I’m open, but I’m not THAT open…

Thrice this past week, I’ve been asked how soon I plan to get pregnant after I get married. (Yup, how soon plan. Me. The fiancé gets no say, apparently.)

One, I’ll admit I kinda walked into. Cooing over photos of my cousin’s children and then admitting a craving for tuna (which I haven’t had in forever) does kind of create a natural segue. It really was a “Wow, you really like kids! Are you planning on being a mom soon?” sort of thing. Okay. I can handle that. (My no was followed by the second question of if I already was pregnant. Pro-tip: DON’T FREAKING DO THIS. Not okay.)

The other happened as I was cooing over other photos. I quote, “Oh, I see where this is going: that’s why you’re getting married!”

Look, I get that it’s teasing. I’m not looking to play the victim or cry injustice here. But the implication that kids will take (or worse, already have taken) precedence over other qualities in a spouse really rankles.

Yes, I unapologetically go to mush over babies, and I like working with kids. I’ve always known that I want to be a mom someday. Honestly, I think the fiancé will make a great dad when we’re (yes, “we”! The fiancé gets a say!) good and ready. But I’m not just biding my time by programming–it’s a passion and I want to keep doing it, even after kids, and I don’t love the fiancé just because he could be (as a friend rather aptly put it) a “baby-enabler”. He is so much more than that. He is my partner in crime, my sounding board; he understands and accepts me. He’s a good cook, has an infectious smile and laugh, and plays a mean game of Scrabble. He gives the best hugs and, being far more aesthetically inclined than I, occasionally helps me pick out what to wear. We first bonded over composting and origami, and only later found out that we were compatible in terms of life and family goals, and while kids are a pretty important part of compatibility (you can’t really have half a kid, or only the good parts of a kid), again, I’m marrying him for everything else, too, and quite possibly everything else, first.

Also again, I get that it’s good-natured teasing. I really do. I’m not about to report either coworker for harassment or anything–in this case, it would be counter-productive. However, I have resolved to speak up next time. Not harshly or anything; just “Hey, I don’t appreciate the implication/you asking me about something this personal”. I know they’re good guys and will take it just fine. We all make mistakes. This is just a reminder to me that some have a deeper effect than they seem.

To my dad on Father’s Day

Dear Dad,

Well, I guess I’m going to be emailing this to you because you don’t have a Facebook or a Twitter or anything. That’s okay. I suspect you’d either neglect it entirely or get too caught up in it, and you don’t want to do either. I’ve stopped caring about that.

If there’s one thing I can say, it’s that you’ve taught me to pick my battles. I can say I’m your daughter through and through on that one. I sometimes pick unwise ones, just like you.

Yesterday, we celebrated me. Today, I’m celebrating you.

I remember rough-housing on that God-awful swamp-green living room carpet we used to have. I also remember watching you light a fire, and working with power tools… all those crazy things that I always wanted to help with because they looked like a lot of fun. In retrospect, I can see how hard it was. I mean, you practically renovated the entire house, and more or less single-handedly.

But you know what my fondest memories still are? Take a guess…

If you said “Nights spent reading Dr. Seuss”, you’re right. You were the one who taught me how to read expressively, to bring a story to life just using my voice. I mean, you did your own sound effects! Who does that?! Not many people, I can tell you! Sure, my reading mannerisms have gotten me strange looks more than once, but what’s life without being a little (or a lot) strange every now and then?

On that note, you taught me to be proud of who I am, strangeness and all. You were the one who told me not to take any guff from bullies, even if it meant taking it to blows and getting myself in trouble. Thankfully, it never came to that, but it did give me the confidence to do what needs to be done.

You were always telling me I’d go far—farther than a lot of people seemed to think I would. Farther than I thought I’d go, at least. Not that I thought I would drop out of college or anything if I thought it was too hard, but that, compared to a lot of people, I’d be just okay. It’s something I still struggle with, being surrounded by some pretty brilliant people, but you’ve told me over and over that my tenacity is just as valuable as anyone else’s natural talent, and I’m just now coming to realize that there’s a lot of truth to that.

We’ve walked a long road together, you and I, and we have butted heads over a lot of it. But we’ve also had our fun, our laughs, and our tears, and it’s nothing like how I feel a lot of my friends’ relationships with their parents are. (Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know.) And still, at this crossroads, I know you’re walking with me, telling me to go for it and never back down. And also have small snacks at regular intervals so that the world doesn’t end when I get hungry.

From the big things to the little things and a lot of in-between things, you’ve been there. And I’d be lying if I said I thought this is the end of that. Thanks, Dad, now and always.



One of those special moments of dawning realization

More and more often, especially as I close in on my last quarter at university (I hope, I hope, I hope…), I find myself just doing something, and then stopping in the middle and going, “Wait a minute–this is an adult thing!”

No, not that kind of adult thing. And even if it was, I wouldn’t write about it. That would just be… ew.

No, I’m talking about the kind of adult things I can talk about to even a five-year-old.

Take today, for instance. I needed to return to my parents’ house to get a few important pieces of mail. Like my new debit card. Because apparently, they expire. (Who knew?) Like I’ve done since high school, I grabbed the bus and walked and let myself in, and looked for a snack.

Somewhere in the middle of that, things went awry.

It came to my attention that there was a batch of clean dishes sitting in the dishwasher, and in the dish rack next to the sink. Being that we have limited counter space at my apartment, my mind was screaming at me that these things need to be put away NOW. (We don’t use our apartment dishwasher because it has a funky brown stain in it, and we don’t really go through that many dishes, anyway, but that’s neither here nor there. My point is that these dishes needed putting away.)

