A Parent: “Emerald Pools is nice enough, I suppose, but the hoodoos at Bryce are exquisite. So much more interesting.”
Another Parent: “You’re kidding, right? The museum at Zion is not only bigger but better than the one at Bryce. Much more educational.”
A Parent: “There are 175 species of birds at Bryce.”
Another Parent: Zion had four and a half million visitors in 2019.
Nor is extolling the virtues of one national park enough. Decrying the imperfections of the other is inevitable after extolling the advantages of the one preferred.
A Parent: “No way Bryce is better than Zion. The Narrows is dangerous. Flash floods kill people there every year.”
Another Parent:: When you’ve seen one hoodoo you’ve seen them all. Bryce has no variety.
A Parent: “The switchbacks at Angel’s Landing are unbearable and unnecessary. What kind of misanthrope designed that miserable climb? And that chain at the top? A death trap.”
I have too much affection for my long-suffering readers to subject them to more of this conversation as it descends into a comparison without meaning. Yes, there is always something to argue about. And surely there is indeed a difference, as Tom Stoppard points out, between a Mozart concerto and the sound of an elephant being pushed down stairs in a file cabinet. But Bryce and Zion? Both Bryce and Zion are magnificent—If different.
Children who argue over nothing are told to “go outside and play.” This author can only wonder what these bickering adults should be told. Should they be forced to read some of the essays in Love the kid you Get. Get the Kid You Love?
Because unlike travel itineraries, some of our choices with our beloved children are limited by genetics, environment, circumstances, opportunity, and competition. Bryce and Zion can speak for themselves. But comparing your kid to some other kid is a trip to the intersection of Sadness Avenue and Recrimination Boulevard. You can insist that your Tommy be the signal caller of the football team, but the sooner you acknowledge that Billy’s mom may have a similar destination in mind for her son, the easier it will be for you to understand that one quarterback per play is the accepted formation.
What about your family? Is there peace in the home? Are you content for the most part? Are there times when you look at your healthy kids and just sigh with wonder? Whether or not Susie is elected to be student council president. Indeed, your family has a refrigerator full of food. King Henry VIII would have traded five wives and half of Europe for a course of antibiotics for a loved one. Are you complaining that the copay for life-saving antibiotics is too high? There was a time within human memory when babies who became ill with fevers frequently died. No running late for carpool to soccer games. Just dead. As recently as Shakespeare’s time, babies weren’t Christened as birth. Parents waited a year because the likelihood of the child surviving the first twelve months were so modest.
And you’re complaining because your eighth grader has a C in math? Or wishing that short-sighted coach would agree that your son should start at QB? How about just being grateful that your kid can run on healthy legs not ravaged by disease or bad luck and cover 40 yards in 4.9 seconds–even if some other kid can do it in 4.6?
How about an attitude of gratitude? How about a mantra of, “my kid doesn’t have brain cancer. My kid doesn’t have brain cancer”? Yes, it would be both hunky and dory if your kid were an orthopedic surgeons with 8000-square-foot houses with extra rooms for you to move into in your impending dotage. And sure, it would be nice if the assistant principal would stop calling about how Susie has once again forgotten her math homework. But comparisons truly are odious. “Why can’t you be more like Tracey–who is smarter or faster or taller or shorter or nicer”–is the ultimate soul-denying insult to your daughter. Accept Susie for who she is. She’s healthy! She’s showing up for math class! Okay, she forgets her notebook. There are worse things.
And whatever you do, try to take Susie hiking this summer. I hear that both Bryce and Zion are among the most exquisite things to appear on this Earth. Kinda like your child.