Learning About Death

Maybe I was never taught to deal with death or maybe I’ll simply too sensitive.

A few minutes ago, I stumbled on a children’s book hat made me tear up just by reading the description. It’s about a young girl who is full of curiosity and wonder. Every day from the same chair, her father reads her story after story instilling this love of life in her. She learns about all kinds of things and is thrilled by the possibilities of life. Then one day she sits down in front of her fathers chair and it’s empty. He’s gone. My heart breaks with this fictional girl’s. Her solution to this pain is to take her heart out of her chest and place it in a bottle she hangs around her neck. She loses her passion for life. The curiosity leaves her. She forgets all the tales her father told her and lives a strict and safe life until one day she encounters a girl on the beach she used to love. This little girl is full of the wonder she used to contain and she realizes how much life she is missing by limiting herself to what’s safe. Eventually the little girl helps her get her heart out of the bottle and back where it belongs even though the risk of being hurt is still out there. Sometimes, it’s worth it.

I read the wonderful description of the book here. (let me know if the link doesn’t work). If you don’t want to click on the link it’s a book called The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers. It sounds and looks amazing and I bought it instantly. I hope, someday, to read it to my niece and though it’s sad, it’s important to learn about. I wish it weren’t.

 

 

Warning: I only read a description of the book and am probably filling my summary with my own fears.

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Learning About Death

Stay At Home Parents

Should Stay-at-Homes be paid somehow?

I’m reading a book about women. So far it’s primarily about how the different sexes are treated and the expectations placed on them right from the off. There’s some interesting stuff about how little boys and girls are treated by their parents, usually the parents don’t even realizing it’s happening. But one huge obvious difference is in the division of labor when one person stays home. This book mainly talks about how it’s more likely that women take up the childcare and household jobs (even when they’re professionals themselves). But I don’t want to get into all the complications that come into the picture when talking about men and women (like how they are raised and expectations, which are messy), so I’ll stick with staying at home vs working and how each are viewed.

A question that popped into my head while I was reading was how two people can be on equal grounds when one works and one stays at home to raise children. I think people generally say they value both jobs. I’m sure you’d say staying at home to raise children is a valid and worthwhile undertaking (maybe the most noble thing you can do). But there are clear inequalities as well, that are maybe unavoidable. Who decides which car to buy? Which house? Which appliances? Who makes most of the financial decisions? And who holds the power if a relationship starts to falter? Whatever the divorce laws are where you live, that’s not the most appealing route to take. Especially when the troubles are small. Immediate earning ability holds sway, I’d say, over the prospect of a long, drawn out divorce. Divorce damages both people, and involves the children. So it would seem that the working person has a much larger say and more power.

So just hypothetically, if you were in a relationship in which you worked and other person stayed home to take care of your child, would you try to work out a way for the person at home to feel like he/she is equal in earning? There’s a dollar amount attached to a professionals. You can count exactly what a full time job contributes to the family. Meanwhile, raising a child is much more abstract. So you spent 9 hours feeding, changing, cleaning, washing, cooking, etc? What does that mean, really? I spent the day at work and earned such and such amount of money to buy those things! It’s hard to make concrete sense out of diaper changes and bottle feedings. Is spending an hour trying to improve your child’s hand-eye coordination equal to an hour on the job? Is that a fair question? It’s equating work, that may or may not be a passion, to taking care of your child, which most people would claim they enjoy. Saying you deserve money (or something) for doing it implies that it’s a chore. You raise your children because you love her or him and want to help do what’s best. You don’t do it for money. Wanting some compensation can make someone look heartless.

It’s not hard to see how unfair that is though. No matter how much lip service you pay to raising the children, one person is still “bring home the bread” (I don’t eat bacon).

