Sunday, April 18, 2010


We must always protect and nurture the precious youth, because they are the future. Have you ever heard that before? “Children are the future.” As far as I’m concerned, I am the future, and the children can be so once I become worm food. You know what else is the future? Everything. Well, everything minus dodo birds. And anything else that might have reached extinction or obsolescence by the time this illusive “future” has arrived.

Everything is the future, even the past if you want to be cosmically mystical, so let’s stop talking about the children as if they are all we have to look forward to. Tomorrow is the future, and yes, the children will be around and we must do what we can to ensure their survival. But I am still more concerned about whether I will get a bacon sandwich for breakfast tomorrow than I am about such issues as child labor in foreign sweatshops or playground politics or quality public education.

The latter, for example: public education is going to work out one way or another whether I worry about it or not. The bacon sandwich is not so inevitable. Which is why I’m not so worried about the kids. Yours, mine, and ours. They’ll all be okay.

They have it easy, nowadays. They have online homework help and teachers are always worried about the pupils’ self-esteem and never again will the students have to walk a mile through the snow to get to school because their parents will drive them and drop them off at the gate, even if they live a quarter mile away.

Of course, I never did either. Snow, that is. Not a mile or any other distance in the snow, and not barefoot, poorly shod, or in any other unfavorable footwear condition in good weather, and I have never complained to my children about having done so. Some things in my time were more difficult than what the modern youngsters face, and likewise they deal with things that I am glad I never had to.

When I was a kid there was minimal acknowledgement of birthdays at school. A song, a card from the teacher, and then on to the math lesson. More recently parents have become lunatic, wanting to bring treats, drinks, gifts, and interrupting class for thirty minutes or more. They start in kindergarten and continue every year until the teachers finally yell, “Enough!”

This can happen as late as middle school, and can be completely embarrassing for the child (which is all right with me, I think the world might be a bit better off if the youth could not only spell and define “chagrin” but also feel it on occasion).

Of course when I was a kid, those with summer birthdays wouldn’t even get the brief song and short note. It was as if their birthday never happened, they just magically aged one year before returning to school for the next grade . . . or possibly to revisit the same grade. How sad it was to have a summer birthday.

Except it might actually be a warm day to have a party. You would have to track down your chums to invite them to the soiree, but it would be better than having a mid-February celebration in three feet of new snow. Let’s face it, there are always downfalls to any possibility. You have to make the most of it, even if your guests all suffer from frostbite before they go home.

To remedy this dreadful summer birthday situation, the modern era has invented the half birthday. Enthusiastic parents who had the temerity to give birth in late July can bring tomfoolery into the classroom in late January instead.

It is almost more exotic, this half birthday. There are fewer such celebrations based strictly on the statistical odds of non-school months versus calendar months. Soon the other students want to celebrate their half birthday as well. The odd little boy born on October 13 who brought in a tray of cupcakes on his special day wants a do-over on April 13 (unless that is during spring break, in which case he would be glad to postpone it until school is back in session).

In the younger grades there are now enough “special days” that interruptive treats arrive practically every week. Parents think they are doing a nice thing for their child, but if they don’t stop there will be a rude awakening when the kid hits middle school and the only thing that is likely to happen on his or her birthday is some enjoyable bullying.

Unless the persecutor can be appeased with a cupcake.

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