More on that School Stuff

More on that School Stuff

So, it’s pretty easy to gripe about the way public schools are currently being run. Griping is always easy. Done a bit myself! But what do we do as parents to make sure our kids are really getting the best out of their school experience? I’ve mentioned home schooling in the past but that’s not an option for everyone, nor is it the desirable option for everyone. So today we’re going to focus making the best out of public K-12. This is going to be a United States centric post for obvious reasons. Also, this post is mostly aimed at schools where there is a mix of good and bad instructors and a decent chance the school will do right by your children. Some of you might have children in schools that are notoriously bad and that will be a different subject that deserves its own post.

Find Time

I think for most of us the thought of having to interact with the K-12 environment again—especially for parents that haven’t been out of it that long in the first place—is way down on the list of things we’d like to do. We’re busy with adult concerns after all, and that same K-12 education left us ill prepared for many of them, hell, even a 4-year does. Why did you have children in the first place though? I can’t imagine having someone else raise them and teach them their values while you do all the hard work was high on that list. It may take the better part of ten minutes, but it’s important to talk to your kids about what they’re learning, get a feel for their instructor as a person and what they’re teaching style is, and on that note…

Ask Questions

Ask your children what they’re learning, how they’re doing, follow-up with the instructor. It is important to know what their weak and strong areas are in the curriculum so that extra help can be more targeted. It’s also a good way to learn if their instructor takes any notice of them at all. On that note, do not use electronic communication for these questions, make sure they are done live so that you can catch signs that your children’s instructor doesn’t even know who they are or what they’re doing. It may take a year or two, but you will eventually learn to quickly spot good and bad instructors by how they talk about your children.

Go to Open House/Orientation

This is a good chance to ask those questions and identify any problems before they begin. It’s a good way to get a feel for the students and instructors outside of your child’s class. This is helpful for identifying the culture of the school. What’s the culture of the school? Are off campus field trips common? How much emphasis is put on physical activity? What are the opportunities to engage in the arts? You’ll find the school culture in the place where the attention to these areas is the most obvious. Well kept and maintained playground equipment is a sign that outdoors time is a major focus. Talk to the music instructor if they have one. If they have passion for what they’re doing it will show. They will show you any awards they’ve won or memorable moments made possible by the students. There will be pictures of past classes in any school remotely concerned with the legacy they leave. Go check out the school, the walls themselves will tell you about it.

Volunteer if you Can

If you are in a position to volunteer, do so. Not only is this a great way to show the children that this is more than a daycare service to you, it’s a way to get instructor’s conversing in unguarded moments. You’d be surprised what you can learn here. Just remember, the students aren’t the only ones engaged in heated gossip and you should confirm anything you hear before you act on it. If you know your neighbors well and are in good standing you might want to share your experiences with them too.

Look at Homework Regularly

Even a glance will do in a pinch. Here, you are mostly checking if the content is in line with your expectations. I’ve had homework come home that was clearly targeted at much younger children and I’ve had to follow up on that. I’ve had homework come home that was factually wrong in the first place. I’ve had homework come home with obvious ideological agendas that run counter to how I’d like my children raised—that was an internal conversation with the family, I know better than to think I’m going to win the ‘not everyone is special’ war with a public school. On that note, not every difference you have with the curriculum needs to end up as some busy body Facebook post, just make sure your kids know when the school is teaching them opinion presented as fact.

That’s the major ones really. Another thing you’ll have to come to terms with is that while your guidance and help is definitely preferred, most of this is up to your child. Until next time.

Book-ish Review: Pathfinder 2nd Edition

Book-ish Review: Pathfinder 2nd Edition

We are going full nerd today, as if coming up with D-score and gabbing about the effectiveness of various fictional villians weren’t enough already. I’m warning you now, this post is full of tabletop gamer jargon, and it’s for those people. I never intended on penning my thoughts about the second edition of the Pathfinder roleplaying game but I feel like I have a lot to say about it. I wasn’t even planning on picking it up truth be told, but I received the pre-order as a birthday gift from my old players. I haven’t run a game of anything in years but when I was running, it was D&D, GURPS, and Pathfinder.

It’s been well over a decade since Pathfinder came out and the idea that there would be a second edition at all was hardly an expectation. Paizo publishing seemed pretty content with their content cycle and there didn’t seem to be any pressure to iterate from my perspective. Most things prone to having a second version usually do so before they hit a decade old, yet here we are. In the limbo period between knowing the core rulebook was coming and actually getting it I broke into a research period. Apparently there was a public play test that had been going on for quite some time and the goal of this second version was to be more streamlined and more accessible while still retaining mechanical depth.

I don’t think Paizo achieved that goal. I’ve been reading the manual every day for a week now, and there are still things I’m still learning, basic things—I’m running a game for a group in roughly another week and session zero is tomorrow. There are always rules that are more vague than they ought to be in any of these things but how much HP you gain every level shouldn’t have been one of them. Had I not stumbled on a post correcting me just today, my players would have been receiving far too much HP per level past the first. The problems don’t stop there, obvious grammatical errors and half-updates from the play test found their way into the final version. I know I know, in most circumstances complaining about grammatical accuracy would be me throwing stones from glass houses, but I’m not the one publishing a 600+ page rule book that’s entirely grammar bound. For those of you that already own it—physical copy, who knows when it will be fixed in PDF after all—if you turn to the arcane spell list short-descriptions for third level you will see Paralyze on it. The text of Paralyze will indicate that it can only target humanoids. If you go to the full text description, it is clearly all creatures. Since paralyzing creatures and humanoids were distinct spells in third edition D&D, I spent the next 15 minutes looking for the ‘creature’ version of paralyze based on the short description. It doesn’t exist. That was confusing indeed. There’s an errant comma in a Halfling weapon proficiency ancestry feat that, if you don’t ignore it, makes meeting the prerequisites impossible. Other errors and vagueness litter Pathfinder’s second edition core rule book and make an already complex system frustrating to learn. God forbid I try to teach a player new to RPGs in total through this. I’ve had the thought more than once that I should seriously consider running GURPS instead for games where Pathfinder 2 seems like a good solution.

