Archives for May 2013

Three Axes Model of Parenting?

Arnold Kling has talked about the three axes model of political views. Conservatives care about civilization-barbarism. Progressives care about oppressors-oppressed. Libertarians care about freedom-coercion.

Most people I meet in person don’t seem to be as dogmatic about parenting as they are about politics, but there seem to be distinct axes for sure. Conservative types do seem to use the civilization-barbarism axis for parenting. They’ll talk about the importance of obedience much more so than progressive and libertarian types will. Look at the copy for this book and see what I mean.

Libertarians are definitely inclined to use the freedom-coercion axis for parenting.

At first I was confused about the progressive types. I didn’t see how they were using the oppressor-oppressed language in their discussion of parenting, but I think I actually can see it. Ha! I just googled “progressive parenting”, and the first hit I got was this. The tagline begins: “Being a Parent May Be the Hardest Job You’ll Ever Have”. I do think progressive types are more likely to talk about how hard it is to be a parent, especially a mom. And how institutions these days don’t support parenthood and other such complaints. Oh, and often the argument for doing things a certain way with the kids is that, as a parent, they have needs too. So the parents are the oppressed ones.

I’ll have to think about this application of the three axes model more. Am I over-fitting? What parenting axes seem natural to you?

Summary of A Guide to the Good Life

A Guide to the Good Life: the Ancient Art of Stoic Joy is a handbook of Stoic philosophy by professor William Irvine. He points out that Stoicism is very different than the stereotypes we have developed about unfeeling robots, and in fact it contains a lot of timeless advice for psychological well being. This is not an academic work of philosophy, it is written as a popular self-improvement book. Though he does discuss a bit of the philosophy and history behind Stoicism, the bulk of the book consists of practical and actionable advice to improve your life. My summary reorganizes the book chapters, with a brief intro in the beginning, followed by all the actionable advice and the author’s personal suggestions, and concluding with a discussion of Stoicism in the modern context and some brief notes on the history of Stoic philosophy.

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33 Weeks of Lydia

Lydia’s cold is a thing of the past. She’s been totally fine pretty much the whole week, and more active and engaged now that she’s over it.

A few days ago, I was thinking that it was still a pretty peaceful period, without any major changes on her part. But the last few days have been a bit more exciting.

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32 Weeks of Lydia

Lydia’s not 100% over her cold–she still has a bit of a stuffy nose–but it was a mild one to begin with, and it’s been a pretty calm week. She was fussier than usual at the beginning of her cold, but that basically meant wanting to be held more. I made a list of things to get done while wearing Lydia in the wrap, and that worked fine. 

And now, she’s happy again. It’s been a while since she’s learned anything big, and she’s not on the verge of learning anything big. No wonder weeks, no major motor skills. As far as I know, she’s still not teething. Things have been peaceful.

It’s a good time for things to be in balance with Lydia, because Will just started a new job. Everything’s going great there too, but there’s something nice about having a manageable amount of change all at once.

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Recognize Your Partner’s Child

Have you ever had the experience that you have a discussion with your partner about something he did that upset you, and he seems to agree and be understand, but then later goes back to justifying his own actions? Feel free to switch the genders, since this is common behavior in men and women. It used to upset me when this happened. I’d think, wait–I thought he understood why it was hurtful when he criticized the way I cleaned the kitchen! Why is he now going back and talking about why he was partly justified in talking to me that way?

These days, it doesn’t get to me as much.

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31 Weeks of Lydia

How quickly they change! As of this week, Lydia is officially seven months. And the separation anxiety has calmed way down to the point where I’d say she’s back to baseline. Assuming it makes any sense at all to talk about baseline behavior for babies, which maybe it doesn’t.

She did get a bit of a cold, mostly as evidence by a snotty nose. I can feel a tickle in my throat, but I think there’s a good chance it won’t turn into more than that on my end, since I’ve been getting enough sleep.

I can feel my brain wanting to take credit for the reduction in separation anxiety, but I think it has very little to do with me. It was just a phase.

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Do You Feel Like an Adult?

I was doing some IFS with an old friend yesterday, and when I told her to imagine what her adult self would say to her ten-year-old child self, she said that her problem was that she didn’t feel like an adult.

I primed the pump with some wisdom I’ve heard from her over the years, and she mostly took it from there. Still, it was an interesting situation for me. I think one nugget of IFS theory that I’ve heard is that if the subject of the process doesn’t have a strong enough “Self”, the facilitator can lend his. That advice has largely informed how I’ve dealt with similar situations as well.

