Mothered

I don’t often write about parenting. Actually, I don’t write about much of anything anymore, except books,

Lately though, I’ve been receiving cute videos of my niece, and remembering the days when we took videos of our toddler all day long. And then, just like that, we stopped. Kids stop being ‘cute’ in the simple, heart-melting way. But they keep being wonderful.

My kid is changing right now. She’s nine, and there’s an appreciable acceleration in her maturity and approach to everything. She’s just entering the cusp of adult-ness – peering into the exciting world of self-direction and mastery. I recently recounted her terrible sleeping habits as a toddler and small child to a friend. And then I remembered how when she started school she grew out of them.

First, there were the years where I would gently wake her up for school and help her get dressed, and then one morning I woke up to the sound of drawers being opened. She emerged, wooly haired, in her school uniform. I thanked the tunic’s designers for their oversight with the zipper – she still needed my help to get dressed. (There are multitudinous times that I reflect on my own childhood – mornings in my childhood house were dominated by getting out the door for my Mum to get to work. I had to dress myself and now I take simple pleasure in finding a pair of matching socks or brushing my kid’s hair).

After a change of school, she really got into springing out of bed, ready to charge into another day of tearing around the playground and crapping on about unicorns.

And then, about a month ago, she started hopping into bed with me in the morning, just for five minutes or so. Just to lie there and look at me, to trace her finger down my nose, to ask me gentle, silly questions about the day, or to tell her a story about goats, ‘in a funny way like you do’. My best guess is that she is calibrating herself for another busy day, and, after a quick cuddle, we get up and crack into things as normal.

Parenting is not always the same. I felt acutely aware of my role when she was a baby (obviously) and then a young toddler. I was a full time Mum and although her Dad was very involved too, I felt like she was oriented to me in a very basic, essential way. And then she grew older and more independent. I started working more, and her life was more structured around Dad. And now, as she grows into a new stage, she is reaching out to me more again. Partly this is for added security (I’m guessing this explains a bit of the morning cuddles) but partly I think she is watching me to see how it is to be a woman.

None of us are the perfect woman – I’m a bit of a shambles, I get distracted easily, I’m always going off on some bender about some random thing. I’m both focused and unfocused. A lot of the time I’m not well (physically that is. Mentally I’m SANE AS A FUCKING JUDGE).

I study lots of different stuff – sometimes all at once. Sometimes I worry that I’m not providing a very good model of being ‘focused’.

And I feel her watching me when I’m around other people – to see how to be with them, how to make friends, how to manage other people. Sometimes I’m troubled by this – as women we’re trained to consider the emotions of others constantly. But then again, I don’t want to erase my femininity, just to hold it to account.

The other day she asked me about a friend who kept trying to be nice to another girl who sometimes bullied her. I told her that if a boy is mean to another boy, he just thinks, ‘Well that guy’s a dick, I won’t play with him’. But when a girl is mean to another girl, the victim thinks, ‘I need to make this mean girl like me, because making people like me and affecting their emotions is something that I should do’.

How else can you explain why girls go back to their abusers, be they schoolyard bullies or loseroo boyfriends?

I’m going nowhere with this, other than to suggest that this parenting thing changes massively over time, but it’s pretty fabulous.

 

 

 

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Freud

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Why is Freud still a thing? Why do people examine his ideas as anything other that a peculiar cultural artefact?

ABC attacks Greens

From the ABC top stories this morning;

Ms Buckland says she went to Mr Buckingham’s Newtown home with another woman after Friday night drinks in August 2011.

When they arrived at the house, she says Mr Buckingham served more drinks.

“Quite quickly I realised that something was happening between this woman and Jeremy,” Ms Buckland said.

“They were touching each other a lot, it was getting really flirtatious. I was really uncomfortable.”

Ms Buckland said she stopped drinking and became so “disgusted” by Mr Buckingham’s behaviour that she took a video.

“I wanted to gently remind him that he was a public figure and that his behaviour was not acceptable,” she said.

“I knew at the time that Jeremy was married with two children.”

What she says happened next is now the subject of an investigation by the Greens.

While there are conflicting versions of events, Ms Buckland’s complaint says she left the house and was standing in the street when Mr Buckingham came up behind her, grabbed her inappropriately and kissed her neck.

