Thursday, August 16, 2007

Only a vehicle

How much of what you think of as yourself, the part that you experience as 'I', the part that speaks in your mind, that carries your thoughts is only biology? I think that most people would consider this question hypothetical, an interesting question but not really one that affects them too much.

However, how would you feel if you saw someone close to you, someone who is mentally ill, take medication and suddenly become better? How would you feel if you saw someone who had had a certain behavior all of their lives, someone who had tried everything that they could possibly think of: counselling, life-style changes, dietary changes self-analysis etc....desperately tried everything that they could possibly think of with little or no result and then, suddenly that person started to take medication and their problems virtually disappeared?

I don't think that many people would deny that that is a good thing. but if one thinks about it, it can bring up some very discomfiting questions. Especially for the person who is experiencing these changes through their 'I'. Negative or positive, this person has been experiencing this behaviour and these thoughts as stemming from inside of them, the side that they think of as me. Suddenly, it's all gone and everyone is glad, everyone who knew them is glad. This person is glad too, but it is still very strange.

Think of this from their perspecive. Once the many things made him or her angry, now annoy them, but that is it. Being angry isn't really worth the energy that is expended. They may have made many of the decisions that have brought them to the point of life that they are at now but they made them when they were sick and now they have to live with them. They may remember what they felt like when they made the decisions but they don't really feel that way anymore. They aren't even shure what caused themself to make these decisions, the thoughts that they had were their thoughts, true. But they were their thoughts modified by some bad chemicals. Could that possibly make one wonder if ones life is built on some fallacies? Ya think?

Suppose they have a lot of memories of bad things that they have done, mean things, stupid things...wierd things. Time after time that they may have failed because they were sick, but they didn't know they were sick and they have been filled with self-loathing and self-blame. Then suddenly they find out that they have an illness and that perhaps these things were not their fault after all? Does one let themself off the hook?

Is it easy to see how someone could be left with the conunundrun of wondering, "Who am I then, exactly? If this wasn't me that did all these things then what was it? If it wasn't me that what am I?"

For most people, as I said, these are philisophical questions. It may be amusing to find out for example, that there is a gene that controls sense of humor, but it certainly isn't the same as finding out that nearly everything that you thought was you, may not have been you after all. This person has become stablized but has also lost many of their ideas and worse, their spark. What were they after all?

I happen to believe that our bodies are a vehicle for our souls. Perhaps the person who has been having these experiences would feel comforted by this belief. That their "I" transcends the physical. I am sort of brain dead right now. This is all I can write.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I don't have to be mature if I don't want to! So nyah!

I don't think that 40 is old. I don't think that 50 is old. I don't even think 60 is old though your getting there by then I suppose, but I wonder if I will feel the same way when I am 60.

I work with a group of people in their late 40's and in their 50's who, one and all, describe themselves as old. Interestingly, the man I work with who is 60 does not describe himself as old and is in better health than all of them. Before you start thinking that there may be a correlation between how well he feels and his feelings about aging, I also work with people younger than he is who think that they are old and they are quite healthy.

I find it...oh what do I find it. Offensive? No, that's not quite right. Do I feel disdainful? Actually, I do feel a little disdainful. Do I feel disgusted? Not really, I think I feel shocked, confused, and a little disappointed. Disappointed because I am probably going to be working with these people for a while and I find this attitude to be a real downer.

There is a woman the same age as me who constantly refers to how we're old now. Excuse me? Maybe you are, I'm not. (I don't say that.) A lot of the people who I work with have health and dietary habits guarenteed to send one to an early grave and constantly talk about their health problems as though they are just an inevitable part of aging. AND THEY AREN'T EVEN THAT OLD!

The other day, I heard a woman say to another woman that she really wasn't familiar with 80's music. She said "I went through that stage where you listen to music in the 70's" That stage where you listen to music? Listening to music, a stage? Huh?

Younger people are always afraid of getting older and who can blame them with these examples of 'graceful aging'. To think that you are going to have terrible health problems and be hobbling around complaining about your feet and that you will no longer listen to music because it is a juvenile activity, doesn't make one look forward to growing older.