But, at least in her case, the problem wasn’t that she didn’t have an adult self to draw on, it was that she wasn’t in touch with it–she was too blended with the child.

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30 Weeks of Lydia

Probably the most notable feature of this week was increased separation anxiety. Quite interesting to watch. I do think that, because of her own increased mobility, Lydia has much more of a concept of people leaving than she used to, and she doesn’t like it!

The most classic thing she has been doing is crying the minute I go around a corner. She’s also sometimes not liked to be put down, even if she can see me. (Since she’s been born, there have been times when she didn’t want to be put down, but this seems to have a different character. More clingy is one way I would describe it, though I don’t like the negative connotation of that word. It’s not that she’s otherwise tired or fussy, but that she wants me. If I put her down, she’ll crawl over and start climbing my leg.)

And sometimes Lydia just wants to be with me, not even Will. Though, even when I’m with her, she’ll still sometimes get upset when Will leaves to go to the kitchen or something, and start crawling after him. Actually, Lydia’s not crazy about anyone leaving, and has expressed distress when my roommates left in the morning for work, and when a guy we were hanging out in a coffee shop rounded a corner and she couldn’t see him anymore. 

But in the case of non parents, I think it’s more that she’s trying to understand what’s going on. When I pick her up and take her to see them leaving more clearly, she doesn’t seem to mind.

We’ve been making a point of saying “bye!” to her when we leave (her visual field), and then saying “hi!” when we come back. I think that works pretty well. I doubt she thinks of it as meaning very much, but saying “bye!” is something positive for her to focus on, so it seems to work from that angle.

(My sister-in-law taught her 9-month-old to wave goodbye to her toys when she’s done with them, and she said that it’s been helpful for keeping things positive.)

That said though, mostly I’m just keeping her as near to me as she wants to be. More on that below.

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Motivated Forgetting

One of the creepier phenomena I’ve encountered as a human is motivated forgetting.

And one of the more powerful moments of my life was the first time I noticed myself doing it. I was with my boyfriend at the time. I can’t remember whether we were having an argument in the moment or I was remembering an argument we’d had somewhat earlier, but I was recording video of myself.

As I sat there, rehearsing some thoughts about how right I was, I looked into the camera and thought, “What if all of my thoughts were being recorded?” And I realized that my current mental operating system would break down if I had records of what was going on in my head, because I was sometimes throwing out data that didn’t fit my identity.

I wish I could remember what it was that I remembered forgetting. I think it had to do with whether I had said something to my boyfriend at the time during an argument. In the recording, I looked at the camera and said, “I think I just realized that accepting reality is harder than I thought it was.”

Upon realizing that I’d been trying to forget something unflattering on purpose, I also felt very ashamed. But feeling ashamed upon realizing is an excellent way to encourage further dishonesty with myself. The answer is (almost?) always to reward the behavior you want more of. 

First, consider the possibility that you may engage in motivated forgetting. Not everyone does it, as far as I can tell, but it’s also pretty common.

Second, decide that, if you were doing it, you’d want to know! You can always still decide to lie, if that’s the issue. I don’t recommend lying, but I do think that lying to others is a bit better than lying to yourself. You’ll make the best possible decisions if you stop withholding information from yourself.

Third, be on the lookout, and then be very, very pleased without yourself if you ever catch yourself forgetting on purpose. Awareness is an extremely useful first step.

(One hack you can use if you’re trying to figure out if you’re being honest with yourself is slightly changing the questions you’re asking yourself. Instead of saying, “Did I do that thing?”, try “If I found out that there were a video tape of what happened, how would I feel about watching it? Would I be shocked if I found out that I did the thing?” Accessing your true anticipations may be more involved than consulting your verbal loop and believing the first thing it says, but it’s rarely actually difficult.)

29 Weeks of Lydia

Lydia and I had a pretty happy week this week. The weather has been warm and beautiful, so we’ve gotten out to playgrounds multiple days, and that worked well enough that I want to make it a very regular habit, at least when it’s nice outside. I still haven’t been to the playgrounds closest to where we live, so that’s a goal for this week.

The progress in her physical skills is the easiest thing to notice a difference in, week to week, but she’s growing into a person in other ways too. I’m thinking that I’m going to phase out attending the new parents group at Rites of Passage that we’ve been going to for a few months now. She’s not such a baby anymore!

And so far, my prediction that I would enjoy her more and more as she got older has been proven true. Her mobility is cool, and not actually much more work for me yet.

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