Monday, October 19, 2015

And So Far to Go Before We Sleep

In today's post, I'm going to get real with you. Being the parent of an infant/toddler has not been a fun experience for me. Some people love babies and, given the choice, would always be raising one. Good for them. That's not me.

Latest child care related
People keep telling me that I should treasure these moments when she is a baby because I will miss them. They are wrong. I look forward to the day when I can talk to the Koalid, when I can walk with the Koalid, when I can play with the Koalid. That time is not now.

What do you mean? you ask. You can play with a baby.

Kind of. Currently she is interested in banging things against other things and climbing around and going where she is not supposed to go. This means a lot of crawling after her and a lot of moving her back where she is supposed to be. That often makes her cry and scream. It also often causes me pain and discomfort because the process of taking care of her has so far caused sciatica which limits my leg strength and flexibility, and, more recently, a hyper-extended left thumb meaning I cannot lift anything with that hand for a month or two.

We usually have to bring the Koalid to most places that we go
which means that one or both of us don't get to really be a part
the event because the Koalid is really needy.
People tell me that as she learns to talk, she'll learn to say "no". Well, that sounds like an improvement over now when she does not know the word "no", and the only way to stop her from playing with a power outlet or crawling off a staircase or putting a rock in her mouth is to physically rush over and stop her. Sure, she'll start telling me "no", but at least she'll understand it when I say it
to her.

So for now, while there are some enjoyable moments, this phase is mostly an exhausting marathon of late night crying, interrupted sleep, increasing fatigue, frustration, exhaustion, and occasional injury.

Part of the problem is that we are far from our support systems. Neither my family nor Amy's family is close enough to help us. We have very few friends in the area who can watch the Koalid for us. This means that we don't get breaks. We don't get time together. We don't get to recover.

It's a fake, rubber knife, before you worry.
OK, sometimes a tiny baby is fun.
Some parents will admit to being tired and drained from raising an infant/toddler, but most will qualify it with some profession of love for their little bundle of joy. No parent wants to be thought of as not being a loving, ever-patient parent. Well, I do love the Koalid, and I look forward to leading her through all the stages that will bring her to a confident, happy, successful adulthood, but I'll tell you right now that this part of it, at least for me, is not a joyous romp of parental happiness with occasional pit stops of challenge. It is an exhausting and miserable marathon stretching many months into the future with occasional oases of joyful moments which I am mostly too tired to appreciate.

It's okay, it's only another year or so, then perhaps I can get some sleep.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Will I Still Be Good at It When We Get There?

In many of my posts, I have looked forward to what it will be like to be the father of a teenager and various other stages of the development of the Koalid. However, as I spend most nights sleeping poorly, change another diaper, and play another round of "Why Are You Crying Now?", I realize that time is quite a ways away.

The Koalid will be a teenager at 13, according to the grammatical definition. That is about 12 years from now, 2027. 12 years ago was 2003, at which time I was 1 year out of college and just getting started running Phoenix Games. That was so long ago that I am almost a completely different person now than I was then. I live in a different state than I did then. I still speak regularly to very few people who were very close to me then.

Kind of like that. Well, hopefully not.
I have often thought that I would do well in raising a strong, healthy, confident young woman because, quite frankly, I have invested a great deal of time and effort in getting to understand young women. I have been friends with many women who have shared with me a great deal about their upbringing, and this has given me a good grasp of how different aspects and styles of parenting manifest into adulthood.

This was me (on the left) in 2003 with the team that started
Phoenix Games. I am in Facebook contact with two of
these people, and have not seen any of them in over a year.
By the time the Koalid has reached teenage years, these informative relationships will be a decade or more behind me. It makes me wonder if I will still remember then, the things I know now. I believe that I will because most of what I have learned has formed into a broad concept that I retain even as the details that led to it are forgotten. It does make me wonder how many parents understand well what a young person needs when their children are born because they are young at the time, but they age away from their children's experience simply because of the vast length of time it takes for a child to age.

Here comes the future... one day at a time.

They grow up so fast.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Supermoon Eclipse

Last night was the eclipse of the Supermoon-Harvest Moon. This has not happened since 1982, when I was 2, and will not happen again until 2033, when the Koalid will be 19.

I felt that it was important to bring the Koalid outside to see this rare event. I did not know if she would appreciate it, or if she was even able to lock her little baby eyes onto something as far away and abstract as the Moon, but I still wanted to take her out there.

These kinds of generational events are good to give the sweep of life scope. During the last Supermoon eclipse, I was not much older than the Koalid is now. Reagan was in the Whitehouse. My father had not yet started the business that would be a constant for most of my life. My grandfather, who passed this past year, had not even retired yet.

