Honest to goodness, there’s nothing that makes me happier than some good parenting. Those times when you or someone else says something to a kid that is honest and real and makes the world a little more manageable for them to navigate. The things that they’ll repeat to themselves when they need some wisdom or encouragement or a kick in the pants later.
If the world worked the way it should, the news would include highlights of parenting genius that anonymous parents spouted off that day rather than reports about celebrities boinking and abandoning each other. But I suppose the logistics of such a thing would be a nightmare. Which is why we all know that J Lo and Casper just broke up, but have no clue that this afternoon a woman down the street said things that helped her child be less afraid of dying one day.
This is why I’m a big fan of Shit My Dad Says. I think I mentioned it once before, but for those who missed it, Shit My Dad Says is the creation of a writer with a sharp eye about his great, foul mouthed dad. It’s funny and wise and much more profound than anything with that much swearing and crude humor has a right to be. His father is a parenting genius, if you ask me.
Anyhow, GQ has a Shit My Dad Says post up for Father’s Day that I loved and wanted to pass on to y’all. The dad talks like I do if I’m not careful, so there’s lots of swearing involved. But if you mind that, you probably aren’t reading my blog. Anyhow, the context is that the son froze up during a big baseball game and lost the game for his team:
My dad walked down two rows from the metal stands and tossed a soda he was drinking in the garbage. He headed toward the parking lot a hundred feet away and I followed him in silence until we got to the car.
“You pitched well,” he said.
“I lost the game for us,” I said, then burst into one of those cries where all available tears and mucous shoot out of your eyes and nose at once.
“Now hold on,” he said.
“Don’t try and tell me I didn’t lose the game for us,” I said, as a snot bubble formed in both nostrils.
“Shit, I was there son. That ball flew out of your hand like you were setting a fuckin’ dove free. You got no argument here.”
“Then what are you gonna say? I know it’s just a game, okay?” I said, trying to calm my heaving breaths.
“What I was gonna say was, your coach is full of shit. It ain’t ‘just a game.’ This is a big goddamn deal,” he said, leaning his back up against the passenger door.
“Yeah. You threw the ball away, your team lost, and it’s a big deal, and therefore, you’re feeling appropriately shitty,” he said.
“Great, so you’re upset at me too?” I said.
“Me? Hah, it’s a Little League baseball game. If I had two shits I couldn’t give ‘em,” he said
“Then why are you saying it’s a big deal?” I asked.
“‘Cause it’s a big deal to you. Every time one of you kids fucks up, every asshole with a mortgage and vocal chords comes running over to tell you it’s just a game. But guess what? We’re a speck in the universe’s shit. We’re meaningless. Everything is ‘just a something.’ Things are as important as we make them to be, and I don’t know about you, but the only goddamn reason I’ve found to wander around for hopefully no more than eighty some years on this planet is to find stuff to give a shit about. So the fact that you fucked up in spectacular fashion and the result is you sitting here with snot and god knows what shooting out of your face like you paid it to, means you found something already. Now hop in the car and let’s get the hell out of here before this shit gets burned into your memory.”
I love this. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the limits of perspective in dealing with life’s problems. If you want to, you can explain all of life away by remembering that it won’t matter when your dead, people starve to death, the universe is massive beyond all reckoning. But once you’ve done that, what’s the point of anything?
One of the truths of life that the church is in rebellion against is that we get to choose our own paths and what things mean to us. Religion can point us in the right direction and teach us the basic rules, but at some point, you have to decide for yourself what really matters to you. And if something means so much that you can be broken by it, no one has the right to explain it away for you.
Sure, maybe later when you have more experience and more distance, you’ll look back and realize it wasn’t that important in the scheme of things or you reacted badly. But the experience of having cared, having given yourself over to something and dealing with either victory or defeat has value beyond measure.
Life’s not really about what you do so much as it’s about the experiences we have on the way. We’re never going to get it all “right” anyways. Life’s not a performance; it’s an experience. Don’t ever let the world convince you to turn your back on the experience.