“I flung my hands up and said ‘no’, and started walking away very fast towards the main road,” she said.

“I was really shocked and I was afraid because I was on a dark street. I just wanted to get home.”

Jeremy Buckingham says the allegation is false and female witnesses would corroborate that.

I’ve highlighted the bits of this article that are about Ms Buckland’s alleged assault by Mr Buckingham. You notice it’s fuck all.

The rest of the article serves as a pretext for accusing Mr Buckingham of possibly drinking too much and consensually flirting/canoodling with a female colleague. Mr Buckingham was married at the time – a fact that is also unrelated to the complainant’s allegation of assault but mentioned in the article.

I make no judgement on whether Ms Buckland felt assaulted or not. Her claim that Mr Buckingham kissed her neck is the only relevant information in this article. The rest is mud-slinging.

I’m not having a crack at Ms Buckland, rather, the it’s the ABC at fault here. In their quest to smear a Greens figure they’ve trivialised sexual assault, and also undermined the victim’s claims by telling us that the complainant was so disgusted with Mr Buckingham’s flirty behaviour that she videoed him to, “…gently remind him that he was a public figure and that his behaviour was not acceptable,”

The ABC has presented this woman badly (who on earth videos someone behaving badly to ‘gently remind them of their status as a public figure’ instead of talking to them on the spot?). We’re also introduced to the idea that she might be motivated by political rivalry.

It’s poor form all round, but perhaps not as bad as this, from the Guardian, in which an unnamed woman accuses her partner of sexual assault, and makes a police complaint which she later retracts. The Guardian then has her saying,

“I want police to realise not all Australian men and women who have gone through sexual assault have the coping ability or resilience and suicides and loss of life do occur from the devastating impact of these crimes.

“How is it sexual assault is not considered to be a matter of police urgency. Rape victims are prone to killing themselves, why do officers have no power to intervene and arrest a known suspect on the spot?

Yes, why DO officers not have the power to intervene and arrest a known suspect on the spot? And by ‘known suspect’ we mean, someone accused of rape? Anyone? Anyone?

Because this isn’t The Philippines.

Saying that victims are prone to suicide doesn’t make an innocent person more likely to be guilty. I note the QLD police statement is heavily redacted, but imagine it includes something along these lines.

It shits me that the metoo movement has been denigrated to the point where newspapers can simply use it as a pretext to smear politicians or make up polemic that encourages us to think that men (and let’s face it, we’re talking about men) no longer have the right to even the most basic of human freedoms.

 

 

 

Clutching my pearls and thinking out loud

I’m seeing a lot of this lately; pile-ons from young women in Twitter, claiming that men who call one another ‘soft cock’ or ‘pussy’ aren’t just crass, they’re evil or mentally unhinged, with masculinity so toxic it melts your vegan nailpolish at 100 metres (and smells like Lynx and packet macaroni – be on guard, womyn).

In other circumstances, this ‘pile on’ – where the hysteria reaches epic proportions and otherwise sensible people find themselves making frankly ridiculous claims about the mental health/motivations and/or personal hygiene of someone else – would be called out for being over the top.

The fact that it isn’t demonstrates a complete schism between the classes. I’ve heard many, many men refer to one another as soft-cocks and pussies. Generally speaking it is a gentle form of giving one another curry. It is not, as the hysteria would suggest, an incitement to commit war crimes (generally war crimes language is more subtle. It often includes terms like, ‘operational’ ‘sustainable’ ‘negative’ ‘maximise’ and ‘neutralise’. This masculinity smells less like Lynx and more like Polo for Men).

I have worked in male environments before, with men who might be called working class *gasp*. I am familiar with their strange and exotic ways, a familiarity that I can only assume does not extend to the woke twitteratto, above.

I know language matters. I am not undermining the sexism that this kind of language reflects – a social order that is rapidly changing. Yet I struggle though to connect this kind of sexist language with severe violence against women – which is the basis for this extreme, clutch-my-pearls hysteria against it. Calling someone a pussy does not make you a murderer.

