The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Impossible Dreams

Wow. Four times in the last seven days, women have tried to pick me up...on the street, in a video store, in a 7-11, at a hotel. I have no
frigging idea what's going on, but I'll assume it's just a statistical blip. Strange.
#
Watched Disney's "Enchanted" yesterday with Jason. He's entered an interesting phase where he insists he wants to be a princess. Well, okay.
Have to admit that I wonder if he says that to irritate me, so I try hard not to be irritated. Have to admit that it does tweak me a little.
Probably relates to childhood stuff there. Gay I have no problem with. Effeminate bugs me. Sigh. Just more crap for me to work through. Anyway,
"Enchanted" is just adorable, and it's revisionist and aware enough to give anyone familiar with Disney's tropes an absolute giggle. They are
VERY aware of the buttons they're pushing. Are little girls being programmed to be Princesses? Yeah. And is that unfair to them? Probably.
But little boys are programmed to be Cowboys and Spacemen, and trust me, I doubt that the images given to little boys are any more accurate
a reflection of the actual lives they will live. While boys were playing He-Man, Masters of the Universe when I was a kid, the girls were
trying to get us to play tea-party and "Mommy and Daddy." No wonder girls seem ahead of the curve when it comes to relationships and maturity!
Their games actually prepare them for life.
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Which brings us to a question for today: what is better to give your children (or yourself?): a "realistic" view of life, or an impossible dream?
Over the years, I've had a LOT of people tell me: "Steve, you dream too much! You set goals that are too high! Aren't you afraid of being disappointed?"
Well...my attitude there is that, if at the moment of death the ultimate truth of reality is revealed to me, and I saw that my goals were
too lofty, that they exceeded my capacities, I could deal with that. If on the other hand if at the moment of death I saw that my capacities
exceeded my goals, that I could have had and done more if only I'd had the vision...that would SUCK. So I'd rather aim too high. When it comes to
teaching my children...I admit to pushing Nicki more toward Girley things than I ever would Jason...but she's not a frilly little thing. And Jason
likes to roughhouse...but I guess he likes the pretty things Princesses wear (unless he likes the fact that they get to kiss
princes...Naw. That doesn't seem to be it at all.) Fatherhood teaches you so much about yourself...

18 comments:

Kai Jones said...

I think I gave my sons both, the impossible dream and the realistic view.

John said...

I can sympathize with the "princess situation". The other day my son was playing with one of his older sister's princess dolls. I couldn't help myself, I asked him where his "big truck" was. After that he left the doll and started playing with the truck. I kept it innocent and didn't say anything negative about the doll I just subtly redirected his attention.

I also have a nephew who is about 4 and he absolutely loves dolls. Otherwise he seems to be a typical boy -- he loves to rough house etc.

Anyway I agree with Kai that as a parent you have to strike a balance between inspiration and preparation. You prepare them for what you believe they may experience but you also try to show them that through going for their dreams they have the ability to change their experience.

Dan Moran said...

Aim high. Even your failures will be more interesting.

>Fatherhood teaches you so much about yourself...

Truer words....if it helps, the failure to distinguish on the gender stuff is typical of that age. My now six year old liked to play with Barbies when he was 3. Today he's 6 and isn't interested in anything that doesn't have wheels or shoot something.

Anonymous said...

I never steered my kids much one way or the other. My usual advice to them was along the lines of, its your life you have to figure out what kind of life you want and act accordingly.

Marty S

suzanne said...

remember the larger GIJoe, Steve? not an action figure
the masculine doll
for boys who want to play with dolls

nothing wrong with doll playing boys!

and I'm for both
aiming high and
and being realistic
some kids out there
will be the geniuses
who actually do both

just as long as the kid deides
what to aim for
not the parents

too many parents
decide and quite early on
what they want their kids to be
before the kid has a chance to explore
for her-/himself
I saw lots of these young folks
when I worked
at the medical college

they hated it
but their parents had decided . . .

Michael Canfield said...

