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Monday, May 27, 2013

Understanding

It's a lovely word, isn't it? It just glows with positivity. To comprehend, absorb knowledge and show an ability to decipher its meaning. In a more emotional context it denotes acceptance, tolerance, even forgiveness. Understanding is, to me, what gives our sentience as human beings its meaning. We can learn and grow from that learning and we can sympathize with others. It's the kindest part of our rational minds.

But is it something that we only acquire upon bearing children? More and more people I encounter seem to think so. You see, I had two other topics bouncing around my head for this post, but both of them came back to one inescapable fact that the childfree face all the time: we don't understand. I'm going to try to wrap my head (and yours) around this problem
.

Knowledge

This is always the first hurdle. Parents and even expectant parents will dismiss the possibility that someone without children has any knowledge about parenting or that they ever could have, and that's just plain wrong. I'm an intelligent person. I'm a psychology enthusiast with peripheral interests in anthropology and sociology. I can talk about studies on advertising targeted to children, nutritional value of processed, pre-packaged lunch foods, even debate the merits of certain educational methods. But to a Breeder, none of that matters. My knowledge is moot, and I have no valid opinion. To them I am simply not a parent, therefore I have no valid opinion.

Perspective

The main argument I get after being dismissed is always the same: it's not just that I don't understand, it's that I can't. Not being a parent simply makes my brain incapable of having the knowledge required to form a cogent argument. And that, my dear friends, is the biggest load of hypocritical bullcrap that the Breeders toss around. It's parenting elitism at its finest, and it's wrong. Somehow, by not having children, I can't have a valid opinion on circumcision or the environmental and economical impacts of cloth vs. disposable diapering. I also can't comment on the economics of raising children without drawing ire from some. I admit that I lack perspective. I don't know firsthand what it's like to have and raise children and I probably never will. But that's one aspect of a far more complex situation. It doesn't invalidate any math, logic, or downright common sense I might have.

Desperation

Naturally, I don't go down without a fight in these arguments. I produce more facts, quote more sources, and deploy more logic. The discussion goes back and forth until, inevitably, the other party scoffs at me or shakes their head saying "you just don't understand". In my experience, that's always been the battle cry of the defeated who won't admit to it. I give them the floor, beg and plead with them to make more arguments and defend their position, but they don't. They walk away, leaving me with an armload of supported arguments that go unacknowledged in the face of their experience which is summarily determined to be superior. It's sad in some ways and incredibly frustrating in others. I don't necessarily want to win, I just want to hear the opposing viewpoint. I want counterpoints other than having my lack off offspring being pointed out to me. I want to understand.

Condescension

I am not a car guy. I don't fix my car when it breaks down, I get a mechanic to do it. Heck until recently, I couldn't even change my own oil. But I can sit down with you and explain how an internal combustion engine works. I understand the principles behind all of it. So if I'm talking to a mechanically inclined person, I can carry on a conversation and we can exchange ideas even if I'm not practiced in his or her field. My knowledge is recognized and an intelligent discourse is established. Not so with parenting. "It's not the same" I hear. This is the aforementioned elitism rearing its ugly head. I don't know if it's a defense mechanism because they feel their way of life is being attacked or if it's because I'm not part of the club; I'm not one of the cool kids doing all the cool parenting things, so I don't get a say. Who knows? I'll probably never get a straight answer.

Methodology

At heart, I'm a scientist. I pick a problem apart, analyze it, experiment with it, and proceed with the most beneficial solution based on the information at hand. That approach can be used with almost all of life's problems. Emotions get in the way, consequences make us second guess ourselves, but the method always remains sound. That's why I'm such a pain in the neck to debate with. I throw out argument after argument, as rooted in logic as I possibly can. I'm a born talker (and, to a certain extent, writer). I can talk my way through just about anything.

But somehow, this never gets me anywhere when I try to have a sensible conversation with a Breeder. I guess I never will understand.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Once more unto the breach, dear friends

Well, it's been a while now, hasn't it?