Okay Henry I get that there are a few typos and misprints but that’s not what makes a system complicated, and you’d be right so let’s get to that. In Pathfinder 1 you start by selecting a combination of starting attributes in your main ability scores and a race. These choices underpin your character and only come up at level one. Your race never changes again and your stats don’t change very much either. From that point you select your class—normally anyway, some people figure out what class they play before they know the other bits, bear with me—and your class comes with a nice progression table that while not intuitive puts the bulk of your character progression all in one place. Every so often you take ‘feats’ to further customize your character, and there’s a giant list of them. In Pathfinder 2 you start by picking your race, this gives you some boosts to your abilities based on your choice (you no longer choose your ability scores separately by default) and also gives you access to a pool of ancestry feats, which essentially are all the racial abilities of Pathfinder 1 chopped into morsels and served slowly rather than all upfront. You acquire more of these ancestry feats as you level. You get some HP from this choice as well. Then you choose your background, this gives you more boosts to your ability scores, skill proficiencies, and a predetermined skill feat. From there, you choose your class, which gives you more HP, more boosts to your ability scores, and access to another pool of feats—we’re at three pools of feats now, ancestry, class, skill, four if you’re human, they can pick from the general pool right away if they choose too, which everyone gets access to at level 3. With me so far? Also, classes retain their list of class abilities, that are not feats, but things you just get automatically as the class levels. Finally, you get another pile of ability boosts to spread as you please. Some people have judged the former system as more complicated than the latter, and I honestly can’t understand what they mean. Just because Paizo says 2nd edition is more streamlined than 1st does not make it so. There are newbie traps galore, like multi-classing into Fighter from Wizard being strictly superior than going the other direction for the purposes of building a front line battle wizard. Don’t get me started on multi-classing itself, which would be another paragraph worth of text to explain clearly.

This is all a matter of managing expectations, something I think Paizo publishing should be more careful with. So far I’ve been very negative, but I do actually like the system so far, I love my crunch—I wouldn’t run GURPS if I didn’t—and I’m going to enjoy running game in Pathfinder 2e. We’re going to run into questions about the rules during the game, and I’m okay with that, and I’m studying hard to make sure that if I don’t know the answer I at least know where to look. Paizo however, marketed on less crunch, less fiddlyness, less complication, more ease of access. I don’t think those valuations were accurate of the new system. To be honest, based on their marketing, I was looking forward to a more meaty and mechanically deep version of D&D 5th Edition. I also don’t appreciate that there was day 1 splat in the published adventure paths(pre-made adventures designed to allow me to skip a lot of the work in coming up with an adventure on my own). Erh, I guess I should explain splat. Splat is additional rules that come to a system, and up until now, were generally contained in books that were published after launch, usually as a group of new rules. These are collectively called ‘splat books’. This time the new rules and options come in the form of adventure paths but more importantly, these ‘new’ rules were launched the same day as the new system but not included in the core rule book. This reeks of on-disc DLC in the video game industry. Add-ons should be just that, add-ons. These rule books aren’t cheap—your book wouldn’t be either if it were as big, as thick, and used as much color ink— and all the rules and character options available on day one should be in the ‘Core Rulebook’.

As for the book itself, minus the grammatical errors and misprints I pointed out above, you can look forward to the predictably awesome artwork of Pathfinder, the full color large pages with easy to read print in pleasant fonts. The paper weight is just right, and the finish of the paper is on point, though it does catch the light at shallow angles. It’s big, heavy, and imposing, a plus for me. This product is so niche I can’t give a recommendation one way or the other. If you’ve made it this far, you likely already know if this is the game system for you. Happy gaming, and don’t forget to shame bad dice!

Incomplete Thoughts About Raising a Daughter

Incomplete Thoughts About Raising a Daughter

I’ve been meaning to write this post for forever, and it occurred to me that I’d probably be refactoring and making adjustments to my approach on raising my daughter from now until she’s well and truly independent. I figured that waiting until I’d figured that all out wasn’t worth the 15 year plus delay. So I’ll just put these ideas down as I have them now, as I’ve already shared them with a few other fretting dads with daughters, on edge about their girls coming of age in 7 or so years and wondering how to deal with suitors and other dad fears. I’ll present this as I worked it out in my head.

First was addressing the visceral fears, and accepting them. No, I really don’t want my daughter to grow up and to meet boys and god forbid have sex with them. At least, that’s the self-centered emotional state. To be more accurate, I don’t want to deal with the emotions that will come from those phases of her life, which make me dread the events themselves, but you’d never hear me saying I don’t want her to grow up and live her own fulfilling life. I put my entire life on hold for my children, I took a different path. Rather than work our asses off into our thirties and then have children in the house until we were collecting social security, we decided to have kids sooner and then tear into our careers after they left. So I’m as motivated as any parent for the children to grow up and leave. Yet, even with the internal inconsistency, the universal dread of fathers remains, and it has to be dealt with in a healthy way. I thought about the options, I tried to pin down the components of that fear. After all, I wasn’t fearful about ruining Emily’s life when I pursued her. Conversely, all of my daughter’s pursuers, as imaginary as they are right now, are imagined with contempt and suspicion. Perhaps that’s because I know that there’s only one motive I can count on from those suitors, no matter which other motives they may have, good or bad. That’s when it hit me. That’s what I’m dreading. What if she makes bad choices? There’s no way I’m going to let her wither on the vine if she does you know?

So the internal conversation shifts. How do I maximize my daughter’s chances of making good choices? I started considering the common options, and discarding the bad ones. I certainly knew some things that just don’t work. Sheltering is a big no-no. Wrap your kids in bubble wrap and they never grow up. This is the method of people who, having their dread of the future, simply and futilely try to prevent it. When your teenager hits their rebellious phase, what exactly is it they’re going to be rebelling against? Something to keep in mind. Sheltered girls seem to get into trouble, for two reasons that conspire together to form tragedy. The first is ignorance. Ignorance of sexuality, sexual health, anatomy, and the consequences of sex. These are the girls that fall for ‘just the tip’ and the pullout method for birth control. They’re naive and that’s bad enough on their own, but it’s made worse by the fact that naivety attracts the very people predisposed to take advantage of it. Ignorance also leaves a person ill equipped to resist peer pressure. Secondly, the shelter method can and often does produce an impulse to go taste forbidden fruit, usually indiscriminately, and that indiscretion is specifically what we’re trying to avoid when it comes right down to it. These two combine, the eagerness to seek the forbidden thing, and the ignorance of its dangers, to make for a really sad ending.

I briefly considered the other extreme, very early education. It’s something I’d seen talked about in passing, but the more I thought about it the less it made sense to me personally. At this age, kids are just absolutely curious about everything, and they don’t make good decisions. First of all, I’m a firm believer in letting your children enjoy their time as children for as long as is healthy. Second, simply knowing about it could be a motivator for premature and ill-considered exploration. Three yearolds aren’t exactly good at things like delayed gratification, curiosity deferment, or taking into account the consequences of actions. So all the curiosity would penetrate, but none of the warnings would, is what I considered a very likely outcome.

