01-15-13 - Kids

Some random thoughts on my impending kid-having-ness :

(note for dumb people : we're not here to talk about boring obvious shit like "kids make you sleep less" or "many parents live out their frustrated life goals through their kids". That's an obvious given as a baseline that should not need to be said; on this blog we try to talk about the things that are past the baseline, though many readers seem to not get that and want to chime in with the material that was a prerequisite for this course; get out of here and go back to reading "Excessive DOF Photos of Crappy Food" or "The New Old Coding Bore" or "Precious Twee Artisinal All-Organic Parenting" or whatever banal blog you usually read)

1. Kids automatically make you cooler. They're like a +1 modifier on anything you do. Like if you're just some single guy and you're in good shape and do triathlons or whatever, who cares, you're kind of an obsessive dweeb. But if you're a good family-man dad and you do the same, then you're amazing cool fit dad. (of course there's valid reason for this +1, because it's so much harder to do anything once you have kids, they're such a huge energy-suck)

(I've long been aware that I have some sort of bad jealousy tick where I really hate awesome dads; whenever I meet a dad who's super-fit and has great kids and also has a great job and builds robots or writes books on the side, I'm just filled with loathing; I'm not entirely sure but I assume that instant gut loathing comes from jealousy; I also think those guys are liars/phonies. Like, I think they must actually be terrible dads, it's just not possible to do all those things and spend enough time with your kids; why aren't you exhausted and frazzled? perhaps they have very self-sacrificing wives who are actually doing all the work at home, and/or they aren't actually putting in the work at their job; something is amiss, my spidey senses tingle)

2. Kids let you do things you suck at without feeling awkward. Say you suck at skiing; if you just go as a single man and take beginners lessons and have to ski the tow-rope bunny slope, you feel embarassed and most people can't get over it (of course if you do it anyway, you actually are super cool, and it's the people who look down on you that are fucking retard losers, but I digress). With kids you can go and ski the bunny slope with them and nobody looks at you funny. If you go ice skate for the first time as a single adult and are falling all over and wobbly you're a weirdo, but if you do it with your kids, you're a cool dad.

(one of the great tragedies of life is that people stop doing new things around 20 because they don't want to look like a beginner; they also lose all humility and never want to admit that they are a beginner at something. It's super dumb and I've been trying to get past it for the last 20 years or so. It's so funny seeing men at track days or at home improvement stores; they obviously don't know a thing about cars or construction (like I don't), but they can't just admit it and go "yeah I'm a newbie, can you help me?" they have to act all macho-man and pretend to be in their element like "I need a ball-peen wrench to adjust the timing on my carburetor." Um, let's back up and try again.)

3. Kids let you do things that are dweeby to do as single people, like go to the zoo or ride in a carriage. Part of the issue is that those activities are just not quite interesting enough on their own, but when you have the +1 enjoyment modifier of seeing it through your kids' eyes that pushes them over the threshold of worth doingness. I've always loved factory tours and those living-history museums where you can see how stained glass is made or whatever, also science museums (particularly interactive ones), but they just aren't quite worth doing as an adult. Kids remove the difficult embarassingness of everyone around you thinking "why are you here? it's only really old people and families, childless adults are not allowed".

4. Kids give you an excuse to be a selfish inconsiderate asshole. This is not a good thing and lots of parents over-do it. (it starts with pregnant moms who use the pregnancy as an excuse to be selfish bitches way beyond what's necessary or appropriate). Things like we can be loud at the symphony because we have kids, or we can cut in line because we're pregnant, or lets take the best seats and spread out all over, or lets take all the chairs at the hotel pool and then leave a giant mess behind us, etc. People know that kids make it much harder for others to go "hey fucker, you're out of line" and they abuse that advantage.

5. Kids let you play. I'm super excited about this. For a long time I've known that what I really need in my life is *play* , not sports, not games, but just joyous pointless movement. Adults are so fucking uptight and trying to act cool and impress each other all the time that they can never just play (actually I had a pretty sweet thing going for a while with Ryan where we could play a bit, but that was rare). Of course there's a whole industry of "ecstatic dance" and shit like that which is basically adults paying someone to let them play, which is so sad and bizarre; you have these uptight type-A business assholes who are total fuckers to everyone all day long, and then they go in a room and listen to a teacher tell them to run around in circles and stick their tongue out; super bizarre disconnect there. Anyhoo, kids let you go to the park and run around and roll in the grass and jump on things and nobody thinks you're a weirdo. (alternatively : move to San Francisco; fucking wonderful place SF, but all the gentry and computerists are ruining it)

(I guess those funny-dress-up runs are also societal concoctions to let adults play; but they ruin it by being a regimented precisely specified play; you're still just trying to fit in and do what you're supposed to. Oh crap, I wore a tutu and everyone else is wearing a cape! And it's still competitive and judgemental - ooh look, that guy is really relaxing well. Adulthood is so bizarre.)

