The Great Relearning

What I found most interesting about the guest post yesterday was how much I have in common with Caitlin.

It shouldn’t be so, because I’m a child of the “children of World War II” (my dad was a child during WWII.) The fact that Portugal was a non-combatant doesn’t seem to make any difference. This is the time at which family lost precedence to the state, and the state’s ever-expanding maw devoured more traditional ways of guidance — church, or even civics — and more traditional structures. In fact, the ever-centralizing states (in the sense of nation-states) devoured the differences between sexes, and we all became producers and consumers.

Despite the fact that I was born half way across the world, in a country where sexism was actually very real (married women couldn’t legally work, unless their husband signed a permission form, for instance) by the time I hit puberty, all of a woman’s worth was supposed to be in a career. Wanting to marry and have children was evidence you were stupid. Smart women had careers. And by the 80s we were all, somehow, strangely, supposed to be executives, and get married, and be perfect wives and mothers, and and and.

We could analyze everything that went into that, and also the less than stellar results. If you’re lucky, you’re no worse off than I was/am, being more neurotic than a shaved cat, and constantly feeling like you’re incredibly lazy, because you’re not in fact super woman sailing through life while effortlessly achieving everything. (Mostly because no one is. The very few people who appear to be, usually have a support team.)

The worst outcomes involve multiple divorces with the kids being treated as afterthoughts. (Note I’m not saying everyone with multiple divorces has that problem. I’m saying that’s the worst possible outcome, and considering I know several families where the kids are ultimately “nobody’s kid” it gets really bad indeed.)

And the medium outcomes are often families where each member feels like he is or should be on his own, and like there’s no one watching anyone else’s back, be it in learning to be in the world, or in being able to be at ease in your own home.

Along the way some of us tried to spit out the expectations of “great career” as opposed to/or beside “do it all family person” with mixed success. Some of us forged extended families of friends, sometimes by the use of duct tape for extra-legal adoption. And we tried to raise our kids better.


Kids are the product of their time as much as of you family. So that success is mixed too.

Because apparently subsequent generations also thought they should be Mary Sue, for whom everything is automagically perfect, I thought I’d share the few things I learned along the way.

1- Forget quality time. Go for quantity time. Look, kids aren’t supposed to be with you for the few hours you have to pay COMPLETE attention to them. Frankly, paying complete attention to the kids is not natural and probably unhinges their little brains. Yes, we know, that you have to pay attention to the little terrors, because if one of them gets a blister the social workers will think they’re abused.

BUT you train yourself to look for the really serious infractions that might kill them, and otherwise at least pretend you’re not giving them undivided attention.

Your earliest ancestresses minded the kids while gathering edibles and killing the occasional rabbit. You can do it while cleaning the stove, cooking or sweeping. Or sewing, or writing or whatever.

Some of our happiest moments as a family were while driving around on Saturday shopping and doing errands. Some of my best moments with the kids were writing while they played on the floor of the office.

Now, you have to train yourself (and it’s hard to untrain. So, for the first two months when school started, I became antsy at the silence) to the danger signals.

And yeah, you’re allowed to play with them. Younger son and I made epic train tracks that spanned two floors and several rooms, and then ran trains on collision courses. BUT that was maybe a few hours a month. If I hovered over them, the guys started getting worried.

2- Try to figure out the basics. Yes, cooking, but also how to sew a simple seam, how to put a button back on. In a pinch, can you came yourself look fancy on very little, by adding some lace to a sweater or whatever (if you’re female. Don’t freak out the co-workers, okay?) Can you make the house look comfy? Do you know how to make/refinish/find what you need on a limited budget? If not why not? You have youtube and well… the internet in general.

3- Do find something you want to do, whether it’s a “Great career” or not. Yes, being a mom and a wife are challenges enough. BUT if you feel a need to something more, find something you can do while the kids are little that you can expand when they live the house. If it’s something that brings a little cash, bonus.
Look, most people don’t become “executives”. Not even very smart people. But almost everyone has a talent or an interest they enjoy. Learn to make it pay/expand it/etc. Someday the kids will move out (which won’t actually mean you’re done, but–) and you’ll have time to pursue other things. If you have started it’s easier.

4 – Be a good spouse. This means letting your spouse know your relationship is a safe space. In your relationship you can tell each other everything knowing it won’t be used against you. The motto should be “you and me against the world.”

5 – Do the best you can and forgive yourself. (Yeah, I have trouble with that too.)

6- Remember you’re only human. You’ll get sick, you’ll get older, etc. Give yourself permission to do less when those hit. Learn to adapt.

7- Love your family and friends. This means being supportive, but also means allowing them to fail, and loving them even when they do.

8- Do the extra. No, I don’t mean overwork yourself (yes, I have trouble with that) but you know, if you’re doing something and can make it extra nice with little effort, do so. Even if the “thing” is for you. For instance, I love fresh flowers, and for years when I cleaned the whole house, I’d buy a bouquet of flowers (in CO I only managed cutting flowers a few weeks a year) for the dining room table. Because they made me happy while they lasted. Allow yourself the extra, in the limits of cost.

9- You know that thing about no one lamented the time NOT spent working? But people lamented time not spent with family/friends. It’s true. So incorporate time to hang out with family and friends, even if you’re doing nothing much, and you know you won’t deserve it because you’re not perfect.

