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Hey kid,

Hope life is treating you well today. You were there when mom went back to sleep this morning and when we cleaned out the car. Tonight, you’re coming along when we go bowling with Uncle Rick and Aunt Becky and Dziadzi et al.

I had a terrible thought the other night. It wasn’t even a dream–it was before I fell asleep. I was picturing myself going down a set of stairs and I was carrying you and I stumbled and fell and I tried to protect you and I couldn’t, and you were hurt, you weren’t moving, and it was the most devastating thought I’ve ever had.  I started crying to myself right there in bed, and your mom was already asleep, and I didn’t want to wake her up and I didn’t even want to tell her about it–and I haven’t, but she’ll probably read this–because what’s the sense in putting that fear into her mind as well.

There is a point, though, and it’s an important lesson to take. I don’t know if it’ll feel good or bad to know this; I understand some people are made afraid, but it felt empowering for me when I found out about it. I am afraid just like you are. We, your mother and I, your parents, are pretty much just like you. And you’re just like us. I have only the vaguest idea what I’m doing most of the time, and I forget things, a lot. I forget to eat. Sometimes, I forget what time I have to be places, and I think I know, but I might be wrong, and I get really anxious and try to get there early, and the whole thing is just really nervous-making. I don’t know what’s wrong with our car. The “check engine” light is on again, and that might be expensive or it might be nothing, and it’s frustrating to have the car and no way to figure it out. Which isn’t entirely true. I could figure it out. It would just take weeks and weeks and mean that the car had to be non-functional for a long time while I learned basic mechanical engineering the hard way, and with one car, that’s not a feasible option. So, for all intents and purposes, I have no way to figure out what’s wrong with it.

Baseball players go for weeks without a hit, sometimes, and they don’t know what they’re doing wrong, or how to fix it. Writers get blocked and can’t write for days, months–sometimes years–and hope and pray that it’ll come back.  You probably will have a lot of questions some day and you’re lucky because so do I. I had questions when I was a kid and I wanted answers, I wasn’t just trying to be annoying, so I know what it’s like. You should know now, though, that a lot of the answers, nobody has. In some cases this is due to the brevity of the history of human existence. In a lot of cases, though, there are questions to which there doesn’t even exist an answer. I like this about life. A lot of people hate it, but I think you’ll like it too.

I like to think of these questions as the free parameters of the system–they allow you to fit the model. Life is not identified–it’s one big singular matrix. Little pockets of it are identified, but you have to abstract out everything else to get any results.

The reason I think you’ll like this is the same reason that I think you’ll have a lot of questions, and the same reason I was happy to find out that you’re Grandma and Grandpa have no real idea what they’re doing. It puts you on a level playing field with everybody, throughout the course of history. It means that Answers may vary. Dziadzi is on an airplane in North Carolina right now, on his way here, and I was thinking about that today, about hanging out with your mom’s family and how odd it is that I feel like I can fit right in. At the same time, every once in a while, my internal frame of reference changes and I’m seventeen again and the fact that I’m here, in this place, with these people, is incredibly surreal.

Most of the time, though, my internal life is in perfect sync with my surroundings. This isn’t true for everyone, and it may not even be a good thing–it can be hard to maintain a sense of self as a result, and in the extreme, I think it can lead to dissociative problems. Nonetheless, it comes in handy when life gets stressful, and I hope you get some of it as well.

I used to be afraid of things a lot as a child. My dad used to read really scary stories to Luke and me, and watch horror movies with us, and for years and years, we slept with all the lights on in our bedroom. Lit up like daytime, I’m serious, until I was twelve or so. Between twelve and twenty-four, I steadily and systematically decreased my fears of everything, really. From monsters to snakes and sharks to girls to heights and new foods and speaking in public to failure to measure up to the standards set by my siblings or to measure up to my own standards; I faced each one intentionally and consciously and did what I had to to get past it. It felt really good. Once your mom and I moved to Atlanta, I started to get afraid again, a little bit. It’s gotten worse in the meantime, and I think what I feel now must be the most conservatizing force. I have things I love, now. I love you, and I love your mother, and I love our family and our pets and my life, the way it is. I don’t want things to be broken, or ruined.