By the time this happens again, the Koalid will have learned to talk, walk, read, and write. She will have learned math and social skills. She will have helped work an event or two. She will have graduated high school and learned to drive. She may have had a boyfriend or girlfriend or two.

But last night, she was a 14 month old baby, starting to understand that the things we do might have some pattern and mouth noises me make might have some meaning. She was asleep when I took her outside and it took her a few minutes to wake up. I pointed up to the moon, which was mostly eclipsed, and she eventually followed my indication.

Eventually, I sat on the grass with her in my lap. 22 pounds is a lot of baby to hold for too long. She lay in my lap and tiredly turned her head to look up that the spot in the sky that was so interesting to her daddy.

While the Moon was lovely, the camera flash was bright.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Don't Work for Minimum Wage

On my other blog, I recently wrote a piece about the importance of making sure that everyone is properly taken care of from a societal standpoint and why it is bad for all of us if some of us are left behind.

All this could be yours!
This blog is about one specific person. Last year, I wrote an article entitled Raising a Child in Declining America in which I discussed the fact that even with a shrinking pie, there is still the ability of an individual with proper preparation and motivation to secure a fair slice of that pie. In light of current discussions sparked by the Bernie Sanders campaign as well as some personal discussions I've had with people, I'd like to speak a bit about getting off the bottom rung of the ladder individually.

The system in America is fundamentally flawed. Tax, education, and health systems are all malformed to siphon wealth from the bottom to the top. It makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. But that is at the macro level. Indeed we cannot move everyone who is doing minimum wage jobs to better jobs. There are not enough of the better jobs, and the minimum wage jobs need to be done. However, there are enough of the better jobs for one person.

Did you know that there are jobs that pay $40,000 or more that require no education or special skills? Most people working minimum wage would answer "no" to that question. If you do not believe that there is anything better, how could you ever hope to find it. In fact, even if such a job were to find you, you would reject it as being too good to be true because you do not believe such a job can exist.

That's the first challenge that someone in a bad job situation usually has to overcome: belief. If you believe that you can never do better, you will never do better. The Koalid will never be stuck in the minimum wage trap because she will learn from a young age that there is always a way for an individual to get ahead, and that she can be that individual. 

Hopefully, reading this article will move you out of the group of people who do not believe they can do better and into the group of individuals who do try to pull ahead.

Let's talk about a few ways that anyone with gumption can find a better situation.

Sales is one of the most egalitarian industries because results are so immediately quantifiable. While some sales jobs require previous experience, other sales jobs are open to someone who comes in off the street. These openings exist because the work is not easy and the turnover rate is high. However, it is an excellent place to get good experience and make a decent income without background.

The woman depicted in this stock photo makes over $40,000
per year with only a high school diploma and a driver's license.
The car business is an excellent place to get started because the customers come to you rather than you having to find them. The average car salesman makes between $35,000 and $55,000 with (some) benefits.

There are also companies like American Income Life. It is straight commission and the hours are long, but leads and training is provided after you get your license. You can make $30,000 and up. If you have the right combination of motivation and talent, you can break six figures.

These are just a few examples. There are many other places to get started in sales. The challenge is that there are a lot of companies that I called "disposable salesman" companies. They will hire anyone and leave you to sink or swim, generally selling your friends and family before you go. These experiences sour many people on sales which is unfortunate.

If you are looking for a sales job, ask these questions:
Where will my leads/prospects come from?
What kind of training will I get?
How good is the product I'm selling? Can I stand behind it?

If the product is good and if they provide good training and a source of leads beyond your "natural market" then it's worth a shot. Most sales jobs for the inexperienced do not provide base pay. If the job provides a base pay, they can find someone with more experience than you to do it, but providing prospects and training is almost like base pay if you are willing to do the work.

Any skill could be a skill that could earn you a job.
Well, maybe not any skill.
Your Special Skills
Chances are that you are skilled at something, even if you don't think that is a marketable skill. I was talking to someone the other day who works at the Staples Copy Center for minimum wage and no benefits. She did not realize that the skills that she has learned in that job would qualify her for a better paying, full time job with a private print shop.

Chances are that you have some marketable skills that you do not realize are marketable. Do you know the difference between a Facebook group and a Facebook page? That makes you more knowledgeable about social media than 3/4 of the population, including business owners and political candidates. That's a skill that someone could pay for. Maybe not six figures, but a better job than flipping burgers.