It's my fault. I didn't abandon this blog, but I did put a hold on it. The events that unfolded in Newtown, Connecticut last December made me want to back off for a while. Then came the holidays, then a series of personal events that turned into excuses more than anything else. But I'm back, and I still have a lot to say (lucky you, right?).

I could go into one of the many topics I had outlined before my hiatus but before I do, I want to speak my mind about something. Hey, it's my blog, so I can do that!

No object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly

When I started this blog, I drew on people I knew and asked them to read it, mostly through social networking. I've gained a few new fans and followers since then, but most of my readers are known to me. This means that they have a personal connection to me and, by association, my writing. I've even occasionally written specific posts that address certain individuals. This has led to certain... less desirable situations. So grab a cup of your favourite beverage, get in your comfy chair, and let's talk it out, shall we?

For whom the bell tolls

I've had a lot of feedback from people about the blog, which is great. I've had positive and negative feedback, which is also great (nobody's perfect). There is, however, one reaction I do not like and it's happened a lot. You see, I make observations about Breeders, and parenting in general. I'll usually mention trends or social phenomena. So in these broad stroke statements, someone recognizes themselves sooner or later. If it so happens that I'm criticizing that behaviour or voicing disapproval in some way, people take it personally. And so I'm met with a barrage of "how dare you?" and "what do you know?" and the far more common "do you think I'm a bad parent?". I will, once in a blue moon, cite a specific example or person and I will use abbreviations, initials, or made up names. What I won't do, is start picking apart any single person's parenting style for the sake of blog-fodder. Why not?

Because you're not that important

Didn't see that one coming, did you? Yup, I love my readers. I wouldn't have much reason to write if no one read this blog. But this is not an analysis of any single person or couple's parenting style. I am not writing anyone's biography, nor do I intend to. I'm also not here to point fingers and tell people what they're doing wrong (or even right, though I do a bit of both now and again). I'm speaking my mind, writing down my observations about modern society and the rift between parents (primarily Breeders) and the child free. If you have to ask if I'm talking about you, I'm not. The reaction isn't entirely a conscious one. After all, after having children, a person's world shrinks. They are far more attentive to their immediate surroundings than they are to the big picture. This is normal, they have a small human being to take care of. But no matter how small their world gets, mine is just as big. So there. We good? Yeah, we good.

Distance has the same effect on the mind as on the eye

One of the more constructive discussions I had about the blog was when someone argued with a particular point I had made - I don't even remember what it was, or from what post. What I do remember is that I took her criticism to mean that she thought my opinion was invalid. That wasn't the case, she respected my position, but she did say that I lacked perspective. And to a certain extent, she's right. Having never had to care for children for extended periods of time, I don't have experience to draw on. What I do have is a sense of observation, the ability to gather and process information, and synthesize a conclusion. Years of troubleshooting as a career have made this process second-nature to me. I also admire utilitarianism (though I suck at practicing it), and so I try to apply logic to most situations I analyze, and this tends to frustrate the parents in debate with. That's it's own post, and it's coming soon.

For now, suffice it to say that I'm back, and I am nowhere near ready to shut up.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

For the uniform

I don't know if they still do it but back in my high school days, the debate about whether or not to institute school uniforms was an annual thing. They were talking about it long before I was there, and to this day the school is uniform free. While I don't know what the exact reasoning was for never implementing the change, I can only assume that the debate never decidedly leaned towards the "yes" side; at least not enough to warrant changing the status quo. Every year, I'd be happy about the end result. Of course, this would usually spark debates within whatever group of friends I happened to have that year. Every year there were passionate supporters of the uniform idea, and they all had the same argument.

