Friday, September 11, 2015

Two Boys, "Tom Sawyer" and a Hobbit: Dad Dreams Realized

Rush, in all their clownishness. 
When my youngest son was born, I was joking about anticipating the day he would become the conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra and simultaneously hold a position in the English Department at the University of Pennsylvania. My wife laughted, but then she said, leveling a serious glance, "So, what if he doesn't want to teach Shakespeare? What if he becomes a construction worker?"

My response: "As long as he becomes a construction worker who reads Shakespeare."

As I age and accrue (I hope) wisdom, it becomes increasingly apparent to me how rare real happiness is and that one's greatest wish for one's kids should simply be that: true happiness. That's a tall enough order without imposing our dreams on our children. If we do what we love, we should let our kids do what they love; if we don't do what we love, we shouldn't see our kids as that last effort to get a piece of what we never "went for"ourselves.

Still, I am often tormented by the desire to see my kids pursue those things that brought me so much joy, like music and literature. I need to be careful, of course, not to cross the line above. But when they do find their way into the  things I loved as a kid, there is -- I admit -- much inner rejoicing...

The Professor
My younger son loves Tolkien. He and I recently finished reading The Lord of the Rings together and we are (backward, I know) reading The Hobbit, now. Tolkien set me on the path to a life of letters. The other night, my other son, who goes up to my little music studio every night to sing along with his favorite music, was singing along to "Tom Sawyer," by Rush. Rush, and especially the drummer/lyricist, Neil Peart, had a musical and literary impact on my life that is second only to the influence of my dad. (Though, if you know Rush's music, you might share my apprehension about my son trying to sing along with Geddy Lee...)

I'll admit that I always thought they would find their way to a similar path as mine. And, sure, they may branch out into their own paths -- in fact I am sure they will. The fact remains, though, that, in a world in which people are singing along to Nikki Minaj/Beyonce...

(Feelin' myself, I'm feelin' myself
I'm feelin' my, feelin' myself
I'm feelin' myself, I'm feelin' my, feelin' my, feelin' myself
I'm feelin' myself, I'm feelin' my, feelin' myself)'s good to hear my son upstairs singing Rush's "Tom Sawyer":

"Though his mind is not for rent
Don't put him down as arrogant
His reserve, a quiet defense
Riding out the day's events
The river..."

And in a world in which kids tend to sit in front of screens watching over-sexualized shows and stereotype-reinforcing things, it's good to read about a homebody of a hobbit with just enough "Tookishness" in him to drive him out to an adventure...

I admit it. It feels good to see my boys treading on the fertile ground that helped me realize that life is more than meals and paychecks. I just have to be careful not to force things...

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