Parenting

The New State Of Things

I’ve lost count how many times I’ve started to write this and then given up and deleted everything I’ve written. I try to write something and then feel like I need to preface it with something else so that people don’t jump to conclusions and then feel like I’m second guessing myself and so on and it ends in a select all and a delete. So I decided to just tell some stories instead which may explain how I’m feeling better than if I just tried to write about that.

***

I’m vegan. Many of you know that and know that I’ve been vegan for approaching 25 years now. More than half my life. In my ideal world it would be illegal to kill animals for food, but I’m very capable of knowing the difference between my ideal world and the real world, and the difference between the two. I’m able to understand that just because I want something really badly doesn’t mean it magically happens. I decided a while ago – after years of taking the opposite approach – that it was more productive to lead by example and answer people’s questions when they took notice and asked, than to attack them and try and force them to change. That’s just me.

Additionally, I like to talk to people who have differing opinions than I do. I find people who always agree with me boring and like to discuss the merits of my positions with people who aren’t convinced. I like to be able to sharpen my take on things on be persuaded otherwise. I count many people with drastically different world views in my circle of close friends and I appreciate that they put up with my hassling them about how wrong I think they are. And they do the same. I find myself agreeing and disagreeing frequently with my friends on the right and the left.

I don’t fit well into any category, which I think helps me with perspective. I try to look at issues on their own and not based on which politician supports and decries them. I know this isn’t a common position, but it works for me.

***

I have friends who were die hard Hillary supporters and friends who were die hard Trump supporters. I was neither. In the early days of the primaries I was backing Bernie pretty strongly. I said several times during that time that I didn’t believe Hillary could could beat Trump and I really didn’t want Trump to win. Once Hillary got the nomination my position remained the same. I didn’t want Trump to win, but I didn’t think Hillary could beat him. I could write many long winded think pieces and hot takes on why I felt that way but it’s kind of moot at this point so I won’t waste anyones time. I’m in a few private slack teams and private email lists. Some of these are very political. Some of these didn’t take kindly to someone not jumping on the party line. I’m not, nor have I ever been a registered Democrat so party lines mean nothing to me. I vote for who I want to based on their own merits. So while Democrats were expected to all get behind Hillary, I maintained that hopes and dreams aside, that while I didn’t want him to win, I didn’t believe she could beat him. In some of these groups I was called a Trump shill. In some of these groups I was called a Bernie Bro and a misogynist. So I left those groups.

My friends backing Hillary ranged from being completely sure she would win, to being completely sure she would win in a landslide.

My friends backing Trump ranged from being completely sure he would win, to being completely sure he would win in a landslide.

I knew both of these groups couldn’t be right.

Again, I’m weird so I recognized that what I wanted to believe and the outcome I wanted might not have been the same thing as what realistically might happen. This was not a welcome opinion.

The echo chamber was in full effect. All these people were only listening to people who agreed with them, and who were saying things they wanted to believe. Most of these people wanted nothing to do with anyone saying anything other than that their candidate was going to slay it.

Then the election happened.

My friends who were backing Hillary are largely in shock. They keep saying things like “How did this happen?” and “How could we have been so wrong?” Someone who called me a Trump shill for saying Hillary couldn’t beat Trump asked me with a straight face “How could anyone have seen this coming?”

***

Tonight there was a protest in Los Angeles, condemning the pick of Steve Bannon as Sr Advisor to the president. I think Breitbart News is very good at stirring people into a frenzy and very bad at reporting the news. I think picking the guy who runs that for a position equal to Chief of Staff is dangerous. I wanted to go and take photos, my wife Tara wanted to go and hold up a sign. Ripley, my 6 year old son also wanted a sign but I’m not a fan of indoctrinating children to anything, and didn’t want to write up a political sign that him carrying around would suggest he was making the statement. I told him what the protest was about, and asked him what he wanted on his sign. I told him he could put anything that he wanted. He wanted a happy sign that would make other people happy too, so he decided his sign should say “I Love Cats.” I thought it was great. On the other side he decided the sign should say “It’s past my bedtime” because the protest was at night and he would be tired and this would show people that even though he was tired and it was late he was there with them. I loved this sentiment. We drew up the signs and headed out.

