Culture Shock

As a responsible parent of the 00’s, I try my best to impart a sense of culture onto my children. In an ideal world, I would introduce my children to the refinements of the opera, the theatre, polo, and the art of Andy Warhol. Fortunately, I don’t live in an ideal world, so I have been able to spare my children from being exposed to these cultural activities.

No, my sense of culture is of a less refined type. Were I a rich and idle millionaire, I would not waste my time peering through opera glasses from the Queen’s balcony in order to determine if Pavorotti was lip-synching or not. I would spend my time developing a game that combined the best aspects of bumper pool and bowling.

In this game, which I would dub “bumpling,” players would whack away at bowling balls with large bowling pin shaped cues, causing them to carom off the bumpers into the side and corner pockets. In bumpling, people waiting their turn to play would be allowed, even encouraged, to perform sixty-style dances on top of the bumpers; dances like the one immortalized by Nancy Sinatra a the end of her hit song These Boots Were Made for Walking.

I got myself thinking about all this culture as I was helping my children put together their papers the other day. Instead of playing my CD compilation of Rossini’s greatest hits, I put in my CD of the 80’s breakthrough album from The B-52’s. You may recall the immortal lyrics from Planet Claire:

Planet Claire has pink air

All the trees are red

No one ever dies there

No one has a head

Ah, the stirring poetry of the punk rock era.

So I was feeling pretty pleased with the cultural development of my children, when the thought occurred to me, “What am I doing helping my children with their papers?”

I had a paper route when I was a young boy. Six days a week, I waited on the street corner, in the rain and the snow and the sleet and the fog, for my bundle of papers to be delivered. Then I would build myself a shelter out of the pebbles scavenged from my hair, the ones that were left there by the delivery van peeling away, so that I could put my papers together in a semi-dry environment.

I was thinking these things as I was sitting on the floor in our air-conditioned house, helping my children put their papers together while listening to the B-52’s on our stereo system. I have therefore come to the conclusion that kids today are exposed to too much culture, and that this has made them soft to the realities of hard labor.

Whereas I had to submit to a six-day regimen of delivering papers, my children only have to deliver their papers once or twice a week. Nonetheless, they whine and carry on as if this were the most arduous task since building the national railroad across Canada in the 1800’s, which involved blasting tunnels through the Rocky Mountains. Talk about your cultural activities!

Here is a typical day at the Burn household on paper delivery day:

8:00 a.m. The papers arrive on our front porch.

8:05 a.m. I ask the boys to bring in their papers and start putting them together. I start my household chores like cutting the grass, washing the cars, etc.

8:10 a.m. The boys start playing a Nintendo game with a story line more involved than that in The Lord of the Rings.

10:30 a.m. The papers are finally brought in and left in random piles in the entryway. Nintendo play resumes.

1:00 p.m. The boys go out to play with their friends.

5:00 p.m. The boys come in for dinner.

6:00 p.m. The kids ask me to help them put their papers together.

6:01 p.m. I launch into a well-rehearsed rant about responsibility and Nintendo and friends and how I never asked for help when I had a paper route in the 70’s.

6:20 p.m. I start helping the boys put their papers together.

7:30 p.m. I ask the boys to start delivering their papers.

7:40 p.m. The children come back home from delivering three papers and declare that they need a break. I tackle them before they can reach the Nintendo game. I send them out again.

8:00 p.m. The kids straggle in like they were trapped coal miners just rescued from a nine-day ordeal and beg me to please drive them for the rest of their route.

9:00 p.m. I park the van and insist that, under no circumstances, are they ever again to drag out a two-hour job into a daylong tribulation. The kids scamper cheerfully out of the van to make plans for tomorrow.

I guess this explains culture shock. You know, the shock that courses through parents when they realize that culturally, our kids are living in a different world from when we were kids, and that our kids will one day experience when they become parents.

Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and webmaster for the Canadian Catholic Information Network. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.

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