10 – Reward yourself, even if you’re not perfect. Do something nice for others, even if they’re not perfect. Don’t feel guilty for existing. And never feel like you owe “the state” or “society” or whatever anything. “From each according to his abilities” is an evil fairy tale. Do your best for yourself and those who depend on you, but not for the vast mass of strangers. That’s just useless guilt.

We are in a phase of the great relearning, in more ways than one. Among the things we will be learning are how to rebuild civilization. And won’t that be fun!

But all you can do is all you can do. And you will do it a day at a time, and an action at a time. Even if sometimes that action is cooking a meal. Cleaning a floor. Writing a book (or a letter.)

You do what you can, every day. And you pass the baton to the next generation when you can’t do it anymore.

You love, you teach, you think, you create.

And you hope the world you’re building will be a better one for those who come after.

120 thoughts on “The Great Relearning

  1. And to quote Lazarus Long, always budget in the luxuries – First!
    My mom tried to raise her boys to be self sufficient. We could all cook; we did minor sewing tasks; we could maintain our living conditions to be neat and clean. It didn’t work for a couple of sister, but they self taught when they got older.
    But the point is, which you make, is that adulthood came with the expectations of at least domestic competence, whatever the business world expected. Too many kids these days (anyone under 50) don’t seem to grast the concept.

      1. In America? Good luck with that. My mother never really adjusted to that here.

        I remember talking to an Indian guy in Bombay who wanted to come to the US “for the money”. At that time, in India, if you wore a tie to work you’d have at least a driver, a cook, and a nanny. I told him, “You won’t have that in NJ, you’ll drive your own car and your wife will have to clean and do her own cooking.”

        Servants are a mark of poverty. We Americans have no idea just how rich we are. Even poor people here are rich compared to quite well off people in Europe, never mind Asia or Africa.

        1. That time is not far gone. My paternal grandmother lost her husband in 1934 when she was 6 months pregnant with her fourth child. My dad was 3 so he basically didn’t remember his dad. My grandmother worked for the electric company (HELCO) promoting (and selling ) electric stoves, washing machines and other appliances. That family of a single mom and 4 kids had a lady coming in being a nanny, cook, maid etc. First a fresh off the boat Irish girl, later a large (and I do mean LARGE I met her as a young boy, she mad my somewhat plump mother look like a waif model) African American woman. Times were tough but the middle class had a fair bit of disposable income even in the mid 30s and later into the 40s and WWII. And folks were willing to work as even limited wages went further than we’d be used to.

        2. In America, things are cheap, while people aren’t. We see that everywhere. Bottomless drinks at your local fast food restaurant is an example of this. The push to automate everything is another.

          So, servants are just too expensive.

          1. Just so. They had servants in Ireland down to the 1970’s. Mostly relatives as it happens. I well remember my grandmother’s cook, Mrs. Lalor, who was my third cousin or something like that. There were young maids in and out and the farm laborers. It’s down to one lady who “does” for my aunt now.

            In my grandfather’s day in India a bachelor second lieutenant required at least six servants, including at least one to deal with the thunderbox, a Muslim — it was always a Muslim. — watchman, a cook, and sweepers plus a batman from the regiment. Caste would not allow any generalization of work. Considering what second lieutenants were paid it’s stunning to me. Of course, this is down from my great grandfather’s day but he was colonel of the regiment and so required a huge staff plus the staff for the children. Not a lot of conveniences in 19th century Abbottabad.

            it’s really a question of capital. in America things are cheap because people are expensive.

            1. When my folk were growing up in Korea all the missionaries had servants. And not because they had to, but because half the population was out of work (and not just because the female half was watching the kids). Working for the missionaries paid as much as the mayor of the town, but wasn’t even really a wage as far as folk back home would have considered it. That is not so now in Korea.

        3. I remember reading a book set in Africa where if you could afford servants and didn’t have them, you were cheap and depriving someone of a good job.

      2. I encountered this in one of Asimov’s essays when I was young

        Mrs. Asimov: How pleasant it would be if only we lived a hundred years ago when it was easy to get servants.
        Isaac Asimov: It would be horrible… We’d be the servants.

        Glad I live in this era.

          1. One of the standard digs at 19th century spiritualism/reincarnation theory was there couldn’t possibly be THAT many Egyptian princesses. Very few, if any, people ever claimed to be reincarnated chambermaids.

            1. Chesterton did a funny bit about the nationalities, starting with observing he would rather have been an ancient Chinaman, listing a bunch of others, and concluding that he might actually have been an ancient European, as he is a modern one.

  2. Rebuilding civilization after the wokepocalypse is going to take more than just you and me. We’ve somehow got to get the normal people on board, too. They’ve been struck with all the same stuff we have, the covidiocy, the economic shenanigans, the lying news media, the education crisis, and the cherry on top in DC.

    Popularizing practical things is a culture war thing. Fortunately, we have the advantage here. We have a sense of humor. We’re ahead of the curve on knowing basic skills that many of them, their mommies and daddies don’t know themselves.

    And it isn’t going to be a one and done thing. There will always be covetous eyes on America. Do what you can is a good motto to have.

  3. Wow. We have so much in common. And not just the traumatic exodus from Colorado (which still requires copious liquor to recount).

    My mother, with ruthless effectiveness, taught her girls that no one can ever be counted on to have your back, and that housekeeping was a job for the intellectually limited. Having to leave my profitable and stimulating career to save both my marriage and my brilliant-with-special-needs son was devastating to my whole psyche. And, like you, I’m still a work in progress.

