Wasn’t worth it

Today Clover was using a chair to get flowers from a glass vase. When I told em to get down e started frantically trying to put the flower back in. I got scared, and reacted in a way that I knew would paralyze Clover, because it works on most humans: I yelled in a specific, scary way.

Clover cried and ran to Susan.

It is the most violent act I committed against em, and perhaps the most violent in all, aside from gravity or sharp corners. Nobody felt good about it, we were all left less happy.

I am observing this here for reference. Humans are fragile, wired for adversity, and ultimately lead meaningless lives with the exception of the connection we make with each other. As morbid as it sounds, I think it would have been better for Clover to cut eir hand on the vase.

The importance of photos

I can look at photos of Clover all day long. But not other photos. I’ve never been able to look at photo galleries for very long, and even when I go to a museum I tend to go through really fast. I pick up a lot of detail, and I remember it, so looking at visual art becomes boring.

I think the reason I like see pictures of Clover is because it is the strongest validation that I have of em having a fun childhood. And non-violent. A bummer, I know, but it is something I scan for when I look at photos of children.

There are very few surviving photos of me as a child, because at multiple times in my childhood my mother would either be forced to leave behind a lot of possessions, or her husband would destroy the photos in a drunken rage. The aggregate effect on my life is that it taught me to not care about my personal culture, but to have strong opinions about others’ personal culture. It is why I stay up some nights wondering when Susan‘s laptop was last backed up. And it is why I go to great lengths to both preserve and share the photos of Clover’s experiences.

I can’t imagine what Clover will do with a high-definition and hyper-preserved collection of artifacts, but I know that I have these moments to look back and know that our smiles were genuine.

Mothers and careers

Trigger: I talk about abuse and violence in this post.

I had wanted to articulate something that was bothering me about the narrative forming around the women who are executives of large companies. fortunately, Carolyn Edgar did it for me.

This is close to me, and not because I am concerned by wealth distribution (I am) or because I harbor a secret socialist agenda (I do). It is because I was old enough to see how my mother was affected by inequality and gender roles.

When I was in second grade, one day my mother’s husband went to work, and she packed our Plymouth station wagon with a bunch of stuff and her three kids, and we left the state. It was the bravest, scariest and craziest thing I think my mother ever did that involved me. Her husband habitually beat her, in that same year having sent her to the emergency room after throwing her down a flight of stairs. My mother didn’t graduate high school, was pushed into being a homemaker by a variety of factors, and had no real way to escape an abusive partner that also supported her and her children.

I have a complex and just plain not great relationship with my mother, but I consider her actions that day we left to be one of the best gifts of my life. So when I hear about people who made more money in the last year than I may in my life, it seems offensive to categorize it as an issue for women. And it is a disservice to actually help people who are suffering from poverty, malnutrition, lack of education and the various symptomatic abuses that follow those environments.

Having become a parent now, my goal is to generate enough income to allow our small family to have healthy and engaging lives. We live in this world, which means that my life is only engaging if I am helping better the world for everyone, not just the women running Fortune 500 companies.

Genderqueer parenting

I am a parent. I care for a child.

Oakland Local has an article about Mothership Hackermoms. I love reading about them! Since I wrote about it I’ve had a lot of interesting discussions, and there is an emerging pattern that I wanted to talk about.

When I explain why I think Mothership is a great idea, and how I have feelings of not belonging, many people immediately tell me, “There are networks for dads, too!” I am sure there are, even though I’ve never sought them out. I didn’t articulate it when I was criticizing Father’s Day, but the reason I don’t embrace being a father is because I am not a father. That is an identity that is tied to a cocktail of gender and expectations, and I don’t subscribe to it. I am also not a mother. And while we are on the subject, I have all kinds of privileges because of how I look, and despite not wanting to participate in this system, I have a responsibility to consider those who are marginalized by it.

It is difficult for me to explain why I am genderqueer, because how I feel and how I am perceived are far apart to the casual observer. I will expand on that in a future post, complete with charts (no joke!). In my daily life, I cringe when people call me dad, and I feel alienated when groups of parents split into binary gaggles of gendered roles.

I am a parent. I care for a child.

