What is the point of being a parent? Is it to patronize and make decisions for your child? Decisions they were not able or interested in making themselves? Is it to shield them from the world and all its awfulness, or is it simply too prepare them for it? Whether we like it or not, the world is a hard and rough place and children need to figure this out… apparently. That is the basic message in “Sunday in the Park”. How should you handle situations that you are not ready for? Because whatever you do, the child will most likely see this as appropriate behavior. In the story we meet an unnamed woman, her husband, Morton, their son Larry, a brute and his son. The two boys are playing in the sandbox, when suddenly the unnamed boy throws sand at Larry. The unnamed woman – being the protective mother – tells the boy to stop.
The boy’s father however, has a bit of a different look on the scene, as he tells his son that he can do whatever he wants. Now, here is where the story’s core lies. Most people are afraid of conflicts and will avoid them at all costs and this calm family is no different. They are used to fixing things with words, not violence, so this man – who clearly has no intend of being any kind of reasonable – frightens them. This man’s reaction towards Larry’s parents is aggressive. His son sees this, sees that it is, indeed, working and copies his father’s actions. We kind of have a Mexican standoff situation, where Morton and the brute are standing face to face with their sons watching. Whoever walks away as victor, the boys will see as the one who makes the decisions – even if the child does not know this person.
The fact that the illusion of the indestructible parent has been crushed is enough to make the child contemplate the things they have been taught. The parents are affected by this as well. When they find out that the brute is looking for a fight of some kind, they are quick to retreat, even though their son is screaming franticly and refusing to do anything to make their retreat easier. This made the parents angrier than they were before, because, in their mind, they agree with Larry. They also feel like screaming and shouting and freak out because of this obvious unfair treatment they have received. They, however, are able to contain these feelings, because they know that nothing good will come of a physical fight. Morton even admits that he is both weaker and smaller than the brute.
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Suddenly Morton spoke. “It wouldn’t have proved anything”. “What?” she asked.
“A fight. It wouldn’t have proved anything beyond the fact that he’s bigger than I am.”
This made both of Larry’s parents mad, the fact that they just stood there, unable to do anything to fix the situation. But instead of accepting this as an uncomfortable episode that is best forgotten, they start yelling at their son. They see in him what they see in themselves – and it’s ugly. The brute’s son was husky and big-boned, while their boy is scrawny and thin to look at. Even his mother describes his body as “defenseless”, “frail” and “with thin and unsure legs”. Before the incident she looked at him with protection in her heart.
A feeling of being able to protect him from the world, but now that she has seen that he is not at all capable of defending himself, she looks at him with resentment. His weak bones and muscles were once something endearing, something she loved about him, but know she just she him for what he really is – a frail, near-broken boy, with breadsticks for arms and self-esteem to go with it. But the only reason she suddenly see this in her son, is because she saw in herself and in her husband. If Morton had been able to stand up for himself and do something, the whole episode would have been very different and she would not go on to blame her poor son for not taking up the fight. Children can be described as very small and very subtle copies. Almost every opinion, action and reaction is something they have from their parents.
What they see at home, in the supermarket, on the playground is what they channel out to the world. They think that that is the way to live your life. They think that what their parents do is right, which in most cases are true. In most cases parents try to turn their children into compassionate, sweet creatures who treat people with dignity and respect. But every once in a while some idiot shows up, who thinks that violence, hatred or some kind of prejudice are things that should come natural to their offspring. They think that their opinions are the only right ones and everyone who thinks differently should be rounded up and taken to some far-away island where their thoughts cannot pollute their children’s young minds. Either that or they will just beat them until they