The Bog of Lost Scholars

February 16, 2005

The Evils of Working Dads?

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 6:02 pm

Nine times out of ten, when I read an article about the problems of the American family, someone will mention mothers who work outside the home.

How come no one mentions fathers who work outside the home?

Especially when we have so many commentators talking about the importance of fathers and how kids need their father in their life. Um, if Dad’s working a job that keeps him out of the house nine hours a day plus commuting time, and the kids are just seeing him on weekends (and possibly not even that, if he works a lot of overtime), seems to me that Dad is not a primary influence in these kids’ lives.

One hundred years ago, my forefathers worked on family property, or at worst a five-minute’s walk from home; they saw their kids, worked with their kids, knew what was going on with their kids. The children’s books I read that are set around that era? Same thing; Dad works on the farm or at a nearby store, and he’s home for lunch every day. Yes, sometimes dads had to be absent for economic reasons, but it was always portrayed as a regrettable or sub-optimal scenario, not The Way Things Should Ideally Be.

Now we have long commutes, overtime, and workplaces that are utterly segregated from children’s spaces. And we certainly have many individual fathers who don’t like the situation…but we don’t have pundits talking about how it harms the family. Why not? Aren’t fathers as important to kids as mothers?

December 10, 2004

Will the Real Threat to Marriage Please Step Forward?

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 7:00 pm

When it comes right down to it, I don’t get the people who say “we must utterly ban same-sex marriage because it’ll weaken the institution of marriage”.

Folks, you want a poster child for weakening the institution of marriage? That’d be me. That’s right, this straight woman has personally weakened the institution of marriage, because I chose to get a divorce. And now, I’m happier, more financially stable, a better mother, more socially active, and better able to get my head out of my rear and help other people than I was when I was married.

Which makes my example dangerous. Someone might look at me and say, “Hey! She’s divorced, and she seems to be doing fine, even as a single mother of a disabled kid! So I’ll probably be fine if I get divorced too!” That person doesn’t know what my decision process was, what was happening in my marriage, what circumstances were in place that made divorce recovery easier. If they actually sat down and talked with me about their own marriage and its problems, I might very well say, “You know, I really think you should stick with your marriage at least for a while longer, because while it’s not great, the problems sound manageable, and single parenthood will likely be worse.” But they probably aren’t going to do that, unless they’re a really good friend.

Now, I certainly don’t think that I (or anyone!) should’ve stayed miserably married for the sake of being a good example for the people around me; however, the fact that I’m doing well post-divorce could influence some people to make the wrong decision about their own marriages.

And yet, the people ranting about threats to marriage are pointing at the same-sex couples who’ve been together longer than I was married (I can think of at least five in my general acquaintance alone). I don’t get this.

If anything, those unmarried same-sex couples threaten marriage in another way: These folks have been able to stay together for years without getting a piece of paper from the government. Why should I ever get married again, if I’m not in a position to want/need the legal benefits thereof?

July 27, 2004

Pediatric Intestinal Bugs Still Remain Evil.

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 6:00 pm

$80 for another doctor’s visit and another medication. We’ll see if it helps at all.

June 24, 2004

Today in History

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 12:00 am

Thirty-seven years ago today, a history teacher from upstate New York married an Army sergeant from Louisiana.

Occasionally their offspring have wondered how the heck they’ve gotten along all these years, given the surface differences in their background and interests. Perhaps it’s because they actually have more common interests than appears on the surface, or because their priorities mesh well, or because they work well together as a team, or because they have always treated each other with respect and consideration and generally made themselves a good example for their kids to test their own relationships against.

Whatever the reasons, we’re glad they’re still together. Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!

June 16, 2004

Random Weird Political View

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 7:16 pm

So, since I’ve been talking way too much about diapers lately, let’s briefly digress into one of my political opinions.

The death penalty.

When it’s administered by the would-be victim or someone in the vicinity with the intent of preventing a violent crime, with the understanding that the “executioner” then has to go through some hefty inquiry by a court to verify that yes, a violent crime really was taking place and deadly force really was necessary (as opposed to “he looked at me funny, so I shot him”), then I’m for it.