Pre-parenting advocacy

I used to care a lot more about supporting free software in my work; post-parent, not so much.

I don’t want to be different because I am a parent, but it is probably happening. I am not becoming conservative in most things, but I have changed how I do work. Before I didn’t particularly care about how much money I had. Now I care about a very specific amount, which is just enough that I can not be constantly stressed while hanging out with my kid.

For me, that means I become more lenient on software. I am not going to jump on a Mac or anything, but if someone wants to pay me to set something up for them, I am inclined to do it.

I am not really getting into any ethical grey area; most of my clients are non-profits still. My most commercial client is a feminist book publisher. I will never work for a defence contractor, I have hard lines I won’t cross (with the caveat always being holodecks; I would work on a holodeck!). But I have no problem helping folks with otherwise non-free software, from the OS up to certain types of web apps (like Google stuff).

When it comes to the web stack, it is all open. I can’t think of any software I run for clients on a web server that isn’t free. In fact, I think it is all GPL. Most of it is GPL, though nginx used a BSD-like license. But that isn’t sexy, and no one gets brochures or business cards trying to sell them on it. Free software, when both in freedom and cost, doesn’t seem to sit that well in the human psyche unless you’ve drunk the kool-aid from a different source.

Anyhow, another reference piece for myself: I am interested in how becoming a parent has changed me, or re-prioritized my life. From the looks of it, I am falling out of the zealotry of FOSS advocates. Maybe it is time I give this pragmatic approach a try…

Change of plans

Among the other things happening, Clover is no longer going to school.

Since Clover joined the party it feels like we execute big life-changing plans every month. A lot of that is probably us adjusting to being a family with a babby. Now that we have gotten use to that, we are working on scary stuff, things that would feel impossible before.

I will probably talk about those plans someday, but for today I just wanted to share my feelings about Clover being in school. Today is eir last.

When we started, it was a really terrific experience, and it is hard to believe that even just a month ago, e wasn’t walking. Being around the other kids definitely accelerated certain parts of eir development.

We had a few illnesses since then, and there was a major shift in Clover’s engagement. E came out of it hardly eating at all (which we’ve been told is normal; since digestion takes up a lot of energy, little kids will sometimes redirect it to fighting disease), and seems to have a sharp awareness that is affecting our ability to be away from em without a freak out.

I am not too concerned, since e is running around, and learning new things constantly. Clover will watch me do something simple once, and will master it after a few tries. But after a couple of hours, e starts looking for Susan or I, and when e determines we are not to be found, intense crying happens.

I had worried that perhaps we were going to have a hard time letting go, but Susan mentioned it to me, and I was glad, because I felt the same way: Clover had outgrown the class e was in. Not age- or development-wise. But those particular activities and people, Clover was over it.

E doesn’t really play with other kids. E is definitely aware of others, but it is as fascinating as that rock over there, or this shoe on eir foot. Clover absolutely adores adult attention, having probably figured out that you must be at least this dextrous to use the big cold food box. Anyhow, we feel that Clover isn’t getting much out of the experience, and is instead just being filled with anxiety that we aren’t there. And we have the good fortune to do something about that.

I was running errands downtown with em in the stroller. Someone shouted at me, “I just want you to know, you are awesome! I am going to be a father soon!” I told them, without hesitation and completely honestly, “Becoming a parent was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

It is hard, but we are working towards our plans, and Clover is not freaking out. It is the best thing that ever happened to me. ^_^

Feelings about school

Here are some feelings I have about Clover going to pre-school.

Today Clover had eir first non-transition day at school. Clover loves it, and we can already see a change in em. Things like more confidence and a relaxed approach to obstacles. That’s… weird, and it own thing. I wasn’t expecting that, but then again, I was completely ambushed by my feelings.

I already had a cry about it, so I am fairly confident that I’ve pinpointed it down to unconditional love. I’ve been fortunate (blessed, really) to care for Clover for the last year. It has been tough at times, mostly because sometimes we don’t have enough money, and other times because I was crazy in a particular way. But I took for granted that the whole time I had my buddy here next to me.