    So. Here’s a glass tipped to all of us who are learning we aren’t failures for the sin of not being everything to everyone.

    And if you should happen to wander up to south-central Kansas, drop me a line. We can laugh until we cry, and back again.

    1. I once read a sci-fi webcomic with a background gag of a poster asking “Have you earned your air today??” It took me a depressing amount of time to realize that was supposed to be a *joke*…

      So without getting into details, let me tip that right back with you.

    2. “There’s nothing so disgusting as a woman who cannot cope.

      So. Yes.

      Remember: It is proper to ask for help when you need it because otherwise, how will people you’d want to help be able to ask you?

      That trick worked for me.

    3. They teach kids that housekeeping is beneath them, then complain when they won’t clean their rooms…

  4. I have probably said some of this before on the blog, I’ve certainly said most of it at other places

    So if you’ve read this before feel free to skip

    The great thing about modern medicine is that if you keep yourself in reasonable shape by following sane diet and ensuring you have regular physical activity you will be able to do things in your 60s and 70s that people in the past were typically unable to do in their forties.

    Which means for the girls that if you get married and have your children in your 20s then you can kick them out in your forties and do all the other things you wanted to do. I will note that if you want to, that can include a full time job where you are likely to go far quickly because you’ve had 20 years of management experience….

    So in fact the feminists are quite right, you can have motherhood and a career. The trick is you need to do the motherhood bit first and that means planning in advance so that you find the right husband relatively quickly

    1. Yeah, several things got in the way of kicking the kids out when I was forty, including infertility but it’s looking good this year. And if family history is a guide, I have around 30 years of useful life left. Perhaps more, but slower after 90. UNLESS there are medical advances.

      1. There’s conspicuously little interest in gerontology. Considering the average age of the “elites” and political class, I find that interesting.

        1. Given the common meme of “Just wait until all those old Deplorables die off and we can implement Utopia” I suspect that the elites are thinking “as long as there are enough gerontologists to care for US, it’s all good.”

  5. I’m not so sure about not lamenting time not spent working. Granted, I’ve been a freelancer for just short of twenty years, which may be different. But when California outlawed freelance work, just as we were getting ready to leave, it became an even stronger motive to leave; and when Congress was considering doing it nationally, I found myself feeling anticipated rage—not just at the loss of income, though that’s not trivial, but at the prospect of being denied the chance to do work I like and am good at. My work is part of who I am and I value it.

    1. I still need to leave NY–eventually*–but something really lovely and unexpectedly useful about this area over the past couple of years is *definitely* how everyone already feels as though they live on Copperhead Road…

      They can forbid you. But sometimes… they can’t STOP you.

      * I usually quite like being the non-decision-maker; I’m really bad at decisions, and the idea of having to make them gives me hives. But it does mean coping when other priorities take precedence >.<;

      1. We found upstate NY is pretty nice, and totally different culture from the NYC metro. (Well, duh!)

          1. If the governor of Tennessee has a nickname, I’m not aware of it. Governor Ivey in Alabama rejoices in the nickname of, “Mee-Maw.” I gather her early pandemic moves annoyed people, but since she’s gone firmly into the, “You’re adults, you make your own decisions about being vaccinated,” mode, the nickname has gathered a little affection.

            1. The entire sweep of Southern states from Florida all the way to Texas are reporting covid infection rates way lower than the national average and half that of some of the Northern and New England states.
              They also have mostly gotten over the whole face diaper business and have the lowest vaccination percentages.
              And you will never hear any of that from Fauci the liar or any of the MSM.

              1. I will posit two things that together could explain this. 1.) It’s warmer in the South, so the people in the South are getting more sun, which helps with Vitamin D, and thus immune response. 2.) The measures intended to prevent the spread SARS-CoV-2, which remain especially strict in parts of the Northeast, are ineffective.

                My parents retired to Florida, but they had COVID in mid-summer – when they were spending far less daylight time outside due to the heat. They weren’t the only ones. Note the little spike in cases in Florida during mid-summer.

      2. Some part of me says someday I need to leave MA. Perhaps I can persuade folks that NH is the place to go, but maybe not. Even so NH fights for its life every election as the border area and Durham are contaminated with escapee Massholes and it swings from rational to irrational as each side makes a push. It irks me that New England is so FUBAR. Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut all are almost beyond recovery. And yet VT has some of the most free gun registration in the US, Outside of the NYC adjacent parts and Greater Hartford CT is sane. Maine North and west is sane (if rather empty) but the wealthy seacost areas make Boston look purple although even there the townies are rather normal than the wealthy. My distant relations came here just under 400 years ago because they were tired of people telling them what to do. What did their descendants do? Build a society even MORE tightly based around class and money than 17th century England. For the present I stay a little spur in their side lurking and waiting being a Sixth Column like in Heinlein’s “The Day After Tomorrow” Maybe thats what we need is a sixth column movement…

      1. Well, C is more important to me than my work is, but my work is very important to me. Choosing between them would be like choosing between water and food. I’ll be 72 in less than a month, but I’m not remotely ready to retire.