Tara and Ripley joined some friends of ours on one side of the crowd and I walked around taking photos. The mood of the evening was largely positive, people were protesting something they were upset about but the crowd working together. There were the expected “Ban Bannon” and “No KKK” signs, as well as some more original and light hearted ones including one older lady with a sign that read “I’ve been protesting this same fascist shit for 50 years!” and someone with a trans flag and a sign saying “This isn’t the kind of dick I wanted.” Anytime I was near my family people were taking photos of my son and his sign, with many people telling him they loved it and it was the best sign there, which made him smile big.

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He got in on the chanting, memorizing the rhymes. He waved his sign for people and smiled when they took his photo. This was his first protest and he told me he really enjoyed it. He said he loved seeing all the people together, hoping for the same thing.

By 8:30 it was in fact well past his bedtime and we decided to leave. Tara and Rips started to move to the edge of the crowd and I was behind them. As I turned to leave two younger women tapped me on the shoulder. I only spoke with them for a moment but I’d guess they were late 20’s-ish.

“Hi, can we talk to you for a moment about your son’s sign?”

“Sure”

“It’s very cute, but we are concerned that if someone sees it and takes a photo it will misrepresent the feeling of this event.”

“Lots of people have taken photos of it all night, everyone has been enjoying it”

“That’s the problem, it’s sending the wrong message – I Love Cats? This isn’t about cats”

“He’s 6, that’s what he wanted on his sign. I’m not going to put my politics on a sign and make him carry it.”

“He doesn’t support immigrants rights?”

“He’s 6”

“There are lots of kids here with political signs”

“Sure, that their parents wrote for them”

“But what will people think if they see this sign”

“I don’t really care”

“YOU DON’T CARE?”

“Are you really upset that a 6 year old isn’t protesting correctly?”

“You wouldn’t be saying that if you weren’t a white man, maybe you should meet an immigrant and find out how they feel, you are mocking the serious people here… Racist!”

I turned around and to walk away and one of them punched me in the back of the head.

I kept walking, they shouted something but I wasn’t listening anymore.

In the 5 minute walk back to our car, at least 10 more people said “Love that sign!!”

As some of you know, my wife is an immigrant.

I’m going to sleep now, disappointed.

The sun will rise tomorrow.

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(A version of this was sent out to my mailing list last night. It’s the first thing I’ve sent out since the election. Feel free to subscribe if you want. All photos by me, I’ll probably post more on instagram as well.)

Like A Prayer

(Excerpted from something I sent to my mailing list, you should subscribe)

The other day I was hanging out in a local coffee shop with Rips (my 5yo son for anyone who doesn’t know) when Madonna’s “Like a prayer” came on the sound system, he started dancing in his seat and said he really liked the song. I’ve been trying to take note of what music he reacts to and encourage it when I can. Since I bought him a record player for his birthday, I pinged my friend who has a record shop near by and told him I needed to get that record. He only had “Like a virgin” in stock, but tracked down “Like a prayer” for me in a few days. I bought “Like a virgin” too just for the hell of it. When I got home and gave them a listen I remembered one of the formative moments of my childhood that I’d long since forgotten. I suppose everyone has a point growing up when they realize their parents/family aren’t flawless, and maybe they are actively misleading them. Unintentionally Madonna tipped me off to that.

Mid 80’s, early MTV days. Madonna was everywhere. My very Catholic family was not impressed and took every opportunity to tell me how horrid she was. Unsolicited. She was a blasphemer. She was mocking *our* faith by calling herself Madonna and wearing a crucifix. She was probably a Satanist. Definitely a slut. A hussy. She was certainly trying to corrupt innocent minds. Etc. etc. As a kid, hearing this from authority figures I assumed it must be true. But it had a contrary impact on me, rather than scare me away which was the intended motivation, it made me curious. Who was this lady who would make such a public attack on a group of people. Why would she do that? What was her story?

