Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Playing The Guilt Game

 

Pretty much right from their first breath, children are experimenting with different ways to get us to do what they want.  Different timbres and pitch rejected or filed away for further use based on the effectiveness of each individual scream and cry.  Later on it becomes tantrums and hissy fits, the more public the better. Incessant, ear bleeding, aneurysm inducing whining. Two of my daughter’s preferred techniques were either to simply continue asking over and over until all will to resist was ground down and washed away or to use some variation of “pretty please” followed by a combination of various treats to go “on top.”

Amateur inveiglements now set aside for the most effective form of psychological manipulation that one person can inflict upon another – the  guilt trip.

When she started kindergarten, I talked about what that was going to mean for our time together.  I don’t get home from work until after bed time most nights of the week, so there are several days when the morning routine is our only time together.  I talked about the teenager’s sharp words about time spent with her and how deeply they cut.  I talked about my guilt.

Attempts to maximize this time that we do have together have led to a pretty full schedule of fun whenever I’m not working.  Wednesday afternoons at the park, wings and movies with the teen, roller skating just about every weekend.  It’s also led to expectations that I can’t always meet and opportunities for the little to try out her new means of persuasion.

She has less than adequate comprehension about things like money and bone weary exhaustion on a Sunday morning.  What she knows is that she wants to do something, that there will be several days past before I’m able to bring her someplace again, and that by reminding me of this, there’s a pretty good chance that we are going to go.

 

the power of guilt
trying to look sweet and innocent

 

So where did she learn such Machiavellian machinations?  How to harness the power of guilt for her own purposes?

The same way that all children do eventually.  They learn it from us. It’s the basis for almost all behavioral modification, whether consciously or not.  When a child does something good we shower them with words of praise and approval.  When they are bad we take away that approval and show disappointment.  Punishments and the learning of consequence of action are part of the process, but I’m starting to believe that when a child chooses not to repeat an act that they had previously been punished or reprimanded for, avoidance of that feeling of guilt, of having that approval taken away from them based on their actions, is just as much a reason for the change in behavior as any other.

 

This morning I woke up in a pretty foul mood.  I didn’t feel well, my back hurt, and it was too damned early for any reasonable person to be awake.  My daughter naturally decided that this meant it was the perfect day to practice jumping from one section of the couch to the other, over and over, and blatantly ignore my increasingly loud demands for her to stop.

I soon snapped and she immediately fled up the stairs in tears, scared by an outburst that was uncharacteristically incensed.  I stayed downstairs, morosely clinging to my moral superiority until she returned, head hung low, and promised to behave if it meant we could spend some more time together before I left for the day.

Some time playing something a little more fun than the game of guilt tag that I think that she had already won.

 

Confession of a Cry Baby

 

Every Tuesday night my wife watches a show called “This Is Us” and like everybody else I know that watches it, every Tuesday night she cries.  I get home from work about half way through, change my clothes, pour a drink, and spend the next thirty minutes or so catching up on e-mails, Facebook, and any comments that have been left on the blog.

What I don’t ever do is make fun of her. Part of the reason for this is self-preservation of course. I know that to intentionally antagonize her while she is emotional is to risk that emotion quickly turning to wrath directed my way. The other part is that I’m not someone who should be slinging that particular stone, something that she would have no hesitance reminding me.

I’d like to blame it on fatherhood but the truth is that it never really took a whole lot to get these eyes leaking.  Books, movies, songs, and television shows, I’ve cried to them all.  Bonnie Raitt singing “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, Johnny’s final moments in The Outsiders, Illyana Rasputin’s death in Uncanny X Men 303.  It doesn’t matter how many years pass or how many times I experience these moments, the result is the same.

 

crybaby
actual picture of me watching TV

 

What fatherhood has done is to add exponentially to the number of times that I embarrass myself.  Any country song with a guy singing about his daughter and I’m done.  Instead of waiting for Forrest Gump to bury Jenny to need a tissue, I’m grabbing the box the first time he meets Little Forrest. My wife and I recently started watching the first season of The Missing on Starz and I honestly don’t know what the hell I was thinking. Our DVR is full of pirates, vikings and witches that need catching up on with much less emotional distress involved.

 

 

If you haven’t seen the movie Intersteller yet but think that you might, it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to stop reading now. You also should go watch it, because it’s a fantastic movie.  I finally got around to seeing it this week and can’t believe I waited that long.