Seems that often people prefer to recommend giving more practical advice, and yet secretly desire that they had been given a lot more "live-your-dreams" advice in their own youth.

Steve Perry said...

Four women? You didn't tell me you'd moved -- living next to the L.A. School for the Blind, are you ... ?

Anonymous said...

"I can sympathize with the 'princess situation'. The other day my son was playing with one of his older sister's princess dolls..."

Could there be a dearth of interesting princes in stories for kids?

"too many parents
decide and quite early on
what they want their kids to be
before the kid has a chance to explore
for her-/himself
I saw lots of these young folks
when I worked
at the medical college

"they hated it
but their parents had decided . . ."

Now I wonder how bad they'll be to their patients...

Lynn said...

Heh. When my younger son (now 23) was about four or five years old he decided he wanted a skirt - one of the full ones that billow out when you whirl around. He was fascinated with that. He grew out of it in a short time.

The best thing you can give your kids: variety. Expose them to lots of different things - reality, fantasy, ideas, opinions, speculation. Let them explore. They'll make you cringe a lot but they'll probably end up being more like you and their mother than you expect.

Lynn said...

Oh... almost forgot the part that cracked me up. I told him "Boys don't wear skirts." and he said, very firmly, "I do." After that I just ignored it and like I said he outgrew it in less than year.

AlanL said...

Marty said:

I never steered my kids much one way or the other. My usual advice to them was along the lines of, its your life you have to figure out what kind of life you want and act accordingly.

Now *that* is doing it right. At least compared to the line I got from my Dad (consciously or otherwise), which was that I should figure out what kind of life he regretted not having had, and try to have it for him. Took me a distressingly long time to figure out that I might have other and better options.

Pagan Topologist said...

Steve, how can you tell whether a woman is trying to pick you up, or just being friendly? I have never been able to tell, though I have sometimes been told after the fact by a friend that someone was actually trying to pick me up. One time was when Octavia Butler struck up a conversation with me in the dealer's room at BaltiCon. It did not occur to me at all that she was trying to pick me up, but two of my friends who witnessed the conversation said later that it was clear to them.

Mike Ralls said...

Hey Steve,

Quick question; Have you been wearing your wedding ring when these women tried to pick you up?

el viejo soldado said...

"Wow. Four times in the last seven days, women have tried to pick me up...".

I call things like that The Sam's Club Candy Syndrome. Allow me to explain ...

When passing through LA about 10-years ago I accompanied my dad to either Sam's or COSTCO. As we stood in the checkout line I just casually looked behind me and saw palette after palette in a row of candy. Still looking I saw one palette dedicated to Payday candy bars. My favorite as a kid, of course.

I couldn't help but dwell slightly on the bitter irony of it all. I would have committed MURDER to get my widdle 5-12 year old hands on that palette at one time. And, now that I don't have the sweet tooth I once did and could buy 500 (one palette's worth) Paydays and not flinch and two more just for laughs, I stood there thinking God had set me up as His joke-for-the-day.

Christ. There was a time when I knew two hyper-sexed and getting none high school juniors that would have robbed Bank of America to finance any entreprenurial nookie that came there way by speech, mail, or Braille.

EVS said...

Oh ... the kid? Don't sweat it unless he finds "dressing up like mommie" attractive beyond 5 or so, or relates to her in ways you find questionable around the same time, and even then it's a "nurture or nature" debate. Recall Leo or Addison?

EVS said...

PS:

Or "Scooter"?!

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

I have never been able to tell, though I have sometimes been told after the fact by a friend that someone was actually trying to pick me up.

We're trained to only make pick up attempts in ways that allow for plausible deniability.

Steven Barnes said...

I think that I know when someone is trying to pick me up after decades of experience. Which body languages and phrases lead to sex, and which ones don't? No way to quantify this precisely, you just have to follow up and compute the experience. But when drunk women invite you to play strip poker, it's best not to assume she is an art student or a medical nun looking for measles vaccinations.