So you want to make it more equal and quantify the work that goes into raising a child and keeping a house in order. But then the trouble is, is the other person just giving you an allowance? That’s not ideal. You aren’t a child. Having a joint back account makes people feel more unified. “What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine.” But not really. If I make 100% of the money, then no matter the name on the back account, I’m making the money. I bought the groceries. I bought the house. Etc. And, primarily in arguments, those issues will come up. (“And who goes to work every day to pay for this house!?”) Maybe it would help if it was set up in a way that the paychecks were immediately and automatically split and deposited in separate accounts. The same thing might be true, that I’m making the money, but it might give a feeling of independence. That the stay-at-home is being paid for doing a job. Maybe you can write up a legitimate contract (like Kurt Vonnegut wrote for all the jobs he would do while his wife was pregnant). There is no real way to be paid as a stay-at-home unless it somehow comes from the employed person (because the government isn’t going to pay you). I don’t know if splitting the paycheck and depositing into separate accounts would work, but I do feel there should be some tangible way to acknowledge the effort and importance of staying at home to raise kids.

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The book also mentions how having parents who stay-at-home vs work, gives a constant example to the children that maybe there are different roles for different sexes. And since, statistically, women are more likely to be stay at homes, then kids learn women stay at home and men work. And a little girl or boy has more limited options than he or she otherwise would. Food for thought.

 

Note: This was not thought out. I was reading, thought about this and basically stream of conscious’d it. I tried to clean it up a little but please excuse the terrible flow and disconnected logic/logical leaps.

Stay At Home Parents

A Couple Thoughts on Children

I get to babysit tomorrow and here are some thoughts running through my head.

It seems I’m thinking about children 40% of my time. Life is a crazy, weird experiment. It’s a mixture of absolute misery and pure joy, and sometimes it’s hard to sort out the two. Then throw meaning into the equation and things get fun. I’m one of those people who thinks everyone gets to decide where meaning comes from. For you it can be finding a reliable job and taking care of a family. For me it can be attempting to destroy myself once a week to see what survives. But I also happen to enjoy love and beauty. I wonder if any sort of love – from the insane and unstable to the strong and slow moving – is as fulfilling or complete as love for your children. I see it first hand and though I love my niece – possibly as much as I can love – I can’t touch the level of her mother and father. But life isn’t accommodating. I choose instability too often. Some ways of life don’t or shouldn’t mix, so I have to make a pretty interesting decision. One that happens to rebel against millions of years of evolution. The definition of biologically successful is the number of grandchildren you leave. It makes sense that saying no to a drive that ancient would take up a bit of my time.

Darwin had a fair few children and loved them a ton. The death of his daughter almost broke him. Here’s what he wrote to a friend.

“Children are one’s greatest happiness, but often & often a still greater misery. A man of science ought to have none, — perhaps not a wife; for then there would be nothing in this wide world worth caring for & a man might (whether he would is another question) work away like a Trojan”
Charles Darwin

Darwin looks at what he could do without any distractions. I think of that too, but I also worry about messing up in the opposite direction. Neglecting any potential children because I get too wrapped up in my work/thoughts. I don’t actually think Darwin is being serious here but highlighting a conflict that will arise with that sudden appearance of children.

Kurt Vonnegut was a little more positive but still realistic. In a letter to his daughter he comforts her in his classic style of funny and hopeful and serious and sad.

“You’re learning now that you do not inhabit a solid, reliable, social structure — that the older you get people around you are worried, moody, goofy human beings who themselves were little kids only a few days ago. So home can fall apart and schools can fall apart, usually for childish reasons, and what have you got? A space wanderer named Nan.

And that’s O.K. I’m a space wanderer named Kurt, and Jane’s a space wanderer named Jane, and so on. When things go well for days on end, it is an hilarious accident.”
Kurt Vonnegut

I think that’s true and beautiful, but I see how sad it is at the same time. I want to be a space wandered named Matt. And I’m okay when the hilarious accident of calm fails to materialize.

I can’t wait to see my niece tomorrow. I see all her potential in her unknowable future. But I also see the inevitable crushing sadness and how nothing can stop it. I hope she wants to be a space wanderer, too.

 

Oh, and I hope she reads Vonnegut.

“You’re dismayed at having lost a year, maybe, because the school fell apart. Well — I feel as though I’ve lost the years since Slaughterhouse-Five was published, but that’s malarky. Those years weren’t lost. They simply weren’t the way I’d planned them. Neither was the year in which Jim had to stay motionless in bed while he got over TB. Neither was the year in which Mark went crazy, then put himself together again. Those years were adventures. Planned years are not.”

 

Adventure is out there!

Damn it, now I want to cry thinking about that stupid movie. Stupid Pixar.

