Zaphod turns 12 this October. Trillian is 10 and a half. Zaphod has the cutest little peach fuzz starting to grow above his lip. Trillian is “sprouting”. Both of them are moody, snarky and snippy in such a fashion that the only way to explain it is that hormones are starting to get to work in their bodies.
I even see it in little things. My early risers are slowly starting to stay up (and get up) later, no matter what time I send them to bed. Both of them are starting to develop their own taste in music. Trillian, who has always kept me at arms length since she was a baby, now has started to warm to me; it’s a shame, NOW that she’s older and somewhat heavier (but still with a bony behind), she wants to sit on my lap all the time.
And now it seems like the subject constantly discussed at our house is sex (and other worldly pleasures). Oh, we still talk in generalities concerning the plumbing of sex, but we’re pretty specific about the morality and effects of it.
Even more shocking is that I constantly seem to be issuing warnings concerning those pleasures. When did I get to be such a fuddy-duddy? Especially considering the fact that I’m pretty fond of pleasure myself. But, it is what it is.
I’ve somehow become the parent who sucks all the fun out of everything.
The world will entice them with one night stands, frat parties, buffets, pot, and lots of shiny things.
What they hear from me is pregnancy, disease, date rape, hangovers, weight gain, health problems, car payments and credit card bills.
Come to think of it, I’d roll my eyes at me, too. I’d be surprised if my kids don’t grow up convinced that I think sex is dirty and fun is evil. If they only knew…
Anyway, I think I do this because I know that all of this will fall on deaf ears very soon – if it isn’t already. Very soon, no matter what I say, the pursuit of pleasures of all kinds will be the overriding theme of their lives. It will not fully subside until the hormones start to decrease when they get about my age. Hopefully, my admonitions will be in the back of their minds when the right moment arises.
If I could say what I really want to say to my kids about pleasure, I would say this: It is a wonderful sail, but a horrible anchor. It can give your life enjoyment, but it can’t give it meaning.
For a while, the former will be enough for them.
I do not think the pleasures of this world, even the desires for them, are inherently evil. I do not think the “consequences” of acts that bring us pleasure are “punishment”. I do find it interesting that nothing pleasurable in this world seems to be without price, but that is just one of the mysteries of the universe, and a far cry from the concept of vindictive “punishment”.
I do, however, think that most people (including myself at times) get lost, and lose the ability to put the pursuit of pleasure into its proper place. It becomes our Master – and ironically, pleasure is possibly the cruelest Master of all. It has been said: meaninglessness comes not from being weary of pain, but from being weary of pleasure.
It’s such a cliche: moderation in all things is key. This is the reason we try to protect our children from their desire for pleasures when they are in their teens. It isn’t until they are in their twenties (if even then) that they have the ability to enjoy life’s pleasures in moderation, and with the proper mindset.
So, for now, I get to continue being a hypocrite to untrained eyes. I love a good hearty breakfast, I drink beer (sometimes a little too much), I enjoy the female form in general and Lintilla’s in particular. I chase Lintilla around the house whenever the chance arises. I imbibe in pretty much all the world has to offer, within the proper boundaries.
And I issue a whole lot of warnings to my children about these very things.