  6. I think a lot of this boils down to the family being a team. Everybody has a role to play, and everybody supports the team. The kids job is to become a responsible, loving adult. The adults job is to provide the environment so they can do that, and provide the guidance on how to do that. And everybody’s job is to find things to do that provide fun and joy.
    As to a woman’s career vs homemaker choice, I think my wife Michele managed it perfectly. And it’s a good example of family as team. Michele grew up knowing she wanted to be a nurse (ok, it’s a typical “girl” thing, but there it is). Had all the “Nurse Cherry” juvenile books. Was set to go to the local college for her RN right out of high school. We plan, God laughs. Her Mom broke her leg, severely enough that Michele, the oldest child, stayed home to help with her younger brothers. Somehow never went back. Eventually I came along, and we decided, since I could make more money, I would work, and she would stay home with the kids. Which she did, following me wherever the flow of a contract engineer career took us. Fast forward a few years, she’s forty and our youngest is ten. She realized our brood of four didn’t need her to be a full time stay at home mon anymore. We talked.
    “What will I do with myself?”
    “You still want to be a nurse.”
    “I’ll be 45 before I get my RN.”
    “You will be 45 with or without an RN. Which do you prefer?”
    So off to University of Cincinnati she went. Consistently the oldest, and highest ranked in her class. Graduated shortly before our youngest daughter’s bat mitzvah. Our youngest, btw, still knows every bone, muscle, joint and tendon insertion in the human body from coaching Michele through the memorization necessary to pass Anatomy and Physiology. Once she started working she went very quickly into clinical management, since she had both a recent degree, and more maturity than a straight out of hs and college RN. Retired after a very successful career, and makes a tidy hourly rate as a consultant on medical records. Her college tuition may have been the best financial investment I ever made, let alone the emotional rewards. Seeing your wife graduate Summa Cum Laude in Health Care Management is quite a thrill.
    Our children tell us they always felt loved and safe, because Mom and Dad were there, providing and making a loving home because that’s what we wanted to do, and they were part of making that happen.

  7. The hardest lesson is to give yourself a break, and this blog and the commenters are so healing. I still want to justify to myself each moment of the day, but I’m getting better.

    1. Firstborn? I am, and that seriously, “I’m responsible for everything,” mindset is very common. And yes, this is a good group.

      1. Ditto. Firstborn of 3 girls. Harder? I’m married to the baby of they family by a few years. Helps that he is older than I am, so that helps mitigate the perceived challenges. He had an extra few years to grow up before we got together.

        Not that I caught on back then, but it has been interesting watching the train wreck (sad, but still) results when the youngest, again, by years, for both families get together. (Extended family. Still older than I am, so I was a teen when they married. It has been the next 40 years that have been educational. In some ways, neither have fully grown up.)

          1. I don’t remember how much older Dan’s siblings were, but one of the reasons I dislike the advice to not have a second child until the first is in full-time school is that it results in a weird sibling dynamic a lot of the time– it’s almost like the kids are only children, of the “secondary to everything else” sort.

            1. What happened to mom’s youngest sibling. She is 3 years older than next oldest, but then it was 10 years to the youngest sibling. Sister’s youngest is 8 years younger than the next youngest, who is 3 years younger than the oldest. Other sister’s 4 are spaced 3-ish years apart. So while it is 10 years younger than the oldest, she is only 3 years younger than the next.

              My paternal grandmother was very straightforward on this topic. She always said she ran 3 subsets of siblings. Six kids but spread out so that she was essentially raised 3 different families.

              1. Eldest brother is 3 years older than elder brother, and I followed 4 years later. It sort of worked.

                Mom is 13 years older than her youngest sister (RIP, snif), and $SPOUSE’s kid sister is 13 years younger than her. Her older brother is 2 years older than $SPOUSE.

      2. If you haven’t, reading Bradshaw on the Family is good. Breaks the family down into roles, and although they tend to go with age rank in the family, it’s not always so. Hero, Black Sheep, Mascot, etc. If you didn’t come from a big family, it might help you write about such. Of course most modern long-form stuff (think TV series) is about families by choice not genetics. Think about the group of folks in Friends and its ilk.

        1. Think about the group of folks in Friends and its ilk.

          I try not to.

          I watched an episode once. My take? “If people watch this because it’s more exciting than their own lives, I pity them.”

      3. #MeToo, with the added challenge of being the only son with three younger sisters. “Man of the house” when my folks weren’t available.

  8. The wife and I made a conscious decision that she would not work outside the home once the children came. She’s an electrical engineer. Best decision we ever made particularly as number one son is mildly autistic and needed us. She often says “ I don’t have time to work.” She’s one of those women that keep civilization going.

    The second decision was about 15 years ago when we decided I would semi-retire. Before that, I was on the road at least 2/3 of the time. I commuted from NY to Chicago for two years and London to Hong Kong before that. The wife said “there’s more to life than money” and I said, “really?” I was so plugged in to the life that it never occurred to me. I asked her not long ago how it would have turned out if I’d stayed at the bank and she said “you’d be dead,” which is about right.

    Are we privileged? Certainly. Then again, we have consistently lived below our means and our decisions were all aimed toward making this life possible. You can’t have it all but you can have what you value.

    1. Living below your means is a good deal if you can get it. Moving out of California means that we’re now paying about one-sixth of our income for housing. We have spare money for investments (and paying down debts that accumulated in California) and medical expenses and we have some margin of safety if our income decreases. And we’re not in constant anxiety about whether we could find a new place if we needed to move.

      1. I need to get out of NY/NJ. Once number two son finishes school and I retire/retire we’ll start the process.

        1. Southwest Florida’s a good choice, but I think half the Northeast has already moved there – and I think it is weighted more to the anti-Democrat side. At least it seems that way when I go visit my parents down that way, and hear people chatting. The number of Cubans immigrants who’ve fled the communist regime there helps, too. Heck, the chatter usually sounds more conservative than I’m used to hearing hear in Ohio – well, other than the place here in Ohio where “Let’s Go Brandon!” chants are common.

