June 1, 2006

Articulate Passion

Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
by Georges Seurat

"The lyrics are stupid," I said flippantly.

He pfff'd incredulously and turned away. But not before I got a glimpse of his expression. I had upset him. And being pfff'd upset me. It was so arrogant, that pfff. Had I come across as arrogant too?

The mood had shifted so quickly. Until that point we'd been having what I thought was casual conversation. We were at home in the office, sharing music and photos and gossip and such. Evidently I missed the turn, didn't see the sign, took the wrong fork. Or maybe it was a spoon. Whatever. I'd been hearing but not listening. Again.

The Boy had pfff'd me, but that wasn't the end of it. "You see, it's like this," he began patiently. Gesturing, his voice thick with controlled emotion, he explained the context of the song. The telling was punctuated with eloquent language and tears streaming unabashedly down his face. I observed and absorbed in awe, seeing him again for the first time. Where did this man come from?

He played the song for me again. With context, I got it. The emotion was clear.

How I envy his passion. How grateful I am for his willingness to share it with me.

Liz at I Speak of Dreams has an interesting post about parents and "trophy" children. I couldn't help but consider my own parenting style as I read it. After all, I am indisputably proud of The Boy and have often said he's the prize in my box of Cracker Jack. Does that make him my trophy child?

We worked (work) hard to give The Boy a "bountiful" life, encouraging him to achieve at high levels. We were (are) involved, helping him make decisions to build a fulfilling and healthy existence. But unlike the parents in the article, I found (find) joy simply in who he is, not in how his being may inflate my own sense of self-importance.

Still. In many ways, he is my trophy.
I hope he doesn't mind.

And that song I didn't get?
It centers around an item in the painting above.
Can anyone name it?



tiff said...

Is it a dog?

That Girl said...

Funny, I just had this same conversation with my son. I told him that I had no plan for him, no expectation that he would choose a certain career or live a particular lifestyle, just that he would be a person who was exposed to as many choices as possible and made his life choices from a basis of passion and want rather than fear or conformity.
I dont think having pride in your child is the same thing as having a trophy child.

~m~ said...

aw come on! At least give me a hint... what genre of music?

btw, apologies for deleting the last comment I made. It was exactly the same as this one but with embarrassing misspellings...

Kevin Charnas said...

I can't. But I love your candor...love it.

the only daughter said...

No clue about the song.

So with you about the passion of our young men (and in my case, women) who were once our children.

I glow in the heat of their passionate discourses, almost daily.

They are people of incredible heart, mind and spirit. They did (are doing) the hard part, I'm just holding the ladder.

tiff said...

I've got it! The song was

"I like big butts" and the woman in the forgeound with the gravity-defying bustle is the clue!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link! Liz here from I Speak of Dreams. I later had a conversation with JumperGirl about trophy kids. Her definition includes the concept of the parents needing the kid to collect certain trophy points (awards, high GPAs, etc.) to satisfy the parents' needs--not the kids.

She also said something so cool (stand by for bragging) "Our family value is that each person should find their passion and go for it."

I could hold forth for hours on what great *people* MusicMan, ScholarMan, and JumperGirl are--articulate, ethical, compassionate.

If you are thrilled with your kids' mastery of X -- because of the mastery -- you are probably not trophyizing your kids. If you are thrilled because of bragging rights...well, watch out.

I read Kristina Chew, who writes Autismland, every day. My kids are neurotypical, so why do I read? Because she is a beautiful writer. Because she loves Charlie for exactly who he is. Her work is my personal antidote against the sucking tide of trophy parenting.

Here's a representative sample:

I used to pick up Charlie almost every day when he attended his old public school autism classroom and, over time, the main information passed between his teacher and me was "what difficult thing happened today"?

I was not happy with this routine that Charlie's teacher and I had fallen into as it came to mean that all we ever talked about was whether he had done, or had not done, X "bad behavior" (such as head-banging). Charlie, the boy with the best smile who (we all knew) tried so hard, became the sum of his (bad) behaviors.

Call me over-hopeful---resolutely positive---but I do believe that, even on the worst, messiest of Autismland days, something good happens. Since Charlie was born, I have kept a daily journal. As he was being diagnosed with autism in the spring of 1999 and through the seven long years since then, the task--the ritual--of writing in my journal has become an essential record. If I gushed about my lovely baby boy with his huge black eyes (still not rolling over at six months.....), the tone of my journal writing became increasingly descriptive and objective after it was clearer than clear that Charlie had "something." I wrote down what we did morning, noon, and night; what toys he poked at; what happened right before a screaming fit; every syllable, sound, and shred of a word. And I made it a rule, I will note one good thing that happened today, no matter what awful thing happens.

See what I mean?

complete stranger said...

When parents brag about their trophy children, eyes glaze, attention drops. When parents lovingly share the accomplishments of their children, the listener smiles and knows there is still good in this world.

Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Elizabeth said...

I'll take a stab at it..

Finishing the Hat from Sunday Afternoon in the Park with George

Sheesh, you and Gina are in such need of pffing.

elswhere said...

Finishing the Hat! That's what I was gonna say, but Elizabeth scooped me!

Elizabeth. I should've known. Pff!

WordsRock said...

bing bing bing!
eb... I mean elizabeth... is correct!