You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘child-rearing’ category.

So I’m on the job market. It’s a terrible time to be looking for work; friends of mine who are in much better positions than me are freaking out. I’m pretty level-headed about the whole thing. I’m pretty level-headed in general. I like to think this is a good thing—I’m adaptable, not easily fazed, etc. It’s quite possible this is a bad thing—I am prone to accepting the things that I can indeed change.

It’s hard to know.

The more I look around, though, the more I’m convinced that it’s neither apathy nor denial. Allow me to justify my sangfroid, or moreover, let me evangelize to you. It’s especially important for parents, because if your kid is anything like mine, there are fan blades and there is excretory matter and sometimes things go flying. Keeping it together is how we get from here to the other side—and, for me at least, a foundation that I can rely upon for why I should just let it go, well, it’s a source of strength in dark and dangerous times.

So. To econ it up a little bit, let me motivate it thusly: Let’s say you face a choice. You can either have a fifty-fifty chance of winning $1.60 or $2.00 or a fifty-fifty chance of winning $3.85 or $0.10. If you’re like most of the subjects in the now seminal Holt and Laury 2002 paper, Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects, you’d go with the “safe bet”, even though you’ll earn less in expectation; roughly 2/3 of their subjects made such a decision.

Why? Why the heck do people leave 7 cents on the table every time they make this decision? There’s very little out there that critiques this decision. This particular field of economics is justifiably concerned primarily with documenting and describing human decisions—positive economics—and not so much with how people ought to make decisions—normative economics. This is all good and well.

The take-home I’d like to present is this: please, please, PLEASE take the risky, high-payoff bet when the stakes are this low. If you want to remain contented with your lot, this is almost impossible without some groundwork first, because people don’t like to walk away with ten measly cents.

To illustrate what I’m talking about, I drew up a quick Excel table with random numbers and what-have-you, and recalculated it five times. In the first drawing, the safe bet outperformed the risky bet in 2 of 5 recalculations. Once, choosing always-safe outperformed always-risky over 100 independent drawings, earning $5.95 more than always-risky. But in all the other sets of drawings, risky beat out safe. The five outcomes were (π(risky) – π(safe) )= (-$5.95, $20.85, $7.45, $37.60, $30.90).

I’m not saying you should take big risks. I’m not even necessarily advocating that you take on more small risks. Mostly what I’m trying to say is: it hurts to go home with a dime, but it’s best not to put too much weight on any one event. You barely miss the train one day and just make it another day. A crappy waiter at a restaurant? It happens. A bad interview can hurt, but over the course of a lifetime, these events even out, and the brainpower we spend on them is almost certainly wasted.

By the same token, so your kid is brilliant and polite at age 2? Might not last to age 3. The baby lets you sleep through the night at 4 months? Enjoy it while it lasts.

Paying attention to the long view can make you more confident, more humble, and more grateful; more emotionally and financially stable; and better at handling momentary crises. If that’s not a recipe for a good tactical parenting, I’m not sure what is.

ARTIST: Dar Williams
TITLE: The Christians and the Pagans
(from Gunther Anderson)

Amber called her uncle, said “We’re up here for the holiday
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay”
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three
He told his niece, “It’s Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style”
She said, “Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it’s been awhile”

/ G C Am D / / Em C Am D / / G C Am D / /

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses

Read the rest of this entry »

From Chapter 17 – Celebration Days in
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Snow fell on our garden in December, leaving the dried corn stalks and withered tomato vines standing black on white like a pen-and-ink drawing titled Rest. I postponed looking at seed catalogs for awhile. Those of us who give body and soul to projects that never seem to end–child rearing, housecleaning, gardening–know the value of the occasional closed door. We need our moments of declared truce.

Read the rest of this entry »

the ancients believed that the earth was the back of an elephant that stood on a tortoise that swam in a bottomless sea. Of course, what held up the sea was another question. They did not know the answer.