I don’t fear all change, which is good, but I can see where that fear comes from now in a way I never could before.

I don’t know what’s wrong with the car; that much is true. I do have a pretty good idea of how to be a dad, I think. I have a lot of experience being around and taking care of little kids, and I never really grew up very much. I was telling your mom the other day how much I look forward to teaching you to play video games. It’s gonna be awesome. You’re gonna beat me in multiplayer Halo 2 one day and I’ll have to hang up my spurs. Finally I’ll have somebody to play 2-player Secret of Mana with. I’ve waited 14 long years for that. 🙂 Hey, it’s either we play video games or you mow the lawn (hehehe).

Anyway, I hope it doesn’t scare you too much to know that I’m just making it up as I go along. You get better, I guess, at making stuff up as you do it more often, and eventually you start to tailor it to be funny or poignant or wise-seeming or pragmatic. It scares me a little bit to know that I can’t keep you safe, not perfectly. I’ll do the best I can, though, kid. I’ve never wanted anything more in my life–except to keep you free, I guess. I love you.

Can’t wait to see you on Friday, kiddo.

Love,
Dad

Oh, p.s. kiddo, baseball season starts tomorrow. Let’s go Mets! It’s gonna be a good season, and hey, maybe you’ll get to witness your first Mets World Series win mere weeks after your grand entrance. Keep your tiny little fetal fingers crossed!

p.p.s. I will not indoctrinate you into anything, if I can help it, except for Mets fandom, for which you may have to forgive me.

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So, you might have a few questions on your arrival. Well, probably not right away–it’s a bit of a shock coming into the world, I’d have to imagine. Everything’s nice and quiet and warm and soft and dark and then suddenly bright lights and loud noises. Unpleasant. Then again, maybe by the time it’s time to hit the town, you’re getting a bit claustrophobic. Either way, it’s certainly a significant change, going from there in mom’s belly to out here in the wide world.

Fortunately for you, you’ve got some good friends on the outside looking out for you. We’re already getting stuff ready for your arrival; it’ll be a little while yet, but we’re all really excited, and it’s kind of hard to resist. Your Aunt Rebecca and Uncle Rick have started giving us stuff that belonged to your cousins only a couple months ago–a car seat, some clothes for mom, a few crib sheets. I have to paint your room within the next few months. We’ve started looking at cribs and swings and the like, and I’ve been reading up on what we will need and when. Your mom and I have already talked a lot about the next couple months, and I might have to be out of town for the last three, so there’s a lot to do in the meantime. You probably won’t use much of the stuff we’re getting now at first–I get the impression the transition is easier if you just get a lot of sleep and try to take it easy for a while. We’re gonna try to make that as simple as possible, so we’re getting all our sleep in now.

Once you get settled, though, I think you’ll probably have some questions and concerns. Once you start to think about it, it’s sort of confusing: one minute you’re not here, the next you are. What’s the deal? So.

Who am I?

You’re a fetus, a ball of potential baby. We’ve got plans for you kid, and we’re driving slower and taking action to make sure the world is ready when you get here. You’re not quite a person yet, but as your body is entwining itself together, growing stronger and bigger, the bonds that connect you to people past and future are getting stronger as well.

As I think I mentioned, you either are or are going to be a human being. Whether you already are one or not is not uncontroversial. I’m of the opinion that you’re almost a human being, but not quite. Nonetheless, come August, you’ll be a full-fledged human being by anyone’s standards. In this day and age, that’s a good thing to be. You have a number of attendant rights and priveleges that many people have sworn to protect simply because you are a human being.