      2. Regarding the constant anxiety about finding a new place – I’m in California and I experience it also. I’ve had to move twice because the apartment rental increases were astonishing. I expected the high rent when I moved here, but I did not realize that I would need to regularly move.

        1. Had that t-shirt. Moved to Silly Valley in June 74. Roommate got laid off in Sept, and we both moved the next spring. In ’77, I bought a townhouse, hated it, and sold it/bought another a year later. *That* house lasted me 8 years and a good remodel, and its successor 17 and another remodel.

          We’re 18 in the current place–more building new stuff than remodels, whew! OTOH, it got a reroof, but the kitchen stuff was contracted out. I’m starting to learn that my most effective muscles on some projects are the ones used to write checks. The most effective ones belong to the people we hire.

  9. I feel extremely lucky in that by the time the children came, I was able to split the difference by hiring a sitter for four hours a day and spending the rest of the time with them. Then, once they were both in school, I wrote during school hours and spent the rest of the time with them.

    Considering their general ignorance, I probably should have homeschooled them instead. But just jumping through the hoops was a lot harder in those days. And anyway, I wasn’t up to homeschooling two children ten months apart, one of whom was extremely high-IQ and the other of whom was average with some learning disabilities on top of that.

  10. Re: 9

    Well, akshully…

    I really agree. As much as I need solitude, it is the missed connections that seem to keep coming back as regrets.

    But, with a lot of time loss to health issues, or not having one’s act together, it is possible to regret time not spent working effectively.

  11. I’d add 11- gratitude.

    Not the obligation type gratitude, “I should feel grateful for this, not sure why”– but recognizing the effort others put into stuff.
    (…this also makes it harder for folks to use “gratitude” against you, although your tongue may go bloody from biting it to keep from informing people that NO, you do NOT owe them for the “favor” they did, with your supplies, without asking and against your will)

    1. One of my favorite books was “I Never Promised You A Rose Garden”, by Joanne Greenberg. The main character’s father found himself taking charity from a man who despised him. I had similar experience. I was once provoked into a shouting match with someone who was providing my keep, and said “Do you know what *I* think?” and he replied “I don’t care what you think”. It shut me up, because it was the truth, That’s when he threw me out. Well, yes, he had been doing me a favor and yes it did cost him, and I did appreciate it. But that didn’t empower me to overcome my personal limitations or a huge barrier of social prejudice.

      1. I am curious where you see a connection between recognizing the costs that another is paying (with the secondary effect of making it much harder for those doing what they want on someone else’s dime to get credit for it from you) and “empowering one to overcome personal limitations or a huge barrier of social prejudice.”

        Unless your personal limitation was related to a sense of entitlement?

        1. Well, this person thought I was acting out of a sense of entitlement, and wasn’t satisfied with my accounts of my limitations. “You’re just making excuses”. That’s damn hard to fight without a medical diagnosis, and isn’t easy even with one.

          1. It’s hard to fight in every case, which is why I’m pointing out a basic tool for the relatively simple situations.

            I’m pretty sure everyone here over a certain age has noticed both situations where the help came with more strings than a whole pack of marionettes, and situations where no matter what the person helping did, it was only a down-payment on what the receiver felt due.

  12. worst possible outcome, and considering I know several families where the kids are ultimately “nobody’s kid” it gets really bad indeed.

    The saddest family dynamic I know of is parents divorce with one young child (met the kid at age 5, parents already divorced, found out situation a year later from child’s paternal cousin). Situation. Parents fighting on who had to take custody of the child. In an era when the courts are jammed up with couples divorcing fighting for custody of property (pets). FWIW dad “lost”. That was because of an attitude adjustment from his mother and extended family. Mom still had to have visitation by court order. But thanks to grandma and his dad’s cousin and her husband, the kid knew he belonged. But dang it was messed up.

    Regarding #9. One works to live. One does not live to work. Trying to get that through son’s head now. He works way too much and burns (asks it to be paid out as he reaches the cutoff limit) PTO rather than takes it. Hoping he will put in for time off again between Christmas and New Years just for some down time. He needs to do something with it.

    We tried to set an example. Yes we both worked. But it was as much to allow both of us to spend time with him. Dad refused the OT hour jobs, even knowing he’d be laid off regularly. While my job was more the 9 hour (8 – 5 or 9 – 5:30, depending), I could work at home if needed. I used vacation time for camp weeks or backpacking (and I wasn’t the ideal one for that, but I did it, without resentment or complaint. Dad did too, just was saved for special trips because of the whole leave-without-pay requirement.) Need I describe the Lego builds at kid’s budding engineering attempts? The blanket forts? The train track builds (didn’t do the multi floor level wreck scenarios). The backyard digging with “real” digging toys (Tonka metal version). He “helped” me plant with those toys. That isn’t counting family time together be it vacations, or game nights.

    Do I resent not being home more? Yes, some. A lot of threads went into the balancing scale of our decisions. Not sure what I would have changed.

    1. The other way the children of divorce seem to go awry is the end up tools used by the parents against each other. This makes them tend to be manipulative and nasty and if the parents have any wealth at all they get very spoiled. It’s a recipe for disaster, I watched peers fall into that rat hole in the odd private high school I went to, I watched my daughters peers fall into it and use it and then abuse drugs to self medicate and soothe the hurt. It is really an awful shame and destructive of kids who might otherwise have been productive folks rather than depressed angry self indulgent trolls.

