Matters Still Matter
There are moments when I REALLY long for the days when the great classical works of literature were taught throughout our schools. At some point in the past several decades, our kids are going off to – and even graduating – college without ever cracking open Chaucer or Milton, much less Orwell or Bradbury.
Now, I understand that there’s a stigma throughout our American educational system today that is repulsed by the very consideration of diving into the works of a bunch of dead white guys; but that categorization hasn’t stopped the gospels of Upton Sinclair, Charles Darwin, Harvey Milk or Christopher Hitchens to be preached in public schools across the land (but, we’ll save ideology disguised as education for another episode).
One of the neglected dead white writers that I was recently reminded of is none other than the under appreciated Billy Shakespeare, from his play Hamlet – or as you may know better as The Lion King. There’s a scene where Zazu… err… Polonius walks in on Simba… I mean, Hamlet reading, then we hear this Shakespearian play on words:
“Lord Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.
Lord Polonius: What is the matter, my lord?
Hamlet: Between who?
Lord Polonius: I mean, the matter that you read, my lord.”
You see, Polonius is wondering about the topic that Hamlet is reading, while Hamlet thinks the “tedious old fool”, Polonius, is referring to what’s going on between two people in their lives. Who knew that “What’s the matter?” can be such a confusing question?
And all THIS reminds me of a series of riddles I used to quiz my kids with when they were little. They went something like this:
If blue and yellow make green, and red and blue make orange, what is 3+2?
The trick to this complicated yet easy question is to disregard the irrelevant information and arrive at the actual answer, which is 5. The “matter” of the colors – even the validity of the color statements – are irrelevant to the “matter” at hand, which is “what is 3+2?”
As my sons grew older, I’d ask, “If a square has four sides and a triangle has five, what is the capital of New York? If they got hung up on the argument of how many sides a triangle has, they fell into my trap and got the answer wrong. For this particular question, all they had to do was focus on the “matter” at hand: Albany.
Now, what does any of this have to do with anything?
Well, we are faced with a plethora of situations in today’s world where us adults and our kids are bombarded with one “matter” after another. The trick is categorizing and prioritizing which matters matter more than the other matters, assuming they matter at all.
In other words: we need to stop arguing over crap that doesn’t matter. And, to paraphrase a young Pastor Mark Driscoll, if you’re hung up on the fact that I just said “crap” and not as worried about what actually matters, then your priorities are jacked up.
Here’s what I mean: far too many parents today are constantly stressed out – and stressing their kids out – about our children covering their faces, or NOT wearing masks, weekly virus tests or nasal swabs every time they get the sniffles, or jabs in the arm, or mandates… and NOT concerned about the actual consequential problems that need to be solved: the 3+2’s and Albanys that should be on our front burner! In particular: actual health risks versus mere case numbers, authoritative overreach into our God-given unalienable rights, indoctrination disguised as education, and 21st century sex ed cloaked as protection of our kids’ development and privacy.
When my oldest entered kindergarten, my wife and I made the conscious decision to have a presence at his school. We’d regularly volunteer in his classes, I reluctantly yet dutifully attended the monthly PTA meetings, and kept our finger on the pulse of the school and its culture, with two understandings: 1) Besides our family and circle of friends, the school was going to have the most significant influence on the types of men my sons would grow into; and 2) if and when we saw something that we disagreed with, our on-campus presence should give us some credibility in the opinions of the teachers and administration. As the kids have gotten older, this same tactic has transformed into driving the boys and their teammates to their sporting events, having our sons’ friends over for pizza as often as they’d be willing, and establishing real relationships with the school administrators.
This has resulted in opportunities for us to raise our hand and not be a squeaky wheel, but a credible voice in the ears of those who impact and influence our kids most: their friends, their teachers, and administrators.
Has this plan been full-proof? Of course not. But it has opened doors that we otherwise would not have even been aware of.
And, today, as we have one kid in elementary, two in middle school, and our oldest in college, we are tasked with keeping a careful eye out for more open doors than ever before.
All this to say, maintaining an intentional presence in the most significant influences on our kids’ lives have been very important “matters” in our house.
And, as I mentioned earlier, these days, the people that surround our kids are just one item on a growing list of “matters that matter”. It seems like every time we turn around we have to re-assess, which issues in life are correct, but not front burner (like blue and yellow), which issues are full of crap, but irrelevant (like red and blue) and which issues need to be front burner and solved (like 3+2).
We discuss with our kids ad nauseam the importance of the words in our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution and the Bible. We talk about global health data and how our hospitals are affected (as opposed to propaganda and ever-changing objectives we hear all around us). We discuss current events and how even news items in far off places can impact how we live our lives here in our neighborhood. We constantly invite their friends to be part of our lives and encourage our boys to get to know their friends’ parents. I’m not saying that it takes a village to raise our kids, because villages are chock full of village idiots. But it does take other adults with the same core beliefs and priorities as ours to grow and develop our boys into amazing young men!
And, that’s the goal, right? After all, our kids aren’t really OURS, are they? They are merely leant to us to teach, learn from, develop and grow into incredible young adults that will one day not just be our kids, but as my dad calls me, “FRIEND”. And THAT’S what really matters!
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