Today, it means you can’t legally be the property of someone else in (I think) any country in the world. It still happens in some places, which is to our eternal shame as a species. It’s gotten a lot better in the last 200 years though. Additionally, no one is legally allowed to destroy you with impunity (again, I think in any country). This still happens quite a bit, but again, it’s improved a lot over the course of history.

You’re going to be an American citizen. This affords a number of additional attendant priveleges, especially upon reaching majority (age 18 in the US). You’ll eventually get the right to vote, you have a nominally constrained right to free speech, the right to a fair trial, the right to a free media to keep you informed if you’re interested (which you might should be).

You’re going to be either a boy or a girl. If you’re a girl, there are a lot of people who will underestimate your abilities. If you’re a boy, there are a lot of people who will try to stunt your ability to express your emotions. Either way, you’re in luck, because neither of your parents falls into either of those groups of people. This won’t matter too much in the beginning, although it will matter more later in life, as some of your biological processes will differ pretty drastically from the opposite sex starting around age 13 or so.

Mostly, you’re going to have a lot in common with a dirty, cranky, incontinent old man, at first, in both looks and attitude. Still, we’re all going to be incredibly fascinated, because you’ll be like a dirty, cranky, incontinent old man that has grown from nothing into existence by pretty miraculous means. And plus you’ll be tiny and warm and cute.

Who are you in particular?

We’re not entirely sure yet–no one ever is totally sure. I can give you an idea of your connections on the outside, though. Your mother is Cheryl Treacy-Lenda. She’s very bright and funny and beautiful and tall and quite odd. She likes languages and knitting and cooking and good books and other cultures and making stuff and graphic design and people and the outdoors and animals and babies. She likes to think a lot and talk about what’s going on in the world and in her life. She’s a great traveling companion, her insights are really valuable, she has a natural ability to understand other people’s needs and an aptitude for helping them solve problems. She’s going to be the one sacrificing a lot of sleep in the very beginning. Definitely a good person to have on your side.

I’m your father, Jason James Delaney. I never really felt like that name fit very well, but so be it. That’s often how it goes. It’s more of an existential problem than anything: there’s always a loss of information from the thing in itself to its signifier. I also like language, but I’m not as well-versed in it as your mother. I like math and the philosophy of science, books and sports and games, making stuff, conversation, little kids, intellectual rigor, music, graphic design, the outdoors, thinking, both meditatively and analytically, and more than anything else, probably, arguing. I’m really fascinated by the agonistic interplay of ideas over time. I also really like the idea of living well, of life as an execution of something you can become skilled at. As a result of this, I’m a very grateful person but at times a very introverted one.

There are more close allies than that, but we’re the two who will get to live with you daily. Additionally, understanding who you are will probably require understanding who we are. I talk with your uncle Luke and aunt Serenity occasionally about who I am and who they are, and we all pretty much agree that in some sense we’re combinations of our parents–your paternal grandparents. So just from who we are, I can make a few educated guesses as to who you might be.

If you’re anything like your parents, you’ll be really smart and quite good-looking (bonus!). That’s a huge leg up, and you didn’t have to do anything for it. Whether you decide to do anything with it is up to you. On the flip side, both of your parents are really quite nerdly. And quite odd. And occasionally annoying. Fortunately for you and I, I am nearly impossible to annoy, so I’ll be there to take the brunt of whatever you can dish out.

Your smarts and looks aren’t really who you are, though, and so a lot of it will be determined by forces outside any of our control, just by your passage through life. Some of it your mother and I can try to influence, and it’s probably wise to be up front here: if I can affect who you become, I will. I’m pretty sure that’s standard operating procedure for parents, but my stated goal is the one I’m about to state: I want you to be able to handle anything life throws at you, to have the capacity to comprehend anything you want to, the judgment to determine what you want to happen, the means to achieve those ends (and the means to achieve the means to achieve those ends, ad infinitum), and the strength of character to learn from mistakes and poor decisions.