I’m also glad that when I did watch it, I was by myself. If you are still here than you know that it’s also an incredibly long movie, the first act used to establish the relationship between Matthew McConaughey’s character and his children, especially with his young daughter.  His leaving of these children in an attempt to save humanity and his goal of returning to them are what makes the movie a great one instead of just a somewhat clever space movie with a pointless Matt Damon cameo and a really weird ending.

It’s a movie about a parent, sacrificing for his children and it had me blubbering multiple times. I won’t give too much more away in case there are  some that stuck with me past the spoiler warning, but I’ll leave you with these lines, delivered as he tried to console his daughter before leaving:

Now we are just here to be memories for our kids…once you are a parent you’re the ghost of your children’s future.”

sniff.

 

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

A Parent’s Very First Job

 

Having a child means an endless list of responsibilities.  Little beings reliant on us for food, clothing, shelter and tons of other things over the course of their lives.  Its not only a never ending job, but one that starts before we even take them home.

They need a name, a means to be referred to by the world. Something for you to sing as you rock them to sleep, whisper as you ask your God to watch over them, yell one hundred times a day as they grow older.  A name is also how they will refer to themselves, the first step towards self actualization and development of sense of identity.

A name is often the first thing that is known about a person, a first impression that can convey race, gender or heritage, with all the institutional judgments and prejudices that knowledge brings.  It provides insight into the person’s parents, thus giving a potential glimpse into how a child was raised. It’s a person’s calling card, something they will carry throughout all phases of their life.

If it’s so important, the first great test of parenthood, how do so many people screw it up?  A need to reject conformity and cultivate our children’s individuality and uniqueness that instead leaves them saddled with a horrendous moniker for the rest of their lives, cursing their clever parents every time they correct somebody’s pronunciation or ask to be referred to by their middle or nicknames.

I work at a hospital and am presented with dozens of different names daily.  As much as it contradicts my tenet against judging others, I’m finding more and more of these names absolutely ridiculous, sometimes downright nonsensical.  I won’t use any examples in an attempt to not alienate any potential readers, but if the pronunciation of your child’s name is phonetically antithesis to the organization of letters used in it’s visual form, I may be talking about you.  I haven’t been able to independently verify this information, so there is the possibility I am propagating fake news, but I have heard tell of children now being named Hijkmnop, pronounced Noel. If you don’t get it at first, neither did I.  Noel – no L.

It’s a difficult task, and one my wife and I didn’t take lightly.  My first choice of girl’s name was Kahlan, pronounced the same as her preferred boy name, Colin.  Her second choice of boy name was Luke, ironic because my first offering was Skywalker. Upon learning that we would be having a girl we settled on Alaina, my second choice, with a middle name of Shay, her first. Had we a male offspring, there is therefore a very real chance that he would be named Luke Skywalker Barnes, a difficult legacy to live up to. Whether he or society would have ever appreciated this awesomeness is now rendered rhetorical debate, but is a good reminder of why I try not to judge.

 

 

 

The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback

Thoughts of My Gram

 

It’s strange sometimes the things that can remind you of someone, a person that may not have crossed your mind for a long time or had a reason to think about.  A song, a place, an article of clothing or a certain type of food. The most arbitrary of catalyst triggering remembrance.

A few days ago I looked out at an extremely crowded waiting room at work and thought about my grandmother, passed about twenty years now.  I looked out at the mass of people, turned to the student that was shadowing me, and remarked that “they must be giving away something for nothing here.”  It was a line that my grandmother used whenever we would pull into a parking lot that contained more than a handful of cars.  As a child I found it much more humorous than the student seemed to.

She lived farther away from us than either of my children’s grandparents now do, but was an important figure in my life growing up.  Summers meant vacations at their house. A week solo for myself, one for my brother, and then a week when we were both there. This time was spent working in their garden, swimming in the only privately owned pool that I knew of, and watching old episodes of Get Smart and Batman using a new innovation in technology called “cable television.”  It was also a time for reading, hours spent in silence as we lay across her bed in silence, each privately engrossed in whatever novel currently had our attention.

 

thinking of gram
sorry ladies, I did some cropping

 

My girls are very fortunate to have two grandmothers and a grampy that are very involved in their lives, as are my brother’s twins.  When she was younger a grandfather that has since passed was a very important role model in the teenager’s life and I sometimes wonder if she may have avoided a few of the pitfalls that she has stumbled into if that influence was still with her.