A Couple Thoughts on Children

That Kid

That kid is nothing but reflexes and clever tricks
She’s the latest model following a long history of innovations
She’s a blank canvas on which we paint all our dreams
Project into the unknown
Endless possibilities, infinity in a compact package, wrapped up
And made cute so that life slides to the periphery
Until death peeks out to remind us of the future
A world that ends, sometimes brutally and loud
A disease or simple resistance to the inevitable reduction of freedom
Our horizons retreat as we grow, then collapse back on us
Caging who we are and squeezing
Until life no longer resembles our visions of it
We are drawing the past

I held you as your great grandma faced her future
Her husband, her house, her car, her freedom
Those things that made her who she feels she is
They are being stripped away and she’s afraid
She cried
Your mother cried
You grandma cried
Your aunt cried

I held you

That Kid

Women going Childless… And also me

Edited to increase the adorability by infinity.

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This is a fascinating read and you all should read it immediately… or whenever you get around to it, or whatever, do what you want. Anyway, this hits pretty close to home even though it’s all about a woman’s decision not to have children. I hardly identify as a man so there’s not much different in the thought process. I fully acknowledge that women face more societal pressures than man. The expectations for them to have children is massive, and it’s not the same for men. Us men aren’t typically thought of as child loving people, and even when we are, not in a rush to have them ourselves. We are tricked by baby-crazed women or fall back on family life after burning out on strange women and short term flings. That was never me so I recognize zero percent of it, but I do know that almost no one asks me when I’ll have kids like they do with my female friends who have to answer the question nearly every time they see relatives. And when I answer that it’s not likely that I’ll have kids, I’m not pushed much.

But some of the excerpts from this article are not so much about society and more about the internal thought process, which is something I can identify with.

“I was always too self-centered and irresponsible to have kids. I know that never stopped many others, but I am a narcissist with a conscience.”
Debbie Kasper

This is perfect. Being self-centered is usually considered a negative characteristic to have. But it’s not. In fact, everyone is a narcissist to varying degrees. Just ask yourself how much time you spend thinking about your own life as opposed to the other 7 billion people in the world. I’m going to guess it’s not in proportion. What’s important is recognizing what that does to other people. The nice thing about interacting with other adults is that they can typically take care of themselves (more or less). So when I’m going through one of my inward spirals of narcissism, my loved ones keep on ticking, and sometimes even help me through my self inflicted melancholy as I do for them when I can. That reciprocity isn’t a possibility with a three month old. It’s 100% about that child. And it pretty much stays that way for life. Or at the very least many, many years. Your typical teenager isn’t sitting around thinking about the mental wellbeing of their old ass parents. I drop into a self-obsessed depression, I cannot possibly do what’s best for someone else. I refuse to put a child through that.

“It might not be a fear of kids themselves, as in truth I usually get along with them pretty well.

My fear of having children is that, frankly, I just don’t want to love anyone that much. I have my own problems with love, and I have processed and played the same games for a lifetime, but what if I had to do that with someone I actually MADE?!”
Margaret Cho

Again, I can’t fail my potential child. It isn’t a fun, light decision to make. It’s an entire life. Knowing myself as much as I do, I don’t think the risk is worth it. I don’t think my selfish wants or desires should fuel my behavior when it concerns a helpless little human. Are they unfailingly cute? Yes. Does a babies smile reduce me to a puddle of sweetly scented love? Yes. Do I want to hold my little baby niece 24 hours a day until she’s too heavy for me to hold? Yes. Would I love my child? Yes. Can I honestly say I would be able to do my best in raising a child? No. Sure, no one has done a perfect job parenting, but they should do their best. We all know terrible parents. Whether personally or watching parents and kids walk by in the store. Either bad mistakes, or poor decision making resulted in a child living a life he or she shouldn’t be forced to live. Sometimes it’s mean, stupid adults but other times it’s emotionally unavailable, complicated, personal issues that prevent parents from doing their best. (And sometimes their best just isn’t good enough. Mine might not be.) I care about the wellbeing of kids too much to gamble with their minds and futures.

 

the book sounds interesting. I’d like to buy it soon.

 

No Kidding: Women Writers and Comedians on the Choice Not to Have Children

Women going Childless… And also me

Hey, Me!

What would you say to a younger you?

