February 21st, 2007

writing again

I finished up a bunch of the Moving pieces and wrote a Travel piece, all uploaded. Not sure what's next. What I put up was done fairly quickly and may need to be broken up. It certainly needs to be tied in better.

I'm thinking about something that may or may not fit in the book. If it goes in, it'll be as one of the stand-mostly-alone screechy bits. I've already written about the need to create space in your life before having a baby, because if you don't, you'll be forced to make some hard decisions in a hurry after the baby is born. This fits in somewhat with that, but also with the dealing with baggage stuff.

Three axes that influence adjustment to having a new baby are flexibility, how much space/time you have in your life, and how full of yourself and your own issues you are.

By flexibility I mean, when you are pursuing a goal, and what you are doing is not turning out the way you had hoped, what do you do? Try harder? Try something else? Do you have a Plan B? A Plan Z? Do you have ways of generating additional ideas? Try harder if fairly inflexible (but often works). Having ways of generating additional ideas is fairly flexible. Having a preset list of alternatives is in the middle. I think that flexible people who have the ability to follow through (extremely flexible people who never follow through are something else, insultingly called flighty) have the least difficulty adapting to new parenthood.

By time, I mean, hours in the day, days in the week, weeks in the month, etc. that you aren't doing something you would particularly miss if you had to give it up in favor of changing diapers, wiping a nose and otherwise calming an upset and inarticulate baby. The more the better isn't completely true, but very close to true; if you have nothing going on in your life that you care about, that's a problem in its own right, and one which may be exacerbated by the lack of time to spend caring for yourself.

By space, I mean room in your house, your car, your activities, your circle of friends, your head, your heart that you would like to share with a chaotic and destructive but lovable and cute force of nature. Again, the more the better, up to a point, just like with time.

How full of yourself and your own issues you are might fall into the time/space item, but if feels a little different to me. If it's a matter of time, when the kid demands your attention, you'll feel it in the lack of time. If it's a matter of space, when the kid gets into your stuff, you'll feel it in the lack of places to put the stuff out of reach of the kid. But if it's inside of you -- and not external, the way time and space are -- then it'll manifest as an unfair demand on the part of the kid, not just for time and space, but for something that is more important, i.e. you. This is the difference between having to decide between vacuuming the floor because the floor is dirty (which is a time issue and can be ignored) or because you are not the kind of person who tolerates dirty floors (which is a full-of-yourself problem, and puts your-self in conflict with the needs of the child).

I do not agree with those people who think that mothers should completely empty themselves in the service of others. However, I do not think that we should just accept the consumerist propaganda and neuroses which we've allowed to fill us up prior to children to survive and damage the newcomer.

I had thought to frame this as a choose-two (fast, good, cheap: choose two), because you can compensate for lack of time with great flexibility, tons of room in your heart and not being full of oneself. Some of the parents I use as models display this precise set of constraints, and they do it with skill, flair and what looks like great joy and happiness in their families, even when times are tough. I've seen some pretty inflexible people be good parents, by having a lot of time and space available, and by being apparently un-neurotic (which is always a little odd to me with the inflexibility) and otherwise not full-of-themselves. And I've seen flexible people, capable of follow through with plenty of time and space completely cock it up because they were stuck so deep in their own problems they couldn't even perceive their kids.

But I don't think it is a choose-two, for all the compensatory possibilities. The interaction is more complex than that. I may have framed it poorly, also. I feel quite strongly that the full-of-oneself axis is important, but awful hard to identify ahead of time. I know some really neurotic people who got their priorities very straight when they had kids, and it was good for everyone involved. Finally, unllike the choose-two (of three), I believe it is possible, at least in some times and places, to have all-of-the-above. That is, while there is inherent conflict in fast-good-cheap, I don't think there is in being flexible, having a lot of time and space, and having an appropriately-sized self. I might be missing an axis: age. Or two: resources.

Because by the time one has the time, space, flexibility and sanity to be a really great, happy parent, one is about ready to teeter into the grave.

Maybe it is a choose-three-of-four: age, resources (time, space, money), flexibility and sanity. I'll kick that one around for a while.

springing

You can really tell we're edging out of winter, even tho the only realy snow of the year is still rotting on the ground (should be a bunch of blackflies this year. yay. not.). It's lighter earlier and later, every day, and I have become manic. I'm debating cutting back on the cod liver oil. Tough call. The house has been vacuumed. The sheets and towels have been changed (I don't even want to think about how long it was since the last time that happened, altho we were out of town for a week and a half so maybe that mitigates the sin). Teddy and I went grocery shopping today.

Speaking of which, we finally made it to the Super Stop and Shop, the one which grew across the street from the Shaw's we normally go to. It took us forever to get around to giving it a try, and I'm here to tell you that there is exactly one item there we can't get elsewhere locally (Nancy's yogurt -- they only seem to stock plain) and I'm not at all convinced it's worth going back for. Their organic selections are horrific. Even in the cereals aisle. And they were out of the kind of soy milk I like (WestSoy unsweetened plain, so I wound up buying vanilla which is okay for cereal and coffee, but not for other things). They were out of a lot of stuff, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on some of the produce because of the recent south-reaching freeze(s). They did have organic chard, too, now that I think about it, altho it was kinda beat up looking. I miss the lacinata/dinosaur kale when I can't get it. I'd forgotten, until we went to the Whole Foods in Tustin while on our trip. That stuff has great taste and texture. Not scratchy, but firm. *sigh*

Child care cancelled again, this time due to needing to file taxes today at HR Block to use the Rapid Refund so she can make rent. Apparently with all the unpaid time off for bereavement she wasn't going to be able to make rent this month. Clearly she's cutting things closer to the wire than I thought she was. The February break means she doesn't work next week. I told her we'd love to have her for extra hours next week. This was not entirely charitable on my part. I really would love ANY hours at this point, altho in practice there's not much point in more than four hours a day because I don't think Teddy would stand for it. But I'd sure give it a try. He was happy to play with grandma on and off all day long for a couple of days and missed her when she left.