Humor by Mark Bazer

A month ago, I used this column to join the legions of slightly overweight, often lazy but, hey, pretty happy Americans railing against Amy Chua's "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" essay in The Wall Street Journal. To back up my words with action, I took my son this past weekend to see monster trucks.

Hmm, maybe Amy Chua was on to something.

Actually, I was very much looking forward to showing the boy Grave Digger and friends. Most kids enjoy seeing a giant machine causing chaos and destruction, and until my son is old enough to take an interest in Chicago politics, monster trucks seemed the best option. (See what I just did there!)

The problem: It turns out the official monster trucks show, the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam, is a rip-off and, worse, a bore. Again, nothing against the trucks' purpose in life. I firmly believe in it.

But for every minute of metal-crushing excitement, Monster Jam gave us 10 minutes of trying to make out what the announcer was saying, or watching a guy show off an official monster-truck toy conveniently available at the concession stand, or unsticking our shoes from the Allstate Arena floor.

Put it this way: When it's a whole hour and 45 minutes into the "competition" before you see Monster Mutt pull off a truly admirable freestyle jump, you know you've been had.

I know what you're thinking: OK, you, a 30-something adult, didn't like the monster trucks, but, um, what about, you know, your kid?

Well, this is where it gets complicated.

My son loved the isolated moments of excitement: Monster Mutt getting serious air, Grave Digger wiping out, a robot Transformer-esque thing breathing fire, unsticking his shoes from the Allstate Arena floor.

These were the kind of moments that stir a little boy's soul and expand his notion of what's possible. If we can put a man on the moon, if Monster Mutt can lose a tire and still complete a jump . . .

But because I am terrible at hiding my emotions, my son saw my irritation and, wanting to be like me, adopted it as his own. (Because of his unfortunate desire to copy everything I do, I rent a studio apartment where I can go to eat bad Chinese food, watch Fox News and occasionally use the non-word "brung.")

So, I come here with a question -- one I've spent the last few days wrestling with, one I have no answer to and which is about more than one silly monster-trucks show.

And that's: Should parents just walk through the lower-quality experiences in our children's lives with a big, fat grin on our faces and the necessary credit card in our wallets . . . or should we try something crazy like being truthful?

If I smile my way through Monster Jam, am I lying to my son -- again not about my personal tastes in entertainment but in how any entertainment is delivered?

Is it my job to help him develop a discerning eye, or is it more important to show him a happy father whom he will at the appropriate age realize was another chump dutifully paying for whatever slop was being peddled to kids? How old does he have to be before I can draw up a PowerPoint presentation to show how what he just enjoyed was actually crap?

As it happened, last weekend at Allstate Arena, I settled for the worst solution -- right smack in the unfortunate middle, with a clear scowl on my face while also attempting a triumphant high-five with my son as Grave Digger crossed the finish line first.

Oh, yeah, that's right, I forgot to mention Grave Digger won! He did it again! At least we can always say we saw -- unlike me that day as a parent -- a legend at the top of his game.

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