Thursday, August 17, 2017

The tricky choices

Sometimes people ask about the tricky choices involved in polyamory.  Usually it is about how you avoid catastrophic jealousy when your partner goes out with somebody else, or how you cope with telling your children, or who sleeps where when a lover comes to visit you and a domestic partner.

Mostly this stuff just works itself out incredibly easily for me.  I have had a couple of moments where I felt jealousy, but it was easily worked out with an honest conversation.  I just tell my kid all the things that I would if I were single and dating people, and figuring out who sleeps where has never really been a problem.  Many of the things people think would be an issue are just easy, in large part because of a paradigm shift.  Once you get away from the norms of behaviour that mononormativity suggests the answers fall out without much effort most of the time.  Also these issues are one offs, usually, and once I have solved them I can just walk away.

One thing I have struggled with recently is figuring out how to deal with two long distance relationships at once in a single city.  Nothing bad has happened, but there has been a lot of thought spinning through my head at times trying to sort out what the right thing to do is.

It started with the simple decision of whether or not to pursue anything in the first place.  I have been dating The Flautist for a year and she lives in KW.  I met someone new and exciting who also lives in KW, and we did a lot of chatting for a few weeks.  That was great, but it left me trying to figure out if I should actually pursue a relationship.

The trick is that there is no neutral option.  If I refuse to follow my attractions I will feel cruddy about it, but I think The Flautist would too.  She wouldn't want to be the reason that I don't pursue other people.  But if I do pursue it, then I risk being in a position where I pit two lovers directly against one another in terms of the time I can spend with them.  It isn't like two people in the same city as me; none of us is able to travel between the two cities constantly.  I can ratchet up my time in KW a bit but there are serious practical limits.  Any realistic assessment will conclude that the time I have there will have to be divided up to some extent, and this means both people will end up feeling time pressure from each other.

And as anyone that knows me well is certainly aware, when faced with no neutral option I will go for broke and pursue the Whee! option.  And I did, and now the Danthropologist and I are dating.  This is great so far but the crunches for time are real.

Seriously though, Toronto has a lot of people in it.  How is it I am worried about dividing my time between two different people in a much smaller centre!?!

There are so many things to consider when I have to figure out where I will spend my time.  I want to see both of them, but I have more preexisting plans with The Flautist.  But how much do I weigh that?  I also really don't want to run my relationships in an overly hierarchical fashion, and since I was dating The Flautist before the Danthropologist (I decided to capitalize one The and not the other, and I don't know why) there is a real risk of putting The Flautist higher, and I don't want to do that.

But on the other hand, my feelings for The Flautist are bigger and more powerful, in large part because they have had so much more time to grow.  Surely spending more time with people you have big feelings for is reasonable... but how do you balance that against the desire to find time for new feelings for someone else to flourish?  I want that; the opportunity for it for certain, the actuality is more of a thing that will happen or it won't.

The jackass part of my brain wants to answer with "Obvious solution.  Threesomes.  All the time!  Problem solved." but this isn't actually a solution.

If it was a solution I would win at life and everybody else could just play for second place, but it isn't.

This problem isn't one I can solve.  It isn't going to be resolved permanently, I hope, because that will really only happen if one relationship blows up.  It is just a constant thing I have to balance and consider, and because needs and circumstances are rarely simple or equal it will never be trivial.  People move and need strong arms, or have bad days and need comforting, or come up with exciting plans on particular days.  All of that must be carefully weighed.  That weighing is something I take really seriously, and although I am sure I get it wrong at times, I always think carefully about it.  This is precisely the sort of thing that keeps me up at night, worrying at the edges of the problem, trying to find better solutions.  I don't like disappointing anyone but you can't avoid that entirely.

Of course I recognize that this is about the best problem to have.  There are two smart, driven, interesting women that make me happy and who want to see me.  I have to figure out how to balance that.  This is exactly the sort of thing that #firstworldproblems was made for.

Monday, August 14, 2017

A game of babies

The other day I saw something that illustrated clearly to me the struggles we have with compassion as a society.  In a forum about the World Boardgaming Championships which I attended two weeks ago someone was complaining about baby changing stations in the bathrooms in the convention centre.  You might imagine that people would be complaining that there weren't enough change stations, or that the change stations were only available in the women's washrooms.  I have encountered both of these issues personally.

But no.

The complaint was about changing stations existing at all.  The complainer was unhappy that children were being changed in the washrooms, because he expected people with children to take them back to their rooms to change them.  His preference was that change stations would be eliminated entirely because that would get rid of the problem of people changing babies in public spaces.