Once I started digging into it a different story came out, of course it’s much easier to find now, but I learned then that she wasn’t using the name “Madonna” as a slam against Catholics, but rather that was her actual name given to her by her very Catholic parents – it’s on her birth certificate. And her music, her art, was influenced by the imagery she’d grown up around. Like almost every other artist I’d learned about. An anti-climatic end to a story that had been so built up. I have to say, it was a little disappointing. (Luckily I soon found Slayer) But that got me thinking – if nothing my family had told me about Madonna was actually true, what else had they told me wasn’t based entirely in fact? And why would they tell me something like that?

Either they were purposefully trying to deceive me, or more likely someone had told this to them and they’d just accepted it as truth. Or maybe no one told them and that was just their gut reaction having been conditioned to react certain ways to certain things and assumed they had it all figured out – also a very real possibility. Maybe they were so insecure about their own beliefs that they had to proactively attack anything that they felt challenged them in the slightest bit. All options – but regardless, none of those options were reassuring. All of them lead to the inevitable truth that I could no longer accept anything they told me as the truth. I guess that stuck with me more than I realized. Thanks Madonna.

Subconsciously I’ve incorporated that lesson into my own parenting efforts, when my son asks me a question I make sure to answer honestly or if I don’t know, I tell him that I don’t know. Sometimes we look up the answers together. When I talk to him about my opinions I make it clear that people have different opinions and feelings about things, that this is what I think but he’s welcome to think about it and decide what he wants to think. I know I’m setting myself up for him eventually making decisions I don’t agree with, but he’s his own person and that’s his right. And him having his own opinions is far more appealing to me than him someday coming to the conclusion that I’ve been lying to him.

Ripley for Ripley

Last month I saw some of Adam Lister‘s work on Tumblr and immediately showed it to Tara. We’ve been buying artwork for our son Ripley for a while and had talked about getting him somethings personal/significant each year for his birthday so that later on in life he’ll have this collection of pieces that we got for him. We had the idea of commissioning Adam to do a scene from Alien’s of Ripley (the character) in the power loader, We named Ripley (our son) after Ripley (the Alien killing character) and thought this would be fantastic. I contacted Adam and he was psyched to do it, and the result is everything we hoped it would be. Rips turns 4 next month, no one spoil this surprise gift for him, OK?!

Sean Commission

Long Term Storage

Ripley Scooting

Ripley’s first day of pre-school is tomorrow. I think this is a big milestone as far as growing up goes.

My oldest memories date back to being in pre-school. My oldest real memories anyway, of actually doing things. I have flashes of images or of someone saying something, or being somewhere that might be older than that, but I actually remember doing things when I was in preschool. I remember an art class making bowls and self portrait figures out of clay. Apparently there was some kurfuffle because I sculpted myself naked and hadn’t skimped on the twig and berries. I think my mom actually still has those things in a box some where. Speaking of twigs, I remember playing outside of a classroom in a tent/igloo thing that someone had fashioned out of sticks and leaves. I remember climbing through these damp leaves in what I probably thought was a magnificent fort but was probably just a pile of yard scraps filled with worms and begging my father to come join me inside and him standing outside of it wanting nothing to do with it. He might have even been annoyed as he was probably there to pick me up and I was having too much fun playing to consent to leaving.

I remember the smell of the kiln in that art studio, I remember the main hall/theater where we’d go for music classes and the piano there that our teacher would play and sing songs to us. I remember the slope of the hillside behind the building and how much of an adventure it seemed to me at the time to go down the side of the building that didn’t have the nice path way. I remember being really happy there.

