Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Happiness is a warm pupper

I always appreciate the way that Noel tries to make Mother's Day both special for me, and not actively annoying to me. He gets the kids to pick out cards and little treats. He asks if I'd like him to make anything special for dinner, but if I don't have any ideas, he comes up with his own (delicious) ones. Otherwise he knows that I want what Frankie Heck wants: a Not-Mother's Day. No pressure, no pomp, and for God's sake, no brunch.

That's exactly what I had on Sunday, and darned if it wasn't one of the happiest days I've had (in the midst of a very happy season of a very happy year). I laughed and played games with the kids, I ate delicious food, I took a long walk with my podcasts, and I watched television with my husband. The exact definition of good times.

And the next day the A.V. Club published a list Noel and I put together of the most useful shorthand quotes from Charles Schulz's Peanuts, a comic that definitively shaped both of our childhoods and helped to bring us together. It was so wonderful to collaborate with him and to enjoy the reaction of those who shared it and commented on it.

School is out, and the living is easy. I'm working on a qualitative research task brought to me by some faculty in the physical therapy department, part of a paper about use of an outcomes assessment tool in students' clinical rotations. It needs to be done by the end of the week, so I'm working through it chunk by chunk. Once that's done, I'll start on my writing project for the summer -- a book for Fortress Press's Theology for the People series.

It's only week 2 of the summer, by even the stingiest accounting. There's much warmth and many pleasures to come.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A pop culture education

Most parents will tell you that part of anticipating a child coming into the family is looking forward to sharing one's culture. And pop culture is a lot of that. Noel was shaped by the records in his father's collection; I devoured the classic books on my parents' shelves. We were excited about introducing our children to the things we loved.

That ended up being on a slower timeframe than I think we had imagined. Yes, we shared some classic children's literature when they were young, but it took a while for CG to develop an interest in the television, music, and film that consumes her parents' lives. AA, meanwhile, has always gone his own way and developed his own obsessions; we worried, early on, that he would have nothing to talk about with his peers, but it turns out that Pokemon is a universal language (thankfully).

Another factor, though, is that it turns out the easiest way into popular culture's archival depths (aka the stuff that was meaningful to us when we were younger) is by way of current culture. And those entry points need to have some family appeal. They need to be things that we can watch or listen to with our child. CBS's Supergirl, for example; we made plans early on to include CG in our viewing of it, based on the creative people involved, its empowering messages, and the geek appeal factor. But once we're all hooked, when the show makes references to other parts of the DC universe (or even does a version of a classic story, like its retelling of Alan Moore's "For the Man Who Has Everything"), it's a simple matter to give those ancillary materials to CG and let her expand the connections.

We all treasure the moments when we bond with our children over shared culture. But those moments aren't really the heart and soul of a cultural education. As suggested by those records of Noel's dad and those books of my parents, the most important thing is to leave a lot of culture lying around, and wait for your kids to burrow their way in, by any route they choose. CG uses our Amazon Echo to stream music from our collection while she reads, and sometimes we can suggest other artists she might like. She developed her love of comic strips from the many collections with which we seeded her shelf. But as rich as our libraries might be, they'd be a prison if that's all she ever explored. She made her own way to manga and anime, and together she and Archer have ventured into gaming and design, areas their parents would never have been able to lead them.

And now they teach us, and amaze us. That's the part that we didn't know enough, years ago, to anticipate, and it's the part that now seems most miraculous.