It will eliminate social inequality

The biggest argument in favour of uniforms is that it will make the social gap disappear between the children who come from richer families vs. those who come from less fortunate ones. That in turn means that less privileged children won't stand out as much and therefore won't get teased. I think it's an oversimplification of things. While the uniform may reduce the visibility of the social gap, it won't eliminate it entirely. Kids—specifically teenagers—are like sharks smelling blood. They will pick up on any and every little detail they can to attack each other. The old saying "kids can be so cruel" is no exaggeration. So even if little Sally is wearing the same clothes as the other girls, they may notice her shoes, her jewelry  her makeup (or lack thereof), her bag, her school supplies, her lunch, or anything else they can observe. Add to that the fact that some people likely know little Sally from elementary school, and so the knowledge of her background is there. In high school, these things get known. So the uniform, in this situation, is a retardant, not a deterrent.

Mind the Gap

So we've established that it's difficult to level the playing field and make all the kids equal. But if we really stop and think about it, would we want to even if we could? I mean, school is meant to prepare children to integrate into society. High school in particular teaches skills that those kids will carry with them throughout their entire lives, not the least of which being how to function in a social hierarchy. When those kids leave school they're going to be small fish in a very big pond and no one is going to give them a break. It's already hard to hit the ground running in that kind of situation. If they're unprepared for the cold realities of the social ladder, that might be a bite of reality too big to swallow.

I realize that to some, my point of view seems callous."Just toss them to the wolves?" you ask. Well. that's part of it. Kids can't be coddled their entire lives, everyone knows that. Most parents try to shield their children from the harsh realities of the world for as long as they can to protect them, to prolong their enjoyment of the world and try to hang onto their innocence for as long as possible. As a goal, that's admirable. Some would say that protecting your offspring should be a parent's first responsibility. But there's shielding them, and then there's keeping the truth from them. And the truth is that the world isn't always a nice place, it sucks. We all wish it wasn't so but that's the reality of the situation. There's a balance to be stricken between keeping a child safe and keeping them informed and ready. The best preparation will come from them cutting their own teeth.

There are, of course, other arguments that are brought up on both sides of the equation. Some parents favour the idea of uniforms because it will save money on school clothes. I can't disagree with that. Clothes are expensive and kids go through them a lot. The kids would say it stifles their individuality even though they still get to wear whatever they want outside of school so that one might be more of a draw. All in all it's certainly not something that is easily cut and dry but I believe the cons of instituting school uniforms far outweigh the pros.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The other guys

A lot of this blog's focus has been on what I've colloquially referred to as "The Breeder Wars". That butting of heads between me and parents who (in my opinion) are products of society's trendy view of child bearing and raising. The ones who I think place too great a demand on the rest of the world, have too much expectation, and have an over inflated sense of success. But today, I'm not talking about them.

There are parents out there that I truly admire. Not because their kids have Montessori or Waldorf educations, not because they only use organic local grass fed hand massaged beef, and not because they're hipsters that make their kids listen to everything on vinyl and shun anything known by more than 50 people. In fact, the parents I admire probably don't get noticed all that much. They blend into the background, minding their own business, doing their own thing. They apologize if they bump into you with the baby carriage, they always make sure their kids are fed/entertained/looked after in the least obtrusive way they can and are just about always mindful of their surroundings. I want to talk about 2 concrete examples of this.

We'll start with J. She and I met online years ago. We don't hang out, we're not the "Oh gosh, we should catch up" types. We check in on each other now and then, we enjoy the occasional conversation when we have the time and inclination. We read each other's blogs (sort of) and we like knowing what the other is up to. We are the quintessential Facebook friends. Last year, while standing in line getting some lunch, I heard a voice that sounded familiar. I looked over and there was J, 7 months pregnant. I had no idea. Despite the fact that J and I aren't in each other's inner circles, in this world of social media information sharing, I was taken aback that a major life event like this was unknown to me. "Well, this is new!" I said, looking at her belly. She explained how she and her spouse had decided not to advertise it publicly online. I don't remember if I thanked her out loud, but an overwhelming sense of respect and admiration came over me. J never cared much for trends or doing what everyone else is doing (one of the reasons why she's awesome) and the fact that she chose not to make her pregnancy into a spectacle was something I admired.