The belief of the ancients was the result of imagination. It was a poetic and beautiful idea. Look at the way we see it today. Is that a dull idea? The world is a spinning ball, and people are held on it on all sides, some of them upside down. And we turn like a spit in front of a great fire. We whirl around the sun. That is more romantic, more exciting. And what holds us? The force of gravitation, which is not only a thing of the earth but is the thing that makes the earth round in the first place, holds the sun together and keeps us running around the sun in our perpetual attempt to stay away. This gravity holds its sway not only on the stars but between the stars; it holds them in the great galaxies for miles and miles in all directions.
Read the rest of this entry »

was a lot of fun. it’s always nice when the girls are having a good time and I don’t have to be bending over to pick them up or debating whether I should be intervening. Junebug’s still a little easier to deal with, physically, because she’s immobile, but V is definitely becoming willful–and it’s amazing,  because it’s expressed as a boundless curiosity and she’s a happy kid, upbeat and excited about things–but it’s still havoc on the lower back to chase, lift, re-aim, repeat.

All of which is totally the opposite tone from that which I meant to strike. I laid out a beach towel in the outfield at our local playground/rec center and put some cheerios out and Juniper sat in the grass and I lay back and watched the sky and Violet orbited like a spirograph, and they both thought that my lying down was just the funniest thing either of them had ever seen. Violet decided to tackle me repeatedly; I put my hat on Junebug and she spent five elated minutes trying to take it off again. Antics ensued…

Later in the day Violet saw real live ducks and that, as they say, was the cat’s pajamas.

I’ve been a full-time stay-at-home dad/full-time grad student for the last five months or so, now, which really mostly means I’m not getting as far ahead on my dissertation as I’d like. That said, thanks to Violet’s near-constant demands for entertainment and my interest in saving my lower back by sitting as much as possible and letting her go unheld as often and long as she’s willing, I can now play guitar–badly, but I can decisively call it playing guitar now, not just whatever it was I did when I held a guitar and interfaced over the last near-decade. I now know all the basic chords and can string them together at will and have memorized a bunch of songs, many of which include at least one drop of the f-bomb. This is complicated.

Many of my favorite songs feature the f-bomb, and at their best, they feature it just the once (the exception that proves the rule: “F$%# and Run” by Liz Phair) , but it serves an essential purpose–it’s either the part of the song where the decrescendo ends and you need to imply that the meaning is still emphatic, even if the sound is not loud, or it’s the part of the song where the crescendo has occurred and the words contain too much denotative meaning to express the necessary, and so only expletives can get the job done, and when one is grasping for an expletive, anything worth doing is worth doing right: hence, f-bomb. (example of the first: “1330 Oak 1995” by Kind of Like Spitting. example of the second: can’t think of it right now–feel free to come up with one of your own and holler if you like)

——————————-

I got a mailer on the introduction of FF Meta Serif, which is a font for those out there not into design. It’s exciting because I liked FF Meta a lot, but mostly because now I’m pretty much an economist/dad and I like that I get mail when new fonts are invented.

This isn’t a paid promotion or plug–hell, I bought FF Meta with expenses paid, so I don’t know that I’d pay for it; plus, I’ve never used it. Still, if you want to see what looks like a nice, fat, readable font, go for it: http://www.fontshop.com/features/newsletters/nov2007_a/

——————————–

Now, for what I intended originally to write about. Cheryl and Violet and I have become members at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, and it’s been a really great experience so far, a few months into attending. I have an elaborate religious life-story, so I won’t go into it here, except to say that it’s been uniformly positive, and still I’m an atheist. Going to/joining what is, effectively, a church, definitely seemed like a complicated idea–one I bristled against at first when Cheryl said she thought we should try it out.

I comprehended my hesitation a little better during today’s service. There’s a quiet period in the service, an “Invitation to Meditation” is what I believe they call it. As the meditation closes, the minister names those people who are having milestones or hardships so that we may keep then in thoughts/prayers as we see fit. After he says names, everyone is invited to say their own names, out loud or silently. It’s a beautiful ritual, the effect of which is at least to give everyone there a moment in the week to think about the people in their lives and try to figure out if anyone is experienced abnormally great joy or sorrow. I don’t believe in any metaphysical powers of prayer, but I still find I really like it.

Not to mention the “sanctioned” or what-have-you stating of names/events made by the minister, which often involves requests for cards/flowers/visitors/donations/condolences in the case of people in the hospital or grieving and merely information in the case of landmarks.