The two keys to moving ahead in your career are experience and connections. Internships and other similar positions can get you both. If the position has anything to do with a field that interests you, or even if the position is drudgery but the organization is something that inspires you, take it. It is a first step towards getting what you want. The longest journey starts with a single step.

The most important think is realizing that you can do better. American does not have the opportunity for everyone that it once did. But it still has opportunity for individuals. I will make sure the Koalid finds the opportunities, and you should seek them as well.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Whitehouse Privilege

When I first heard the concept of privilege, I was skeptical. While the lack of a disadvantage is an advantage, the term privilege suggests that one has an unfair advantage, and I've never been completely convinced of that for myself. I have some advantages, but I have some disadvantages as well. The question of what privilege is and who has it is a long discussion for another day and another blog.

However, my intention is that when the Koalid grows up and someone suggests that she has some kind of "privilege" she will not be able to argue that she does not. It will be unambiguous that she has district advantages over other people that she may encounter.

My intention is to be like a coach preparing her for the game. Throughout the next 17 years and beyond, I intend to expose her to experiences, teach her skills, and provide her mentors that will provide advantages no matter what she wants to do.

Too many parents see their job as keeping their kid "out of trouble" until they leave the nest, then they can brush their hands off and say their work is done, anything that happens after is on the kid's head. I find that ridiculous. A child and later young adult is the product of their upbringing. I am not merely responsible for her childhood, but all outcomes afterwards. If I have prepared the Koalid well, she will have the tools that she needs to be successful in any endeavor that she chooses.

This and $2 will get you a cup of coffee.
However, it is important to focus on the right things. When I was young, I was told that I was "gifted" and that I had an obligation to use those gifts in the right way. Good so far. This was then used as a cudgel to hammer the point that I should get better grades than I was because I had "potential".

I have a great disdain for the system of schooling in our culture because it places great weight and emphasis on things that don't matter one little bit. Getting good grades is a matter of learning to play and win a certain kind of game. Unfortunately, most of the lessons learned in excelling in that game will not serve one well in the real world. I hope the Koalid does get good grades, but I am not terribly concerned as to whether she does or not except in how those grades can pave the road the further success.
This will get you a cup of coffee with
or without a good report card.

I care that she knows skills of human interaction like persuasion and empathy. I care that she learns literacy and numeracy. I care that she has a thirst for knowledge, a curiosity to learn more, and the wit to know where to find it. I care that she is ambitious and knows how to set and achieve goals. Many of these things can lead to better grades, but grades are not, in the final analysis, important. Preparation for life is important.

The Koalid will be prepared. She will be inspired. She will be privileged.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Love is 3:00 AM

If you watch romantic movies, you will see a certain kind of love. A kind of love that I knew for many years. It is the joy that is counterpoint to the pain of loss. You know that you love someone because of the pain when they are gone. That is a form of love, but it is also similar to addiction.

Since becoming a father, I have become intimately aware of a new kind of love. Not one based on my need to avoid loss, not one based on attraction, but love that comes of knowing that everything that I will ever do for the rest of my life will be for her.

Amy has been taking care of the Koalid at night for a few weeks now. The Koalid sleeps through the night, if you define the night as 8:30 PM to 3:00 AM. At 3:00 AM, the Koalid has woken up and so has Amy. The Koalid gets back to sleep, Amy does not.

This morning at 3:00, I got up with the Koalid. I changed her, fed her, cuddled with her and watched her fall back asleep. By 4:30, I knew that no more sleep was for me, and I took her to the living room. I fed her a bit more, and then she fell asleep in my arms as I watched Daredevil on Netflix until 6:00 AM as I write this.

If you asked me to get up at 3:00 AM before a full day of work for most other reasons, I would be upset. But for the Koalid, I would get up at 3:00 AM every day if that is what she needed. (Although hopefully Amy and I can switch off.)

Everything I know, everything I have, everything I do, is for this beautiful child so that she may grow to be happy and healthy and successful. If nothing else, the Koalid should never doubt that she is loved very much, not only by her sleepy father, but by many many others who care about her.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Say No To Drugs... For Kids

This comic has made me realize that I have extremely strong feelings about medication for children. Let me first clarify that I am not talking about children with significant mental illness for whom medication is necessary for proper functioning. I'm not talking about kids who are diagnosed bipolar or schizophrenic or with serious conditions like that. I am talking about otherwise healthy, energetic, distractable, creative kids who don't want to sit at a desk for 6 hours a day.

I shared this comic on Facebook with the caption "Don't kill Hobbes. Parents, say no to drugs." I got, as you might imagine, some responses. Some people agreed that drugs are bad. Others felt that they might be necessary at times.

