There's more than a few ideological differences my wife and I have when it comes to raising our son, Holden. I talked about one of these the other day, his eating meat, which was a knock-down, drag-out brawl. I eventually won. But not without heavy concessions to the other side (apparently, I have to endure another pregnancy, which was really hard on me the first time). There was also the heated circumcision question. To me, I didn't see any room for debate. Where I'm from, you got circumcised or your name was Barry and we kicked the living shit out of you in gym class*.
* I never really beat up a kid named Barry with an uncircumcised dick.
Justine is from Northern California, meaning born and bred in the Bay Area, the epicenter of liberalism and legislation to protect you from yourself. Justine has traveled extensively, but her roots bore deeply here. I'll never forget one couple's therapy session (yeah, I go to fucking couple's therapy. So fucking what? We have problems with our fucking communication). After I'd been bitching about Justine's wanting to foster kids like we're Jolie/Pitt, our wiccan priestess of a counselor says, "Joe, you do know you've married an Earth Mother, right?"
Earth Mother. Jesus. Makes my balls shrivel even thinking of the expression. Just this side of "praying to the burning gods on the playa" in the lexicon of shit that makes me want to move back east, shave my head, and join a gang. This New Age, subculture, third-eye crap permeates everything they do out here. Now there is a lot that I love about San Francisco. It is a place where success isn't defined by the kind of car you drive or how high up you work or live; a place where you are free to be who you are (or as much as any of those things can be true in a modern, industrialized society). The percentage of folks with college degrees out here is staggering, not that having a college degree necessarily translates to intelligence. Some of the smartest people I know didn't even go to college. But one thing an education does tend to do is foster feelings of inclusion, rather than exclusion. And even though I hate most mutherfuckers, that is a good thing.
But everything comes with a price; reciprocity is the currency on which this universe runs. And the by-product of all this is an oversensitivity that borders on cloying. Hence, a championing of being politically incorrect. Which is basically people now thinking they have an excuse to not be polite. And if there is one thing that pisses Joe off it is not employing proper etiquette (my first wife made me read Amy Vanderbuilt's The Complete Book of Etiquette, quizzing me if I wanted to get some. So hot).
You see how thick this shit is? Cover to fucking cover. "It's lunch time, asshole. The napkin gets folded in half."
Most of these "Earth Mother," hippy traits of my wife I can ignore. Despite her assertion that they form the bulk of her person, I see these characteristics as mostly minor, inconsequential details, like Mandy Moore on Scrubs saying "That's so funny" instead of actually laughing.
Which just proves what we already know. Really attractive people can get away with just about anything (see Amanda Knox). Justine is an absolute doll of a woman, smart, gorgeous, amazing mom, so what if I have to deal with the occasional tearing up when they show cat juggling videos from South America?
It's a little tougher to ignore with my in-laws, who are both full-fledged, card-carrying (-burning burner) hippies, who bless chakras and comment on the strength of someone's chi, but generally I let it pass, even when grandpa leads a drum circle procession into my house for my son's first birthday, or when grandma dresses him like a baby monk because chia seeds sprouted all over him. It's the Bay Area. Drum circles here are like tipping cows back in Berlin. Just what you do.
Of course, when it comes to actually raising our boy, navigating these issues gets a whole lot trickier. If you read this blog often, you know I think my old man was a douche. And he was. God rest his soul. But like Mark Twain said, the older I get, the smarter my father becomes. The guy did get a few things right. Like raising us in the country.
I am glad I grew up in the wide open spaces without much adult supervision, free to do stupid shit like testing the ice on the pond in the thaw of spring, until you'd hear it crack and rush to see if you could make it back to shore in time (Sorry, Roger; we miss you). And riding our bikes, zipping down steep hills and over gravel pits, taking air off poorly constructed homemade ramps, doing tricks to impress our dipshit friends. It's what being a kid is all about.
Seriously, how many chances do you have to feel cool as a kid? Your mom picks out your clothes, you get those fucking goofy haircuts; you're old enough to crave freedom but too little to do jack about it. Riding my bicycle--without a helmet--was one of the few moments I felt a reprieve. Nobody was bundling me up and strapping on elbow- and kneepads. It was my fucking Huffy and a big ass hill; and, yeah, I crashed a lot, and, yes, I've been diagnosed with brain damage, but no one can prove those things are related. And don't forget, in the "big crash," it was the rest of my body that got fucked up, not my head.
I aim to win the support of the masses with these posts, and I realize this one is a losing fight. No one is writing in and saying that encouraging my kid not to wear a helmet is a good idea. Of course he's going to wear a helmet. It's the fucking law. More importantly, my wife says he has to, and when you win the 2 meat skirmishes, like I said, you have to concede other battles. I am not even saying he shouldn't wear a helmet. No way I could live with myself if the boy ever got hurt because of something I did (or didn't do). I just think the '70s were a pretty cool time to be a kid.
I'll probably get a ticket out here for even writing this. But hillbillies and rednecks get a few things right. My son is going to grow up probably speaking four languages and eating kale chips, and he is more apt to do yoga than he is boxing. But never riding his bike too fast down a gravelly ravine, no helmet, the wind in his hair, trying to impress his version of Tracy B. with some ill-advised, hot-shot show-off move, and then fighting back the tears when he scraps his knees and face to shit? That's what'll make a man out of you.
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Listen, I'd put the boy in a suit made of styrofoam and keep him in a bubble if I could. I don't want to see him ever stub a toe. That's what it's like when you're a parent. But some of the best memories of my childhood came from doing stupid shit, the starting fires and playing with hornets nests, and yes going too fast on a bike without a helmet. It's a shame, is all. But I guess that's why we have moms. Otherwise we'd let the kid eat pancakes and pizza and Pop Rocks all day, and stay up half the night ogling half naked pictures of Kate Upton.