Naturally, one will have more problems due to the normal wear and tear of age. It's at this age that congenital anomolies may make their presence known or that genetic predispositions may start causing health problems. But most of us can prevent having serious health problems by taking care of ourselves.

I have found that comments like the ones I mentioned above are beginning to be a pet peeve of mine. Firstly, because I don't agree with them but hey, people can agree to disagree. No foul. But because it is so negative. It perpetuates a negative stereotype and makes you complicit with an attitude that is damaging to a large segment of the population in which you are included, if not now, then eventually.

I heard a radio show once that spoke about age discrimination and the gentleman pointed out that aging is unavoidable. Living in a society that has such negative stereotypes about aging causes low self-esteem. It is to everyones benefit to confront these stereotypes, especially if you are young now because things will be better for you when you are older if you do.

The idea that common phrases illustrate attitudes and form them at the same time is interesting to me. An example of this would be the phrase 'my generation.' This phrase is commonly used to mean the late teens through 20's and maybe early 30's. It seems to mean the time when you are young. It seems to imply that only during this time are you entirely revelant and once 'your generation' has been replaced by the new one, you are not really as important. You are consigned, as a woman, to the ranks of soccer mom. Pooh! What is wrong with loving your kids and being a mom. What does that say about our society that we lump and entire group of our population into a one-dimensional phrase that we say with a sneer on our faces. It says more about our society than it does the women that they are referring to.

At any rate, this is my generation. As long as I am alive, this is my generation. It was my generation when I was in preschool and it will be my generation up until the day I die. I will not become less relevant, nor do I believe that I will lose touch or lose my edge. I don't believe that we have to. But it's something that we have to fight because all of society seems hell-bent on putting someone who is not a 'youngster' anymore into this slot.

Fight! Fight! Fight! I have never lost my teenage rebellion and it will hold me in good stead. Don't worry, I have learned to rebel with a little more finesse. (Rebellion is another thing, by the way. Why is it always considered more adult to mold yourself to the situation around you, to stop fighting and accept things that you know are wrong.) Our poor children.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Being a parent Part 2

my previous post was something that I have been thinking about writing for a long time. I'm afraid that I may have come out sounding a little self-righteous. If I did, please forgive, I didn't mean to.

I was a terribly sensitive child. I got my feelings hurt very easily. I fretted about slights, worried when I thought that I had done something wrong and I went through a stage where I almost wouldn't speak when I met someone new. I was painfully shy and just sat back and I watched people much of the time. I was very aware of what was going on inside of other people (to the best of my ability, I was only a child) and if someone was angry with me I felt this very intensly.

My children come from my genes (their dad is also sensitive, so they got a double whammy!) and they have a quality similar to mine, or maybe it's environmental I don't know. This is why it's hard for me to be tough with my kids. I wouldn't have needed anyone to be tough with me, all you would have had to do was talk to me and 90% of the time I would have complied.

My mother is the cerebral sort, doesn't place too much importance on feelings. She also wasn't ready to have a kid yet when she had me and didn't want to be bothered with me. As long as I didn't interrupt her from her reading or talking on the telephone or whatever and as long as I didn't make a big mess for her to have to clean up, I could do whatever I wanted. But when I annoyed her, the punishment was harsher than it needed to be and was done out of anger.

I remember how emotionally painful it was for me to be punished like I was and I suppose it is all these things in combination that makes it hard for me to be rough with my girls. The thing that I remember most is being so surprised that anyone would treat me like I was a 'bad girl' because I knew that I wasn't. I really felt the unfairness of that.

I'm not trying to go into a big 'whine-fest' about how mistreated I was as a child. I grew up in a fairly affluent household and had many advantages as well, it wasn't all bad. I'm merely trying to explain from whence my attitude stems.

I also grew up in a small town of people who were intrinsically different than my own family. Since I was already shy, this was very painful for me. They made fun of me because I liked to read, they made fun of me for my liberal views, they made fun of me because I wasn't good at sports though strangely, when I played sports with a group of friends that I didn't feel shy around, I did jusr fine. I didn't relate to them at all, but it never occurred to me when I was young that maybe they were the ones who were wrong, not me. There were so many of them and I was just one. My mother was completely oblivious to what was going on, she just wasn't made to deal with things like that.