One friend of mine said:

This is difficult for me to look at. We have spent the last 2 years as ADHD sufferers ourselves to try to teach every coping mechanism we can with our now 8 yr old. He has severe ADHD. He is at the point that he can't stay seated in a chair at all. After two years we're getting him evaluated for medication. The thought utterly terrifies me. The problem is that it is a spectrum. It isn't ironically black and white. When contemplating topics like this (or any) I find it best to leave enough wiggle room to contemplate so as not to be 100% on one side of the debate.
And this is a very valid point. He can't stay seated, so how can he function at school. This will affect his grades and future educational prospects.

Wait... why does an 8 year old need to stay seated? Could I stay calm when I was 8? I could if I was doing something engaging like playing a board game, but not so much for a boring class. I was diagnosed with ADD at age 20, but quite untreated at age 8. However this was not a problem because from age 7 to 11, I was attending Sudbury Valley School where I was not required to stay seated and absorb information for 6 hours a day.

I took about 50 hours of formal classes during the course of four years. How did that affect me academically. When I returned to public school, I was the age for grade 6, but academically could have advanced directly to grade 8. Of course, this begs the question of what schools are supposedly teaching during the four years I missed? Indeed, I learned organically everything that I would have been force fed during those years.

So, is this 8 year old the one with the problem, or is the school defective? Children have always learned by experience, through play and exploration. Only in the last 150 years have we sought to so regiment education for younger children. I suggest that the child does not need to be fixed with medication, the school should be fixed with common sense.

Immediately after, there was this comment.
It's easy to take a no-medication stand when it's not your kid. If it were your kid being threatened with expulsion, being held back, or special ed, you'd likely do everything possible to keep the child integrated in mainstream schooling. It's not just ADHD, either. There are kids out there on antidepressants and antipsychotics as well, and I guarantee you it's not because their parents were lazy or looking for an easy way out.
If the Koalid were being threatened with expulsion or being held back, I would remove her from the hostile and non-nurturing environment that created the problem. I understand that this is not an option for many people. They have multiple children or economic challenges that prevent doing so. But, for me, I know the damage that inappropriate education can cause, and, unfortunately, as more and more schools teach to the test, more and more school becomes inappropriate.

Had I been forced to stay in public school for those years, the best case scenario is that drugs and strict discipline would have defeated my creativity and energy. I never would have opened Phoenix Games. I never would have created Pi-Con or ConCardia or any of those things. Equally likely is that my energy and creativity would not have been stifled but would have instead gone to less wholesome activities. Pranks, rebellion, and other trouble could have resulted, causing long term effects to my educational prospects.

There are good mainstream schools. There are also winning lottery tickets. The problem is not the teachers, but the system and the politics which dominate and corrupt the system.

It is my absolute priority that the Koalid be educated in a way that will best prepare her for success, whatever that takes. While the answer to how to do that is evolving, I am confident that catch-all medication is not that answer.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Christian Love

I read something the other day that absolutely infuriated me. It is the story of a transexual teenager whose "Christian" parents were so condemning of her condition that she ended up committing suicide. You can read the details here.

This upset me for a number of reasons. Of course, now that I am a father, any tragedy involving a child hits home. More than that, I am always disgusted when I hear about people who call themselves Christians causing this kind of suffering, especially to their own children. The Bible is quite vague about many things, but one thing that Jesus is very clear about is that it is not man's place to judge. That is exclusively God's domain. It is man's place to have faith and to love one another.

In the article, it says that the mom stated that "God does not make mistakes." That is the most absurd logic. Let's forget that there are examples of God making errors in the Bible itself. The extension of that logic is that one should not seek medical treatment because God gave you the illness, so you should just deal with it. But she is right, God doesn't make mistakes. God made Leelah transexual, and God commanded Leelah's mother to love her.

People like that pick and choose what parts of the Bible to take literally, Most of them will not suggest stoning an adulterer or avoiding clothing of mixed fiber or even following kosher eating laws outlined in the Bible. Generally, these people use the Bible to condemn things they find icky. Homosexuality is icky and they don't like it, so it must be wrong. Shrimp is tasty, so that must be ok.

God commands above all things that we must love one another. Above all other things. If my daughter turns out to be gay, trans, otherkin, or otherwise, I will love and support her. If she has psychopathic tendencies, I will still love her and do everything I can for her. She will never feel alone and abandoned because some book says that some part of her is "wrong."

Being a good Christian is not difficult. The rules are easy: (1) Have Faith, (2) Love one another. Follow those two rules and you are pretty much there.