I've been a Toronto Sun reader for almost as long as I could read. No, I don't look at the pictures--not even the one that used to grace (?) page three and now resides somewhere near the back...the one of the half-naked sapling with the navel stud "who loves dancing, shopping, and anal sex". In fact, I rarely read the news articles, which are often sensationalistic, sloppy, and riddled with typos. No, the appeal of the Toronto Sun, for me, resides below all that. For one thing, they don't censor their opinion writers, like most papers do: you'll often find two writers feuding with each other in print, which is both entertaining and edifying. For another, its sports coverage is among the best on the continent, and miles ahead of any of the other Toronto dailies'. And for a third, the Sunday Sun in particular is always a cornucopia of diversion, with a huge, compulsively readable entertainment section, at least three quizzes that are weekly staples in this household, and a number of very good lifestyle columnists.
That said, I've taken to reading the Saturday edition of the Toronto Star each week. Once a week is about all I can stand: they lean so far left they nearly fall over under the weight of their pomposity. Somebody high in the Star's pecking order has established an inviolable rule that some Minority or Social Cause of choice *must* appear on the front page each and every day. If a shopping mall blows up, they'll write that story from a black (sorry: African-Canadian) wheelchair-bound lesbian homeless person's point of view. Any article that portrays conservative (either fiscal *or* social) policies in anything remotely approaching a positive way must be offset by pages of Liberal propaganda, so that its inclusion might conceivably be explained as an oversight.
But...there's some good writing in the Star. Long, meaty articles that have the power to make me forget I'm reading a paper which once criticized Mike Harris in its FOOD section.
Today, the topic was childhood, or rather, its disappearance. Apparantly, many kids now have to be *taught* what to do on a playground.
Now, many who know me might think that I fell into that category myself, as a kid. Not so. While it is true that books were my usual playground, I played quite a few games all through my childhood. Most of them I stunk at, true: but I excelled in a few and even created one: "bockey", a hybrid basketball-hockey that actually became something of a fad around London.
This article got me to thinking about the last time I saw a street hockey game. When the hell was that? I don't remember. It's been years.
My first really close friend was named Tim. It's been nearly twenty years since I last saw him, but I remember scads of detail. The usual stuff you'd expect Ken Breadner to remember: his street address (341 Stephen Street), his mother's weird habit of running the fireplace on sweltering July days, his family's TRS-80 Model I computer, his incredibly cute (and incredibly snotty) sister. But so much more: the snow forts we used to build; his ability to name any bird that caught his eye; a raisin fight we got into one night, the remains of which were still being discovered three years later. We had a lot of fun.
One thing I remember very clearly about Tim was that he was *always* busy. It seemed like every year, there were at least two more extra-curricular activities, until his days rivalled those of corporate CEOs' for sheer stress. I recall thinking that Tim was going to burn out before he hit 30. He repeatedly told me he *liked* all this activity, and he was certainly good at just about everything he did, but I sometimes thought I could see a different truth in his eyes. Help, they said. Help me, I'm in childhood prison here.
Today, there are millions of Tims, male and female, all of them tried early and convicted of the heinous crime of being children. At the first sign of unstructured play, their parents bound and shackled them into a brutal regime of ballet, piano, karate, chess club, debating team, football, Brownies, Irish dancing...the list is endless. If parents could find a way to fit all of that in one day and still have time for six hours of homework, you bet your teenage ulcer they'd do it.
All this play looks a lot like work, doesn't it? Work, you know, the very thing most adults claim to hate? Why in the hell are we inflicting it on our children? Do we honestly believe that making kids embody the worst behaviour of adults will ensure adult success?
6:30 a.m. We're heading for work, doing the speed limit as we proceed through a school zone. Car after car whizzes past us, and we can't help wondering: if everybody's in such a God-damned hurry, why didn't they leave the house a couple of minutes earlier? Can they really be *that* eager to get to the office? Boy, they must *love* their jobs.
Our society is obsessed with speed. In my grocery store, the fastest-growing segment is frozen prepared dinners. A cursory examination of the ingredients on any one of these things will baffle a chemist. But you can cook them from frozen in only nine seconds!
Supposedly, nobody has time to cook any more. Meet Nobody: Eva Breadner. Not only does she cook, she can cook anything and cook it well. Her knowledge of food preparation techniques is encyclopaedic. She taught herself how to make chocolates, and her chocolates have netted us a small fortune. Until low-carb bread came on the scene, she was routinely baking her own recipe of same. You get the point: I may be biased, but only because familiarity breeds contentment.
Well, people say. You two don't have kids yet. You'll see.
You don't know my wife.
If anything, kids are going to make us slow down even more, so as to really savour each moment. We won't be thrust into the rat race, because even when you win the rat race, you're still a rat. We'll be living our own bucolic, pastoral life right here in the city, on our own schedule. Our kids will pursue anything they're interested in, but they won't be straight-jacketed by our expectations for them, because we have none. We have no ego invested in our children becoming NHL superstars or surgeons or corporate lawyers. Our kids will be kids. If that means they while away a day staring up at the clouds, well, that's where dreams live. It's a pity so many parents have forgotten that.