The rationale of it notwithstanding: today the Rev mentioned a member whose name I had never heard and don’t remember. She had, evidently, after a long and difficult process, successfully brought her adopted 18-month-old daughter home from Nepal.

I’ve been really callous, internally, at least, about international adoption (I have begun/continued to default on really callous, internally, I’ve begun to notice–which is one of the reasons why I sort of need to be part of a spiritually nourishing and challenging congregation) and sort of miserably failed at viewing it as a personal milestone, and seen it more as sort of a weird upper-class white affectation.

It dawned on me today that the brief reference Rev. David was making was a really watershed moment in someone’s life. She had sought out and successfully taken responsibility for a new person. A new person in her life.

A new person! A new person. A real, live, life. A new life. Someone different than everyone else–not even just everyone else you know, but EVERYONE else, ever.

I don’t know–for many people, this may be far less complicated than it is for me. I have spent a lot of spare brain cycles justifying decisions to strip people away, to reduce interpersonal connections. These were people who had other people; I am (or at least have been historically) almost universally unnecessary in the lives of others. This isn’t just a fear of commitment–I’m fine with commitment, which is sort of a well-delineated and totally enforceable contract, the optimal length and terms of which are totally solvable.

To some extent, it has been a question of the best way to climb that mountain.

(That mountain, here, is how to be good–which is sort of the central question of my life, I think.)

When being good is a destination, even if it is a destination in only the most abstract sense, it becomes simple, sometimes, to see other people as hindrances. It’s like trying to go to the movies in large groups. It’s difficult, verging on pointless, at times. It’s just better to all go by yourselves.

This is sort of the dominant meme of personal existence in a lot of our culture, I think, and it’s certainly something I’ve imbibed. The explosion of the nuclear family is in part, a result of this and a cause of this. Growing up, I definitely was urged to move out and move on, as my father had done before me and his before him. The suburban American dream involved perfect labor mobility, a lack of emotional and personal attachment to a place and people and a culture and a tradition.

We are not atomic; we are not built thusly. And people have expectations of us, they place constraints on us, on our hearts, even through no wish or fault of their own. These are the ties that bind, and they sometimes constrict.

More often in my life, if I choose to be honest with myself, people know me better than I know myself. They know my best self, at least, and when I have guests, my house gets clean, and when I cook for other people, I make everything more delicious (the trick is that extra stick or two of butter), and when people disagree with me, I either figure out why I’m right, or find out I’m wrong and then I can be right forreal, forreal.

A new person. I know better now what that means, because I have one of them. In fact, I have lots–not just Violet but new friends, fellow members of the congregation. I was going to say “So often,” but the truth is “Always…” Always, the other people sitting in the service are total ciphers, and not only do I neither know nor care, but I can hardly fathom that they have lives outside those walls, that things happen, that they lie awake at night hoping that they outlive their children, hoping that they get to see all of it, then when they face their own personal end, that it be sweet and not bitter, and that the version of themselves they get to know therein is someone with honor and honesty and decency.

I never really saw other people as keys to that before today–I must have known on some level, because I’ve spent much of my life attaching and detaching–I mean, I am living a full and healthy life (much of which has been rigged in my favor, I’ll admit). I still think of conversation as an unpleasant necessity sometimes, and I think I’ll embrace it more, now.

I’m glad to be necessary, to feel like I have to–like it’s a moral imperative to– sacrifice some of my maximization just to help out, that maybe that’s maxing something else–a better function (by maximizing of course, I really mean blindly staggering generally northward, metaphysically, but the modeling thereof is similar, WLOG, I argue).

A new person. It’s a whole new life opening up ahead of you, every time you engage. And I think I thought it stood as good a chance of being bad as good. I was almost certainly wrong. New people are almost always a boon, a gift; even to brush up against people briefly and tangentially is to live a richer life. As I say that, a part of me I’ve known for a long time rebels, but the evidence is against him, and I don’t know that the argument of experience is enough to quash the force of identity–but it’s definitely a conflict worth embracing.

and your mother, fuhgeddaboutit. Some nights, the bear eats you.

Not much you can do about it.

I’m salvaging a never-posted post from before the summer:

—————————-
You’re kicking around in there now and I’m going to DC in less than a month. It’s going to be a long summer away from you and your mom, but it’s all good news–it means I’ll get to be back for the rest of everything, and that we’ll get to live wherever we want someday, I hope.

