Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Borg

The family has been watching Star Trek Voyager, and we recently watched an episode from Season 6 entitled "Child's Play." At this point in the series, the crew of Voyager has liberated four children of various races from the Borg, and Seven of Nine has been assigned to look after the children and help them adjust to life on Voyager.

For those who are not Star Trek fans, I should explain that the Borg are a collective of humanoids who are mentally linked, technologically-enhanced, and constantly assimilating more species in order to add to their biological and technological "perfection." In short, after being essentially a half-robotic bee in a hive, it's hard to learn to think and act as an individual. That is Seven of Nine's story arc, and at this point in the story, she's trying to be a governess, because that's part of every woman's evolution, right?

Sorry--it's easy to fork off into feminist diatribes when discussing women in Star Trek.

There's a main plot to this episode, which is interesting, but what caught my attention was the side plot in which Seven of Nine is shown interacting with the children. She has learned that children need a variety of activities in order to thrive, including opportunities for education in multiple subjects and frequent play periods, and so she has scheduled exactly that, down to the minute.

It's meant to be funny, and it is--this idea that a Borg who is an expert in astrometrics and hand-to-hand combat and engineering doesn't understand play--but in 1999 it was only that. Now, it seems so much more. It seems like a parody of our educational system.

In 1999 it seemed like only a Borg could be so ridiculous as to think that all children needed was lessons that could be quantified. It seemed like only a Borg would think that every second of a child's time could and should be scheduled. That only a Borg would expect children to have fun in prescribed ways. And all of those ideas are meant to be utterly ridiculous--the comic relief in an episode about ethics, culture and the essence of parenthood.

What have we become?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Updated Parenting List

This morning I posted this list of things every child should learn. Here are some updates, courtesy of Facebook commenters.

  • My cousin Zviah pointed out that I got the whole idea from the Talmud, which says that every child should learn to read, learn a trade, and learn to swim. 
  • From Heather, I'm adding change a tire and pump gas
  • Crick wants me to add grocery shopping. I'm just adding that to "cook a meal." While I think it's great for everyone to learn lots about produce, and my own kid works in our garden and accompanies us to the farmer's market frequently, I don't think it's absolutely necessary, beyond what one needs to cook the things one knows how to cook.
  • From Devon, I'm adding vote, hold a baby, and make a budget. 
  • Another comment from Devon made me realize I had left out reading. Reading! Of course. It's one of the original three, after all. 
I'm going to go back and update the original list. Thanks for the comments!

Here's the Job

Parenting is a complex job, no question. You're trying to get to know a little person who keeps changing. You're trying to help her grow into a capable adult who is competent, secure, and unique. There aren't really rules for parenting. Every day is different.

However, there are certain things I believe every child should learn before she is launched into the world on her own. Here's a list of those things:

  • Sew enough to fix a loose button or torn seam
  • Use a hammer, screwdriver, wrench and drill 
  • Assemble Ikea furniture
  • Cook a basic meal, including grocery shopping
  • Read a recipe
  • Do laundry
  • Clean a house
  • Transplant a seedling
  • Drive a car
  • Swim
  • Balance a checkbook
  • Change a diaper
  • Write a thank-you note
  • Read a map
  • Ride public transportation
  • Take a taxi
  • Iron a shirt
  • Care for a pet
Updates from comments (click here for sources):
  • Change a tire
  • Pump gas
  • Vote
  • Make a budget
  • Read
Of course there are people in the world who can't learn these things, but these are the skills I think adults need to take care of themselves. If you can do these things, you aren't dependent on other people. You may choose to outsource any or all of these tasks, but if you know how to do them, you have the option to downsize, to live on a budget, to be on your own. And that means freedom.

Don't get me wrong--I hope that Boo grows up to be prosperous, and that her life is full of love and people upon whom she can depend. But everyone I know enjoys doing some of these things. Knowing how to do them allows one to avoid being scammed when hiring others. And if she ever does get into a situation that's bad--if she's suddenly without money, if she needs to get out of a bad relationship, if she finds herself lost in a strange city--she'll be able to fix it herself.

