, alone -- and wait there in case they fall and need you to put them back together again.  But take heart: you don't ever have to let go completely.  Not completely.  You just can't fly everywhere with them.