There’s been a lot of sad stuff going on in the broader world. In the news today, there’s the Virginia Tech shooting, continuing bad news from Iraq, problems in the Department of Justice, the French seem to be drifting creepily rightward. Nonetheless, life is good, on the whole, and especially for us, so let us mourn for others and rejoice and be grateful for ourselves, shall we?

I’m not sure what all I’ve told you so far–it’s hard to remember, exactly, and I’m too lazy to go back and read. You should have faith in people. Kurt Vonnegut died last week, and I keep coming back to that in my head. You’ll probably read all his books, I’m guessing, considering the fact that we have them around. His essays are really my favorite parts. He put little faith in people in the aggregate and a lot of faith in people individually. Probably wise, although, I think he gives us as a whole too little credit.

—-
Sorry, wandered off there to format data, which is probably good.
—-

I was thinking about my dad yesterday–his hands used to seem so …fatherly, I guess.

The Mets have the best record in baseball 14 games into the season. I just found pretty robust results that indicate that a 1% increase in the number of skilled immigrants to an area leads to a 2.5% increase in population in that area,
while a similar increase in the number of family preference immigrants leads to a 1.7% increase, both at 5 years out. At zero years out, they both are correlated with a 1.9% increase in population.

It’s exciting. Life is exciting. I hope you feel the same way.

People are kind, generally, and life is exciting. There’s so much to learn. You get to hear Cat Stevens for the first time, and that’s amazing. The same thing with The Promise Ring. You’re going to know the words to Dismemberment Plan songs without trying, the same way I did with James Taylor. You’re going to get to form an opinion about political parties and abstract expressionism. You’re going to go to your first baseball game and learn how to draw and memorize all the lines to your favorite movie.
——————————-

That’s all I wrote then, incidentally. It was a sad year, in a lot of ways. Not for us–these are high times in the Treacy-Lenda/Delaney family. Still, the roaring 90s are gone and the 00s, into which you were born, will probably be remembered as a pretty rough decade.

Grammie and Grampie — my Grammie and Grampie, my maternal grandparents, your paternal (patrimaternal? matripaternal?) great-grandparents got to meet you this weekend. We don’t see eye-to-eye on political matters, but we always have fun when we hang out. I think it’s a matter of consumer sovereignty. Grampie seems to maintain the seemingly inconsistent beliefs that people are capable of making good decisions, yet persist in regularly making bad ones. I generally think the reason they make bad decisions is that they’re just intrinsically bad at making decisions. There’s probably more to it than that, but it’s striking sometimes how so subtle a difference plays itself out in political, moral, and ethical views.

It should be a good week. We have rain! Probably not enough to make a dent in what’s apparently a drought of biblical proportions. Nonetheless, I’ll remember this week as The Week we Got Rain. Let’s hope it lasts.

Your mom and I have already started shifting things to accommodate your presence. We’re eating more consciously, sleeping less, paying less attention to the pets, sitting around a lot more, paying more attention to laundry. I splurged for organic milk yesterday. There’s no debt just yet–mortgage and car loan aside–but I have a feeling my grad student stipend won’t cover everything for the next few years. Frugal or not, it’s hard to compromise on stuff for you, kid. Hopefully, lifetime income means we won’t have to.

I heard today that the War in Iraq has cost more than any other war except WWII. That’s a heck of a cost to incur with no perceivable benefit. I wish everyone still hated war. That doesn’t feel like a political view. It feels like hating famine or plague. Who the hell wouldn’t hate war?

It’s been a rough decade: hurricanes, droughts, drugs in baseball, 9/11, the War in Iraq, Virginia Tech, the Bush presidency and Guantanamo Bay, xenophobia, boy bands, rising income inequality. Scientology. The War on Drugs rolls on. There are reasons to hope: the first woman president, maybe, and gay marriage isn’t proving to be a very big deal after all.

I’m feeling stronger about it all. I don’t just want the world to be better, I want it to be better for you, and better to you. I want people to signal before changing lanes and not to tailgate because I’VE GOT A F**KING BABY IN THE CAR. A ball of potential, a life actually worth living. I want you to have to work for it, but having worked for it, I want you to be able to get it. I have faith that you will, and that ten, twenty years from now, the world will be on the upswing, or at least your part of it will be.

