Friday, November 12, 2010

On Slings, Arrows, and Child Rearing

To understand this article please read this article and then this article.

I don't have any children of my own. I'm not a particularly maternal figure. However, the subject of child rearing is something I have given a lot of thought about. Ever since I found out my fraternal twin was pregnant, I've kept one eye open as I do my usual blog crawls. My niece's well being is very important to me so I like to pay attention and, of course-as new aunts are wont to do-give out unsolicited advice.

That being said, I don't feel like enough reflection is made on the correlation to how people have been raised and how they've turned out.

I was a latchkey kid with a single, emotionally distant mother and two siblings. We lived in crappy neighborhoods, moved often, and were left, largely, to fend for ourselves. My childhood was relatively miserable and not without it's casualties-all of my siblings have, at one point or another, fallen the crushing pressure of a world gone mad. And all of us survived. Not only have we all survived, but I would argue that, though we don't fit your stereotypical models of success here in our early twenties, my siblings and I are some of the most well-adjusted people I know. We have become used to the glaring insanity of the world and know how to move ourselves forward without letting it stop us from doing what we want. We accept our obstacles, get up when we're knocked down and get the fuck over it.

However, I have to admit that this is only with the advantage of an unreasonable childhood. I do still have some problems, and occasionally wish that my parents had taken more proactive roles in my childhood and adolescence. There are pros and cons with every situation, but I have adapted and am moving forward, a little late, but on track.

In contrast, there are those who have been left, quite obviously, without the tools that my childhood equipped me with. One such person is a friend of mine-we'll call him Dick. Dick was raised with two siblings in an upper-middle class suburban home with every comfort. He had a TV as a child-with cable, even!-nice parents who fed him regularly-without making him cook, even!-and the kind of consistent schooling you can only get by staying in one neighborhood for all of your formative years. His parents have expended a lot of energy into forming a loving, supportive family.

Dick is two years younger than me and in college, by the grace of his college fund, and about to change his major for the third time. He has frequent episodes of Psychotic Depression, in which he blames himself for every problem he can think of and he reacts very inappropriately in social situations. He can be awkward and cruel. His parents do try their hardest to help him deal with his illness, but I can't help but feel that their indulgence has lead him to become more narcissistic, and more prone to a pendulum swing between extreme shame and self-importance.

I want to say that this is the only case in which I have met someone with a well-balanced home life and clinging parents who seems to fall apart at the challenges before them-whether they be the monumental issues of what to do with the rest of their life in a college major, or the tiny such as what to suggest for dinner-but it's not. Countless others I've met have fallen onto similar trains of development.

Those who have the most colorful histories seem to always find themselves on solid ground, however the ones who are nurtured extensively (as in the case of attachment parenting, such as with Dick) seem to always be out of balance.

I would liken this phenomenon to walking on a boat. Some have been on a boat most of their lives, learning to step with the ebb and flow of the sea; having been exposed to it they were forced to adapt or fall off. However, some people have yet to learn to walk anywhere but dry land. They feel, as adults, that it's something they should "just know", though their parents never gave them a chance to learn. As they sway back and forth, trying their damnedest to keep their balance, they feel a constant sinking dread that something is wrong with them if they can't walk upright like their less-coddled friends. They try to compensate wildly, often throwing themselves overboard in the effort.

This is not their fault. They need time to adjust, and they need someone to tell them it's ok to not know, but also someone to tell them to get to learning.

I'm an advocate of some tough love. People need to be shoved sometimes. Children need to be nudged, and babies need to be let to crawl free on frequent occasions (with supervision, of course, but only intervention in the case of suspicious behavior-I'm looking at you Amelia-bean!)

If we don't let children make mistakes now, how will they know how to cope with them later in life? A happy child is not necessarily a well-adjusted child. Letting children fall and scrape their knees, or face the dark they're afraid of, or walk on the damn boat will teach them. Scrapes heal and you can get back up; there are no monsters in the dark, it's just dark; the boat doesn't have to be a difficult place to walk. These are things that every child, every person needs to learn, but attachment parenting won't teach.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Shout Out To You Know Who You Are.

Most people I know irritate me because they fall so obviously on one side or the other. The ones who are cynical and unhappy are so because they've been scarred by the lack in their lives; the lack of parental guidance(whatever that means) or the lack of money or both. The ones who look on the brightside, generally, simply haven't seen the dark side. The worse ones, really, are the ones who are cynical and have yet to experience true tragedy. I can't take them seriously, but I'm still afraid for what will happen to them when they find out that their lives so far have been all sunshine and lollipops but all they got out of it were shit pies and raindrops. Is this really all we get? Are the only choices optimism or cynicism? bright eyes or jaded glances?

