Friday, March 18, 2011

Parenting Oblivion

I'm riding the bus to work yesterday (one of the downsides of moving to Chicago from New York is that I actually have to be on the bus instead of the subway a lot) and a guy gets on the bus with his daughter, who appears to be about five or six. They sit across from me, the little girl with her backpack on looking cute as hell. She sits there in silence, I'm reading my book and not really paying attention to anything else.

Then I look up at some point and see that the dad is listening to his headphones.

After parents smacking their kids, this infuriates me more than just about anything I see parents do. I mean, come on! You're sitting there with your daughter and you escape in to your own little world and don't interact with her at all? I do not understand this type of parent at all. Why have kids if you don't want to talk to them?

Now this was a young father it seemed. And certainly looked to be someone who is probably a lot less well off than me. So there is a very good chance that this guy wasn't really planning on having kids at this point in his life, was just liking having sex with his girlfriend.

But still, it happened. You have a job to do now. A big job.

I'll bet if you ask this guy if he's doing the things he needs to be doing as a father he would probably say yes. The little girl was clean and well dressed. She didn't look hungry. He was getting her off to school. Her basic needs seem to be well taken care of.

But there is so much more to being a parent, and it drives me batty when I see parents that don't get that.

I never, ever put my headphones on when I'm out with my daughter. I can't believe that anybody even thinks that's OK. How could you not want to have conversations with your kid when you are riding on the bus or train?

I know that my kid already has an advantage over this guy's kid just based on the condition she was born in to. My wife makes great money and we're white in America. I know that it will be easier for us. But I think that's why it so much more important for this guy to take a bigger interest in his daughter. When parents are involved kids do better in school and in life. A lot of these parents will also be the ones bitching about the quality of the schools in their neighborhood, and that's a valid point. But what are they doing to help? Don't they think their involvement makes a difference in how their kid does in school, how well they learn? I have my doubts that the kind of parent who listens to music and ignores their own child on a bus is the kind of parent that shows up for parent-teacher conferences and PTA meetings.

Yes, we should all have equal advantages, it is not fair that my kid has a leg up on his from the moment she was born. But the answer is not to just say "fuck it" and put on the headphones.

And I think that's what these parents are doing when I see them. Just giving up. Instead of talking to this amazing little person that they created, helping them to engage in the world around them, they'd rather shut themselves off from that world.

And along with it, their own kid.