      1. The kid in question. Our biggest two interactions with him were sports and scouts. Sports not a problem if he acted out, there were consequences. He learned not to act out. Scouts OTOH, when the worst punishment is the parents get called and they have to come pickup the scout, and you, as the leader, know, absolutely know, neither parent, will show up? Now what? (Grandma couldn’t and relevant cousin’s spouse was the camp director, therefore, both he and cousin were at the camp …) Made worse that it was the kid’s birthday and dad had promised to show up with a birthday cake, and didn’t. Between the 3 of us (the two cousins, me) and a few others, we salvaged the situation. But dang it. This was also the kid who could have just stayed away from events but showed up to support his fellow scouts or teammates when both his parents individually dropped the ball and he couldn’t participate in the activity. He was not a bad kid. But double dang it. Haven’t seen him since their junior year. Dad moved to Idaho and took him. Next he was an 18 year old HS senor living with his girl friend and her parents, with twins. Last I heard (through the cousins) he was doing fine. Also through the cousins, thanks them, and people like us, this is why he was able to get his act together. None of us had any (legal) power, but we cared, and it showed.

  13. So, my house-husband dad made sure that his kids knew the basics. We all had to do the dishes when we got tall enough to be able to reach the bottom of the sink. We all had to learn how to cook (mom worked full time and dad fixed the cars and house, so there were days if the kids didn’t cook no one ate). We all learned how to do our laundry, how to fix popped seams, how to replace buttons, do basic sewing. The boys learned how to iron their own dress shirts. Before we could get our driver’s license we had to show him we could change the oil, change a tire, check the other important fluids, gap a spark plug, replace the brakes.

    When I got to college, it was alarming to me how many of my roommates couldn’t even plan a meal, let alone understand why rinsing or soaking their dishes was simply polite if they weren’t going to do them right away.

    I came home from classes one day to discover that the toilet in the back bathroom was overflowing. And had been for nearly half an hour. None of the other girls had done a thing about it, ‘because they didn’t know how’. Nor had they called the property managers. The water was slopping over the sill into the hallway carpet and over the floor vent and into the kitchen of the apartment below us! I sent one to call the managers to get someone over asap to fix things, threw the other girls’ towels on the floor to sop up the eater and stop the flooding below us… I tried to turn off the water to the tank, but the knob was stuck, so I flipped the lid off the tank and flicked up the bobber. Water stopped flowing. The other girls were amazed. ‘How did you know how to do that?!’ How is it that they DIDN’T know? Didn’t their fathers teach them ANYTHING? The float switch wasn’t rising high enough on the water to actually work properly, and I wasn’t going to stand there all day, so I asked one of the girls to bring me a wire hanger. “What for?” I was ready to stab people at this point and may have shouted at her to just bring it! She brought it and I pulled it out straight, hooked the curve under the float arm, bent the rest of it up and over the towel rack behind the tank and walked away. “How did you know how to do that?!” In my head I was shouting back, “how is it that you don’t know how a toilet works?!” After the second or third time of hearing ‘whatcha doing, dad?’ he’d start explaining and make us stay and help him.

    I had a tire go flat on me on the highway and by the time the highway help truck came along, all he had left to do was help me put the flat tire and tools in the trunk. I went home after getting the flat dealt with and thanked my parents for making sure I didn’t have to be a damsel in distress.

    I am appalled by the things that even people my own age don’t know how to do, let alone people younger people. There is a frightening lack of understanding of how to world works.

    1. Yep, my daughter had to change oil, change a tire, gap spark plugs before she was allowed to get her driver’s license.

      & BTW, BlondeEngineer she also went for an engineering degree and a PE license.

      1. I had to learn most of that. Not the spark plug stuff (dad had a saying “your grandfather is the mechanic”). Then the last time I had to change the tire, I was almost 60. Had to call for help. I couldn’t get the bleeping spare tire lowered on the truck. Hadn’t tried to get the tire off yet. Felt a lot better when the “helping” tow truck driver couldn’t get the tire down either. He ended up putting air in the flat tire. Tire held air (very slow leak), so I could take the entire truck to get the leaking tire repaired. Don’t get me wrong. Changing a tire, at least for me, involves a lot of swearing mumbling as I stand on the tire iron to get lugs loosened. But I can change a tire.

        Son had to call for help when he got a flat. His car didn’t come with a spare, not even the “blink, that is a spare?” type. Just a cans of temp sealant, and air. But when you blow out the tire sidewall … His replacement tires are more sturdy.

          1. I knew HOW the trucks spare tire system was suppose to work. I just could not get it to break loose. Which is more than the tow truck driver knew. Six year old truck. Not a new system. Our trucks clear back to 1990 worked the same dang way. OTOH it had never been dropped down. It was stuck.

            1. When I got my first Ford pickup… the spare was under the arse end of the bed. First time it was up on a rack, I looked at that, said, “If I have a rear flat, how the hell am I supposed to get to it?” and asked the mechanic to take it off and throw it in the bed.

              So he cranks on it… nothing (mind you it was still almost new, no time to become stuck). Fetched an air wrench… was so stuck the air wrench wheezed and quit. By then it was obvious there was no getting this thing off in the event of the end of the world, never mind a flat, so I said just cut it.. and he brought a torch. That spare rode 34 years in the back of the truck, and I never needed it.