It’s something I’ve thought about a lot lately. My personal is my political. And I think my personal is different to these twittering women above. Unlike them, I suspect ‘personal’ includes experience with ‘the working class’. Many encounters have shaped my view, including this one;

I once worked in a place (all men) where one employee (I’ll call him ‘Neil’) regularly used the services of a prostitute. Neil was married with teenaged kids. His wife was aware of the arrangement. Although he held a relatively senior position in our little hierarchy (he got to choose the workshop radio station four days out of five and had access to the welder for personal use, both privileges bordering on minor royalty) he was always on the outer. Several years previously Neil had made one or two derogatory comments about his wife’s sexual organs. These comments were eventually relayed to me when I started. Although he was treated with some decency, he was not respected. I wouldn’t say shunned, but definitely regarded very differently. Worse.

The language in this workplace would feed the Twitter outrage machine for a year. Terms of endearment included; Cunt, fuckhead, soft cock, pussy. Men routinely derided one another’s sexual abilities and capacities. Except Neil. Neil was left out of it.

Terms that alluded to one’s sexual prowess (or lack thereof) were acceptable. Interestingly, terms that derided one’s cognitive abilities were not OK. No-one was ever called a moron. That’s a key difference between classes – slagging off one’s mental health or abilities is completely OK for the twittering middle classes (I guess it doesn’t matter how thick you are if your parents are rich, Queenwood will get you over the line and you can pretend you got there on merit). It’s not OK for everyone else.

Men who are sexually violent have a peculiar attitude to women. It is not denoted by calling one another’s masculinity into question by calling them softcocks. You know it when you see it. Looking back on it, I was never, ever left alone in the workshop with Neil. Everyone else – no dramas, just not Neil.

Men who are violent towards women belittle them, often in subtle ways, and often in front of other people. Thinking that masculine violence is underpinned and heralded by smutty talk just demonstrates a class division between middle class young women and working class men (I’m not even comfortable with the term working class because it’s so problematic in both economic and cultural terms. It’s also universalising and therefore feels derogatory).

The whole point of this navel gazing is of course so we all stop talking about this;

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And the next thing….

FACEBOOK TV

Yes, it’s a thing. A thing where Facebook makes videos about science and posts them on Facebook. Yay! Science! By Facebook! It’ll be great!

Today’s vid told me that memories are inherited in your DNA because your parents DNA changes in response to different environmental stimuli. There was even a mouse experiment that proved it! OMG this totally explains why I get, like, really panicky in the presence of, like, books. Because my Mum was once given a series of electric shocks every time she opened a book!

I don’t even need to do any research at all to spot the first problem; – epigenetic transmission of behaviours is about methylation. It does not change the DNA. If it did I’d be a fucking legend cricket player who could successfully load a dishwasher.

Actually, the mouse experiment is kind of interesting. There have been many experiments and much research into methylation and epigenetics, but that mouse experiment stands out because of one thing; the results were completely unlikely. This article pulls the experiments apart in a reasonably straightforward way that I’d probably understand in its entirety if I wasn’t such a fabulous cricketer;

An article reporting statistical evidence for epigenetic transfer of learned behavior has important implications, if true. With random sampling, real effects do not always result in rejection of the null hypothesis, but the reported experiments were uniformly successful. Such an outcome is expected to occur with a probability of 0.004.

0.004. That’s pretty small odds. The article basically takes a series of guesses as to how the reported results were so amazingly coincidentally completely in line with the researchers’ hypothesis, but what it makes clear is how research design is often quite shonky. Obviously drug companies edit out their failures but I was a bit surprised to read this article detailing all the ways in which people bugger it up in other fields too,

How could the findings of Dias and Ressler (2014) have been so positive with such low odds of success? Perhaps there were unreported experiments that did not agree with the theoretical claims; perhaps the experiments were run in a way that improperly inflated the success and type I error rates, which would render the statistical inferences invalid. Researchers can unintentionally introduce these problems with seemingly minor choices in data collection, data analysis, and result interpretation. Regardless of the reasons, too much success undermines reader confidence that the experimental results represent reality. Even if some of the effects prove to be real, the findings reported in Dias and Ressler (2014) likely overestimate the effect magnitudes because unreported unsuccessful outcomes usually indicate a smaller effect than reported successful outcomes.