To me, that's the job of being a parent. My mother calls it "planned obsolescence." But I think it just feels a lot better to know how to do things. When I met people who went to college without a hammer, I was shocked. When I hear about adults who don't know how to do laundry, I judge their parents. Because this is the job.

What have I forgotten?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

PMS: A Conversation With My Body

Dear Readers,

I keep rewriting this because I keep thinking about it. I'm not sure where it's going. If you're checking to see if I've written anything new, you might want to read this again, because it keeps changing. And I don't seem to be able to move on to a new idea yet. This one is still percolating. So I'm afraid that rewrites of this are all you're going to get until I'm done. I hope it's interesting.


Body: Oh, my God!

Me: What?

Body: What the Hell?!

Me: What?! What's the matter?!

Body: We're not pregnant!

Me: Oh. That.


Me: I know. I didn't think we were pregnant.



Body: WHY? WHY? WHY?



Me: Groan...

Body: (grumbles) Every month! Not pregnant! I can't even believe this happened to me again.

Me: Seriously, body? This shouldn't come as a surprise anymore. We're almost forty. Isn't this done yet?

Body: I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU WANT! We have one job! ONE JOB!

Me: Program Coordinator?

Body: NO! Give me chocolate.

Me: Okay.

Body: And salt. Eat some pizza!

Me: We're getting pimples. Maybe we should stop. Or exercise or something.

Body: No stopping! No moving! No thinking! Give me grease!

Me: But I like thinking.

Body: You like thinking? Think about how you haven't made any babies. And the other things you didn't do. Think about that time you meant to do that thing and you never did.

Me: Um...

Body: And those people who died. Think about them.

Me: Which people?

Body: All of them! Your grandmother. And the people who died in that avalanche. And the murder victims.

Me: [sniff]

Body: [Turns up the hormones]

Me: [Weeping]

Body: Oh, and think about all the things you have to get done. The refrigerator is dirty. I think you left something at work. And you're probably late for something.

Me: I am?

Body: Probably. And I think you also forgot to do something important.

Me: I think I did!

Body: Also there's something creepy in the kitchen.

Me: There is? What is it?

Body: I don't know. Something. Give me more chocolate.

Me: But the creepy thing in the kitchen.

Body: You're right. You'd be safer in the living room. Go lie on the couch.

Me: Yeah, the couch. Good idea.

Body: No, don't lie like that. Your back hurts, remember?

Me: Crampy.

Body: I think you're sleepy.

Me: But that thing I have to do! And the sad and the busy...

Body: You'll never get it done anyway. You never finish anything.

Me: I'm going to do it now.

Body: You can't. You have a migraine.

Me: Headache!

Body: See? You never finish anything because you're a terrible mother.

Me: I suck.

Hopper: [Coming home from work] Hi, honey! Want to go out to dinner?

Me: I hate you! Go away and leave me alone!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Stay out of it

I think maybe the people who are against gay marriage don't really get what marriage is about. Also the people who think adoptive families aren't "real" families.

Maybe these are the same people who think your wedding is the best day of your life.

A wedding is one day. One. Out of your whole life. And while sex is an important part of marriage, it's really hard to spend a whole day doing it, especially when you've got jobs and kids and a lawn to mow. One of the reasons people like marriage is that when you get busy with raising kids and working and whatever other responsibilities you have, it's hard to spend time finding someone to have sex with. It's convenient to have your sex partner living in your house. (And for those who choose to reproduce, it's also handy to have the other person responsible for that kid's existence around to help with the work of parenting.) But most of your day is spent doing other things, like sleeping and going to work and changing diapers and driving your kid to school and doing laundry.

I believe it's generally better to have two people around and in charge if you're going to raise kids. Not everybody chooses to do it this way. I know some great single moms. But parenting is a job that runs 24 hours, seven days a week, and it helps to have another person around to share the work load. And I have to say, for that job, it doesn't really matter what genitals you have.

