Taking kids to a cemetery for an outing may seem like an odd parenting choice. As an odd parent, I’d like to take a few moments and explain my logic. Living in Southern California, I am well aware that we have a wealth of kid-friendly options. I could have dropped a few hundred dollars on a visit to Disneyland. If avoiding the sun was our objective, we could have gone bouncing around in an indoor playground. Jacque may be a little young, but I’m sure that one of our nice, upwardly mobile neighbors could have recommended an SAT prep class. Aside from being an odd parent, I’m also an old one. I’m fortunate that my kids joined me in the second half of my life. Truth be told, it was because of my experiences during the first half that made the Hollywood Forever Cemetery seemed like the perfect place to take an outing one warm September morning.
As I see it, there is a disturbing trend where parents make decisions for their kids based off of the notion that if we start early enough, and plan carefully enough, and make sure that we monitor each step along the prescribed pathway precisely, their lives will be a success. As long we as keep them in our line of sight, there will be nothing but sunny days and light offshore breezes ahead. We’ll get bright children who are respectful and get into the best schools. They’ll spend their weekends at Coachella where they can rebel in ways that parents approve of. They’ll grow up to be little marvels with great jobs and big houses. They’ll be little jewels whose dazzling light will make mommy and dad shine that much brighter. The problem is that this parenting style leaves the kids only equipped for fair weather. We owe them more than just making them a playing piece in a game Keeping Up with the Jones.
Aside from that, the problem is that the squeeze we’ve put on kids is rushing them through the most important parts of life, like the self-discovery that comes with being an educated person. Schools have become a place where we worry more about molding them into good workers than allowing them to become interesting people. We’re gauging success based off of quantifiable data. If wisdom about how to be a fulfilled person can’t be reported on a spreadsheet, it isn’t worth much. We’ve seemed to have forgotten that an education in the Arts is about understanding the things that make life matter.
As much as I want nothing but happiness for my kids, I have learned that there is going to be a moment in every person’s life when the world hands you your ass. If there is an algorithm for working through heartbreak, I am fairly certain that a career on the fast track is not part of it. Despite all the plotting and planning, regardless of the scramble and the climb, we cannot escape that one day, we will all have an opportunity to get shellacked by the universe. It doesn’t matter if you’re an optometrist or a dentist, the fair weather your parents filled your sails with can’t last forever. It’s in those quiet lonely moments when there is just the memory of failure that salvation will be found. And it will be the Arts that pave the pathway out of gloom and into meaning and understanding.
And that’s what brought us here. We stopped by the Hollywood Forever Cemetery so I could pay my respects to a few gentlemen who kept me company during my own moments of despair. While I can see what my fellow parents are attempting to, I my own case, I think that it’s better for me to equip my kids with some resources for when the great machine turns over. Part of those resources will be grounded in an appreciation of the Arts. It does not matter how far they drop or how dark it seems to be, some human being has been there before.
This post is based on a visit to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on September 15, 2018