There’s a song by Aloha, the title of which often occurs to me. I wish no chains upon you. That’s my goal as a father, I guess with the clause “except those you wish upon yourself” tacked on the end. It’s nice to be connected, not so nice to be constrained. A good life is about forging your own chains, good ones, not the ones that Marley wore. It’s nice if you can have the freedom to forge chains of your own choice.

I’m only twenty-six. That’s pretty young; it’s six years older than your Grandma and Grandpa were when I was born. Still, I’m really young, and when you’re my age, you’ll probably do what I do now: wonder how your parents did it when they were this young. You’ll also probably realize that everything in life is really just people making it up as they go along–that’s a powerful realization. It opens up the world to you, in particular to you, Pickle, since you can make up anything as you go along.

More on everything later, kiddo. For now, you’re Pickle, well-loved and much-awaited.

Okay, at this point, it may be oft-quoted, but here goes. Kurt Vonnegut wrote:

“Hello, babies. Welcome to earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you have about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of–

God damn it, babies, you’ve got to be kind. ”

And for that, if for nothing else, I argue the man ought to be revered.

I got to thinking: what do I know? Not a lot, perhaps. What do I think? Well, there’s more of that. And so, in the interest of capturing all my bias and all my wonder and all my world, and in the interest of not having to do any more research than I have to, I’d like to write a little bit discursively, claim it’s fact, be wrong where I may and right where I may, and thus and so the cookie crumbles.

So we are people, kiddo, human beings, which is to say that as far as anyone is able to tell, we are descended from the apes, and we are the only creatures on Earth, at least, that have developed paper airplanes and fake vomit and nuclear weapons and knock-knock jokes. Whether all of this has been for good or ill is a point of some contention, although my contention is that it doesn’t matter all that much, because it is what it is, and, as they say life goes on, and so all our determinations of whether it all comes out in the wash or whether we should take a stand has little effect except to maybe guide the torrential flow, incredibly inertial by Earth standards at least (although probably relatively insignificant on a cosmic scale (which is itself the point of much more contention)), and to make marginal improvements here and there. Mostly such commentary only has an impact on whether you’re enjoying the ride, as far as I’m concerned.

And so, I guess, as far as delusions of grandeur are concerned, my advice would be to steer clear. So much has already happened and so much will that if you really want to leverage your impact, your best bet is to try to maximize your enjoyment. A lot of people are likely to misinterpret that, but there are myriad qualifications and caveats: a good rule of thumb is to look kindly on the classical philosophers who said “in all things, moderation,” not because it’s necessarily the best way to live, but because it’s a good way to ensure that your living is not miserable, or short in supply. That way at least you’ll be able to hang around long enough to figure out what might be better. Just an opinion, really, but it seems to have worked out better than the alternative for most people who try it (just ignore the selection effects, please).

So yes, it’s hot and cold, although that varies longitudinally, and it is round and wet and crowded. But most of that you won’t have to deal with terribly, which is to say, true but unhelpful. The roundness is a point of interest; it’s more than academic interest, because given the laws of physics we’ve been able to discern so far, if it were flat, we might not be here, but as far as like say your existential experience, the roundness of it will only really come into play when looking at maps or flying overseas, and even then, it’s kind of a bulge-y roundness, not just a sphericality. It’s interesting, and its interestingness makes it essential, to me at least, in the enjoyment and understanding part of life, but it’s not clearly essential to like your day-to-day life.

The wetness, likewise, unless you’re ever trapped adrift at sea, which is possible but unlikely, is a fortunate detail, because we require a lot of water, we people. Nonetheless, if you live in a city, which most people do, the wetness of the earth is indirectly related to your actual observed regional wetness. Because it’s mostly in the ice caps and oceans, I think. Living in the U.S. is handy for this, because we have a very high amount of fresh water per capita, comparatively speaking.

