At least we now have some kind of in universe excuse for why Summer has been at Kent State for so long. Apparently she calls her father every year at the same time to change her major. And he seems smug as a snake about the whole thing. Is he paying for her college, or has she taken on student loan debt?
I decided to do an archive deep dive and found that Summer and Keisha last showed up on October 7 for a one-off Sunday strip.
If I could ask Tom Batiuk one question, honestly, it would be why he doesn’t write people interacting with their kids. The children of main characters are an afterthought if they are remembered at all, and parenting and concern for offspring are rare topics. It sometimes shows up. Rarely. Holly was worried about Corey being in the military, and had a snit fit when he wouldn’t text her back about things.
But if we were to compare the number of strips involving couples and their relationships to the number of strips about parents and kids, there would be no contest. Despite the bond between a parent and a child being the more inalienable, demanding relationship. You can’t amicably divorce your kids, and see them socially on occasion.
It makes me want to sit down with Tom and a shrink and ask him about his relationship with his parents, and then his own kids, to see if those relationships were as bland and benignly distant as the ones he portrays. I would like to see if he resents the idea that his kids should affect his life and dreams, or have a claim on him for time or emotional support.
I don’t have kids, but I have parents, aunts, uncles, coworkers…and it doesn’t matter how old you or your children become, your bond with your children is primal. It will take up a chunk of your emotional and relationship capital. You can’t have casual children. But Tom has never wanted to present children as obstacles in that way. People just show up together, without their kids, and no mention of babysitters.
Darrin apparently has dumped Skyler off at his parents’ and forgot about him and Jess is content to live in California forever. Wally didn’t know Rana had gone back to college, and we haven’t seen him interact with Wally Jr in years. Jinx didn’t show up to her father’s retirement. We never get to see how Bull’s CTE affected his kids. Jinx could still be in college, but that didn’t come up when Linda was talking about finances. Crazy Harry’s Maddie has slipped into the memory hole, along with her other two siblings.
Maybe Batiuk would fob this off by saying there are already so many comic strips about parents and kids, so he chooses not to show the moments of parenting. They take place off panel. But in a strip that’s become about less than nothing, maybe some parent-child dynamic could bring a bit of heart. Shoving hordes of kids into the attic like an army of Chuck Cunninghams only makes your characters seem shallow and self-centered. Every couple a codependent, un-nurturing, dead end.