When it’s administered by the government, I’m ambivalent. But if we’re going to have it, let’s make it blatantly clear that we consider killing another person to be a terrible thing: let’s have the executioner be a volunteer, who agrees to go to prison for the rest of their life after executing the criminal. Killing someone in self-defense is one thing, but killing a person in cold blood should be treated as a most horrible action that removes the killer’s right to participate in society, no matter how much the dead person deserved it.

May 5, 2004

On Abu Ghraib

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 5:55 pm

Other people have already said it for me.

My only additional thought: It’s currently unlikely that my son’s cognitive disabilities will improve to the point that he could enlist in the military as an adult. But it’s not utterly impossible, and I haven’t permanently ruled out the possibility of having another kid; twenty or thirty years from now, I could perhaps have a child serving in the military. So I shall state for the record: if a child of mine enlists in the military and ever pulls heinous shit like this, that child had better hope the firing squad gets them before I do.

April 15, 2004

Minor Advantages to Autism

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 5:43 pm

Reading John Scalzi’s report on his daughter’s first photographic forays has put me into another noxious self-pitying mode. His five-year-old child uses a digital camera, talks verbosely, and plays with Photoshop; my five-year-old child wears diapers, occasionally says “juice” intelligibly, and throws sticks.

What, me bitter?

So, as a mood corrective:

Minor Advantages to Having a Non-Verbal, Mildly Autistic Kid

  • I can buy his Christmas presents in front of him, and he won’t notice.
  • I don’t need to spend a lot on Christmas presents.
  • I can use the same Halloween costume for as many years in a row as it’ll fit.
  • Birthdays are no big deal.
  • There is no begging for the latest “in” toy.
  • The bedtime routine is so set that I can start it in the middle and still get the right end result.
  • If he wakes up before I do, he plays in his room instead of wandering the house. (He can open his bedroom door; he just doesn’t until I come to get him. Though this may be fixing to change.)
  • He never says rude words in order to shock me.
  • I’ve never had to deal with the endless chain of “but why?”
  • Little things thrill me immensely. For example, yesterday, he attempted to unlock the side doorknob with the wrong key, figured out for himself that it wasn’t working, and put the correct key in. I was delighted.

Hey, I may never know what it’s like to have my child say, “Mama! Look at this! Isn’t it cool?”, but I do have my perks here and there….

April 10, 2004

On Communication

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 1:00 pm

I’m somewhat boggled by relationship advice books that say, “Ladies, don’t ever complain to your husbands about anything; don’t tell them that something bothers you; just shut up and smile and say ‘yes dear’ so they’ll feel happy.”

Keeping my mouth shut about things bothering me, especially things my ex did that bothered me, was the biggest contribution I made to the failure of my marriage.

Now, granted, judicious silence is healthy, even necessary to a thriving marriage. Most of the time, I’m glad I bit back my comments, because half an hour later I’d be saying to myself, “That was trivial and silly! Why was I making such a big deal of that?” or “Yeah, that was annoying, but you know what? I can live with it” or “Sheesh, my head was so far up my rear that I could see my esophagus; I’m glad I didn’t spout off and make a fool of myself.”

But in the cases where half an hour (or a day, or a month) later, I found myself thinking, “Okay, I’ve cooled off now, but you know what? This situation really does bother me, and I think I have good reason to be bothered”? Usually I still didn’t speak up about it. Or I’d say something, but I’d say it so diffidently and calmly that my ex wouldn’t realize that I was expressing serious displeasure, and I wouldn’t correct his perception. So of course nothing would change! And eventually I’d blow my top over the last six months of problems, which didn’t help matters either.

That’s what I find hardest about relationships. I’m a lousy communicator. I have a damn hard time saying to someone, “Sweetie, X really bugs me.” (Unless I’m so furious that I can’t repress it, in which case it’s an incoherent scattershot babble.) It’s not that I can’t put anger or annoyance into words; I can write an email to a close friend saying “dammit, that idjit did X again; it bothers me because of Y, Z, and Q”, or write in my paper journal about what’s bothering me. I’m more comfortable with writing anyway, and I can take the time to word things clearly. But speech? Ack! I’m better than I was ten years ago, granted, but that still puts me at “dismal”.