Sexism was offensive before, and now it’s personal. Trust me kid; I’ve just met you and already I know: anything they can do, you can do better.

Okay, wow. A whole summer, an endless expanse away froBam. Cuteness.m home and not one single blog entry. And thus six months just disappear into the void.

You’re six weeks old and you can hold your head up and kick yr legs, but that about covers it. The whole world must seem like some surreal daydream. When you sleep, are you able to move at will and walk, to understand the things we say, or is it all as incomprehensible as it is in waking?

David Foster Wallace (DFW here and in the future) somewhere wrote something about solipsism and infancy, and I guess it must kind of feel that way, like one weird psychedelic experience, where you’re just too wacked out to understand what the hell is going on, or even to move or react very much to anything anyone does. And since the model of other you build in your brain is probably constrained by the model of self, my guess is that it doesn’t even occur to you that the random babbling we’re doing has any more informational content than your own coos and wails.

Maybe it’s like when I try to play guitar, and I kind of can, and then I hear other people play guitar, who really can, and then I can kind of appreciate it as a more refined and intentional version of what I’m trying to do. Am I close? You’ll never tell.

Still, it’s a crazy thing to try to imagine. This morning when you woke up, you were thrashing and fussing and I couldn’t help wondering–was it monsters? A dream in which one of us was ignoring you crying? Or were you trying to eat and failing in your dream? What does internal monologue say, and how? Is that why no one remembers infancy? No words to anchor it? Does that mean that all animals without speech live somewhat like goldfish, with vague sensations and a sense of uncategorizable previous experience?

I hope you have better eyesight than I do. I can’t wait until you ask a lot of annoying questions so I can humor every last one of them. Wondering is worthwhile.

Your birth was a heck of a thing. I was there and it went swimmingly and you were awesome and your mom was a force of nature, resilient and resolute. You should probably pay attention to her — there are few better role models that I’ve ever had the honor to know.

And I’m sure this’ll come up a lot, because it has already, but you are one lucky kid. The neverending flow of visitors and gifts and well-wishes is a testament to the fact that you are well-loved. Considering that all you can even do so far is eat and poop and belch and smile and cry loudly, it’s probably unconditional love.

The house is a mess. Sorry about that. We’ll clean it up before you’re mobile I promise.

There’s an ironic process going on, as well, or maybe an economic process. Your incredible cuteness has made the opportunity cost of doing other than stare at you rise drastically. I find myself having to tear myself away to work on the old Ph.D. Which is not to say that there’s any risk involved, so far. I’ve built up a pretty nice nest egg of econ cred, and my schedule got a lot more flexible now that coursework is almost done. Nonetheless — it’s in your best interests in a big way if I find myself employable come 2.5 years down the line. For which purpose I’ll need to start, and subsequently finish, this dissertation thingie. To which end I’ll need to tear myself away and simply work.

It’s not like 60-hour weeks were in the question to begin with, but with your arrival, they are firmly out of it. Hell, a 40-hour week leaves what, 24*7=140+28=168-40=128-(8*7)=128-56=72 hours to spend at home. If you count getting ready for work and transit time, that takes out another 1.5 hr/day, which brings us down to 65. Okay, that’s still 9+ hours a day in your presence, but still. Not enough, right? Glad you agree with me. Besides, it’s more like 32 hours on the weekend, and that only leaves like 6.6 hrs/day during the week. That’s practically no time at all.

The dissertation will get done. I’ll do my best to teach you how to live a subgame perfect life. It’s not an uncomplicated endeavor. A lot of people have a lot of love, a lot of good intentions, and a lot of different and contradictory advice on how to go about the whole shebang. With certainty, I am wrong about an infinite number of things. Nonetheless, there’s stuff I’ve figured out that you should probably know, and ways to figure out which ways you prefer to live and which advice to take.

In the meantime, I want you to know that life is awesome. It’s a good prior to have. If it doesn’t seem like life is awesome, there’s usually another explanation. “Sometimes people suck” is a popular one. The solution there is to be understanding and forgiving and simply to try to be good.

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.

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.