It is increasingly crowded. This will be experiential for you. At some points it may be quite unpleasant; at other times, it can be reassuring. It leads to scarcity, which in turn leads to economics, which gets your father paid, so to some degree it’s a good thing. Plus more people means more people to enjoy things with, to learn from and to share with. It also means more people to fight, to take your stuff, to bid down wages and bid up prices, and so the direction of the marginal utility change of population increase is indeterminate. It’s quite a debate. [Edit – it seems clear that the population change is good news for you, being one of the new people. That said, once you’re here, you may (and not entirely irrationally, the sanity or lack thereof of the forthcoming example notwithstanding) pull a Tom Tancredo and say “I know I wasn’t here first, but I’m here now, and you can’t come in, you other new people.”]

All that stuff is external to you, though, the hotness, wetness, coldness, crowdedness, and roundness. I mean, you’re a minor cause of some of the crowdedness and you depend on some of the stuff, but the part of me that I think of as being me is less corporeal than that. I don’t believe in a soul; a lot of people do. I think Douglas Hofstadter has some crazy-sounding and interesting ideas about being a “strange loop,” but you can get there yourself or ask me about it later if you want. Mostly the stuff that I think will maximize your lifetime enjoyment are mechanics of being. So, how to be, well.

It’s important to know that life is mostly boring, mostly out of your control, especially in the early days. You also can’t do very much. It’s like the beginning of Dragon Warrior, especially the first one, where you can only fight slimes and you can’t even really afford to buy anything other than the crappiest sword and shield, and you basically march back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and *fight a slime* and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and *fight a slime* and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and *run from a Drakee* and back and forth and back and forth and fight a slime and now you can afford to go to the inn and heal yourself.

Which you repeat for 2 hours and then you can go somewhere else and do more or less the same thing, only now you don’t have to run from Drakees, just Wyverns. Which your uncle Luke and I really enjoyed, which I argue makes us really well-suited for life. I’m hoping a combination of genetics and upbringing similarly blesses you with a capacity to endure and even enjoy monotony.

The sooner you can cope with being bored and incapacitated, the sooner life will start to gel for you. It really is sort of a ride, in many senses. I think free will is kind of an illusion, and is often best treated like it both is and isn’t an illusion. I guess the best way to articulate it would be that I think you choose a lot of actions, most of which don’t have much influence on the outcome of things. A few times in your life they will really matter, but most of those times, you don’t know it. And so it wasn’t through purely random chance that I was fortunate enough to meet and marry your mother but I certainly can’t really take any credit. That said, I’m glad I was the sort of person that I was when I did meet her, and that I had some control over.

So that’s probably lesson number two. The one thing you really can hope to have some real impact over in your life is your choices about who you are, internally and, to a lesser degree, externally. This is not to say you can become whatever you want; you just have some say here. People who are open to the things life offers them are usually happier than people who aren’t. People who feel entitled are often disappointed, while people with more moderate expectations are more likely to be pleasantly surprised. There are a lot of different ways to be, and I think the best shots at happiness in life come from trying to be an active participant in who you want to become.

That’s one of the real perks of being a person, I think. When you’re a kid, you’ll feel like the world is really vast, so vast it’s approximable by an infinite area in your internal model. You feel like history has gone on forever and the whole shebang is just really chaotic and incomprehensible, and if you’re lucky, the daunting sense that comes from that won’t be enough to deter you from trying to understand at least a little part of it better. Once you do that, and you follow the string of connections you come to for a while, I think you’ll be surprised (I was), by how much of that seemingly infinite content is meaningless, and how truly finite are the bounds of both human history and the current world. There are only around 200 countries in the world. There are only so many fundamental laws of physics. Most of mathematics is really just implications of a few basic axioms.

Aggregate similar things: this is something people do naturally and do well. It can be dangerous, and there’s a strong bias in favor of acknowledging and celebrating diversity in today’s world; it’s a good bias, don’t get me wrong. For understanding the world, though, the fastest way to make sense of it is to multiply the power of what little insight you may have to make the most use of it. If a bunch of countries are like a bunch of seeds in an apple, then what you know about seeds in an apple might apply to countries. It might not, but with the appropriate humility, you can get a lot out of life this way.