I remember even more from the following year – I went to the same school for pre-k and kindergarten but the classes were on opposite sides of the campus. Ha. Campus. It was a collection of converted bars with a little courtyard in the middle. Opposite sides of the property. That makes more sense. Very little kids on one side, slightly older kids on the other with lots of play time in the middle with everyone. I wrote about an experience I had with one of the even older kids a while ago and I’m realizing now that Ripley is only a year or so away from being the same age as I was when that was all happening.

I say that because until now I’ve had no idea what if anything he’ll remember. I figured it’s all kind of a blur. Will he remember living in Singapore or Paris? Probably not. Will he remember last December in Vienna? Maybe? But I know that over the next year some of the stuff is going to seriously stick – in detail – and he’ll take it with him the rest of his life. I think about that and I think about what I can do to make sure that he is as happy as I remember being and that he only has awesome memories burned into that permanent storage.

I don’t want him to remember me ever being annoyed with him.

I’ll never refuse to play in the leaves with him.

Inspiration

Yesterday my (almost) 3 year old broke his leg and had a full leg cast put on. This is a kid who has been potty trained for barely 2 months, and now has to rely on us to help him even roll over in bed. We didn’t know how he would handle it.

You know how he spent the day today? Taking one lick of the lollipop he got from the Doctors office every few hours because “he didn’t want it to go away too fast.” Figuring out how to pull himself on his chest and get around the house. Figuring out how to stand up on his one good leg so he can pull himself up onto the couch. Hugging the dog that knocked him over yesterday. Telling his parents that he loved them. Saying that his cast looked cool. Playing with his trains on the floor. Being excited that he gets to use the big toilet since he can’t bend his leg to use the small one anymore. Going on with his life as if nothing was any different.

You how how he didn’t spend the day today? Complaining. Moping. Feeling sorry for himself. Being angry. Lashing out. Using this as an excuse why he cant do something. Asking “what if?” or even thinking about why.

I watched this with incredible fascination. This huge wrench just got thrown into his life and he couldn’t care less. He hasn’t let it impact him in the slightest bit. He knows what he has on his plate right now and is using that to his advantage, not wasting his time worrying about what could be there or why he doesn’t have something else. He’s just going full steam ahead, just like he was yesterday.

There’s a lesson here. I hope I learn it.

Broken

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Since the second Ripley was born I’ve been terrified of the day we have to rush him to the emergency room. And I know full well it’s a “when” not an “if” – kinda goes hand in hand with having kids, right? You spend 18 years trying to not to let them kill themselves by doing something stupid. So I guess I should be relieved that it ended up happening this way.

This afternoon after we’d just spent an hour walking along the LA River, Ripley and Tara were playing outside with the soccer ball and Sidney (the dog) ran over and somehow bumped into Rips or something – Not really sure what happened but Ripley fell down and we all heard a large “crack” – I was inside in the kitchen and I even heard it. Rips screamed like he’s never screamed before. Which in itself is odd because the kid usually bounces off walls without a hitch. He didn’t shake it off right away and said he couldn’t move it. We knew something was up. Tara carried him into the house and propped him up on the couch and assessed the situation. He couldn’t stand on it. It hurt to touch. He could wiggle his toes, but a bump was starting to show on his shin. I was pretty sure it was broken.

I called the insurance to ask if we needed to do anything special. We have “got hit by a bus” insurance which will basically prevent us from going bankrupt in a catastrophe but doesn’t cover dick in the mean time, so I was already anticipating massive bills. They lived up the cliché and basically told us that since we didn’t have a professional to tell us it was an emergency we were going to get fucked if we went to the emergency room. They suggested that we A) make an appointment with an in-network doctor to get a professional opinion or B) Stop by a local pharmacy to see if the pharmacist on duty could recommend something. I pointed out again that my two year old likely had a broken leg, and asked if any of the things they just suggested made any sense at all. They just reiterated that they didn’t encourage emergency room visits without a doctor recommendation. God bless America!