So what other methods are available? How do we encourage our daughters to grow without throwing them to the wolves? I watched my three yearold. I took in her personality, which I was always familiar with, but I really sat down and watched it, and I noticed a few things. Aside from being utterly adorable, smart, and especially precocious, she’s quite picky. Heh, now there’s an idea, what if she was as picky with her boys as she was with her food? That’d be nice. She’s also somewhat athletic. She loves climbing and shamed her much older brother into going up a faux rock wall because she was going to do it first. I got this image in my head of a strong athletic woman that didn’t take crap. That’s when it hit me. Confidence.

I figured the best thing I could do for my daughter was build up her sense of self-worth. Spend time with her, be a father figure, be a role model. No really think about those words, role model. I am her model not just for what a father should be but also for what a husband should be, right now I’m the only one she knows. I’m pretty sure Emily would tell you that while I’m not perfect, because who is, I’m already a pretty darn good role model as a husband. But my daughter doesn’t really see even half of those moments, I didn’t think osmosis was good enough. So I started setting aside a little time once in a while to take her on little dates. That reminds me, we’re a bit over due. I already do this with my son, that is, I make one on one time for him away from his mother and his siblings to just spend a bit of time together and learn how I tic. That relationship comes a little more natural, it’s not a conscious thing. All I have to do around my son is do dad stuff, it’s a direct relationship, I’m a man and that’s what he’s wanting to grow up to be, simple, intuitive. What I didn’t realize was it was just as simple with my daughter, I just hadn’t considered my status as a role model. Simple, just less intuitive.

So I took her on a date, and what a nice time that was. We went for ice cream and I took her to the new age store to pick out a pretty rock to display in her room. She set her eyes on a nice gypsum sphere and she admires it regularly. We’ve been on a few more since, and she’s been increasingly sweet on me, which, that’s just kryptonite, it’s something I can’t explain to anyone without a daughter. There’s a few things going on here that I think are going to be very positive for her long term. One, I’m setting a positive relationship as our base state, which helps counterbalance the hard-to-do but absolutely necessary regimen of my role as a disciplinary figure, this is going to help me convince her to confide in me later, so I know when she gets into trouble before that spirals out of control into worse trouble. Second, it’s helping her sense of self-worth to get dedicated one on one time. Third, I’m teaching her the standards by which she should expect to be treated by men through my behavior. Fourth, I’m decoupling the idea of having a good time on a date with a sexual payoff, and I think you’d be surprised how entwined those concepts have become—consider what tinder has done to the expectation of dates.

I’ve been enjoying employing this method, which I’m hoping accomplishes my goals in raising my daughter, but only time will tell. To make that more clear, here’s what I’m hoping I’ll accomplish in the long run. I’d like to foster her sense of self worth, which will hopefully allow me to explain the consequences of sex without seeming adversarial or sex negative—this is a sex positive household after all. It’s not the idea of sex I want my daughter to devalue, it’s that I want her to value herself highly enough to be in charge of her sexuality rather than carried by it. I’d like her to be able to be mature enough to acknowledge her desires as healthy so that she can process them in a way that allows her to make good decisions about who she shares that with, and I want her to feel like she can confide in me and her mother without fearing the consequences more than continuing down a bad path, because ultimately it is her decision making skills I’m going to have to trust and rely on later on. I can’t do it for her. On that note, it’s also important to make sure to pass on skills that increase her independence; from how to get and hold down a job, cooking, financial skills, and employable skills, one of the easiest ways to end up in a bad situation is to be dependent on someone else for your care and contribute to a sense of inability to walk away, and that goes for sons and daughters alike. The ability to walk away is the strongest position of negotiation. Competence and confidence surely is the best defense, therefore.

I’ve shared these thoughts with other concerned fathers, and though they experience the same apprehension and dread as I do about witnessing the future, they like the idea of my method. After all, they all know too, from experience, how inadequate alternate methods were when they were doing the chasing. They also remember how scary and intimidating the collected and confident girls were. Ultimately, it’s not me I want potential suitors to fear for disrespecting my daughter, it’s her. There, yeah, I think that’s the point of this method summed in a sentence. As I said before, these thoughts don’t really feel complete yet, and perhaps they’ll change over time, but until then, that’s my current thinking. ‘Til next time.

Getting Through Bad Months

Getting Through Bad Months

Or weeks, or years, or whatever period of time is bad. Let’s get one thing out of the way right away. This post is about how I handle things and how I cope, I’m not going to sit here and pretend I know what works for you. Maybe you can identify with some of the methods and techniques I use or maybe they’ll be something that you’d find willing to try, but I’m no snake oil salesman, and I can’t promise these things will help you through. I just hope they will. I’d rather you never need to know how to get through tough times but, that’s just a fact of life.

Don’t Change Who You Are

It’s tempting, after you’re hurt or you go through a bad time, to discard everything associated with that memory even if they’re a critical part of who you are. A favorite song, a hobby, a core behavior, a belief system, an entire city, they’re all things people can ditch in an effort to quickly relieve themselves of reminders of bad times. I can’t deny that these things can seem to help in the short run but I don’t think they’re good long term. Throwing these things away just gives power and legitimacy to the people or things that hurt you. If I could draw a familiar parallel, it’s a lot like the security theater that comes after a horrific attack on innocent people. We tell ourselves that changing our behavior is how the terrorists really win, and then we go and radically change our behavior in an act to make us feel safer. For bonus points, the things we change don’t seem to make us any safer at all when push comes to shove. Changing who you are won’t stop the future bad times that you’re going to go through, that everyone goes through. Bad times are a fact of life, and changing yourself in a fruitless attempt to avoid them does nothing but give them power over your life. Security theater for the soul. There is one exception to this advice though. If you get hurt in the same ways over and over, and the hurt has something to do with a life goal, like holding a job, retaining friends, or building meaningful relationships, it’s definitely worth taking a look at yourself, and you should do so with a professional. The scope of this blog however, is for those unconnected bad moments that aren’t part of a larger pattern. Sometimes bad things just happen. This is about those times.

You’re Not Alone

While each individual’s suffering is unique, suffering itself is universal. Everyone goes through tough times, everyone suffers, but life goes on. That’s not to diminish your suffering, quite the opposite. Your suffering is meaningful, it may even redefine you going forward if it is profound enough, but if you let it keep you from moving, from going forward at all, you can make it worse for yourself. Like it or not, the Earth doesn’t stop spinning when you hit a rough patch and neglecting yourself and your commitments can make a bad situation much worse. You haven’t hit bottom yet, don’t aim for it. Someone, somewhere, even if it’s just the person in the mirror, is counting on you. Don’t let them down. Friends are good to have in times like this, good friends, the ones that don’t get upset when you have an emotional load you need help carrying. You’re about to find out who your real friends are, and which ones are fair weather. That’s useful knowledge to have. Just remember, being under the microscope is often the price you pay for this sort of help. Your real friends don’t like seeing these things happen to you just as much as you don’t, and they’re going to try and help you prevent repeating mistakes, and that might mean they have to know things. They might have to see you ugly cry into a beer, they might have to learn that you did something awful, or that you were the victim of something awful, and either of those things can be painful to share, or to see, but real friends will listen and help you through, now isn’t the time to push them away.