              So now I’ve got this F350 dually… spare is in the same place, but too darn big to carry in the bed… and damn if I’m gonna wrestle with a hundred pound wheel anyway. I can limp home on just two in the back if I have to, and if it’s in the front… well, that’s what State Farm’s roadside service is for…

              1. the spare was under the arse end of the bed

                That is where the Chevy and Toyota pickup spares are stored too. Clear back to 1968, as far as I know, for Chevy’s (dad’s).

                  1. If one thinks about it, where else will a truck spare tire be stored? Not the in the bed or on the tailgate. The pickup bed is for hauling stuff, including RV Campers, tire would be in the way. Dropping and lifting a tailgate regularly? Um, no? Besides where would the spare be carried when the tailgate is off (RV Camper, 5th Wheel). How would canopy door’s work?

                    I’m not surprised I couldn’t break the mechanism loose when I needed (not an uncommon theme when it comes to mechanics). But for the tow truck specialist not Know how? Blink. Wait! What? Solution provided so all good. But, wow.

                    1. Pickup spares used to be mounted vertically along the bed wall, either in front of the rear fender or with the flatsided beds, same place but inside. But yeah, not exactly convenient when you need the full bed. I had a topper and mine wound up hanging against a side window, sort of balanced on the fender bump. Underneath is definitely less in the way, but not at all fun to get to.

      2. Good for her. Hope she enjoys it. Aside from a few internships and home projects, I’ve barely used mine engineering know-how. Went into data analysis after graduation, because that’s what I could find, way back in ’02.

        1. My daughter graduated back in ’86. She got a lot of use out of her degree; private construction company owner, city engineer, public works director, Alyeska pipeline engineer…

    2. Sounds like your dad was related to mine – the research biologist with a gift for DIY tinkering. Taught us how to change the oil on our cars. How to hang and mud drywall. Change out the wiring in a table lamp, and replace a faucet …

      1. Everything that we could do ourselves, we did. We re-did our back deck, we re-did our roof… “Honey, take this over to the edge and tar down the weathering strips.”
        You take that over to the edge. I’m happy right here in the middle with the staple gun, thank you very much.”
        “Are you afraid of falling?”
        “No, I’m afraid of landing in a very messy and lethal manner.”

        1. Which is why I now go up on the ladder and clamber on the roof and do the gutters. MomRed had a cow (South Devon sized) when Dad was up on the roof the last time. I heal far more quickly. 😀

      2. Dad did a lot of DIY remodeling/fixup, especially in the 1903 Four-square we had from 1960-72. Dad didn’t have the money to put into it, but he had contacts (Grampa and friends) so could get some materials cheaper.

        $ELDEST_BROTHER and I inherited the skills/mindset, though I suspect I’ve done much more construction since the Dot Com bust-forced retirement. Middle brother is the outlier; he used to wrench on cars a lot, but was useless around a house.

        I’m more-or-less done with major constructiuon/remodeling, though circumstances could change. We’re trying to stay in S. Central Oregon, unless the regressives in Salem try to destroy the state. Even more..

        1. Oh yeah, $ELDEST_BROTHER is still running a small CPA shop at age 76. Not entirely by preference, but family got priority.

  14. I find myself agreeing with and disagreeing with a lot said here, but enjoying it all.

    I do have to allow my perspective, my take, at 83 differs often than that of you young whippersnappers in your sixties or less. None the…, back in the day and today, what we want and what we need for ourselves and our families, goods, time, etc., is there, all around us, and finding, utilizing it, is great fun!

    Oh, and the trials and tribulations, the moves, the health issues, etc., those are necessary as marks on the yardstick. If it was all smooth and easy it would just be mush, pablum. We need our trials to appreciate our triumphs.

  15. #3. I have what was until recently called Asperger’s syndrome (undiagnosed for 50 years) and was raised by a verbally abusive father. Society in general (especially the job market academia,) are not especially tolerant to those who are “Odd”, or whose limitations are invisible. I had just enough support from others to survive, not enough to thrive.

    #4 I tried. But she was Aes Sedai (without the magic), for those who get the reference, And it took me 10 years of marriage and 20 years after to figure it out.

    #5, #6. I was once trying to motivate myself to do something, using all the techniques of scorn and abuse I learned, when the words came into my mind “You wouldn’t talk like that to anyone else. Why are you doing it to yourself?” Oh. It still took a while to break the habit, and fully accept that while I’m not as good as I would like, I’m not despicable, either.

  16. Here’s another the thing to say about tradition: it provided a default option that was neither partner’s fault. People could deviate from the norm to some or the other degree, but when you fell back to the default it wasn’t either partner’s initiative. It was just “how things are done.”

    Take last names. Someone has to lose the name they were born with. In a modern progressive couple that means either one of you has to make a sacrifice and the other is the villian. Or you hyphenate.

    So when Julia Woodrow-Smythe marries Matthew Goodwinson-Baxbury what does their daughter call her children? Smith. She marries John Smith and takes his name and it’s not her fault or his fault. It’s just how things are done.

  17. So just watched a youtube by some maniacs who made a mecha from a movie I have never seen.

    No only can it be said that we are living a cyberpunk, it seems like we have narrowly missed being one where supervillains fight using mecha.

    My assumption that we have missed that is partly guess work about actuators.