I’ve seen a lot of these posts. I thought I’d give it a go, just to see what comes out. I guess the point is that in taking the time to explain the little ways to deal with the world better, you are also reminding your current self to not return to those earlier and worse responses? I just don’t want to end up realizing that this current version is doing everything way worse than I was when I was younger. I’m gonna to talk to an around 15 year old me. Any time before that I was too alone for most of the social advice. All the other comments hold true for any of my younger ages.

Alright, let’s go.

1. School. You were pretty right on about school. Fuck that shit. Music is way more fun and it’s more important than the garbage they teach you. However, it’s a necessary evil because college can be awesome. While I still encourage you to skip class and have fun whenever possible, give your schoolwork a look every once in awhile. Not for grades, but for yourself. You do actually like some of these topics. You know that, but hormones and silly girls and independence and self discovery took over. All important things to explore at your age, though. Just keep in mind school is an option.

2. Girls. You were somehow too cynical and overeager to fall in love, at all times. I really don’t know how you were able to critically analyze everything about love and relationships while falling in love with every girl who had been to The Bottom of The Hill. I guess I’d say just calm down in general in this regard, but at the same time I appreciate those times. A little rough while experiencing them but teens are the right age to go all out. You never really get to love that crazy again, and for good reason. Try to enjoy it more.

3. Drugs. Way to stick to your guns here. Almost everyone you know is straight edge, and it’s nice to have that sort of reverse rebellion in common, buuuuuut, most of them are going to jump off that trend soon. They’re still cool, so don’t judge.

4. Friends. Maybe invest a little less in them. Friends are awesome but about 98% of them you won’t see again a year after high school. Watch out for the religious ones. They get super weird pretty soon. This should be a warning sign.
Again, enjoy it all more. Oh, and there’s gonna be some fights… try harder to make people get over that shit that ruins friendships.

5. Worry. Sorry, that’s not changing for you.

6. Ideas. These are good. Spend more time on these. They are everywhere but you tend to only pick up on the big ones. Give them all a look. It’s amazingly fun to destroy ideas. And good ones will help out a lot in your future.

7. Fashion. Cut your goddamn hair, a little. I know you don’t want people looking at you and it’s nice to separate yourself from the people who make fun of you, but it gets out of hand sometimes. Yes, you learned what gender deconstruction is, well done. You just don’t need hair that long. It’s a pain to keep looking nice and washing it wastes water. Keep it longer than most if you want, perfectly fine. Clothes-wise: I don’t know. I’m out of it still. Wear jeans more.

8. Parents. I swear they aren’t so bad. There’s not much I can say to you that would help. They want what’s best for you but also have their own ideas of what’s best for you. It may seem like they don’t understand, but they do, they simply hope you change your mind. It’s hard for parents. You won’t be one anytime soon, you’re welcome, but it isn’t fun to watch your child struggle. Listen, but don’t take things too seriously or too personally.

Hey, Me!

BABIES!

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“In the sequence depicted on the left, the circle tries to climb up the hill but can’t quite make it to the top on its own. Then along comes the helpful triangle, who comes up from below and pushes the circle up to the top. In the sequence depicted on the right, the circle once again tries and fails to make it to the top on its own. Then along comes the hindering square, who comes down from the top of the hill and pushes the circle back down to the bottom. The infants watches each of these sequences several times, until they got bored. Then, in the critical test phase, the experimenters presented the infants with a tray carrying, on one side, a toy resembling the helpful triangle and, on the other side, a toy resembling the hindering square. Fourteen out of sixteen ten-month-olds and all twelve six-month-olds reached out for the helpful toy – an amazingly robust result.”

“Thus, at the age of six months, long before they can walk or talk, human infants are making value judgments about actions and agents, reaching out to individuals who show signs of being cooperative (caring about others) and passing over individuals who do the opposite.”

 

This sort of stuff is just so exciting to me. I’ve read about this study before, probably in one of Paul Bloom’s books. We like to talk about the negatives of human nature so much, but they were just more noticeable. That’s not to say they aren’t still there, but getting reminders that it’s never as straightforward as we tend to think is good for me. (I won’t write about the infant biases right now! haha.)

Well, I’m gonna go take the implicit association test. https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html
Hope I’m not super racist!

BABIES!