It’s somewhat true with the positives too. Unless I’m overwhelmed by loving emotion, it’s hard for me to say, “Sweetie, I really like/admire/appreciate X about you” — and if I am overwhelmed, see above-mentioned incoherency problem. And yet I have no problem writing my sister and saying “he’s so intelligent, and he’s calm, and he’s got a great sense of humor, and he tells such cool stories, and he’s done so many interesting things, and he’s good with kids in general and my son in particular, and he’s an enthusiastic dancer, and he’s reasonably musically talented, and he’s cuddly, and he smells good, and he’s willing to teach me basic car care, and he’s just so damn comfortable to be around; I really enjoy his company, and I’m very happy that we’re dating!”

(Hmm. That description sounds familiar for some reason; I couldn’t have had a specific person in mind, could I? Naaah. [Now, of course, if I did have a hypothetical specific mechanic person in mind, this would only prove my point. It’d be easier to write all this on a world-readable webpage, even knowing that said hypothetical specific person would read it at some point, than to say it to him.])

Occasionally I’ve joked to myself that I should just use email whenever I want to tell a loved one how I really feel about something. The more I think about it, the more I think I should take that seriously — if I can’t get the words out of my larynx, maybe I should let them out through my fingers instead. There’s still plenty of mistakes that I can make in a relationship, but it’d be nice to actually have learned a way to deal with this one!

March 26, 2004

Affirmative Action I’d Love to See

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 1:35 pm

For the record, I am generally in favor of affirmative action when it means “we make an effort to find applicants from groups and backgrounds that aren’t as well represented in our company or in a particular hierarchy of the company, and we do our best to focus on the applicant’s actual abilities and to ignore as far as possible their race, gender, orientation, ethnic background, class background, etc.”, and against it when it means “we must hire X% of Group A, Y% of Group B, etc.”.

That said, there’s one job sector that’s screaming for some gender-based affirmative action, and I’d probably cheerfully overlook it if the hiring company applied the second form of affirmative action.

I refer, of course, to the care of younger children, a field overwhelmingly staffed by women.

I want more male caregivers in daycares — my son’s daycare does a fabulous job on this front, but all kids in daycare should have the chance to interact with men as well as women during the day. I want more male elementary school teachers, especially in the lower grades. (I want more stay-at-home/work-at-home dads too, but that’s obviously not an AA issue.)

Yes, I know; besides the fact that caring for small children is often seen as UnManly, the pay for childcare and elementary education sucks. Men won’t move into these fields unless the pay sharply increases, but paying daycare workers better means daycare becomes less affordable to those who need it most, and paying teachers better means our taxes go up yet again. Still. If I ever walk by a display table for an anti-affirmative action group, I’ll ask them whether they think it’d be a bad thing to preferentially hire men as elementary school teachers, and see what they say.

March 9, 2004

On Handguns

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 6:55 pm

My fence-sitting view on handguns was solidified the year I lived in an apartment complex on the wrong side of the Astrodome in Houston. During that year, there were two murders in the complex. I don’t know how many robberies or burglaries there were, but one woman was mugged right outside my door.

And one day, I came home to find an apologetic note on my door. My upstairs neighbor had been cleaning her gun while it was still loaded, and she accidentally shot a hole through the ceiling. Fortunately there was no major damage; my cat was fine, and the center of the floor was clear, so all I had to do was vaccuum up plaster dust and call maintenance to fix the ceiling.

Should she have had the right to own that gun? Yes, says the person who could have been sitting in that bullet’s path. (Would I still say that if I’d been home at the time, or if I’d come home to find a cat corpse and feline blood all over my bedroom? I have no idea, but I suspect yes; I think I should have the right to own a handgun, and I can’t think of a way to 100% idiot-proof gun ownership without saying “nobody has the right to own a gun”.)

Should she have gotten a decent training course before taking it home? Hell yes, says tPWCHBSitBP. (Come on, even I know that you should unload your gun before cleaning it, and I have no gun experience whatsoever!)

Rights and responsibilities, folks. You have the right to defend yourself; you have the responsibility to keep the collateral damage down. I may eventually buy a gun myself, but whenever I do, it will be at a time when I can afford the gun safety course, a good safe, and at least an hour a week at the range practicing.

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