Starting The Weekend With Cartoons And Reflecting On Childhood - An Act Of Kindness Or A Self Indulgent Treat?

26/01/2017 17:32
Portra Images via Getty Images

At a time where the competitive parent is striving and doing star jumps at six am with sweatband on head and child in tow, also doing star jumps like some crazed mini-me Shaun T; I am perfectly happy to have bonding time with my son over cartoons I watched as a kid.

In fact, I think it's awesome.

It seems especially poignant at the moment as a form of escapism from the barrage of political news and misinformation purported by our leaders. Cartoons are currently making more sense than congress.

I feel most of the time that I'm mentally swatting away the glossy images and fast information of a postcard perfect childhood. These idealised versions of the weekend, these unreachable heights that are dangled in front of me are, well, nonsense.

The notion that I should always have enough energy or have planned in advance to make something magical happen for my boy, and for me come to think of it, is quite nauseating.

Last summer my dad visited and we took my boy to various places. While we chatted over a coffee, as my boy played on a newly constructed wooden castle at a local petting farm and owl sanctuary, my dad said to me, "Was I a good dad?" I didn't quite follow. I thought it was evident but he started to explain that all the things he sees now, the places that we go to with my boy, they didn't exist in Manchester in the 1980's.

It's really hard for me to put into words just how incredible my dad is and what he did for me as a child. Weekends growing up on a council estate were magical. There was no Internet. There was no notion of soft play centres or professional parents from working to middle class backgrounds who were trying to compete with families in Ivory Towers. We didn't care about the Jones's and we certainly didn't try to keep up with them.

I didn't even know it was a council estate at the time and I had the cartoon genii of the 1980's to spark my imagination and an unkempt green space we lovingly dubbed "The Croft" outside the house. I could leave the house and knock on my mate's door and they'd grab a bike and we'd ride around the estate.

We'd collect eight more mates and a football and would play until dusk. We played imaginary games at the back of the house and "kick can" by the lamp post at the front. I had space to develop, to find friends and to, most importantly, fail and try again. The thought of allowing my boy outside to play at the age of eight is, frankly, petrifying.

Now, three decades on, my weekend starts with lazy pyjama snuggles and a hearty dose of Octonauts, Transformers (still going strong!!), Danger Mouse (80's revival is awesome) and various Marvel superheroes (Can't. Quite. Take it).

In essence, what is happening here, is that I'm getting to regress and relive my youth. Fellas, do you expect brownie points for that? Ha, the logic of man.

Of course I'd tell myself that, out of the kindness of my heart, I got out of bed at six am (a dreary eyed hero whispering, "it's OK, you lie in, I'll sort him out") to find He-Man on Netflix, only to replay the homely nostalgia of being a child again.

It makes sense.

The world has changed since we were young and the bombardment of information has grown exponentially. Why wouldn't we put the duvet up to our chins, tuck our children under our arms and giggle ridiculously at the Clangers.

Yes, I get pangs of guilt. Especially when I hear someone say, "We don't let our children watch television", but I try not to judge or indulge that conversation. I simply rationalise that my formative years as a youngster were made of many experiences:

Being outdoors, playing games alongside being indoors with my dad, watching the wonderful stories, characters and ridiculous slapstick comedy that made us laugh and smile to the backdrop of Thatcherism.

So yes, on Saturday and Sunday morning, we watch a bit of TV, sometimes for nostalgia, sometimes out of laziness/total exhaustion, sometimes because it's funny and we have a sense of humour.

I rationalise further that where I grew up in Thatcher's Britain, my son is growing up in a global neighbourhood that produces a vast range of schisms that send me into a blind panic about the kinds of things I need to prepare him for.

So instead of relaying those anxieties to him, I work as hard as I can through the week so that when Saturday morning comes we get to watch some cartoons, go swimming and climb up a mountain to look at the view over the North Wales coast.

All too soon I turn off Saturday morning TV to start the day's schedule. As an adult I find I get bored more readily than I used to and I pull the stories, characters, motives and narrative structures apart in frustrated angst. Plus, they talk like unhinged balloons, frantically spilling air in a shrill warble.

One national treasure who particularly bothers me (although he's fallen out of favour with my son lately) is Postman Pat, but that's a different story.

Comments

CONVERSATIONS