    1. At a certain point, you’d need fast-acting hydraulics, but that opens up a lot of vulnerabilities that traditional mecha don’t seem to have. When I think of Gundam, Voltron, RoboTech, and others, hydraulic leaks and fires are exceedingly few. (Granted, they have self-healing stuff, I’m sure, but still . . .)

      1. Well, Full Metal Panic and some others bypass a lot of the hydraulic leak stuff by pretty much assuming magic. (Okay, some of FMP’s stuff makes some handwaves to plausibility. But the actuators for the modern Arm Slave generations are, objectively, a bit silly. And the Lambda Driver is outright not really pretending at all.)

        Then we have Getter Robo.

        Though, on the flammability front, the bad guy mechs in Escaflone have those liquid metal sword fingers that double as flame throwers.

      2. The lack of conventional fuels and the vacuum of space help in some of those cases. But there’s usually also some sort of ubertech armor involved. With Macross the Valkyries had armor that was incredibly reinforced if energized. Gundam had gundamium armor in the original, and phase shift armor in Seed.

        1. Gundamianium, IIRC, was Wing/AC, and Luna Titanium was UC, what the original series mobile suit was made of.

          1. You could be right, it’s been a while since I I watched any of them or read the manga. Another thought – though we don’t typically see any hydraulic leaks, ISTR a few scenes of pilots and/or mechanics doing maintenance on Valkyries in Robotoech/Macross.

            1. In VanDread, maintenance and repair of battle damage to the Dreads and Vanguards was shown a few times. Gascogne was in charge of the supply and maintenance division, called Registry. Hibiki Tokai did most of the repair work on his Vanguard, and some of the other pilots worked on their own Dreads.
              “What? Those things are women?”

  18. I can tell my judgement is suspect right now, because I want to tell a joke about this school shooting, and nothing that I come up with is at all appropriate.

    1. I can come up with all sorts of possibilities.

      “What did you learn in school today, Bobby?”

      1. “Duck and cover.”
      2. “Guns are REALLY LOUD.
      3. “First aid.”
      4. “How to evacuate the school.”
      5. “Joey* is a real shithead.”

      *or whatever the little shithead’s name was

      See, you ain’t even trying. 😛

      …humor is supposed to be inappropriate. If you don’t piss anybody off, you’re doing it wrong. Like George Carlin used to say: “If there’s anybody out there I didn’t offend, it’s not from lack of trying.”

      1. Once upon a time, I did stand up. In San Francisco. When you could still do stand-up as a white man in San Francisco.

        I had to do a thirty minute skit for one festival, and for that festival, I literally read off, all “motor mouth” that I was to offend everyone, and that if I failed to offend someone here in the audience, it was not due to lack of trying, and if I had failed to offend you, I was going to have a five minute Q&A session at the end of my routine.

  19. They believe they’ve taken over the U.S.A. because they own the scum that floats on top. They can’t see beneath the surface, where forces they can’t begin to comprehend are building up pressure.
    Delenn: “What’s our status?”

    Lennier: “Damage is substantial, but auto-repair systems are functional. Setting course for Babylon 5.”

    Delenn: “Who said we were leaving? They destroyed ships from League worlds — murdered their crews — destroyed White Star 16 — and now, they will pay the price.”

  20. Right now, I’m looking at seasonal work at the local Costco and hopefully not going nuts.

    Writing as fast as I can.

    And finishing my degree program this upcoming semester, so I can graduate and have that sheepskin on my resume.

    I might, however much I loathe the idea, be looking to move somewhere that I can get a job.

    That’s all I can do, really.

  21. The worst outcomes involve multiple divorces with the kids being treated as afterthoughts. (Note I’m not saying everyone with multiple divorces has that problem. I’m saying that’s the worst possible outcome, and considering I know several families where the kids are ultimately “nobody’s kid” it gets really bad indeed.)

    And people wonder why I want to burn it all down.

  22. Look, most people don’t become “executives”. Not even very smart people.

    And certainly not wise people. One overlooked point in the famous Jordan Peterson-Cathy Newman thing is when she snidely responds to his comment that fewer women want to make the sacrifices necessary to be a CEO that maybe women “are smarter” he agrees. I think by smart here Peterson would probably say “are wiser” or “have more balanced values” (I think Newman is an NPC who only said it as a nasty comeback and thinks “smart” meaning “lefty” is the only value).

    1. A lot of Mormons have earned a slight amount of fame for deliberately choosing to pursue careers that are middle management, prioritize family, and /avoid/ any sort of executive track.

      1. To reach an Executive level of a company is like…well, it’s like being in the military or the police or any job that demands that you spend 18+ hours a day doing it. You’re married to the job. Everything else is an affair, of varying degrees of seriousness.

  23. Late catching up on my commenting this week,but there’s a lot for someone in my position to learn from all of this too. I’m still not sure about the what I want to do professionally part… Warehouse monkeying or other forms of manual labor isn’t something I want to stick with even if aches, pains, and my vision still making some pieces of equipment tricky even after eye surgery but I’ve got no idea what I want to do and it doesn’t help that so much of it is gated behind a degree (and I’m still not even close to the point where I can make a serious effort at writing for profit). Maybe I can find a lead in the new place, though I’m resigned to at least a few more years of warehouse monkeying and just hope wherever I end up is less willing to “prepare for long-term enforcement of OSHA’s mandates” like my current one. Management level stuff definitely isn’t my thing either, though, so who knows. Most other things, if applicable, I think I’m making some headway on to some degree. I’ll keep those in mind if they ever do end up becoming applicable, though!

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