Avoid Isolating Yourself

This is related to the preceding paragraph, but it’s important enough to reiterate. Isolated people are vulnerable people. Now isn’t the time to shrink from your friends. You’re emotionally vulnerable, there are predators out there who will exploit that, try to make themselves out as your savior, make promises to provide whatever it is you think you need, and then trap you with it. Whether it’s rushing into a rebound, getting in with the wrong crowd, putting yourself in a dangerous situation, or ceasing to bring in income, real friends are going intervene when you’re being self-destructive. All predators, four legged, winged, or the worst of all, two legged, prefer isolated and weak prey. Don’t make yourself attractive to them.

Joy Is Contagious Too

One of the most common excuses I see for people withdrawing from their friends and family when things get tough is not wanting to be an emotional burden. Sorrow is contagious, and you don’t want to spread it. That’s a reasonable concern to have. Negativity actually is contagious. One couple divorcing often results in a rash of divorces throughout their social circles, but having a baby is contagious too, and that’s because Joy is also contagious. First of all, you’re not sparing your friends the story of your hardship by radically changing your behavior in a way that I guarantee you is going to alert your friends to something being wrong. Spare yourself the fantasy that by vanishing suddenly you can spare people some worry, that behavior is worrying in itself. Your friends and family however, will try to get you to have fun and get over it. Let them. Let them take you to a movie, to the beach, to your favorite bar or hangout. Joy is contagious too.

Keeping Passion Alive

Keeping Passion Alive

I’ve often been described as a very passionate man, whether that comes to my work, my relationships, basically anything I do—provided of course that I care about it. I really care about the quality of Emily’s sex life. I cared about that for my previous partner as well. That sort of passion is something that always came easily for me, and the idea of men could be selfish in the bedroom was something I actually had to be introduced to later as an adult. That was down to my father, and some critical decisions he made in regards to my sexual education. Dad isn’t a particularly open man, at least, he can’t really do that directly, but what he did have was a sexuality section is his library and when I came of age he mentioned that he had books on the subject, and that I was free to read them. It didn’t escape my notice that of the five books he had on the art of sex, four of them were dedicated to a woman’s pleasure and only one to his own. That sort of set the stage for me with regards to expectations of what is meant to happen in the bedroom. In many very old and primitive cultures the inability to please a woman was seen as catastrophic enough to prevent conception itself. As for me, even before I started my reading, I didn’t see the point without making an emotional connection, and I assumed, quite correctly I might add, that the quality of each encounter would be directly related to the emotional purpose of it. I’m setting this scene up not to pat myself on the back or brag, but to give context to my perspective of a plight affecting many marriages. For many, some time after marriage, whether that’s years or immediately, there seems to be some sort of lost magic, and further still many couples defeatedly accept this fate as an expectation long before they tie the knot. What to do about that exactly requires explaining some deeper held meanings of what marriage is, so we’ll be taking the long way round.

Esther Perel calls this problem a lack of desire, the flame going out, and in her view this can only be solved by creating some sort of distance in the relationship. Apparently many people view the flame dying down as a necessary stage of marriage. I think that may have been the most shocking thing about reading Mating In Captivity. I wondered why that was such an accepted presupposition, the thought never even occurred to me that sexual desire would naturally wane over the course of a relationship, hell, I consider that a sign of a relationship that’s starting to fail. If anything, I consider the separation of sexual health from marital health to be an issue all on its own and it’s rare that I see the former fall apart without the latter following suit. Clearly though, there’s a problem with fires going out. I think I could even accept Esther’s position more readily, if I assume that the relationships she’s talking about are built on a foundation of pure Eros, or what we refer to as romantic love and lately even lust. To me, this would be akin to lighting the flame of a relationship, having no fuel available but pine straw. At the very beginning of Mating in Captivity, Esther talks about how there are actually couples that have no trouble keeping that flame alive, but she talks about them like they’re weirdos, and she certainly points out their rarity. Esther makes no further mention of these people, and is quick to point out her material isn’t directed at them. I have to assume this lack of ability to explain the perspective is borne out of the fact that she isn’t one of those weirdos. Well, Emily and I are those weirdos, and perhaps that’s some perspective I can and ought to give.

Perhaps if we kindled relationships with better types of fuel than pine straw we wouldn’t accept it as fate that fires would dwindle and extinguish over time. Have you ever tried to keep a fire going with nothing but kindling? It’s something to give a shot, even to just capture the symbolism with experience. You’ll find yourself expending energy, rushing around in a never ending panic to keep the fire fed. Any interruption, no matter how needful, and the fire dies down if not outright expends its fuel. Plato describes a situation wherein lovers are also friends. In Plato’s view this transforms Eros into something more substantial than romantic lust and keeps the passion of a romantic relationship perpetually fed. Eros and philia are transformed by one another, and feed one another, creating a positive feedback loop that endures time and hardship. This lines up a little more closely with my experience. Not to undermine the importance of Eros however, I find when that flame dies down the marriage soon follows. Perhaps it’s a mistake to view those things as separate. Those fires are one in the same. We do not replace Eros with philia, one modifies the other. We can even find some pointers towards this in biology. When you have sexual relations you release oxytocin. This neurotransmitter is responsible for a lot of things but the two we’re interested in at the moment is pair-bonding and trust. Mothers release a ton of the stuff when they give birth, and when they nurse. In fact, any stimulation of the nipples of women seems to release it. Oxytocin also regulates uterine contractions, it’s what’s in Petocin, and it’s why women close to term are encouraged to have regular sex (as it releases oxytocin and helps move labor along). Oh yeah, did I mention it promotes pair-bonding and trust?

Trust has been fingered as a key predictor of divorce by Dr. John Gottman. In his book What Makes Love Last: How To Build Trust and Avoid Betrayalreviewed here—Dr. Gottman lays out his case and his research, showing that low levels of trust are a highly predictive indicator of a doomed relationship. He also goes over the behaviors outside of sex that build trust and behaviors that erode it. Extremes of either seem to be self-reinforcing. So let’s put that together a bit. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter released during sex that influences trust and pair-bonding. Low trust is a strongly predictive indicator of relationship failure. Behaviors outside of sex influence trust levels higher or lower. High enough trust begets itself, damaged trust begets mistrust. The idea that a romantic relationship reinforced by a genuine connection outside of its sexuality is stronger than one based purely on Eros is supported by modern scientific literature. Plato figured this out a long time ago. Relationships that merge Eros and philia feed each other sustainably and are the most durable.

