Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Passion of the Child

Hell hath no fury like a child scorned.

It is Major League Baseball playoff time, a time of great joy and/or sorrow, peppered with shouts of obscenities or triumph, at least in our house. Both my husband and son, Jack, are rabid Yankee fans, although I question Jack’s loyalty when the Yanks are behind; he becomes something altogether different than an adoring admirer when the chips are seemingly down for the Bronx Bombers.

When he was younger, the screams and cries – although explosive in nature – were more along the lines of: “Stupid Yankees! What the heck?!” And, now, the 11-year-old younger brother of two older male siblings with questionable vocabularies, substitutes the words “stupid” and “heck” with more colorful terms. This only results in more exasperation when he is properly parentally scolded, while I silently curse both the Yankees and my son for losing control of the game.

Jack’s buddy, Drew, is a Red Sox enthusiast, and his mom Robin reports that their house is just as tense during games. Once this past summer, Jack went over to Drew’s to watch a Yankees-Red Sox game, and Robin and I both braced for a young boy massacre of epic proportions. It never materialized.

When a person, especially a person on the left side of puberty, has a passion for some person, place or thing, it can be fabulously fierce.

Last week in Food Emporium I witnessed the meltdown of a tiny, blonde female toddler when she was not allowed to have a Scooby-Doo Pez dispenser, which hung directly at her eye level at the check-out counter. She was fondling it with longing as she simultaneously tugged on her daddy’s shorts.

“Pez, pweeze! Pez pweeze!” she implored, saucer eyes gazing pleadingly upward.

“No, honey. Not today,” answered her father, prying the Pez from her now vise-like grasp.

The accompanying scream was startling and anguished. As her red-faced dad pulled her away by the waist, her small arms outstretched achingly in Pez Scooby’s direction, as she cried “Nooooooooooo!,” sounding like a lover wailing at her paramour’s departure for war.

I recall the histrionics of my high school girlfriends and me when boyfriend disintegration would occur, as of course teenage relationships are wont to do. The physical and psychological pain seems unbearable and near-animalisitc sounding sobbing feels like the only solution to rid the body of the toxins of rejection. As heartbreaking as it is for a 14-year-old girl, it feels nearly as powerful for the powerless mother; the passion of the parent to protect is instinctive.

Often the attempt to protect a child from disappointment is futile. Losing and disenchantment and frustration are simply part and parcel of life. Without those three, joy would not seem as precious, success not nearly as sweet.

Those pithy clich├ęs – “soldier on,” “this too shall pass,” “it could be worse,” “maybe next time” - and my husband’s favorite – “I want gets nothing,”do little to rectify a passion purged at first blush. Yet I think the child will retain these time-worn and time-honored “slogans” each time they feel thwarted in the future. I want to believe that in their heart-of-hearts that know that they will live to see another day, that the odds of a team winning again will come to fruitition that a Pez Scooby-Doo will some day make it onto the check-put conveyer belt.

The Yanks have made it to and won the World Series 20-something times before and the whole deal is a dream to be dreamed every year. I need to convince Jack to put a little more faith in the pinstriped boys of October.

Either that or move out until the playoffs are over. The latter sounds preferable.

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