Next stop; chaos theory, closed loop control systems and my fucking car.

 

Here we go….

I’ve spent the better part of a couple of weeks developing a rudimentary knowledge of turbo diesels into a fine grained, forensic understanding of every fucking system that could ever shit itself. Don’t get me started….

Aside from turbo diesels, a few other ridiculous ideas have caught my way; one of which is the furore over old Pakehas receiving an small payment to help them with their winter power bill.

 See where the bulges sit above? European New Zealanders are older and thus far more likely to own their own homes (and, increasingly, the homes of others as property investors). Europeans far outpace all other ethnic groups when it comes to home ownership, being around twice as likely to own their home as Māori, and more again than Pasifika.

It’s fine to suggest that rich people shouldn’t really receive more money. This isn’t what the article is saying. It says; Pakeha New Zealanders are asset rich and live on pensions (which I think is about 20 grand per annum). Apparently these baby boomers should take out reverse mortgages in order to supplement their pensions. This seems wrong to me somehow. Yes, these people are cash-poor. Yes, they struggle to pay the power bill. Yes, they own their own homes. All that would happen is that their children would have less capital passed on to them when they die. Or, not mentioned in the article, that money might get spent on medical treatment and retirement homes….Unless and until someone addresses the complete fucking rort that is the retirement industry in NZ it will remain hard to make an argument that kids are going to inherit much at all. But let’s leave that aside for a moment.

Say those kids DO inherit something. What will they spend this largesse upon? Paying their enormous fucking student loans and outrageous mortgages. They might go to the dentist.

It’s all very well to portray Baby Boomers as living high on the hog but you have to look at a broader range of implications when you talk about making pensioners get reverse mortgages. It’s not just a simple case of taking one thing (reverse mortgages for asset rich/cash poor) and discussing it in terms of one implication (inheritance and intergenerational wealth). There are simply too many other factors in play. This is called ‘modelling’. It’s the kind of thing that dog whistling journos don’t do much of.

They prefer to make arguments on the basis of simpler concepts. Concepts everyone can understand. Like racism. Apparently Pakeha people are all home owners and that’s not fair. No-one else is a home owner! There’s even a nice piccy in the article to show you how baby boomers are all pakeha

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Of course, the more observant amongst you will notice that it is age, rather than ethnicity, that is the variable of interest here. Young people don’t buy houses. And young New Zealanders aren’t Pakeha. Is the cure for racist housing inequality to be older?

So that’s one thing……

 

Gen X The First Generation to Have Worse Fountain Pens Than Their Parents.

Children born between 1976 and the mailbox are three times more likely to suffer from badly malfunctioning ink pens than the generation that came before them. Not only will GenX have a disproportionately high rate of stained handbags, they also have up to 18% more chance of experiencing at least one disappointing Club meal before retirement age.

Can we please stop comparing the economic prospects of Gens X and Y to the Baby Boomers’ fortunes? This is not a linear progression.

Baby boomers experienced one of the greatest increases in ‘life everythings’ the world has ever known. John and Sue were born at the thundering apex of the late industrial revolution. Their greatly enhanced wellbeing galloped in on ten thousand flaming jets of fossil fuel. Of course their lives were going to be better than their parents.

On masse, baby boomers have mostly avoided being blown to bits in war, filleted by heavy machinery or turned inside out by some hideous biological liquifaction. Certainly, when viewed alongside the long and dramatic list of their undoings presented in the media – from mesothelioma and heart disease to adult men in velcro sandals, it’s easy to lose sight of their clear run. However, the fact remains, baby boomers experienced an extraordinary growth in human comfort and material wellbeing.

The grumbling statistician deep within my soul would prefer a more fruitful question – how can we explain the revenge effects of the Boomer’s economic flourishing? Given the cornucopia of food, medicine and elasticated waistbands, shouldn’t the Boomers be a bit better off than they are, stumbling towards their 80s with fistfuls of Lipitor?

I would suggest that Gen X and Y might be economically poorer than their parents and grandparents, but will realise wealth in other ways. For starters, they will recognise the shortcomings of the Boomers’ exceptional wealth and prepare for them. Information is a resource.