If you’ve followed this far, you may be thinking I’m making the argument that the die is cast, that relationships started in the wrong way are doomed to failure and that there’s no helping it. You’re either doing things the way I did or you’re screwed. Nah. What I’m saying is that you have to be more than your spouses provider, or nanny, or babysitter, or any other major marital function you can think of. All of those functions after all are merely temporary, or at the very least, replaceable. Sexual satisfaction is likewise replaceable. A good marriage however, isn’t, it provides a critical function that I think is well summed up by a quote from Dr. Jordan Peterson in one of his recorded lectures. He says on marriage…well actually I was going to put a quote here but he’s damn wordy, but the expressiveness is useful, so I’m just going to leave a clip here.
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It’s often extolled in the virtuous theater of social media that a friend is someone who will support you but a true friend is someone who will tell you you’re screwing up and it’s your fault. This is a sentiment I agree with but in my experience no matter how much people talk about wanting one, most people can’t handle having a so-called true friend. I don’t think that’s an inherent flaw, I think that’s why we take marriage vows. This is the aged oak that is lit by the kindling of Eros. Oak burns hot, and it burns long, hot enough and long enough that you need not constantly rush about to refuel it the way you have to in a relationship built on pine straw. In this sort of fire, you may actually take a moment to enjoy the light it gives and the warmth it radiates before you have to give it more fuel. You may be in one of those pine straw relationships, and you may believe everything is fine, and hey maybe it is, but don’t be surprised when you find out just how much upkeep you’ve been doing on that fire when something else interrupts you; hardship, children, a new job that requires relocation, longer hours at work. I’ve been through all those things with Emily, and it was never the sex that kept us together, good as it is.

Now, that was the long way round to get to it, but I think all those details are important, because it is for those qualities of my marriage that I do not have to think about keeping our fire stoked—that is something that happens mostly on its own. Yes, there’s some effort involved here and there, the small reminders of physical affection, the occasional date night, and other romantic gestures, but it’s not something we fight with or struggle with. It’s what makes us those weirdos where the flame doesn’t just die on its own unless we create some sort of contrived distance between us or other strategy for tricking ourselves into being sexually attracted to each other again. I never fell into the trap of thinking of my wife as only a mother or only a caregiver or as adopting any other sort of single identity that reduces her sexual or romantic value to me because our relationship is deeper than her utility—which by the way, are the situations Esther Perel deals with in her book. If you want to call that ‘keeping distance’ you go right ahead, I call that proper togetherness. I call that knowing without a doubt, that come praise or criticism, the things Emily says to me and about me are coming from a position of my long term well being.

Hey, maybe that does actually make us weirdos. Maybe you take a look at the words I’ve written and say you couldn’t live your life that way. Totally valid. I can tell you one thing though, I don’t mind being in the position of looking at people who can’t seem to make the time for intimacy, or are in a marriage of utility, and can’t seem to wrap their heads around where all the magic and love has gone, and thinking that they’re the weirdos. I don’t mind that situation being alien to us. If that situation isn’t alien to you, perhaps it’s time to be a weirdo.

Book Review: Getting To Yes

Book Review: Getting To Yes

Boy has it been way too long since I’ve done one of these. Sorry about that! For whatever reason, over the last couple of months I’ve found it hard to read at all, much less get through material as certainly dry as self-help genre stuff. On that note Getting To Yes isn’t generally found in the self-help section, but rather the business section. If I could make a simple and critical point however, many things in our lives are negotiations and especially our relationships and even more especially when they go south. So I’m not just going to review this book, I’m going to give you some advice on how to use it. The latter half of that sentence may have tipped you off, this is going to be a positive recommendation.

“Facts, even if established, may do nothing to solve the problem”

If I could describe Getting To Yes in a nutshell it would be to compare it to a book I’ve reviewed previously, What Makes Love Last, by John Gottman. Basically, the material in Getting To Yes is called principled negotiation, and it’s the basis for the negotiation techniques Gottman encourages you to employ to repair and retain trust, Getting To Yes is however more comprehensive. To put it another way, What Makes Love Last could be considered the application of Getting To Yes as strictly applied to romantic relationships.

I’m being a little simplistic in that statement, which isn’t entirely fair to either book, but that’s a quick and comprehensive tl;dr for Getting To Yes. On that note, Getting To Yes is a far more comprehensive explanation of principled negotiation while managing to come in a smaller, more condensed and quicker to read package. Throughout this review, I have peppered memorable quotes from Getting To Yes that I thought would have been helpful to include in What Makes Love Last.

“Give them a stake in the outcome by making sure they participate in the process”

Now for the cover critique, or should I say cover appreciation. Since Getting To Yes isn’t strictly a self-help section book it mercifully comes with a cover that can actually be read in public without drawing attention to yourself. Bye bye lipstick red covers, suggestive fruit, and vulva purses. You could actually be forgiven for casually reading this in a coffee shop, or on a lunch break at work, physically, sans the protection of an e-reader and its coverless covertness. What a breath of fresh air that is.

“…some people begin by announcing that their position is an issue of principle and refuse even to consider the other side’s case. ‘It’s a matter of principle’ becomes a battle cry in a holy ware over ideology.”

The prose is deadpan, dry, but well written. It’s what you’d expect from a book focused on business deals and other similar negotiations but at the very least it’s not laborious to get through or especially hard to read. The book is small in physical dimension, and while 200 pages is already fast to get through, the fact that the pages are also small and the font is still large enough to comfortably read, and adding in some white space for the generously peppered formatting, reading Getting To Yes can be done in an afternoon easily. One of my metrics for scoring any self-help book is how quickly the contents can be digested and put to use, and Getting To Yes scores very high here.

Cost is another serious metric to consider. If a certain book is 40 bucks but there are two other books for fifteen each that cover the topic more helpfully and more completely I’ll generally give the nod to the two. It’s an opportunity cost to read a book, and combined with the length and difficulty of the read it can make one book not worth reading over two or even three others. Getting To Yes knocks this one out of the park as well, usually under 20 bucks, but at the time of writing, UNDER EIGHT on Amazon for the paperback.

“If you want the other side to accept a disagreeable conclusion, it is crucial that you involve them in the process of reaching that conclusion”

So that’s the short of it, and that’s why Getting To Yes comes with a quick and strong recommendation. There’s something else I’d like to talk about though, that really makes this book very useful for me, and highlighted by a recent catastrophic failure to use the techniques therein—though I am unsure if that would have effected the outcome of said event.