Leading up to doing drop-ins at school, I was actually blaise about the whole affair. I didn’t want to feel guilty for thinking of the time I will have to myself and my work. And I didn’t want to over-think what we were doing. We aren’t leaving Clover there for very long, and the time spent there is in a room larger than our entire cottage, filled with safe things to play with, including other kids. And their playground is kick ass as well. It makes a lot of sense for us to do this, in lieu of that infrastructure on our own.

So when it actually came time to step out, and see if Clover would freak out, it caught me off guard that I could feel every organ in my gut, and they were all telling me to panic.

Fortunately, I panic well. ^_^

I kept it together, and cried profusely at a safer place. And I realized that I really enjoy just having Clover around me, e brightens up my life. And it made me realize that while at times it has felt like the hardest time of my life, because the stakes feel higher, since Susan came home and told me we were pregnant, it has been the best time of my life. And it is getting better.

My mantra is, “Clover isn’t the one with abandonment issues; we will get through this.” I am looking forward to the morning when I am not jumping up every five minutes because I can’t hear Clover anywhere in the house and OMFG did e fall in the tub and can’t get out?!

And this hyper-development time Clover is having will double as work time for me, so that I can make the world a better place for em, and stay engaged in my own life. Because I know that there is a little kid that loves me something fierce.

And that helps. ^_^

Crying makes me sad

Clover is becoming more coherent of the world, and I need to create the oppurtunity for em to grow autonomous. But it hurts.

It isn’t an exaggeration when we say a parent can hear their child’s cry far away, or even among other children crying. We are wired for it, as soon as they leave the womb. Our brains tune itself to it, and sometimes the first few months are really tough, if a child is of a particular temperament. Sleeping while your child is crying may be one of the hardest tasks a person can accomplish.

Clover is having a difficult time getting to sleep these days. It isn’t really noteworthy, besides the fact that we have been incredibly fortunate thus far. Clover is a very chilled out kid, and prior to these moments before naps and sleep time e would cry if e was hungry, in pain or uncomfortable. Susan and I have cared for enough to children to realize how lucky that was.

It is hard nonetheless. As I said, my brain is wired around the problem of eir crying. It is something that gets my heart racing and prompts me to (re)action. It isn’t that useful at the moment.

We have plans to start doing drop-ins at Susan’s school. It is for both me and Clover; I can get more work done during the week, and e can hang out with other kids in a fun place. To start it will only be once or twice a week, to try it out. And so we need to start adjusting Clover to a cooldown period that doesn’t require a doting parent to make a bottle, swaddle and cuddle em, and coo em to sleep as e eats.

For the last year, because I stay up later, a large percentage of the time Clover has gone to sleep has been in my arms. I will never forget how great that is, but on the other hand, it certainly hasn’t helped em learn self-soothing. E just went to sleep after screaming for 30 minutes in eir crib, while I clutched headphones to my head, scared to turn the volume too loud lest I wouldn’t hear em hurt emself. Finally, in an exhausted state, e laid down and drifted off to sleep.

My nerves are on end, and I am fighting back the waves of guilt welling up inside me. I am normally really good at setting boundaries for children, it is something I am really happy with actually. I like to think I am helping them become successful adults that are capable of asking for help and achieving their goals. It just sucks to think that a pickup or hug could alleviate what appears to be so much pain, and yet I have to be a punitive parent and teach this little human a lesson by essentially ignoring em.

Okay, writing that out made me feel a bit better. I know I am having a strong emotional reaction, and everything is actually okay. Just trying to write through this moment.

I probably need a nap…

By any other name

Susan and I have preferences of what Clover calls us. Clover has other plans.

Before Clover was born, I decided I wanted to be called maiki. It would be cute, and I don’t really feel like a [parental pronoun]. I wasn’t going to push it, if Clover started calling me papa or something, I would go with that. But if I had the choice, I would be maiki.

Susan, however, didn’t over think it. Mama would be fine. Susan is as sure of being a mother as I am unsure of being a person (probably because she stays busy and I have too much time to think). Since babbies have the inclination to say mama(mamamamamamomammamuamamama) anyways, that worked out. Mama and maiki.

So you can imagine how funny it was this morning when Clover called out to us from eir crib, “Dada! Susan!”

Yep, that is my kid.