Which brings us to the biggest ones of all for today. There’s more where all this came from, but the mother of all lessons you’ll hear me complain about and drill into you is this: humility is essential, doubt is your friend, confidence comes from being able to admit you’re wrong.

You can’t afford to make big claims if you can’t admit those claims are mistaken. You want to make big claims. It’s how we make sense of the world. It’s one of the few really big and fun games of human existence that gets bigger and more fun as life goes on. It’s good to have been wrong. It’s not as good to be wrong as to have been wrong, but in most of your life you’re going to have to make decisions and garner insights in less-than-ideal circumstances. Getting in the habit of understanding where your intuitions come from, making inferences based on them, and then adjusting them as you find out some were wrong, some were right–that habit will pay off like nobody’s business.

It’s okay not to be certain; you can never actually be certain, so acknowledging that you’re not is basically admitting the obvious. It makes your beliefs more credible, it makes you more capable of dealing with the unknown, it keeps you fresh and it drives other people nuts. It means you can differentiate between things you sense and things you feel and things you’re pretty sure of and things you’d like to believe and things you’d stake money on and things you’d stake a lot of money on. Doubt is your friend; it’s where you come up with better ideas than the ones already out there. It irritates a certain part of your brain that can become the Magic Eye.

You gain confidence when you can shed a bad idea and grasp a new, good one. You become the upper envelope of all ideas you’ve considered. It makes you a better person, a more attractive person, a more likeable person, a more insightful and knowledgeable person. It is a good thing. It’s like giving up headbands when they go out of style, or picking up on a new band if it’s actually really very good, or upgrading to a new version of Firefox. You get rid of the bugs, you add some new features, you’re a faster, stronger version of yourself. A freakin ninja pirate robot.

And so with that ends a brief precis on some tips for life. There’s a lot to know that’s fun, too, so I’ll try to clue you in on some of it. Hasta pronto Pickle!

It’s a gorgeous day out. I just finished the first draft of my first paper that actually might end up anywhere. We got to hear Pickle’s heartbeat today. There are 25 days until Opening Day.

And I have lots of ideas for brightening Pickle’s world. Most of them will never come to fruition, and that saddens me, but the fact that the kid is inspiration makes me feel more like I’ll be an alright dad. It’s especially important because I’ve been sad about the state of the world this week.

Listening to this NPR story: This I Believe by Yinong Young-Xu was palliative–I’m perfectly okay with contemplating our capacity for brutality or sin or hatred or what-have-you. It’s the failure to deny the temptation that hatred presents that drives me to despondency. It seems pretty widespread, and it breaks my heart. It’s one of the reasons I listen to public radio. They have a stated interest in providing information to listeners without seeking to satisfy advertisers or maximize ratings. That isn’t to say that they don’t seek to satisfy supporters or increase ratings, but they at least claim to be striving for another goal.

Not everyone cares about the quality of the information they take in, not everyone feels the need to achieve some level of moral satisfaction with the world and their place in it, and that’s fine. For those who do, though, I wish it were more conciliatory. I wish the discussion were more two-sided. I wish people would seek multiple sources for their information, maintain humility in their opinions, hedge when necessary when making proclamations, remain considerate of the humanity of their opposition, and give the benefit of the doubt to the intentions of those individuals who are passionate about their views, or passionate about remaining agnostic on an issue, if that’s the case.

There’s just so much unfounded certainty and baseless vitriol that our public discourse seems like one long, drunken bar argument a lot of the time.

And then I was in the waiting room with Cheryl and I had some ideas. First, I want to get a piece of posterboard and paint it chromakey green, so when the kid’s born, we can drop out the background and throw in some ninjas or alligators or scenes from Bionic Commando (COMMUNI-WIRE- CATE TAPPING). So that’ll be awesome.

Forgot to post this a while ago. The end of that post, I guess. My apologies for the negative tone. Embrazos al mundo.

