07 April 2011

I Weep For the Future

Recently, the Doozer has surprised (and impressed) us by slowly revealing that he has completely memorized entire books. Apparently, there was method to his madness of forcing us to read the same stories, day after day, night after night, until the wife and I were so sick to death of these stories that we'd rather scratch out our eyeballs than endure them even one more time.

At 2 1/2, he clearly can't read yet, but he knows what words go with what pages, turning to the next page at exactly the right moment, which gives it the appearance of reading. He has even adopted our reading styles, appropriating the same inflections and tones of voice that we employ when reading these books to him.

Last night, it was Where the Wild Things Are and Knuffle Bunny, cover to cover. When there were pages without words, he'd vividly describe the action to us. This is pretty much the best free entertainment I've seen in a long time.

It took only a handful, as opposed to countless, readings for him to fully commit to memory the contents of A Child's Book of Art by Lucy Micklethwait. This one came from the wife's bookshelf and it's a great big hardcover , 60-plus pages of various works of art, spanning centuries, continents, and styles, featuring Matisse, Picasso, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Hockney, Escher, and many others. The book is arranged into sections based on what appears in the paintings or drawings. Groupings such as animals or family members or fruit or outdoor activities or rooms in a house.

Each image is captioned briefly, often with just one word. This simplicity, no doubt, was instrumental in the ease of the Doozer's memorization.

We've attempted to take it a step further and teach him the names of some of the artists. So far we have been successful only with Kandinsky. (But what a victory.) Having a 2-year-old identify this artist's work and speak his name aloud is completely hilarious. And though he is pretty astute and resistant to our many attempts at turning him into a dancing monkey, steadfastly refusing to perform on cue, especially when an audience larger than his parents is present, this is one party trick we hope to exploit.


Anyway, my real point is specifically related to the book's section titled "Things to Do." In it, there is this image by Gerard ter Borch, named Woman Writing a Letter (circa 1655).

It has a one-word caption: Writing. (It appears on a page with Reading, Painting, and Drawing.) And so when we've read it to him, we've said, "Writing." (Obviously.) However, now that he's "reading" it back to us, he is saying "typing."

Now, I realize that a quill pen is an uncommon and foreign sight to eyes so young. But to see the general concept of writing transformed into his mind into no more than the use of a computer, to see what appears to me to be the eradication of a word which the boy's father uses to define his entire existence in this world—that's a little scary.

True, I fully recognize the irony of sitting here on the couch, composing this missive on my laptop as he sits nearby. No wonder he thinks of it as typing. (Ed. note: In my defense, I did use a pen and a notebook to draft a rough, early version of this post. Of course, he didn't actually witness that. Damn.) I suppose this is just a reflection of the wired nature of the world in which he finds himself growing up. It reminds me of that old PSA about the father confronting his kid about his drug use: "You, all right! I learned it by watching you!"

The whole thing reminded me of a brilliant sequence on 30 Rock recently, depicting renowned, acclaimed playwright, TV and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (fresh off his Oscar win for The Social Network, no less) having to beg Nick Lachey for a job on reality TV series, The Sing Off. Hilarious. But also somewhat poignant.

I weep for the future.

It's like he's intentionally scrubbing this word from his vocabulary. We are "writing" emails, we inform him. He persists in calling it "typing."

I weep for the future. (Mitch Albom-style.)

I can picture it now, in a few years, a little bit older, when asked what his father does, he will say "type" and while technically this may be an accurate statement—it is the means by which I record the oft-brilliant thoughts rattling around in my brain—it completely diminishes the act of creation. I am more than just a stenographer. Not that there's anything wrong with that . . .

Now he's got me so worked up, I am slandering other perfectly decent professions. How dare he? Don't you realize what you're doing to me?

Listen, kid. The pen is mightier than the . . . well, that ridiculous light-up sword you got from the circus, for one. And all those precious books you love, all those episodes of your beloved Dora the Explorer? Somebody wrote those.

This is writing, kid. Take note.

Even if I do happen to be typing while I . . . dammit!

No comments:

Post a Comment