Then there's F and C. They beat the odds when C got pregnant, so this was a "miracle baby" of sorts. F and I worked together for the better part of 2 years (with a small gap in between), so I saw him every day. Not once did he complain about having to be up late, about looking after C when she wasn't doing well, or about the inherent stresses and difficulties of being a new parent. He'd show up for work and trudge through his day, coffee in hand, then go home and look after his family. Whenever I'd see C (either during pregnancy or after the little one was born), I'd always ask how she's doing. She'd give a quick rundown of how things were at home and then gloss over everything, shrug her shoulders and flash a smile as if to say "but you don't want to hear about that!". They talk about the little one and their family life, but they don't make it the one and only focus of every conversation. I find that respectful and refreshing.

My point is that I don't have issues with parents indiscriminately. I don't denounce everyone who has or wants children. There are certain behaviours that I dislike. There are facets of parenthood that I'm far less tolerant of than others. But at the end of the day, there are some parents I can't criticize. They're not be the spotlight parents who are on everyone's radar. They're not sensationalist attention grabbers who either receive unreasonable amounts of attention, or demand it. They are not the the divas, the mom- and dad-zillas. They're the other guys. They're the unsung heroes. They're my friends.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

They only come out at night

That's a lyric from one of my favorite bands back from my high school days. It has a purpose, though. The simplest and best tip I can give to my fellow childfree peeps out there when they have things to do, especially during this Holiday season. If you have errands to run, go out as late as you can.

There are many places that are frequented by people with and without children alike, and that includes most stores. And so, if you'd rather not have little ones underfoot while you're doing your shopping, go as late as possible. This is especially true of grocery stores. When I have a big grocery trip to do, I go an hour before closing on a weeknight. The parents are at home, getting the kids fed, their homework done, baths taken, and into bed. You won't have to deal with them at the store. On the flip side, parents who go earlier or on the weekend won't have to deal with our ranks zipping between carts or dodging the kids that can be oh so difficult to wrangle in the candy aisle (I know, I used to be such a kid).

Then there's shopping malls. If you're going to the mall on a Saturday afternoon, you can't expect to not have the place teeming with families. It's the most convenient time of the week for them to be there. And in December? You're just asking for it as there's a line to get onto Santa's lap. So spend the sunny, snowy days on the ski hill and let the moms and dads have the malls. Go in the evening. Going to a restaurant for dinner? Try dinner at 7 instead of 5. You'd be surprised how much of a difference it can make. As a bonus, it'll be less busy so you might get faster service, or a better table.

These tips are always valid but at this time of year, it's easy for all of us to get frazzled. So with a minor schedule adjustment, we can make it easier on everyone!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Can the Grinch please steal my Christmas?

I'm a lapsed catholic. Growing up, my mother would bring us to church twice a year: Christmas Eve, and Easter Sunday. There was little enthusiasm because it was just something we had to do. Naturally, we disliked going to sit in a quiet building sitting on uncomfortable pews listening to a man we didn't know drone on about the lessons of the Bible. To us, Christmas was about presents. My parents tried their best to teach us that we were fortunate because not every boy and girl had presents or even a tree. We were told to appreciate what we had. But the memories of those lessons pale compared to the sight of presents too numerous to fit under the tree and of the hours my mother spent wrapping them. Most prominently of all my memories is how my mother insisted that my brother and I have exactly the same number of packages, and that the total amount spent on our packages was within X number of dollars of each other. If she couldn't make it within that margin, one of us would get a card with money in it (sometimes we both would, with different amounts. She HAD to make quota), with a very intense explanation as to why. To a point, that's reasonable. You don't want to show your kids favoritism, I get it. But the vehemence with which my mother clings to this ideal is frightening, bordering on indoctrinating.