Heavens. I’ve been meaning to post again since Tuesday. Some weeks are busy weeks. I have a presentation I’m delivering next Wednesday–the first presentation of my own work I’ve ever done, and so I’ve been busy as hell. Which I guess is how it’s supposed to work, the week before the first presentation of one’s work one has ever given, now that I type it out, but still, it feels busier than it has a right to be.

The reason I’ve been meaning to post is because we got to see Pickle again. I could watch that ultrasound monitor all day, I tell you. Which is odd and striking, because it’s not like a sense of elation, the way the words sound. It’s more just a sense of fascination and curiosity. Check the pictures of Pickle:

Pickle at 12weeks

Doesn’t s/he look like Baby Skeletor? Hopefully, s/he has ambitions of world domination and superpowers to boot. We got to watch the action for about a half hour, I guess, and seriously, I don’t think I would ever believe that something that monotonous (which it is, let’s face it, fetuses don’t get up to much) could be that compelling.

In the meantime, Pickle’s parents are getting nerdier. Cheryl started playing Neverwinter Nights with Rick and Jeff and I last night and already she has a level 6 elf ranger named Febriethe-something. She acquitted herself quite well, I think. Today, during Experimental Econ, Dr. Cox said something like “time is, after all, the ultimate constraint,” which is nerd-core enough in itself, only then I thought “Ti is less than or equal to T-bar for all i” which just cranks it to the proverbial eleven. So Pickle should pretty much with certainty have blue eyes and the awesomest collection of science fiction and fantasy trading cards in history.

They moved the due date up again. Now it’s August 29. We get to see Pickle again in 7 weeks. I’ll have two midterms, a presentation, and most of my four papers under my belt by then, if all goes according to plan. I’d better. There’ll be 3 weeks left of classes then.

In the meantime, I’m rereading A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, which is really good. I’ve got the beginning of an idea for modeling people’s preferences for other people as preferences over others’ preferences, or over others’ ordering of preference orderings. I wonder if it has implications for voting, like choosing based on “types” or something.

I’m also trying to keep up with four courses, which it occurred to me to say to Paul, “I don’t know what I was thinking, taking four courses,” until I remembered that I asked him for advice and he said to take four courses. I’ll be glad I did it when I’ve done it. When I finish, I want to go camping. I’m not sure that’s likely. A trip to a cabin would probably suffice. I want quietude, though, and I want to get out of this vault and breathe some fresh air.

I’m looking forward to the summer. One class, a baby on the way, some research to actually focus on, short sleeves and sneakers on the pavement, a relatively empty campus, basketball on Fridays, maybe some revisions for publication, maybe some headway on a dissertation, Luke and Rach visiting, trips to the dog park, an excuse to listen to loud music with a nice breeze flowing through the house.

As ever, a man of eternal spring,
Jason

So Cheryl’s 11 weeks going on 12. In the meantime, life has gone on pretty much as it wasbefore we got pregnant, except now the part of our time and energy that was filled with excitement and anxiety about trying to get pregnant has been filled with excitement and anxiety about staying pregnant. For me, at least, it hasn’t really slid over into the excitement and anxiety of actually having a kid, yet. It’s a matter of time, though, and I can start to see it phasing in, little by little. Coming up with a proper noun to replace the surprisingly awkward him/her/it has been helpful, as has, obviously, seeing the ultrasound.

There’s a little bit of concern about whether or not we’ll actually be any good at parenting, but I think we’re pretty sure we’ll be good at it. We both love kids, have had a lot of time and experience holding them without crushing them and watching them while, admittedly, not paying enough attention that they don’t run into things and fall over, but enough that they never run into things too hard or fall too far. We’re good at things we enjoy, as I think most people are, and we enjoy kids and playing and, really, finally, the day-to-day work of life. A good marriage between good people who genuinely want children is, as far as I can tell, the best thing you can really do for a child.

