Turning Back Pages

The back wall of the office in our house consists primarily of bookshelves. Because Karen is (and I find this a very attractive trait…sort of the hot librarian thing) a compulsive organizer, these books are carefully categorized according to the various disciplines that she and I have studied and practiced during our lives. As such, old textbooks of every stripe are located amongst those shelves. On occasion, I find myself pulling an old undergrad textbook from the shelf and glancing through it. On Saturday morning, with our daughter watching cartoons and Karen sleeping in, I was doing just that.

One of the books that I looked through was an old technical writing text. This was actually from my post-undergrad (is there such a thing?) period in which I went back for some professional courses after completing my degree. I mention that only to stipulate that this book isn’t even as old as several of the textbooks that we still own. In the back of this book was an appendix on the web. The focus was on writing content, but the discussion about HyperText Markup Language and the construction of the web was amusing to me. It’s fascinating to take a look back on this, partly because HTML is second nature to me now (a stretch from the confused glaze on my eyes the first time I encountered code), but also because of how completely out of date a text can become in such a short period of time.

When I worked in the behavioral health field, there were trends that came and went…popular techniques that were deemed to be effective at points but then phased out in favor of what was proven by time to be beneficial to the client. With some exception, common sense tended to prevail. In other words, the core concepts of what makes for good parenting skills today aren’t all that drastically different from, say, five years ago. When I think of other areas in which I’ve practiced…avocations more than vocations…the same is generally true. Good storytelling, good acting…these crafts have a very long history behind them telling us what makes for good practice.

The same certainly can’t be said for technology. That’s why it was so interesting to read information that would be considered ancient today in the back of a book on writing, the rest of which, generally speaking, would still be considered at least a mostly accurate referent for study on the topic. It’s a unique point in history…honestly, a bit of a disconcerting point…in which the rapid pace of our change so quickly makes obsolete knowledge that came so recently to us. I’m concerned about how this de-values education, how it rushes an already frantic pace of life, how it leaves us tumbling, holding on to fleeting bits of wisdom from the past being sucked by as though an explosive decompression had just occurred at 30,000 feet. There’s always a direct correlation between the speed at which a task moves and the (lack of) quality of the finished product. The last thing that we need in our post-modern age, where history repeats itself and we continuously find new reasons to harm each other, is to have more reason to not think things through and rush to action.

That’s exactly the sort of thing that those textbooks from decades ago can work to counteract.

A Hiro of a Different Sort

Our daughter, from as early as we permitted screen time, has loved Thomas the Train.

I have no complaints. First off, the grammar and language use are excellent, and the morality tale contained within each movie is of high quality. I think that it’s a good thing for her. I also like that she likes “playing trains” with Daddy, because, honestly, I’m sort of into watching the trains rush around the track. For that matter, I like putting the track together with her. I’d much rather she be absorbed in the world of Thomas than in more…well, more frilly, girly things to which I would have difficulty relating. ┬áSo, we feed her habit. She’s amassed quite a collection of trains and track at this point.

Because we travel over the Christmas holiday, we usually open our gifts at least two days early, before we’re either in a car or on a plane to see family members. This year, the gift from Daddy was one that I had been hoping to be able to have her unwrap for some time.

One of her favorite Thomas movies is Hero of the Rails, where we are introduced to a new character, Hiro. Hiro is a wise, old engine that brings a new dynamic to the group of friends and characters of Thomas’ world. Our daughter loved Hiro, but, because he was initially a character only appearing in that movie, the toy was produced in limited quality and had become a bit of a collector’s item. Hiro was rare and difficult to find for less than $50, which is more than we were willing to pay for a toy.

Recently, Hiro has been produced again, but it still more difficult to find than many other engines. When we stumbled onto him online while shopping for other gifts for an under-$20 price tag, we clicked the buy button without a second thought. Our daughter’s squeal of delight when opening her gifts…”It’s Hiro!!!”…was more than worth it, and I was having a tall day after having given her the favorite gift of the season.

Of course, then the travels to grandparents happened, and I was totally upstaged by the onslaught of gifts that comes with being an only grand-daughter. I’d like to say I’m too emotionally and spiritually mature to be jealous of this, but…I was totally jealous.

Over the weekend, we were playing trains. We will sit and spin stories and tales of the adventures of Thomas and his friends as her amazing imagination gets its workout and she amazes me with her eloquence. I steered the story to revolve around Hiro wherever I could. I have to be honest, it wasn’t because I was excited about how excited she was about the new toy. Rather, I was a little irritated that she had all but forgotten about Hiro amongst all of the other toys that she has to play with following the Holiday. I was saddened by the fact that the impulse to “nudge” her toward playing with the plastic representation one of her favorite characters wasn’t because of my desire for her happiness, but rather my desire to rectify what I saw as a way that I had been cheated.

Not cool for me to role model selfishness, even though I’m relatively certain she’s aloof to my motivations at age three.

I think that the character of Hiro would probably recognize the sad predicament of my selfishness. Little girls see their daddies as their heroes. I grew up as an only child, which, despite best efforts, results in a bit of a mentality that the world revolves around me. I want to think that, now that I’m an adult, I’ve grown out of that, left it behind. Turns out that I have a great deal of which to purge myself so as to not pass this along to my little girl.