a day on which public schools or other institutions are closed due to heavy snow.
What child doesn’t love a snow day?
A day off from school to play games, build snow men, go sledding … why, it ranks right up there with Christmas for most kids.
Earlier today, my daughter informed me that there was going to be a giant snowball fight at The Space Needle today, and it was going to be part of a larger event called “Snow Day”.
“They’re going to try and break the world record for most people in a snowball fight”, she told me, “wanna go?”
“Hell, no!”, I thought, “Do I look five to you? Do I look like I want to freeze my ass off while you hit me in the gonads with a snowball that your sweaty hands always manage to turn into hardened ice?”
After pausing for a few seconds to think that one through once, twice, and a third time for good measure, I finally said … “Sure, that sounds like fun.”
Ah, selflessness. It took some time to get there, but eventually, it happened.
As I was preparing to leave for “Snow Day”, however, I had a nagging feeling. A feeling that, despite this event being a “snowball fight”, that it would be limited to older kids. Those over 20 or so. Don’t ask me why, it was just a hunch.
Perhaps it was because, this time last year, when Seattle received snow, my kids were the only chronological kids sledding on Denny Hill. While it was fun, it was a bit awkward at times watching the other children, average age 37, expressing annoyance because they had to wait for a *gasp* kid to go ahead of them.
Seattle finds itself in the grip of an epidemic of prolonged adolescence … one in which age-appropriateness can no longer be assumed for anything. Kickball, dodgeball, pillow fights — that which was once the domain of children, children with loose teeth, Star Wars lunch boxes, and chicken pox … is now the domain of children with driver licenses, beards, and sweet barista jobs at Starbucks.
There was no room for assumption.
“I’ll tell you what”, I told my kids before heading out the door, “I’m going to ride by real quick to make sure it’s still going on. I’ll be back in fifteen minutes, and if everything’s okay, we’ll walk over.”
Blessings were given, and I headed out into the cold January air.
When I got to Seattle Center, and walked up to the fenced off “Snow Day” area, my suspicions were preliminarily confirmed. There were kids outside of the fence, looking on wistfully as grown adults played in the snow, but there were no kids participating in the festivities themselves. At least no chronological children.
I took a few pictures, then I stood and watched the surreal spectacle for a little while … turning my head to see 10 year old kids, standing quietly, silently … then looking over at the adults, laughing, building snow men, and flying model helicopters.
Wanting to get an official ruling, I walked up to an event staff member, asked him if there was a minimum age, and he said “Yes, eighteen.”
18 years old is the minimum age in Seattle … not to drink, not to drive, not to get married, not to serve their country, but 18 years old is the minimum age … to play in the snow.
What is going on in this country? I mean, maybe I’m wrong, but to the best of my knowledge, there is no other time in human history where our population has been so overtly immature.
Back in ancient times, kings ruled at the age of 12, women started families as soon as they hit puberty, and the notion that 17 year olds were “kids” was unheard of. The acceptable ages for these types of things increased with life expectancy, and certainly for the best, but we’re now at a point where adolescence lasts through ones thirties, and in some cases, their forties and beyond.
How did this happen?
Frankly, I don’t know. I have a theory, though.
In recent years, the popular media has begun labeling our current generation … “Generation Me”. It has done so while printing quotes from this demographic; quotes where they brag about being “too self-centered to have children.” Where once being selfish was considered a character flaw, the very cornerstone of immaturity, it has now become a positive attribute.
In many ways, I do get it. Marriage and parenthood have become such a raw deal for American men, that I thank my lucky stars every day that I did not have a son. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think history will judge us harshly for our propensity to care only about fashionable causes and “in” groups of people.
On the other hand, it’s this same shunning of parenthood that keeps a very large portion of our adult population … forever children.
I used to have a saying years ago: Maturity is the point at which you realize that everything you’ve been told is a lie.
Santa Claus, religion, charities, American divinity, it’s not easy to realize that you’ve been had for your entire life, but it is absolutely imperative for mental maturation. It’s the reason that young people have traditionally been more idealistic than their older peers.
Lately, however, I’ve added another critical element to my own definition of maturity.
See, I thought I was mature when I was 30. In fact, I would have scoffed at anyone who had said otherwise. After all, I’d travelled the world, toured the USA, earned regular paychecks, paid taxes, had health insurance, and banged women who had kids. No longer was I travelling the country in the back of a smelly van, now, I had my own place, my own credit cards, and I was contributing to my very own retirement plan. At last, I was a man. All that was missing was a pipe and slippers.
Or so I thought.
While my own debatable maturity is still a work in progress, and I think it’s important to always remain true to your youth (I still ride a scooter and write a stupid blog) … my outlook on life was soon to change, and change dramatically.
Shortly after my first daughter was born, I realized that nothing could be easier than an able-bodied person to take care of him or herself. All you really need to do is have five roommates and a part time job at Taco Bell … and if you have middle-class-or-above parents, most of the time you don’t even need that.
I learned that there is something about being completely responsible for the health and welfare of another human being, that makes one see the world in an entirely different light. It’s a world in which idealism ceases to exist, for practical reality is all that matters. It causes you to see through both the hype and the pettiness, makes you become a selfless human being, sensitive to the needs of others above and beyond those of your own, and requires that you take complete responsibility for your own actions. Most of all, it forces you to grow up. There is no more turning to mommy and daddy, for now, you are mommy and daddy.
Some people think parenthood is scary, but these people are full of shit. It’s not scary, it’s the most terrifying thing that a human being can do. Because of this, it’s a right of passage through which all humans must pass before they can truly call themselves adults.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that fathering or having a child makes one mature. Far from it. I do, however, increasingly feel that it is a requisite to achieving both mental and emotional human maturity. Of course, there are always exceptions, and it is possible to find examples of perfectly mature, childless people, but this is increasingly becoming rare.
When I stop and think about it, it seems that anytime you deny a biological, evolutionary imperative, things get weird. This is seen in the proliferation of 30-70 year old women who increasingly refer to themselves as “girls”. It shows in the general nuttiness of the childless woman whose biological clock is about to run out. It shows when you’re standing at the end of Pike Place, watching supposedly-grown men yell at a girl’s father because he thinks God dislikes gay people. It shows when 6’2″, 28 year old boys knock your young daughter down in a race to play a video game. It shows, when 2,000 people show up for a snowball fight, and all of them are over the age of 20.
When I got home, and broke the news to my own kids … I was relieved to see them take it well.
“Are you kidding?”, said one as she rolled her eyes, “didn’t they get it out of their system when they were kids?”
“Why on earth would adults want to play in the snow???”, asked the other.
Anyway, good luck to the snowball fighters in their quest to break the world record. If you succeed, then someday, it’s something you’ll be able to tell someone else’s grandchildren about.