And since armchair subversion pretty much involves making fun of stuff, I mostly like to do that. The closer to home the better. That way if I can poke a little fun at myself or my roots, I won’t come off as at least a little self-deprecating and not quite such a bitter snarky crank.
There’s plenty of good stuff to make fun of when it comes to parenting. Because it’s such a hideously intimidating prospect to begin with, people latch on to all sorts of assumptions and ideologies, which in turn have to be shot down because the rest of us are all secretly terrified that we’re doing it wrong.
If you’re Jewish, or were raised Jewish, even if your family was completely non-observant, you get to make fun of Jewish mothers – otherwise I think they’re a bit too easy of a target to really be a paradigm worth subverting. But if your family is like mine, you have all these high achievers: Professors, rabbis. And doctors! My son the doctah! Even if no one has ever actually used that phrase within earshot, it’s worth ridiculing as a state of mind. My son the doctah, he bought me a condo in Flaaaahrida! What a good boy!
But see, that’s where I’m actually kind of a jerk. All my life I’ve taken that particular cliché and distilled it down to its absolute lowest-brow common denominator, figuring it was all about status and competition and living vicariously through your offspring’s success. I never for a second bothered to think about the actual facts of it, not until this year.
My son’s not a doctah. He’s a college student, formerly a Physics major and as of this coming fall a Political Science major. But in between his sophomore and junior years he took a year off and did a Paramedic certification program at an upstate community college. He passed the last part of the exam yesterday, and he’s now a New York State Certified Paramedic. He was an EMT, riding with an ambulance company there, and now they’ll bump him up. He also has a part-time job with the county as an ambulance dispatcher, the final part of the phone chain when someone calls 911.
And you know, I finally got it. When someone says My son the doctah, sure, sometimes she means he makes a lot of money or drives a nice car or can take care of her in her old age. But there’s also this: My son saves lives. My kid, he’s not even 21 and he saves people’s lives on a regular basis. He’s doing a job that means something to him, that makes a difference in the world pretty much every time he shows up for work. And whereas sure, some folks’ sense of parental self-worth will hinge on how much money their kids make or what kind of cars they drive or how nice a nursing home he's reserved rooms in, mine is that my son saves lives.
So much for the paradigm. Every time I think about this, I am blown away. And, in case it’s not clear enough, very very very proud.
P.S. That's him when he was about 14, in his first suit. He's big now.