It's true that I don't want to marry a woman. But there are lots of men out there I don't want to have sex with, either, and I don't begrudge them spouses, so why would I stop two women (or two men) from marrying each other? It makes no sense.

Same goes for adoption. Giving birth is one day (hopefully less) of your life. Throw in pregnancy and I'll round it up to a year. Which is a significant amount of time, I'll grant you. But my parents have been parenting for forty-three years now, and they don't mention the part where my mom was pregnant very often. As far as my brother is concerned, I'm pretty sure his birthday was the parenting day my mom liked the least out of his whole life. My birth story comes up from time to time because it went a lot better, but mainly my mom talks about the getting me part more than the birth part. Guess what? I have a "getting her" story about Boo, too. And it's much more appropriate to tell at the dinner table.

Then there are people who say they have a special bond with people they're biologically related to. I don't really buy that one, either. I'm close with parts of my family, and not close with other parts. I'm a lot closer to my third cousins on my mom's side of the family than I am to my first cousin on my dad's side. You know why? Because I grew up with my third cousins in my life, but my dad wasn't speaking to his sister for parts of my childhood, so I didn't really grow up with my first cousin.

Which brings me back to marriage. I already knew I could love someone like family whom I wasn't related to before we adopted Boo. Because I had already done it with Hopper.

That's right: adoption and marriage are essentially the same thing. And that's the point. When you decide to make a family with someone, you do it. And then you get to go through life together, hopefully making happy times happier for each other and sharing the burdens during tough times. That's what marriage is, and that's what having kids is, except that in a marriage you try to shoulder the burdens equally, and when you have kids you start out with all the burdens and kind of ease your kid into the burdens she has to carry for herself.

To do that, you have to believe in it. You have to want to do it. That's all. Skills help. Love helps. A good sex life helps. You know what doesn't matter (beyond personal choice)? Gender. Race. Age. Health status. Cognitive ability.

So stay out of other people's choices. There is nothing more personal in this world than how someone chooses to make a family. Whether they choose to be single, to live in a commune, to get married, to have kids--as long as they're not in an abusive situation and they're freely choosing it--it's not anyone else's business.

Monday, October 21, 2013

All in a muddle

What finally got me going after 20 days of not blogging? This tweet:

“If her name begins with A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z, she wants the D.” Source

Not only was this stupidly tweeted by a teenaged boy who's been accused of raping a thirteen-year-old girl, it's indicative of a mindset that perplexes me. So I've decided to analyze the mindset.

First, I'm trying to understand the point. Is it that all women want sex? Okay. Asexuals aside, that's true enough to be pointless. And of course it disavows the existence of lesbians, which is ridiculous enough to be beside the point. 

Perhaps he means to suggest that all women want to have sex with him? Ludicrous, of course, but maybe he thinks that bolsters his image somehow? 

I guess my question is, why would you point that out? It implies that someone has made the counter-argument, which is that some women don't want to have sex, and he is contradicting that statement. Perhaps even that one shouldn't listen to women who claim they don't want to have sex, because they really do. 

Which brings me to the next question is, why would you ever question someone saying they don't want to have sex with you? If someone says they don't want to have sex with you, and they secretly do want to have sex with you, what are you risking by believing them? You're risking missing an opportunity to have sex.

Disappointing, perhaps, but surely not devastating. 

Consider the reverse. If someone says they don't want to have sex with you and they really don't, and you have sex with them anyway. 


So what's the mindset that would allow someone to tweet such a statement? Especially AFTER said person had been accused of rape. I can't begin to understand that. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Grow up

So, the government shut down because Republicans can't accept that they lost about a bazillion votes on Obamacare and that's the way democracy works. Sometimes you lose. When you do, you need to move on and keep doing your job, because millions of people depend on the government for stuff like parks and food and securing mortgages. You may think we'd be better off without government, but we're not.

This pisses me off.

Grow up and go back to work, so we can all do what we need to do.