Monday, January 19, 2015

Innocence Not Yet Lost

Elise and I and the kids just got back from two nights at the beach at Fisherman’s Cove. It went by way too fast. Elise and I didn’t fully relax until it was time to pack-up and head back home. Neither of us are feeling quite ourselves, and it’s been awhile since we’ve had any down time. The longer you go without a break, the longer it takes for you to flush the BS out of your system, and it has been a long time, since August, I’d gather. That’s a lot of BS.

It takes time to think about nothing, to clear your head. You can unplug, turn the cell phone off, but the gears are still turning, still processing old information even if no new information is coming in. I felt emotionally constipated. Blocked up. As stuffed up in the brain as I was in my nasal passages.

It’s sad to say we went to a beach resort and never really relaxed, but it wasn’t a wasted trip. The kids had fun. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. It was for them, anyway. Like going to Disney World. You do it for the kids. Unless you’re one of those weird, childless couples that goes to Disney World in matching Mickey Mouse sweatshirts and ears, awkwardly waiting in line to get your picture taken with belle from “Beauty and the Beast”. (I will admit that Elise and I went to Epcot before we had kids, but as I recall, we just pretty much drank ourselves around the world).

We can talk about the kids right in front of them and they have no idea we are talking about them. That should be an indicator of how good their listening has been recently. At this age, you can still say things like, “Well, at least the kids had fun.” and it can go completely unheard.

I miss that kind of naiveté, the innocence of a child. I try to remember back to when I didn’t know about all the scary shit that went on in the world around me. My parents watched NBC Nightly News, but even then it was background noise. I think this is one of the best things about being a child, a sense of complete and total obliviousness, and I try to keep our kids as oblivious as possible which isn’t always easy.

The last time we had come to Fisherman’s Cove, they were all about the pool and the swim-up bar. They did their share of swimming, too, but the beach was a much bigger attraction than it was last time, though they never got in the water. Sadly, the beach was filthy, strewn with garbage. I swam in the ocean last time, but not this time. I wouldn’t have been able to swim five feet without being wrapped up in some piece of random plastic, fishing line, a net, or discarded sari. There was a garbage line on the beach, much like a seaweed line on the beach in Florida. Plastic wrappers and empty plastic shampoo bottles, but the kids didn’t even seem to notice.

They ran down to their favorite spot by the rocks, watching the tide go in or come out. Sam scrambled over the rocks and just sat their staring out at the sea; I wondered what was going through his mind. Clementine and I made sand castles. Peter ran in and out of the surf, skipping playfully around the garbage at his feet.

When we lived in Brazil and I would drive my family to my office, we had to stop the car at the gate of the building and turn the engine off while the guards checked under the chassis and hood for bombs. At first, I didn’t know how to explain this to Peter and Sam, so I told them that the guards were nice enough to check our engine and oil for us every time we drove to the office. They were young enough at the time that it actually worked; they believed me, and innocence was maintained.

Our neighbors here in India recently lost a child at birth. They have pictures of the baby hung in the living room and dining room of their home. Elise accepted an invitation for the kids to play with their kids and discovered the pictures. Clementine pointed at one and asked what it was. I don’t expect to hide everything in the world from them forever. To keep them unknowledgeable about death—especially in India where death is celebrated openly and mortality is, daily, right in front of your face—is especially difficult…if not impossible. We drive by the precariousness of the human condition every day on the way to work or school. But it is my job to protect my children, and I will be the one to decide when they learn about death. That is my right as a parent, and I won’t let anyone take that away from me.

I try to remember when I lost that innocence, the moment I became aware of the world around me. Wars happened when I was a kid. I read about them now. The Middle East was blowing up. People were lined up for miles waiting to fill their cars with gas in the early 80’s, but I didn’t know anything about it. Doubtlessly, stick markets crashed, rebounded, crashed again.

It may have been 9/11. I think even when I still lived in Colorado I was fairly naïve about the world, happily ensconced in my life of waiting tables and going to grad school in small, snowy hamlet at the edge of the Rocky Mountains.

My dad is a worrier. He worries constantly. He watches the Weather Channel and worries about the weather, coming freezes, the tides. He worries about too much rain and not enough rain. He watches the stock ticker spin by at the bottom of the financial report and he worries about his stocks, his savings, his retirement, his financial portfolio, his taxes. He worries about Republicans and Democrats. He believes—at times—some of what they say on Fox News, though I like to think him smarter than that. The people on Fox News may be smarter. Not smarter. They just know how to get into your psyche, to push the panic button, to make you worry. There is a whole industry, an economy that profits on worry, and they can proliferate worry and angst for their own financial gains. People can be that manipulative. Popular media is that manipulative. They can take current events and mold them and present them in such a way as to maximize worry, to promulgate angst, to sell TV ads.

I am not a worrier. Never have been. Knowing about the world does necessarily mean I worry about it. I don’t watch CNN. That helps. I love living overseas mostly for that reason. So I don’t have to be constantly inundated by bad news. Even if I don’t worry about it, it doesn’t mean that it still doesn’t seep into my brain and affect my subconscious in perfidious ways. I hate that about being back in the States, the fact that you can’t even go out for a burger and a beer without having the TV on, tuned to Breaking News.

There is always Breaking News. Even when there isn’t.

I wonder if in order for children to stay innocent there has to be a worrier, a sentinel. Was I able to not worry about presidential election results or guerillas marching through the Congo because my dad was there to worry for me. Am I failing my kids by not filling that role for them?

They will become more aware more quickly than I am ready. The fact that they already know we will not live in India forever and have already started to ask where we will go next—though it is a year away—startled me.

We try to keep them focused on the present. In the coming weeks, this will become increasingly hard as our new bid list comes out and we start lobbying for our next post. Talk of the future will be impossible to avoid, but, in this, too, it will be important to keep them in the present. Peter is already talking about kindergarten, though he has a whole semester of pre-school in front of him.

And that is all I want him to think about.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's fortunate to be able to live like a child. And in South India, which, according to something I recently read, has not been the site of a major war since the British-French clashes of the eighteenth century. Sort of like Colorado, I guess. But with more pollution and daily annoyances.