Now, when I was a kid, I would have ignored this and summarily pleaded the fifth when confronted about why I wasn’t responsible, especially when the chore takes only five minutes, tops. In defense of me fifteen or so years ago, five minutes in kid time spent on a chore is like eleven hours. But now, it really is five minutes. And it really does feel good. There’s just something about surveying a less-cluttered counter and an empty sink and thinking (complete with a bit of a twang) “I done good”.

And then, I realized that this was one of those things that mature (or at least responsible) adults do. And I kind of freaked out. Since when am I a mature, responsible adult?! Just because I’ve been able to vote and smoke and drink for a couple years doesn’t mean I’m mature and responsible. Just because I’ve somehow made it through three and two thirds years of college doesn’t make me mature and responsible. What is it, then? Is it just these little, every day things? Is it working a job? Is it budgeting time and money? Is it rolling your eyes at fart jokes? I really don’t know.

What I do know is that somehow, in the midst of everything, I’m becoming an adult. It’s a bittersweet thing, though I know I will always have a part of me that’s a child at heart. But it’s also a proud moment, both for me to realize that maybe I can live in this so-called “real world” and not fall to pieces, but also for me to look at my parents (and hopefully for them to look at themselves) and say, “You/we done good. Chickadoodle will always be that little girl we all loved from the start, but now, she’s more than that; she’s what we hoped for.”

Mom, Dad, when you read this (because I will make you; I swear I will), I really hope that you do look at that little girl and the woman she’s becoming with pride. If you ever wondered whether you got it right, I can tell you that you did, 100%. And I love you both so much.

This is what happens when you don’t use the scientific method properly

A study recently published by the University of Canterbury in New Zealand has some… unfortunately obvious results, some might say.

The tl;dr version of the study is as follows: sex and booze make humans happiest in terms of three axes: pleasure, meaning, and engagement. Seriously, sex ranks in as the number one activity that makes humans happy, and drinking alcohol comes in second. This does make pretty good sense on a basic level, though. You have only to look at popular culture and the media to corroborate this supposed “revelation”, and science lends its own credence. Humans, after all, are huge fans of instant gratification—the part of the brain that enables long-term planning and weighing risk versus reward doesn’t fully develop until most people are in their mid-twenties! (This, as many of my friends half-joke-half-assert, is why people should not be allowed to marry or make other such life-changing, long-term decisions until they’re older than about 25.)

Now, a couple things concern me about this study: first and foremost, what are the demographics, here? Were they even reported? Looking at the compiled lists of the top ten activities that (allegedly) make humans happiest and the bottom ten, it seems skewed toward the culturally mainstream interests of those between the ages of about 16 and 35. (To be fair, though, nobody likes being sick, and recovering is rarely a pleasant journey, so at least the least happy activity makes sense.) I looked around for a little bit, and I could find no information on the demographics, and that’s a little concerning. If you’re going to generalize on what makes humans happiest, I’d hope that you’d at least have age and gender proportional examples! Given the proportions of those who text and/or use Facebook—the main avenues of reporting in this study—I’d say that this could use a little work.

Next, I happened to see this article from the Stir that talks about how sad it is that more people don’t want to be parents. First, I think this is kind of a load of crock. In terms of people commenting and essentially saying “Parenthood sucks”—it seems like these are the same people who also don’t like going to lecture or cleaning or much of anything that involves actual work; they’re probably not representative of the majority of people, and they’re probably commenting mindlessly. And kids, God bless ‘em, are a ton of work. Now, from what I’ve seen in real life, they can also be incredibly rewarding, but they tend to come with the most extreme of ups and downs. Popular media does not help, and often paints child rearing as something that is all pain and very little to no reward whatsoever for just about every reason imaginable. Compounding that, people like to make themselves feel better by examining the misfortunes of others. A childless person will look at some inaccurate representation in media portraying the incredibly vast majority of families as dysfunctional beyond help and think, “Well, at least it’s not me. And why would I want that, anyway?”

The author of the Stir article thinks that this supposed distaste for parenting is unfortunate, and, on some levels, I agree with her. Why shouldn’t we want to share our lives with these little miracles? Actually, there are plenty of reasons, so, hey, if people don’t want and/or aren’t ready to be having kids, the absolute dead last thing they should be doing is, well, having them. Not good for the parent, not good for the kid, not good for anyone.

And really, when you look at it, considering that there are at least twenty items on this list, being ranked in the top twenty-five percent (raising children comes in fifth) really isn’t all that bad. I suppose the point of the Stir article could be more (and very implicitly) that you keep on “needing” more alcohol and sex to be happy, and that threshold for how many children it takes to be happy is, in a lot of cases, far and away lower. To be honest, I also don’t understand what the gripe is about volunteering coming before having children. To a lot of people, volunteering strikes the correct balance of caring for others and caring for one’s self. In addition, those who volunteer a lot of their time likely don’t have a whole lot of it left to be rearing kids, which does take away from the time one is able to spend simply caring for one’s self. I just fail to see how volunteering ranking higher means that we don’t respect our kids. (Saying this about the ranking of sex, though, and, far more obviously, the booze, I can understand, but even then, if you use both in moderation, that alone does not mean you disrespect children.) Side note: I also wonder which category (volunteering or raising children) fostering kids falls under, because that could totally skew these results, too.

The point here is that it’s all too easy to extrapolate something that probably isn’t there (or at least, isn’t entirely accurate) from the little data that there is while missing out on the portion of the data that would be really telling.

It’s kind of funny—it’s really hard to construct a well-done survey. It’s a lot of effort that a lot of people don’t want to put forth, and thus, it generally winds up with a gigantic confirmation bias. Funny how “paid work”—which I’m assuming is what this research was for those conducting the research—does manage to rank in the bottom ten. Take a minute to let that sink in. And for goodness’ sake, next time, please be a little more accurate, people!