Now, my brother has 2 kids, so they are subject to the same treatment both from their parents, and my mother (my father is quite different, but arguing with my mother would make for a hostile environment. He plays along). From a very young age, these kids are being taught to count presents, and the whole "he/she has more than I do" schtick. It annoys me and it's totally unnecessary. All it's teaching them is a sense of entitlement and expectation, not fairness. Add to that the fact that the kids are being given any and all item that fits their specific niche craze of the moment (Disney princesses and Pixar's Cars, in case you were wondering), whether they ask for it or even know of it's existence. They are being saturated with consumerism.

Kids don't learn what you tell them. They don't learn what you intend to teach them. They are conditioned by their environments. You do it, they do it. That's not an absolute, but it's a damn good rule of thumb. At this rate, my niece and nephew are going to turn into People of Walmart.

And so, I stand in defiance. I give them educational or creative toys every year for their birthdays and Christmas. I can't wait until they're old enough for telescopes, chemistry sets, watercolors, pottery, electronics kits, etc. I plan to be there to help them crack their gifts open and learn to play with them properly because I know damn well their parents will sit them in front of the hundreds of hours of recorded shows on the PVR. I'm going to take them back-country camping, teach them to start a fire with their bare hands, explain to them why the sky is blue, tell them how volcanoes work, show them what global warming is, teach them why Febreeze and other chemicals are bad, watch "Supersize me" and "Food, Inc." with them and so many more things.

Knowledge is power. These may not be my kids, but I'll be damned if they're going out in this insane world powerless. They're as close to a legacy as I have, and I want to be proud of who and what they are when I leave them behind for what lies beyond. So to those of you who approve of and embrace the way my family behaves, I dare you to tell me the childfree are forsaking their "responsibility" of building a future because they're not having kids. I dare you.

Bah Humbug, everyone.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Perspective


This is a post I found on another website I can't name for various reasons. I did, however, find a post from one user I know only as jicara. As a change of pace from my usual spiteful ramblings, It thought it would be nice to listen to someone else who is CFBC for a change (posted with permission).


Anyone else great "parents" ?


I hold some pretty strong beliefs about children. How they should be raised, treated, taught, etc.

So sometimes, I have great advice, or I put my parent hat on, and get the child to listen, or do whatever, blah blah. And then people say "oh my gosh, you're so good at blank why don't you want kids?!"

But I have no desire to "show them how it's done". I don't want that responsibility of having to care that much about someone else's development. I think enough people don't grasp the true weight of that.

You are responsible for NOT fucking that child up so much that they can't function and/or unable to contribute to society. That's.. crushing. The depth of that; the financial, emotional and mental drain that has on you. I don't understand how people don't even at least, acknowledge this.

That's not to say, that there aren't great moments of being a parent. I'm not saying there aren't, or that there are few. I'm saying that the reward isn't enticing enough for me to even want to get near the starting point.

Does it make me selfish and horrible for admitting this?

I don't think so. I think it makes me honorable and honest. How many women really dig deep and say to themselves 'I'd be a horrible parent. So.. I shouldn't' and stick with it? How many are mentally, emotionally and physically abusing their children - both on purpose and not - because deep down, they really didn't want them. They instead, fell to pressures of society and listened that WE are the crazy ones. That we're the ones who aren't good people because we don't want that responsibility.

Society pushes us (people) to do what we LOVE to do. To give it our all. To be the BEST we can be. How many people really strive to be parents? Sure, there are those that grow up dreaming of parenthood. But.. I'm curious what the ratio is to those that their goal is parenthood and those that fall into it by happenstance?

I'm talking about those that are ambivalent about it. The ones who, because their friends do it, they get married, get pregnant and follow suit. That's also not to say that they're bad parents either. They are.. okay at it. Not bad, but not stellar.

We push ourselves to be more and be better everyday in our lives about silly, stupid things. Why don't we hold the same, if not HIGHER standards on parenting?

Thank you, jicara.