Over the past few years several very close friends of mine have been confronted with their parent’s mortality. Passage for some, ongoing fights for health continuing for others.  It’s something that’s painful to consider, but a reality that we all must one day face. One more reminder to cherish every day that we have with those that we love.

I think that recent thoughts of my grandmother may have been subliminally influenced by this picture, taken to commemorate the little’s first 100 days of kindergarten.  It’s meant to depict what she will look like at 100 years old. My daughter absolutely hates it, but I think it’s hysterical.  It also kind of reminds me of somebody.

 

looking like gram
a little bit freaky

 

 

 

Reflectionsfromme

Current Events? ( The State of The Blog 2 )

 

I had a surprising conversation with somebody recently regarding the variety of things that I write about here.  We were discussing my recent renewal of the site for another year and about how hard it can sometimes be to continually find topics that people would be at least somewhat amused by or interested in spending a few minutes of their time reading my opinion of.  I was asked why I didn’t devote more time to current events, a seemingly endless supply of inspiration.

It was surprising because I’ve never really been sure how many people appreciate those types of posts and how many simply tolerate them occasionally.  I’ve had a few private messages and e-mails thanking me for saying things that they felt uncomfortable expressing publicly but also a few of the “stick to parenting” variety.

It’s not a dilemma that is unique to me.  I read a lot of other bloggers in a variety of niches and many of them have written posts very similar to this one over the past several weeks.

My use of the phrase “current events” as opposed to “politics” is intentional.  My focus never on partisan issues, but on those of common sense, compassion, and basic human decency.  I want my country and it’s leadership to exhibit the qualities that I am trying to instill in my daughters. When I feel that they aren’t, there are going to be times when I feel compelled to speak my disapproval. Sometimes the place where I do that will be here.

The truth is that it’s been a very trying time since the new administration took office, every day bringing something new to be disgusted or disappointed by.  A review of immigration and travel policy by a new administration seems reasonable, an immediate ban with no thought to potential consequences or communication with the involved agencies is not.  A Presidential spokesperson urging people to buy the first daughter’s clothing line because she has been “treated unfairly” seems pretty straight forwardly inappropriate. Cabinet appointees that are either woefully unqualified being confirmed by people who’s campaigns her family helped finance and others with blatant conflicts of interest.

The latest hit came just weeks after I read a Rolling Stone expose on “puppy mills”,  horrible farms where dogs are kept and bred under the most despicable conditions.  Apparently Cruella De Vil wasn’t available, but Brian Klippenstein, the man picked to lead the US Department of Agriculture is also the executive director of a group called Protect the Harvest, a lobbying group that believes animals are here for our use and amusement and that regulations protecting them, including those intended to shut down puppy mills, are hurting business interests.  In what is apparently a concerted effort to be as comically villainous as possible, it will soon be easier to torture puppies.

I’m convinced that if Dr Evil was a real person, he would immediately be tapped to head the Federal Reserve.

 

One meeeellion dollars

 

A paranoid person, one that believes in UFOs and vast government conspiracies, might start to wonder if this is all a feint.  That there is no way that this level of lunacy isn’t simply meant to distract us from what is really going on behind the scenes.  That we haven’t been infiltrated by a cabal of supervillains, but rather a group of shady businessmen running the largest con in history. More and more, I find myself beginning to turn into that person.

 

The truth is out there
The truth is out there

 

I’m starting to believe that this entire election was about Russian oil, specifically 60 million acres of land that Exxon Mobile began leasing in 2013.  This is oil that Russia in unable to export without the technical expertise supplied by Exxon Mobile and the reason that they invaded Ukraine in 2014, as a way of securing a pipeline to the Black Sea without paying the heavy taxes that were being levied.

After The United States sanctioned Russia for this invasion, Exxon Mobile could only pump oil from approximately 3 of these 60 million acres. If Donald Trump ends these sanctions there is about a half a trillion dollars to be made.  The CEO of Exxon Mobile at the time of that 2013 deal was a man named Rex Tillerson.  If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he is our new Secretary of State.

Does this mean that we should ignore everything else that is happening? Of course not.  Regardless of my original intentions towards this space, current events have always infiltrated into my postings.  Sometimes, like with the Syrian refugee crisis, there is a parenting connection, my perceptions altered by emphasizing more than I may have previously by those trying to protect their families. Other times, like with the Brock Turner conviction, I simply feel the need to add my voice to those that are outraged.

A year ago I wrote about my inability to “find a niche” or “stay on message.” I imagine that I’ll be writing the same thing around this time next year.