Here’s the thing. You don’t need advanced negotiating techniques about unimportant things. You don’t necessarily need to know the difference between positional and principled negotiation to win the battle of the pizza toppings. You may win more battles of pizza toppings with such techniques, but losing the pizza topping battle isn’t a hill many of us are willing to die on in the first place and I hope something many of us wouldn’t even consider ‘losing’.

When an argument gets serious, consequential, and important however it also tends to be emotionally charged, and like many of you, that emotional charge on its own may rid me of the use of my toolbox of knowledge. Stress physiologically takes us out of our executive function and puts us into more primitive modes of thinking. I’m the good guy, you’re the enemy, at least, that’s what the stress is making me think. If you’re the source of my stress you’re dealing with the same part of my brain that teaches me how to deal with a hungry lion. People vary in this response, some freeze, some flee, some fight. I fight. This gets us into a bit of a circular conundrum. If the best time to use this knowledge is the time I’m least able to access the areas of my brain that contain it, how is it useful?

I don’t have a specific answer for that, but I know that for someone as prone to emotional flooding as I am, I’m going to need some sort of technique, some trick, some device, that backs me out of flooding the moment I hit it, because anything less is too late. The other participant in the conversation willing, I can postpone or even stop needless suffering while I recompose and remember all this training I’ve put myself through. I don’t have that technique yet, and I’m going to have to practice it once I come up with one. My major point here is that simply knowing this stuff may not be sufficient for you to start employing it. I flood very quickly relatively to my circumstances. General levels of pre-exisitng stress will effect how quickly each of us emotionally floods compared to our normal rate. But if your rate is generally high like mine, neither What Makes Love Last or Getting To Yes is going to help you when you need it the most. Practice detecting flooding in yourself, and in others, and have others, and particularly those that care about you the most, practice detecting flooding in you. Build a safety net, and use it, and then by all means, leverage what you learn in Getting To Yes.

Distributed Manufacturing – A Ray of Hope for Families

Last weekend I went out to Orlando Florida to visit a small company named Uberrime (Uber-ree-may). It’s a one man shop owned, worked, and managed by Marco Uberrime. I had gone down there to observe and understand the process of making silicone dildos by hand. If that strikes you as odd, welcome to the blog! You’ll get used to it. I got the additional education I wanted for sure, and I also got to chat a bit with Marco, quite the interesting fella himself. The shop itself is quite homey, but the production area is quite sterile for reasons that I hope are obvious. While I was there I observed, commented on, and was instructed more or less in how several models were made and the thought processes that go behind that and behind the business. Below are some pictures I took with Marco’s permission of several products curing in molds.

I’ll have more on Marco and Uberrime in the near future when we review one of his products. Those of you who’ve paid attention to the title and the content so far may be thinking I’ve got a screw loose. Henry what the hell do dildos and bringing hope to families possibly have to do with one another!?

Distributed manufacturing, that’s in the title too, and it’s become more popular over the last decade. It’s easy to forget, but the amount of time parents spend working outside of the modern home is anomalous from a historical perspective. For the vast bulk of human history, livings were made by the work done inside of the home. While we’re on that, I highly recommend reading about the history of marriage and getting familiar with it. We live in extraordinary and tumultuous times for families. While our divorce rate is not without precedent from a historical perspective, the severity of the economic burden watching and caring for a child brings is. The opportunity cost of not being productive in order to care for a child has hardly been higher since before we started farming and had to travel from food source to food source, and perhaps even before that.

Even as the industrial revolution raged on, for the most part, it was expected there would be someone home taking care of the kids, this usually was mom and it wasn’t uncommon for mom to have some live-in help. A common first job during the industrialization period was to work in someone’s home where you were also boarded. During the mid twentieth century single-family homes were all the rage, and floor plans picked up separate bed rooms for all occupants for the first time. Live-in help became less common, but someone still stayed home, still usually mom, and the other went to work, and the kids were watched. Only in the last 30 years or so has it become dead common for both parents to work outside of the home to make ends meet. The cost of child care has skyrocketed as a result, and even that is being held down by the veritable daycares our public schools have become with the help of a massive funding effort by uncle Sam. Between school provided meals and after school care programs, the school holiday has become one of the most dreaded days for families around the United States as the question of “who will take care of the kids” becomes a work interrupting emergency, among other things. A substantial part of the population has become so dependent on school meal assistance that many school districts keep offering the service over summer break.

But the tide may be turning on what is hopefully a historic flash in the pan when it comes to latch-key children. Advances in micro manufacturing like affordable 3d printing and CNC mills that fit on your desktop have provided a large facet of what is being called the ‘maker’ economy. As an aside, I think it says a lot about our culture that making things is a participle now. Websites like Etsy provide a place where common people can easily set up store fronts, supported by our expanded and super responsive logistics networks. Services like Amazon have caused our shipping capacity to expand like it never has before, and shipping across the country, and even around the world, has never been easier as a result. The convergence of all these conditions together threatens to bring meaningful production back into the average home, if we are keen enough to recognize the opportunity. More over, people are paying more attention now than ever to what they put in their bodies, how their products are made, where they come from, and are starting to reject goods made to be thrown away, and designed to be replaced rather than fixed. Made-In-[Your Nation-State Here] is no longer the domain of trade protectionists.

Evo-One desktop CNC Mill

Physical creation is actually late to the ‘creator’ party, which is the digital form of the ‘maker’. Blogs like this one, platforms like Wattpad, YouTube, Twitch, and other established and emerging platforms give more places than ever to ply a digital living from the home and that idea has been around for a while. Doing customer service as a call-center-from-home has been a thing for over a decade now. More and more technical work that you only need a computer to do has gone freelance and home-based as well. The emergence of the physical creator into the scene marks an important step forward in my estimation. If our logistics/distribution networks can take the strain, there may just be a real alternative for the working class to leaving their children to fend for themselves in daycares, schools, home alone, and otherwise without the direction and aid of their parents. A home business isn’t just an opportunity to spend more time with family, it’s a chance for youngsters to learn skills they can use to keep themselves independent and out of trouble. A more meaningful way to interact with the real world that sadly, our classrooms have failed to provide.

Formlabs Form 2 3d Printer

Naturally our society will be slow to acknowledge, much less come to parity with, the needs of this trend. While schools both public and private focus harder and harder on serving the interests of expensive diploma mills, our children will suffer from the lack of interest in providing everyday skill education such as balancing bank accounts, basic carpentry and machine work skills (how these fundamentally math based applications escape the ‘STEM’ push eludes me), basic finance, or even a basic set of social skills needed to navigate business. Learn to code? What about learn to operate a CNC mill? Or a 3-d printer? What about learn to take and process payments and avoid tax trouble while doing it? We’re still laser focused on creating middle management and cogs for large corporations. As I mentioned in an older post about the shortcoming of our education system, you as a parent bear the responsibility of teaching and passing on these skills to your children, even if you have yet to learn them yourself.

