Jim of Hyperbole brought his family to Minnesota for a visit last weekend. It was great to see him, his wife Melissa, and their three girls, Mercedes, Reeve, and Cian. All our kids are all enough now to play together, remember each other, etc. My son Linus taught Mercedes and Reeve how to play video games (Mario Kart), and my daughter Lily and Cian taught each other…well, I’m not sure if they taught each other anything, but they did have a good time together. When your kids and the kids of your best friends become friends in their own right, that makes the short list of Good Things In Life.
Unfortunately, due to Jim’s exotic living arrangements we don’t see each other much. These are odd times we live in; you can be connected to people electronically nearly every day, participate in any number of personal or group conversations, etc., and you can get sucked into thinking you don’t need to actually spend time with people to maintain a relationship with them. But then you do spend time together, and you realize you have been missing something after all.
It’s tough, catching up after a year apart and almost 20 years of friendship, in a three day weekend. You can’t really do it, and I’m not even sure you should try. “Catching up” often means sitting around, having heart-to-heart conversations, watching Heart-to-Heart reruns, and not doing the things that drew you together in the first place. I think the best thing is to do the things you’ve always loved to do together, and if possible, have your kids join in the fun with you.
Jim and I love to play games. In particular, we love to play video games. And we like to drink and party, though not to excess, because we are responsible people and role models. But the role modeling went completely out the window on Jim’s last night in town.
We put all the kids to bed except Linus, because he’s older, and because he also loves to play video games. And then we busted out Pipeline People BradT and KatyH’s Rock Band for the Wii. Linus can handle the guitars or the drums as well as any of the adults except KatyH, who is the female Yngwie Malmsteen of Rock Band. So, he’s in the band.
And the band played on. And on. Suddenly, it was 2:30 in the morning, and our nine year-old son was still down there with us trying to nail Aerosmith’s version of “Train Kept a’ Rollin”. An outside observer might conclude this makes Jane and I bad parents.
Even worse, Jim was dropping F-bombs like the McCain campaign drops POW references. Jim used “fuck” as verb, adjective, noun, salutation, exhortation, exultation and more throughout the entire evening, all in very close and loud proximity to Linus. Again, an outside observer might conclude this makes Jane and I bad parents.
But you know what? Outside observers don’t know shit. First, to our credit, we did not let Linus drink or smoke during the entire evening, although I am concerned for his future in this band if he doesn’t pick one of those up at some point. Second, Linus has heard salty language before, and we’ve never, not once, had a problem with him in that regard. What he says to his friends is his business, but he knows what appropriate public language is. And if your kid is going to hear swear words (and they will), don’t let it be from some amateur fifth-grader who doesn’t know how to use the words. Better to learn from a cunning linguist like Jim. Third, adults swear when they are having fun and rocking out, or at least the adults I know do. Given a choice of shielding my son from hearing some “naughty” words, or forming a bond of his own with one of my best friends in life by staying up too late on a Saturday, that seems a pretty clear choice.
And if you do choose to indict our parenting skills, remember that we only did this with one of our kids. We made the other one go to bed, so I guess that at least makes us half-decent parents. She’ll get her chance to join the band someday.