Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

This Just In: No One Is Listening

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We in print journalism have spent the last couple of decades bemoaning the agonizing, inexorable demise of our medium. As the dire situation gets bleaker and bleaker, we turn our gaze more and more inward, so that we can now behold our own lumbar vertebrae through our navels.

We, personally, have not actually been in print journalism since 1997, but no one’s going to read this anyway; that’s kind of the point. But just in case we craved the unmistakable feeling of having our words, so painstakingly and lovingly crafted into sequenced paragraphs, ignored by an uncaring so-called audience, we went and became a parent.

We have heard the claim that parents bring children into this world for selfish reasons, and that might be true for some people. We have heard the claim (mostly read, in anonymous online comments from random yahoos) that bearing children is the ultimate exercise in ego, as if the world could use another me. We do not doubt that some folks genuinely perceive parenthood as an opportunity to strive for genetic immortality. But the people making these sweeping claims about “breeders” have clearly never tried their hand at parenting. For one thing, they seem to have time to browse the web and submit comments. There’s nothing like living the parental life to force a person into the realization that the internet ranks pretty low on the list of essential functions, somewhere between washing the windows and buying more peach melba flavored dental floss.

But our main point (we just had to remember it) is that creating and caring for a separate, increasingly independent human is not exactly a recipe for ego stroking. In the cumulative battle of wills, the parent will win battles but lose the war. Any effort to impose one’s ego on offspring will have the opposite effect. In case we ever crave the sinking, deflating sensation that always followed the release of the latest issue, all we have to do is instruct one of our children to clean something up. Or stop bothering someone. Or do homework. Or put away laundry. Or aim at least in the general direction of the toilet. Bam! Right back to 1997, when people stayed away from our paper in droves. It’s powerful stuff, this parenting.

But our background in journalism prepared us for parenthood in other ways. Thanks to our time as an editor, we did not enter fatherhood a complete novice in managing petty conflicts that somehow take on cosmic significance to their principals (“If I let my sibling get away with this, my universe will explode!” “I’ll show him who’s boss, once and for all!”). Thus, today, we were treated to a reenactment: our second child threw a shirt belonging to the eldest down the steps and refused to retrieve it. The eldest insisted he would not come to the table for lunch until the offending sibling righted the wrong. The novice Thag would have sided with the wronged party and tried to pressure the younger sibling into picking up the shirt. The experienced Thag, having mediated ego-driven college newspaper conflicts, decided on a different tack: do you really want to give control over your lunch to your little brother? OK, so the blue turtleneck is still on the floor downstairs, lo these five hours later. It’s hardly alone: there’s a plastic dog, a stuffed dog, a defunct dustpan, cardboard dominoes and multiplying dust bunnies (that last one sounds like an educational toy, but it’s not, despite what the baby claims; “multiplying dust bunnies” would, however, make a good name for a band). But at least the argument ended.

Our only beef with the end of print journalism, really, involves the crossword puzzle: it’s just not the same if it’s not in the folded up New York Times.

But of course, we’d never have time to do it. Excuse us; the kids are fighting over the last unbroken cereal bowl…

Written by Thag

March 22, 2011 at 8:08 pm

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