All those hurdles considered, the future is looking brighter every day for those of us who want to escape, and wish our children to escape, the expectation of the fluorescently lit cubicle farm. Self-determination and personal responsibility it turns out may still have a competitive place in today’s job market, and the future’s as well.

Home Economics – Spring Cleaning Edition

Home Economics – Spring Cleaning Edition

I was having an interaction earlier today with some online strangers, like ya do. Sometimes I forget that while I’m hardly ever the oldest person in the room, I’m getting up there when it comes to hanging out in online spaces, especially those focused around gaming. Home ec. was on its way out when I was a kid. We still had it, I still had to take it, but everyone knew the days for that course were numbered. At the time that just seemed like progress? I dunno, the conventional wisdom seemed to be it had little to teach people. STEM STEM STEM. We didn’t call it that back then but the trend was already started. Remove all real life courses from primary and secondary school because really, what is school for except to prepare every single child for college regardless of the likelihood they will ever step foot in one? So I make a reference to home ec. in this online space and suddenly I’m flooded with questions about what the heck that is. This was after a young adult, and I do mean above 18 years old adult, openly asked what it was you were supposed to put in a dishwasher if not dawn liquid dish soap?

Parents, are you teaching basic life skills to your children? I know it’s irritating sometimes and I know that they slow you down a lot when they’re “helping”, but do you really want your kid to be the one that’s somehow made it into the adult world without knowing how to operate a washing machine? I don’t mean to pick on the dude, it’s far from the most stunningly how-do-you-not-know-that question about house life ever thrown my way, but it is spring cleaning time and it reminded me of the seemingly epidemic lack of basic home skills in today’s young adults. Don’t need to know how to operate a dish washer if you don’t know how to cook the food that soils dishes.

Remind yourself this spring season to teach your kids something about basic home skills, even if it’s just a few at a time. Remember, you have a few years to go over this stuff. I’m not asking you to teach your 8 year old how to do your gutters for you, but you should at least be introducing them to the basic ideas. I think it’s striking in this burgeoning creators economy that adding home ec. back to schools isn’t a more urgent conversation. Production is getting more and more decentralized as 3d printers and kitchen shelf sized cnc mills fill more homes. Platforms like Etsy allow the things made from home production to be sold easily to wherever you feel like shipping to, and yet we are teaching our kids, at least in the context of schools, fewer and fewer skills related to home production and even finance. Now, I could hem and haw about how that’s always ultimately been a parents responsibility, but I can’t deny that without those classes this up and coming generation seems especially clueless about how basic operations of living work. Is that a bad coincidence? I don’t really know, and I’m not going to pretend to know, placing blame is beyond the scope of this blog, but this job can’t be expected to be outsourced anymore folks, you are solely responsible for ensuring your kid doesn’t burn their apartment down in a week after moving out. Oh, by the way, the average move out age is over 24 now, so you have plenty of time to correct this if your Jr. year high-schooler still doesn’t know ;).

Perhaps you feel barely competent in areas like cooking and cleaning, that’s okay. You’d be amazed what you can learn online. YouTube hasn’t been for just cat videos in a long long time, and there are awesome DIY subreddits for just about anything. Really young youngsters can start with the super basics, like how things in the cleaning cabinet will make them very sick if they drink them, or the fact that yes, eventually the base boards do get cleaned. A really great activity that’s fun if you let go of the sense of urgency is when a room needs repainting. Enjoy this time with your children and if it takes a week to do a 20×20 it takes a week to do a 20×20. In the mean time, break down how much it cost to buy that paint, the canvas spill guard, let them in on the whole process, take them to the hardware store—don’t pretend you aren’t looking at things you don’t need while you’re there either, verbalize all the home improvement fantasies you’re having while you’re there.

Older children can help you with stuff like drywall repair. Don’t know the first thing about drywall repair? Learn with them! It’s time for that know-it-all mask to come off with the older kids. Make mistakes together. Show them that being an adult is as full of mistakes as any other point in their lives and that they’ll never reach the point of knowing everything that you’ve been projecting at them since they were two. Instant obedience at a young age is a safety issue—they don’t need to get introspective when you’re telling them to freeze because they’re about to charge the wrong way in a parking lot—but eventually they have to understand that heading into unknown territory is something adults have to do regularly, or they won’t grow up. Rebellious teenagers might be interested in the idea of making their light switch different from the rest of the decor, the trade off is they have to do it. On that note it might be a good idea to teach them what a breaker/fuse box is for.

It’s time to get that oven deep cleaned, and to teach oven safety, and also how to make that killer cookie recipe they like when you’re done (you have one of those right?). A lot of these can be applied whether you own or rent but we can also cross into home owner territory like lawn care. Do they have a favorite spring flower for the flower bed? Would they like to pick one? What’s that mulch for anyway? What is mulch? Time to cut that grass, but also learn how to properly care for a 2-stroke engine, or properly store a lithium ion battery pack, maybe you have both. Our chainsaw is gas powered for instance, because it’s the thing we’re most likely to need when the power is out in hurricane alley, everything else is electric because it’s a luxury when the power is out. Oh hey, that’s a good one, teach them the thought process for decisions like that and how local weather affects them.

I could go on about specific examples butt the main point here is that while you’re in the middle of the season where you’ll be getting down deep and dirty with your home the most, don’t forget to include the kids in the experience in ways that will help them grow into functioning adults later on in life. It can be hard to convince yourself that you are allowed to slow down that much, but it will pay off in the long run.

Activities for Bored Children

Activities for Bored Children

photo by: Ricardo Gomez Angel

I feel like I should have gotten to this one before snow season came to a close, but to be honest it would have slipped my mind completely were it not for the suggestion of a reader—also it doesn’t really snow here ever. That’s alright, we get our turn soon. We’ve got a veritable monsoon season coming up and that’s going to make it hard to get outdoors; stuck inside moments happen year round anyway, bonus points if the power is out. You’ll be bored, the kids will be trapped indoors, and you may be thinking about all the stuff you could be getting away with doing if they weren’t busy bouncing off the walls and getting into everything. So what do you do to avoid going crazy in these situations?

First, I suggest making sure your situation isn’t self-inflicted. I’ve caught myself plenty of times lamenting the fact that I was stuck in the house with the kids when it was sunny outside. Sure it was hotter than I wanted it to be, but it was about as safe to leave the house as it could ever get. This wasn’t a tornado warning or being flooded in or snowed in. I was just so bored I was making myself even more bored. Check yourself first for situations you are in control of. That being said let’s move on to our boredom toolbox.

