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Monday, March 15, 2010

Greek to Me: φιλοσοφία

I think I'm doomed to talk about parenting this week (Don't leave, I've got candy!  Please don't leave, I beg of you!).  Here I go, against my own better judgment:

I.  A few weeks back I met an intriguing old man.  He loves knowledge.  He's also utterly but pleasantly eccentric (probably a whole lot like I'll be when I'm doddering around in seersucker), but that's not what interests me.  You can see in his eyes, he cannot get enough of knowing.  He breathes it.  History.  Languages.  The Bible.  Literature.  Geography.  All of it.  I am struck by the lover of knowledge.  We all know them.  Back in the old days, we called people like that philosophers.  The root literally means the love of wisdom, φιλοσοφία.

I'm a bit dismayed by how many snicker at these special folks.  I wonder if the dude slinging feta and olives in the agora heckled Aristotle (bet the comebacks were MONEY).

II.  We started a parenting class this week.  Because, you know, I badly need that sort of thing.  Actually the class started last week, and we were being French late.  Not really, we just completely blew the schedule.  It happens.

Where was I?  Ah.  The parenting class.  Mind you, there aren't only us garden variety, Just Showed Up parents in there, you've got your steely-eyed Keepers of the Wily Teenager, your My Kids are Having Kids?! sorts, and maybe a handful of the If I Strangle My Kids, Do I Still Need to Come to Class? guys.

In a group like this, it's incredibly risky to pipe up as the father of the 19 month old.  Generally, everyone dismisses what you're saying, because experience trumps all.  But whatever you make of that, I was grateful to just listen for an hour to people that are far smarter than me (I?).  It hit me while I was sitting there:  There are wise people in here.  Listen up.  It's not an overly common occurrence nowadays for the Younger to get to listen to the Older.  But I was happy to shut up and absorb something of worth.

Now, I don't believe you have to experience everything in life personally to gain an appreciation of it.  I can be reasoned with comparatively.  You can, too.  We all don't have to break bones or touch hot stoves* to know each is undesirable.  So again, I sat and listened, hoping to learn for Jack's sake.  And my own.

III.  Part of the parenting class was that the key to parenting is to first deal with yourself.  I guess the idea is that you face your own faults before projecting them onto your children.  I'm no doubt misstating the point, but it's interesting that people might be teaching little ones to grow up, who haven't first grown up themselves.

IV.  As the parent of a little one, it's worrisome to see our culture's mishandling of children (and its outright war on boys).  For further reading, I give you these two columns by the illustrious Mr. Will:

The Basement Boys

How to Ruin a Child

If you really want to break out in a sweat, read the comments section of the Newsweek article.  Those are the men we've made.

V.  A short JackStory for you.  We ventured out into the true magnificence of the weekend's weather and went to our semi-frightening neighborhood park.  Jack flits around like a hummingbird hopped up on Sugar Babies and gets himself up to the tip top of the big boy slide.  Majesty has Throw, and I've got Catch.  I stick my head down in the slide and look up just in time to see the Cap'n thoughtfully considering his approach to the slide:  "Hmm... Luge or skeleton?"

I guess he decided on "skeleton" because he abruptly leaps in, head first.  The look on his face is SHEER TERROR, and almost shrieks, "What in the blue blazes have I done?!"

When I catch him at the bottom (at about 90 mph), he looks at me, cracks a little smile and quietly says, "Heh."

UPDATE:
For Some Parents, Shouting Is the New Spanking
Just ran across this.  A culture that can't spank yells.  A culture that can't yell...  eats?  Look for the Have a Cookie moment and the obligatory NYT swipe at those backward conservative Bible-types.  You're welcome.
*I've used the hot stove metaphor, and cannot believe it.  I disgust even myself, sometimes.

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