So, I'm soft with my girls. I assume that they are the same as me, that when they do something bad it is because they didn't really understand or because maybe what I am expecting from them is too much for their age. So far it's worked. I realize that there are children who may have a different temperament from my own and that my approach may not be at all effective with these children.

I didn't do as well with my son as I have done with my daughters, though my son has turned out great too. I let people pressure me. They told me that I was being too soft on him and that if I wasn't stricter that he would turn out bad. Joel was sort of contrary. And there are people who think that if your child doesn't blindly obey your every order that they are bad kids. I let one of these people influence me when I was young. I wish that I hadn't. If I could do it all over again, I would have raised him just like I do my girls and he would have ended up good like he is now but we would have happier memories.

It was about this time that I found a book, which I read, that affected me so deeply that I was finally able to break away from this pressure of wondering whether or not I was wrong in being so soft with my son and to finally believe that I was not leading him towards trouble. It was called The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller. This book has become a classic with therapists from what I understand.

Ms. Miller obtained a popular childrearing manual that German mothers at the turn of the century used for advice in the best way to raise a child. These mothers were the mothers of the men and women who grew up to be the Nazi generation in Germany. By using quotes from this childrearing manual and tying them with circumstances and occurences she sheds much light into the psychosocial dynamics of why things like the Holocaust occur.

The main culprit is what she calls 'shame-based' childrearing practices. Shame-based childrearing practices evolve from the belief that children are bad and that it is the job of their parents or caretakers to force them towards goodness, left to their own devices they will never grow to become moral people. This involves breaking the will of the child, forcing the child to accept authority. Their moral compass then comes from outside of them rather than being something intrinsic. As they are always looking outwards to other people to tell them what to do, they lack the ability to think for themselves and can be easily led to commit immoral acts, especially if they are being prompted towards committing an immoral act by someone whom they consider to be an authority.

As force is used against them in order to bend them to will of another, they begin to associate 'power-over' as being the only type of power that there is, they don't fully understand power that comes from within. If brutal force is used against them then they associate brutality with power, there has to be a winner and a loser and they intend to be the winner. I have known people like this and I've noticed that they talk about respect a lot yet they seem to respect no-one. They seem to think that respect and obedience are synonomous.

I was talking to a woman I work with last night (she really gets on my nerves.) She was talking about the good old days, (my god, she's only 50) when kids got off their fat asses (her words) and walked to school, they didn't need a bus to take them 4 blocks. I mentioned to her that people don't want their children to get abducted or targeted by child molestors and she retorted with, "We had all that stuff back then too." as though being abducted by a childmolestor should be some sort of rites of passage ceremony.

Then she went on to say that if you did something wrong and someone elses parent saw you then they would (her words again) beat your ass, tell your parents and your parents would beat your ass and by the time it was all over with, you might have had your ass beaten 3 times. This was what she called being taught respect. Knowing that there are people loose in this world with that attitude make me even more inclined to protect my children. (You guys, the people I work with drive me nuts. This blog is my life-line.)

I just don't see all of these horrible kids that she is talking about and I hear other people talking about them too. I do see lots of lost souls however. Guess it's just a difference in perspective. Why do I, who am not religious, tend to see 'lost souls' and people who I know that are religious seem to see 'sinners.'

I guess there is going to be a part 3 to this, I am not quite able to get done.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Being a Parent Part 1

I am a lenient parent. Some of you might be appalled if you saw what I let my kids get away with. If they don't want to eat at supper time, they don't have to. If they get hungry later, they get to eat. They don't get spanked. I've given them little, minuscule smacks before, but that's it. If they aren't tired, they can watch TV til 1 in the morning. I really don't care. They still have to get up though.

My kids have lots of toys, at least, the classic toys like paints and blocks, dress-up clothes, books etc... The concessions I have made to moderninity are video games and computer. I usually give My girls what they ask for. Why do I give them what they ask for? Because they never ask for anything. My daughter Claudia is about the most unmaterialistic kid you'd ever want to meet. Much less materialistic than her mother. My younger daughter very rarely asks for something when we go to a store. As a matter-of-fact, I can't remember the last time she asked for anything.