I just finished reading Freakonomics, and the parts about the really important bits of parenting being done before you have the child resonated a lot. I think, in truth, a lot of it is actually what you do when you’re around your kid, but not what you do when you’re thinking actively and consciously about what to do, but what you do when you’re just being yourself, on autopilot. Whether you read to your kid, or take them to museums, or let them watch TV all day long seems to me to be way less important for long-term outcomes than whether you’re the sort of person who generally values reading, and does it on your own as a leisure activity, whether you react to conflict in a constructive or violent way, whether you are a private, introspective, considerate, conflict-averse person or an outgoing, opinionated, public and assertive person or some mix of the two.

I’m sure we won’t be immune to parenting advice, but I kind of hope we are. We’ve been true to ourselves in a lot of ways, keeping the parts of our upbringing and education that have made good and reasonable sense to us, and jettisoning or replacing the parts that don’t, fashioning our own mix of the best available and feasible way to live, or at least the one that seems to suit us best. I know that having kids changes a lot, and I have to imagine one of the ways it changes things is simply to make everything a lot more tiring.

The process by which Cheryl and I form belief is pretty long and drawn out. It involves discussion and looking things up and sometimes (or maybe often) a heated argument and then we both backtrack and retreat to our corners and look at things from the other person’s perspective and then we come back together, conciliatory, and reach a preliminary consensus–more of a hypothesis or set of hypotheses, really–and then kind of agree to let it rest, or kind of just get tired and happy together and let our running mutual internal monologue drift to another topic, and then usually it comes up again a little while later and we do a shortened version of the whole thing and reinforce our settled mutual belief. It’s really great. It makes us both smarter and more humble and more considerate and better informed. It helps with consensus on everything from religion and cosmology to how much to fill the tea kettle (still working on that one) or where shoes are and are not meant to be placed (not on countertops, apparently). It is a lot of work, though. And in between feedings, I think we may have some trouble getting through all the parts of the process. (the Process?) Maybe once Pickle is 6 months old, we’ll be able to rub our tired eyes, reassess and figure out what parts we’re doing right and what parts we’re doing wrong.

For me, though, the Process is one of the most fun and rewarding parts of our friendship and marriage, so the fact that it’s challenging is a good thing, and a greater challenge just implies a greater reward. It’s the work we put into it, and the knowledge that Cheryl’s willing to work with me so that we can understand each other better, that gives it such force. Sometimes, when it’s a lot of work, it’s really tiring, but when it’s more work, it’s more worth it. So there’s a hopeful tone to strike.

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Cheryl noted the other day that there’ll probably be a surprisingly large amount of time where it’s just her and me and Pickle. It seems like such an event, I guess. Hell, it is such an event, especially the first great-grandkid on my dad’s side, and the first grandkid in my immediate family (sorry, Pickle II). The eventitude makes it seem like everyone will be there for an extended period of time, but that’s not how it works, right? I mean, you may juggle in front of crowds, but let’s face it, if you do that, you’ve spent a lot of time juggling alone.

The nice part of which is that we won’t be juggling alone, but juggling together. And Cheryl will temper my impish desire to dress the kid up in funny ways or make him try to wriggle out of a pillowcase or gloat over the fact that I can beat her in arm-wrestling without even trying hard (HA-ha). And hopefully I will provide perspective when Pickle is keeping the neighborhood awake with ear-piercing shrieks, by jumping into my own rendition, and trying to outscream the screamer. I don’t know exactly what it’ll look like, really, but it’ll be fun and funny, and I’ll be making up catchy jingles and mathematical derivations of the kid’s birthday and social security number, and Cheryl will be making up new words and teaching the kid her version of espanfranglish and cracking jokes about poo (the best kind, really–hell, even just saying “poo”–hehehe). Eventually Pickle will be the one cracking the poo jokes. And that’ll be awesome enough to make up for sleep deprivation. It’ll be our club, no bullies allowed, just a good life to be had by all.