Jeff Vrabel: I’m a horrible parent – my son likes NASCAR
It's a static, shatterproof rule of parenting that, purely through nature and momentum, you will endeavor to pass on to your children your own interests and activities, either by grand design or subconscious manipulation, and yes, I am looking at you, Couple Who Brought Your Four Grade-School Children to the Van Halen Concert in 2005, Seriously, That's Shockingly Irresponsible, Mostly Because it was a Hagar Tour, I Mean Roth I Can Justify, but the "Dreams" Guy, Really, What Are You Thinking? (I might also mention you, Juggalo Parent Nation.)
It follows then that there's an equally static, shatterproof rule that there will be things you reflexively shield your kids from, that you strive to help them avoid at all costs, such as ignorance and prejudice - or badminton or country music. Ha! I'm just kidding, of course. Badminton's not that bad.
For instance, my son to this day has no idea that Radio Disney exists; not because I don't think he'd enjoy it, but because like many 6-year-olds, he is quick to adopt MANIACAL OBSESSIONS regarding media absorption, and frankly the vaguest possibility of having to listen to Radio Disney even in the briefest, three-minute squirts made me begin dreaming up ways to remove my eyes with a potato peeler, so long story short, my son's world is a glorious Jonas-free wonderland, and this is how it shall remain.
But the thing is, I say that now, and I can have the best intentions, but at some point you have to release your child into the world, which is full of friends and stores and outside influences and classmates with Radio Disney backpacks. And when that happens, things begin spiraling faster and faster and time speeds up and up and before long you lose your grip on whatever thin filaments of control you might have hoped to have, and then you find yourself watching a NASCAR race on a Sunday afternoon because your son — who, according to our earlier law, is supposed to be into Springsteen, running, "Weird Al" Yankovic and maintaining the rigidly beautiful organization of his iTunes library — is turning into a surprisingly knowledgeable juicebox-downing NASCAR fan. It is likely too late to change his name to Darrell, but don't think I haven't thought about it.
Now, I should point out here that if my son declared suddenly that he were into Renaissance-era German ballet, or Norwegian mythological two-beats-per-minute death metal or multivariable advanced calculus, none would be more surprising than his new NASCAR fixation, and when it came up, I said the only thing I could think of at the time: Who are you, and why are you in my house, and how can you possibly drop so many Fruity Pebbles on the floor?
But the thing is, we are both apparently related to a car guy. My brother decided some years ago to indulge in what was apparently a long-dormant fascination with speeding national franchise decal-containers turning left for nine hours at a time, and it is I think fair to say that if Dave declared suddenly that he was into land-planning ordinances, the music of Color Me Badd or the Gathering of the Juggalos, we would not be more surprised than we were by his NASCAR fixation.
Anyway, all that to say, I'm sitting here on the couch, with a rare opportunity to get some work done during the span of time it takes to complete a NASCAR race (13 hours) while my son boings up and down on the couch and zings around the room issuing regular-interval reports on the performance of Tony Stewart and the racing acumen of someone with the apparently verified name of Greg Biffle. ("Why aren't more people passing Biffle?" my son just asked with some considerable concern.) Luckily, this is a teachable moment, and we're taking the opportunity to learn about important life lessons, such as what Office Depot is and what Old Spice is and what Lowe's is. "Why am I enjoying this?" I said to my wife. "I like it," injects my son, eavesdropping, as usual, from over on the couch, which reminds me, right, that's why.
Jeff Vrabel would like to apologize to Greg Biffle for not believing that was a real name, and for what I imagine he went through in elementary school. He can be reached at http://jeffvrabel.com or followed at http://twitter.com/jeffvrabel.com.