And I'll tell you, my kids are the kind of kids that you would choose to have at your house if for some reason you were forced to babysit someone but were able to choose who you had to babysit. They are very well-behaved. People call my older daughter an 'old soul'. And when I tell people at the daycare how rambunctious my younger one is at home, they look startled and seem skeptical.

I do not have lists of chores and reward charts and the punishments all mapped out. I expect things from my children but what I expect is that they are good at heart and that I will not have to make them do anything, there is no need because they already want to do what is right.

This might appear to other people that I am raising my children with a lack of discipline and direction, yet my older daughter is very disciplined. She always turns her homework in, always has it done, she gets straight A's and she has never gotten in trouble one time in school and she has finished 4 grades so far.

Okay, before I go on, I'm not trying to imply that either myself or my daughters are perfect. (Do you actually think that I am going to admit our flaws? I'm not but trust me, we have them.) There are plenty of things that I think that I could have done better and plenty of things that I think I could do better with now. I am not here to talk about that. What I am trying to illustrate is that my child-rearing practices seem to flout traditional methods yet for some reason, I am ending up with the results that parents using more punitive measures are trying to achieve. So I am not going to talk about my 'failures' least not today.

I worked with a woman who, when she was pregnant, talked quite a lot about how her child was not going to be a spoiled brat and I spent many evenings patiently listening to her talk about the methods that she would use to ensure her well-disciplined child. Though I applauded her ambition I was a little confused as to why she she was already expecting an unborn child to be a brat and thinking of ways to thwart the childs 'evil proclivities'. I honestly never expected my children to be bad. I knew that they would make mistakes and do bad things, but I never thought that they would be bad. And they aren't.

(I keep bringing up my older daughter because I think that I don't know how my younger one is going to be yet. I don't expect her to be a problem child or anything but I don't want to have to eat my words later.) But anyway, is my older daughter good because I expected her to be? If I had expected her to be bad and steeled myself for battles and wars would I have had a daughter who was less well-behaved than the daughter I ended up with?

Obviously, there is no way that I will ever know this. But my hunch is that part of the reason that she is a good child is because this is what we expected from her. People speak of having high expectations for your child and as best as I can tell they mean expecting good grades and exemplary behavior. I never expected these things from my children. I expected them to be good people and assumed that these things would follow, and they have.

My younger daughter has thrown a fit in public twice. Both times it was my fault, she was hungry. I shouldn't have let her get so hungry. My older daughter did it twice too. The first time she was coming down with something. The second time was right after her sister was born and she was trying to get used to not being the only child. Both times, I was glared at by people who seemed to expect me to....I don't know? Spank them? Yell at them? Stop it somehow? Stop a small child from having a meltdown indeed!

There is actually a lot of pressure on parents to be mean to their children. It's subtle but it's there. Did you hear about the flight attendent who put the mother and her 18 month old baby off the plane because the baby wouldn't stop talking? He wasn't crying, he was talking. I think a lot of people have the attitude that the flight attendent have, but aren't bold enough to say anything.

When I talk about what I bought my children for Christmas I get knowing looks, they seem to think that I realize that I am spoiling my children but that I can't quite control myself. They chuckle indulgently, they think that they are laughing with me. Little do they know that I don't think that I am spoiling my children by making sure that they have materials in the home that will help them learn the things that they need to learn during whatever developmental stage that they happen to be in at that time.

Well, I have run out of time. I will finish......hopefully tomorrow. I will be reading you tonight too.....unless I get too busy. Expect comments some time soon. (I know you live for my comments!)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Getting closer to being done!

Don't worry everyone. I haven't forgotten about you. (How could I? Your all so great!) I actually read your posts at work but don't comment.

I may actually have some spare time tomorrow, (Yipee!) But I'm not sure yet. (Ah, the suspense!)

I got the upstairs clean. Next is the basement! EEEWW!!! Then maybe I'll be done enough to start all over again!

Plus Monday is my oldest daughter's birthday! Preparing for that! Shopping today! See you soon!