I Blame Steinbeck…

I often think about how Katie’s cousin once told me how he plays checkers/chess, board games (hell, even video games) with his kids and NEVER lets them win. That thought is always followed with laughter as I imagine him ruthlessly taking down his kids in Monopoly, making damn sure they leave the game utterly broke, reminding them that it’s not just the real world that will show no mercy when you enter it. 

I believe that letting your kid win in anything is a disservice. Nothing is learned from winning all the time… which would explain why I’ve learned so fucking much in my life. Seriously, if wisdom is gained from every failure, the Dalai Lama should be asking me for advice. 

Recently, Abby had a project she was working on for English class. They have been reading John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Little known fact: I have never read a word of Steinbeck, so Abby had to bring me up to speed on what part of Grapes of Wrath she was reading. She read a portion called “Plight of the Turtle.” The piece is incredibly colorful with similes, metaphors and analogies. The man was an artist with his words, no doubt. Her project was to write her own “Plight” piece: Pick an animal and write a descriptive paragraph that paints a picture for the reader. 

What Abby wrote wasn’t just good for a 15-year-old kid, it was college level writing. This overwhelmed me with pride. And from that Appalachian sized mountain of pride, a small lake of jealousy sprang. I thought to myself, “This writing is good….TOO GOOD. Your similes and metaphors were poetic, coherent and painted a magnificent picture. I kind of want to punch you for being so good at this.” In that moment, I saw this kid become what I wanted to be when I was her age. I’m certain she had already realized this, but it was the first time I had in my ongoing title role of “oblivious dad.

There are people that are just naturally gifted. There are people who you show a music sheet and they can memorize it within seconds and play it back. Having read only a few pages from Steinbeck, this girl adopted his style of writing and made it her own. “Wow” was the only word repeatedly bouncing around in my head. Is she going to work for the Washington Post tomorrow? Perhaps not in the literal sense, but the day when, not if, she passes me on a creative writing level, I can’t wait to be the first one to congratulate her…then kick her in the shins. 

There will come a day when the kid will beat the parent. It’s going to be a kick in the pants for sure, but the other side of this shiny coin will reflect that the kid is getting smarter and coming into their own. It will prove that the world may win one or two, but it will be short-lived and eventually the kiddo will gain control of that aspect in their life and overcome. It’s what distinguishes a version of Abby that’s passed her bar and is now an accomplished lawyer under the age of 30, as opposed to an Abby over 30 that passed out at the bar last night.

I’m certain, now more than ever, I will never become some acclaimed writer in any capacity and that’s okay. My hope is that Abby does something with this gift. Regardless, I’m still faster than Abby. In a foot race, it’s like Hussain Bolt against a toddler. I’m fully aware the last sentence was a shining example of pettiness, but just let me have it.



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