If you are genuinely stuck inside, the particulars of your situation are going to affect whether or not a certain suggestion applies to you. For instance, we’re going to talk about baking a little bit and those of you with gas stoves can do this when the lights are out. Electric stove owners cannot, at least, unless you’re on some sort of heavy duty back-up power. See what I mean? The small details matter, I will be doing my best to cover a lot of bases but I can’t possibly cover them all.

So we’ll start with the classic inclement weather scenario. It’s raining or snowing or freezing, and it’s not an immediate danger to the family but getting out onto the road would probably be a less than ideal scenario. In situations like these there are many things to fall back on, and we’ll get to a few, but my favorite by far is passing down skill sets to the little ones in fun ways. Perhaps the easiest example of this, and one perhaps most of us can identify with, is baking cookies. Who’s not interested in cookies?! Depending on their age, you may have to limit their involvement, but even our three year-old is game for standing on a foot stool to watch us mix the batter and is definitely a good helper when it comes time to licking the cookie dough off of utensils prior to their disposal. It’s also a great way to just get them used to the idea of cooking, teaching oven safety, and if they get interested in actually making a batch themselves later on they’ll already be familiar with the process enough that you’ll be able to focus on the fun bits. Do you have a hobby that can be done indoors? Do you find yourself wishing you had the time to share that with your children but can’t seem to find it? Think about it the next time the weather keeps you cooped up.

Staying on the inclement weather kick, sometimes you really do just need a good Netflix marathon. I like to use this in situations where the weather seems scarier than it is—lots of lightning or above average winds for instance. Meet noise with noise. When I was growing up this wasn’t always a reliable option, and many are still in that boat. We had broadcast television and lightning storms tended to knock that out. We did however have a stereo that worked, and when the lights managed to stay on putting on a classic vinyl or two suited just fine. Be flexible, suggesting a Netflix marathon doesn’t mean you can’t go to your DVD or Blu-Ray library if you have one—just make some noise to lessen that thunderclap or that wind howl.

For those of us with an open air porch or similar structure I also find it’s nice to just arrange some chairs—maybe get some rockers for this—and just sit and enjoy the sounds for a few minutes. Strike up a conversation. It’s a good way to make up for lost time at the dinner table too. Some quiet face-to-face time may just be something you’re behind on.

Board(bored) games come in two distinct varieties in my experience. The first type has you interacting primarily with the people playing the game. The second type generally has you interacting with the board itself, avoid those. That’ll be games like some classic dominos, Trouble, Candy Land and Mankala. The first type is preferable, as it engages entertaining interactions. That’ll be stuff like Scrabble, Apples to Apples, Jenga, or Pictionairy. There are some type 1 games I’d avoid though, as they easily turn into drudgery, like Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit. Curate your board games carefully to fit your family or they will never leave the shelf, especially when they need to, like say in a power outage. On that note, simulate power outages and remove electronics from the family routine now and then. You should have some semi-regular periods where there’s no TV, Phone, Internet, etc, otherwise you’ll never sit down to a table top game and you won’t even know if you like what you have.

Sometimes the mandatory indoors period is going to drag on for a while. In these cases your entertainment options may not help at all because the restlessness is being caused by a lack of physical exertion. Get your kids in the habit of exercising indoors so they’ll be able to burn that energy off when they can’t go outside. Children need to physically move around and exert themselves regularly or they become restless and can act out. I find yoga actually tends to keep kids entertained. The type of exercise matters, hardcore workouts can intimidate them and are typically low on fun quotient.

These are just a few of the basic tools we keep around for when we can’t leave the house, but they cover some basic scenarios and needs. Think about the things you like to do indoors but never seem to have time for, think about how prepared you are to entertain yourselves during a power outage too. Oh, and one last tip, do not neglect to get out of the house the moment you are able. It’s really good to reset the clock on cabin fever as soon as possible.

Do you have strategies for staving off cabin fever or passing the time on rainy days that I didn’t cover? Let us know in the comments!

Card Night

Card Night

photo by: Sophie Elvis

Ah card night, we’re both still recovering from it. Once every few weekends or so we invite a couple of our friends over for adult fun and drinks. Usually the evening gets started early, the children are awake, and we start with something innocent like talking about bread baking, sculpting clay, various other hobbies, work, life in general. Sometimes we even perform these hobbies rather than talk about them—the most popular of which being the baking and the macarons in particular. After the kids shuffle to bed our friends break out their massive, complete, Cards Against Humanity collection, drinks are made, and we get down to it. This time we bit off more than we could chew, both celebrating St. Patrick’s day a little too hard and a little too early. But hey, it’s on a Sunday and I don’t get hangovers off, especially this upcoming week. It is crunch time.

So what’s the point of bringing all this up, why am I telling you all this? Well, for many of you this may be a familiar scene and for others not so much. The real point here is to highlight one of the ways we squeeze in some much needed adult time for a stay-at-home mother of three, who doesn’t get any days off unless I take some PTO. Today we’re switch hitting as we wait for the medicine to take the edge off our severe headaches and try to help each other stave off being overwhelmed by the boundless energy of our children. Emily doesn’t get a whole lot of time to have honest adult conversations with other adults. Her world is children, talking to children, teaching children, changing diapers, all that stuff. It’s such a relief and release for her to talk about something other than Mario, Mega Man, Legos, My Little Pony, family-portraits-as-spiders, mud cakes, an on it goes. Some of these things are genuinely cute, like the aforementioned way that our daughter draws us as a family of spiders, but engaging adult conversation they are not.

Emily likes talking about investment, property, dreams of a blueberry apiary, the coffee shop she’d like to start in the future, her quilting, her baking, her massive fantasy sex toy collection, all the things that help remind her that she exists beyond the identity of her motherhood. It’s not a situation that comes every day, as much as we’d like that to be the case. There’s other adult things that come first like the bills, scheduling contractors for that hurricane Michael damage that still isn’t quite done being fixed, tax returns, keeping tabs on the school, a bath, and those other random little adult emergencies that just never seem to stop. Staying on top of things.

That’s not to say I don’t get my fair share of the hectic household but I have this little trick see. I get to go to work. I get my fill of adults and adulting five days a week for between nine and ten hours. I help around the house whenever I can and with whatever I can—actually if I do it too much Emily gets a bit annoyed with me—but it doesn’t really bring Emily the adult interactions and the friend time she craves.

Card night is how we get a big dose of that adult time. Emily gets to stretch her legs and go beyond her motherhood. She gets to talk dirty, win at things, give me what’s coming to me, give as much as she gets, and just let loose for a little bit. During our normal day-to-day, Emily will sometimes exclaim, “I need an adult!”. On card night Emily gets to say, “I am an adult.”

Do you have a spouse that is starved for adult time? Are you that spouse? What is it that you do to get your time with friends and get time away from child duty?