6. Kids let you not have friends. They let you turn inward and just hang out with family. And of course you get some socializing through yours kids doing things and hanging out with other parents. You don't have to make any effort to make adult relationships work, which is a pain in the ass. Kids let you just stay home with your family without being a weird lonely hermit. Of course this is also a danger if you take it too far; you see these families that are so drawn in and almost afraid of other adults that when they're out in public they hardly even look up at the world around them.

7. Kids let you feel okay about sucking. If you're not really doing anything with your life and you're just kind of a rotten human being, but you have kids - then you can think "I devote my life to my kids, they are my pride and joy, at least I've made them, they are my life's work". They provide a +1 smugness bonus.

8. Kids give you a new thing to be ridiculously analytical and obsessive and introspective about. Most type-A nerds have kind of gotten bored of thinking about life by the time they hit 25 or so. We've already thought and over-thought everything that we do in life ("what is actually going on in the little social interaction with the grocery store checkout person? should I make minimal polite smalltalk, or should I try to say something unexpected to cheer them up? do I feel bad for this person whose life has obviously taken such a wrong turn? am I trying to make them feel like my equal and not my servant?" etc). We've made charts and graphs about how various influences in our life affect our productivity, and it's just all old hat. ("should I turn the other cheek, or should I get aggressive back at this asshole? Turning the other cheek is a local optimization of my own happiness, but that does not create a social game-theory structure which directs overall behavior in a good way. Oh wait I've had this same thought like 100 times before"). Kids give you a whole new set of things to be anal and nerdy about, read books and think about cause-effect and blah blah blah. Of course this blog post is a sign that I've already begun.


nereus said...

From the perspective of a dad of an undergraduate, done with the child business: you're going to be an awesome dad. Stick to your guns, though after reading for long enough I'm quite certain you will.

I could write ten thousand words about the glory that is my child, but when she was in middle/high school, I was quite obnoxiously public about the fact that I was an explicit Bad Dad, who did not Watch Every Tue-Fri-Sat From The Stands. There is enormous status competition on the amount of TIME that is expended on the child, and not EFFORT. Though the nature/nurture divide is plastic and often unfairly allocated, I think we can say we did it right, to the extent we had influence. There is/was a righteous mom involved too; lack of conflict on goals, while having high goals, eases things too.

Anyway that's how you stay in shape, so that you can climb mountains and ride centuries and read books and travel.

About the play business: minimize the time the child spends in the prison stroller. Mine learned from the beginning that she could walk (safely) or ride (often sleeping) on my shoulders. And when life got hard, it was a tremendous joy to turn her loose in the zoo, or a city park even, and share her infectious mood. I miss that.

Aaron said...

1. To do amazing-dad-thing you definitely gotta have help. Hired. Family. Something.
2. And you get to do all those things leaning over at a 90 degree angle taking pictures, with the kid screaming they don't *want* their gloves on!!!
5. HAhaha, nice.
6. This one can go both ways. For us it's blown our social network up hugely (esp after the first couple of years, and then exploding again once they're in school). You have an instant bonding topic with a whole bunch of people. Sure those can be superficial relationships, but each one has the potential to go deep if both sides want it to. And a lot of parents are in the same boat (not many deep relationships) so it's surprisingly easy to find people who want to spend quality time.
7. Yeah. They're also one of those forcing functions that once you get in *you can't get out* and it forces you to act (unless you wanna go white-trash and just say fuck it all). Culturally we used to be surrounded with forcing functions, but we've removed them all so we can be 'free' and do 'whatever we want', so everyone is pretty aimless until they have kids now. I agree with the overall point. Most people don't really have a great shot at doing anything other than sucking (due to their own choices, circumstance, or just their own psychology that prevents them from acting), so it's nice there's something for them.
8. Awesome

Dave Moore said...

ALL WRONG! Kids mean that you can finally try stuff like this:

YouTube: Baby Dynamics Yoga

cbloom said...

Good stuff.

Thatcher Ulrich said...

There is something very compelling about taking care of a needy little human although I find that fatherhood also tramples all over my weak spots. Some areas of my social skills which were kind of deficient to begin with have just gotten more exaggerated because of the +1 backstop.

I will echo nereus' point about time vs. effort, and maybe twist it a bit into time vs. *quality* time, not necessarily just effort. You can spend a lot of low-quality distracted time with your kid and it's not that good for either of you. I think Dr. Spock talks about this, in fact he's full of good advice if I recall correctly.

SingerFor Hire said...

ended up on this blog by pure coincidence, love your 'having children ' rant :) makes me look forward to it one day, provided i find some cool nice guy to have them with :) all best from cold london!

old rants