My year has been a diverse sampling of tidbits torn from the worst events a person can go through in their life. It's as though the universe wants to prove right everyone who ever called me, however indirectly, a fool for being an optimist. They told me that one day the shine of my eyes would dull when I realized how harsh reality could be. They told me I would stop looking at my misfortunes as opportunities to learn and grow and start seeing them for what they were-events to color my world in pessism, paranoia, and the inability to love. Even after everything, though it becomes a little harder to say each time, I still believe they're wrong.

Just because I'm an optimist doesn't mean I'm a fool, or that I'm naive, or that I don't know what's going on around me. I'm all too aware, I just choose to be happy. Is there some kind of sick reason I should be unhappy? Shit happens! The best part of being human is the ability to adapt to situations as they come and not simply fall apart and blame the world for every ailment I have to deal with.

Don't tell me to get over whatever rose colored glasses I'm wearing just because you can only see in black in white. Don't tell me not to stop and smell the roses just because you forgot what flowers are.

Fuck you for telling me I was only happy because I didn't know the horrors of reality.

Fuck you for thinking I couldn't see straight through your facade of maturity.

Fuck you for mistaking cynicism for wisdom.

And, especially, fuck you for thinking I was weak.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Where Did You Come From, Where Did You Go?

This past year has been an interesting roller coaster of fabulous people, crazy experiences, and life-changing encounters. There was no way I could ever know I would be where I am right now. At all.

Anyone who knows me personally already knows the insane story that is the past few months of my life, but this is the internet and assuming anyone reading this knows me personally is just silly. So, I'll elaborate. Hopefully I can keep this post less than book length.

As of my last post I was living in Avondale, Arizona-a section of the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area over 20 minutes from anything remotely interesting. I was living in a small studio apartment with a very nice boy and everything I could possibly need. I was a weekend anarchist, hosting tea/discussion parties and helping with Food Not Bombs. I cooked, cleaned, and was able to pursue any creative interest the wind blew me toward. Thus all the crafting posts. That was my life. I wanted more, but I didn't know it then.

I wanted an adventure, so I kissed my sweetie good bye and hitchhiked to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania last September for a protest. I won't elaborate too much, but suffice it to say my faith in humanity was restored while my personality was thoroughly exfoliated of all the unnecessary anxiety and hang ups I had let build up over time. I was free. While wandering the wonderfully confusing streets of The 'Burgh, I fell in love with it. I also realized that I craved an independence I didn't know I had been missing. I saw a help wanted sign in the window of a restaurant and knew in that moment I could make a place for myself in Pittsburgh. So I just stayed. I left everything in Phoenix behind, even the boy, and focused on setting up a new life.

In Pittsburgh I had tons of friends. I was dancing every other night at least, and playing Obscure Games in between. I was riding my adorable bike everywhere-including to the bakery job I had that helped me barely contribute to the house I was staying in. Life was so very good. I had an interview for a temp agency, a date with a boy I met online, and a visit planned to the school I had applied to. Then, suddenly, as quickly as I had grabbed it, it all slipped right through my fingers. I lost my job, got kicked from the place I lived, romantically rejected from the boy I was hanging out with, and rejected from the school I applied to. I had to make a decision, and I had to leave Pittsburgh. The best four months of my life were over. I got sick on the train to my dad's, found out a couple days after I got there that my car in Phoenix had been towed. A friend of mine died. A little while later I had my heart crushed.

I stayed with my dad a week. I stayed with my sister a week. I stayed with a friend in Cincinnati for two weeks. Mostly I spent a lot of time on the floor staring at the ceiling and trying to vent. Finally, I made my way back to Phoenix to stay with some friends there and try to get my life back together.

That was back from mid-January to mid-February. This hasn't been my best year so far, but things are looking up!

I have a trip planned this summer culminating in my going to school in Cincinnati in the fall. I have people waiting for me there, and a plethora of adventures planned for in between.

I dove in, hit rock bottom, dug a little further, then started swimming up. I thought for a minute there I was going to drown, but with the help of my friends and family and a few bad decisions that were great distractions I've managed to break the surface. Now I can move on. Now I can be free again.

UPDATE 9/10: another friend died, I didn't go on my trip, one of the relationships I was looking forward to didn't work out, and I couldn't get enough money to go to school. (I'm sure I'm forgetting things, but I don't really want to delve anymore)