My kid, who just turned five, wakes up before me every morning and plays in his room. I hear him talking through my half-sleep, spooling out imaginary dialogue between his Ben 10 action figures, mostly about who will defeat who, who has stronger magical powers or superior fire power. This morning, though, amidst the usual, I heard something different.
"Oh, you lost your jobs?" he said, in a deep monster voice. "I'm sorry."
Then in the higher voice of another character, "We're just kids!"
Then back to the sounds of laser blasts and clashing swords, etc. But it seems that someone's been eavesdropping on the grown-up conversations at holiday parties.
After contemplating the psychological effect my unemployment might be having on my child, and wondering if there might be any percocet left in the medicine cabinet, I got out of bed and went in to the kitchen to fix his lunch for school.
My wife, in pants already, was preparing to leave for work. She'd made him breakfast and gotten the newspaper, which I found on the counter. Here's the headline stretching across the front page: "Poll Reveals Trauma of Joblessness in U.S."
Out of 708 unemployed adults surveyed last week, it said, "Almost half have suffered from depression or anxiety. About 4 in 10 parents have noticed behavioral changes in their children that they attribute to their difficulties in finding work." The article, and three accompanying profiles of out-of-work Americans (losers!!!), is full of depressing anecdotes. Evan Gutierrez, who lost his job as a music director in Los Angeles, has moved his wife and newborn son into a smaller apartment and applied to a church's goodwill fund to help pay the rent while he looks for work. "We grow up with the impression there's a correlation between effort and the fruits of your labor," he said. "To be honest with you, I have very little confidence I'm going to be able to turn this around. It just feels completely, completely out of my control."
2009, ladies and gentlemen! This year can not be over soon enough.