His complaint was pitched around the idea of contamination.  He didn't like the idea of the possibility of fecal matter from baby changes being spread around, and expressed concern that other babies might get sick if they were changed on the same change table that another baby had used.

This nonsense reminds me a lot of the arguments used to try to force breastfeeding out of the public domain.  It is entirely driven by people's ick reactions, with the added twist of sexualizing breastfeeding parents and/or babies.  Some people will be honest and just say that they are icked out by the whole thing, and although I think they should just shut up and cope at least they are being honest about why they object.

It really riles me up though when people make bonus 'safety' arguments to justify their attempts to control others just based on an ick response.  The idea that baby changing stations should be removed to help the babies is transparently absurd.  Toilet seats aren't removed to 'help' adults who don't want to spread around fecal matter.  We don't ask fully grown people to walk long distances to their rooms to use the washroom to reduce contamination.  But some of those adults still seem to feel justified asking parents and babies to travel this way.

In the same way some people insist that breastfeeding ought to happen in cars or washrooms to get it out of the public eye.  It is usually pitched as a way to make things safer for children who might accidentally see a breast, with no thought as to how much of a problem it is for the baby or the person feeding them.

The classism is these arguments really gets to me.  Some people have enough money that they can easily set it up so that they aren't the ones who have to cope with a baby's needs.  When they want to go out they just pay to have somebody else deal with their children.  Rich people are also in a much better position to have one of the baby's parents dedicate themselves entirely to child rearing which makes dealing with these logistical issues simpler.  But many people don't have the money to farm out baby care and they have to bring their infants along with them.  They don't have the resources to sequester their infant's bodily needs away from all the people who are made squeamish by them.  It is a situation of a rich person being angry at a poor person for the crime of being poor.

Even when it is a choice we should support it.  Even if someone has plenty of money we ought to set up the world so that they can care for their babies as they go about their day.

I totally understand that some people, especially those who have never made a baby, can find it hard to know what a caregiver needs.  That small bit of ignorance is easily enough cured.  The real problem is people who know what caregivers need and then insist that they not get it in order to keep babies at bay, and do so with bogus 'safety' arguments.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Country muscles vs. city muscles

When I am home in Toronto I lift weights.  I spend about an hour and fifteen minutes in a session lifting as hard as I can.  It leaves me with pain all through my upper body, and this is a good thing as I have developed an addiction to it.  When I don't have pain through my shoulders, arms, and chest I start to feel weird, like something is missing.  I need more suffering!

This has given me some pretty reasonable muscles.  However, now that I am up visiting my folks in Thunder Bay I am doing some very different exercise indeed.  Today I spent a good chunk of the day shovelling gravel to build a new lockstone patio.  This is the country boy kind of exercise I am used to from my youth!  It takes a long time, gets real things done, and doesn't seem to leave you with the same kind of muscles that city boy exercising does.

I get sore doing country boy exercise.  Right now I feel it in my traps and delts, (shoulders) and I certainly feel like I worked hard today.  I guess the real difference is consistency.  I might do a bunch of different work when I am out doing the whole country living thing, but I never consistently push a single muscle over and over to its limits.  I might work hard and get things done, but that lack of consistency means that I never got big, and never saw any changes.

It isn't just doing it every day either.  Country muscles do all kinds of things.  Painting, climbing, lifting beams, shovelling gravel, and carrying buckets.  Also there are lots of types of work that leave you tired at day end but don't actually push your limits in any way like mowing gigantic lawns and driving tractors around.

I spent my early life doing country boy exercises, and getting country boy muscles, which is to say, not much to look at.

I like city boy exercises.  I do wish they had the 'getting things done' aspect that country exercises do, but I really like the limited time frame of weight lifting and also the results.  I want to get it done quick, and I want to get big.

That means a gym instead of a yard.  I guess I am okay with that.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

How to be a storyteller

Pinkie Pie likes telling stories with me.  We often end up telling team stories where we take turns swapping who is the one telling the story which means that the stories end up in all kinds of strange places.  I often will start a segment with "and an elephant falls from the sky, crushing all of them to death" and then Pinkie Pie will fuss at me and tell me to do it right.  Eventually I will stop dropping rocks on the characters and continue the saga of the princess who has a magic wand or the fairy who has to go to school.

One thing that is tricky for me to figure out how to handle is the way Pinkie Pie resolves conflict.  She often resorts to instant solutions for plot problems that don't leave much in the way of story.  If the princess has an enemy, she just waves her wand and the enemy goes away.  If the fairy is swept downstream in a flash flood, she is instantly rescued.

What Pinkie Pie doesn't seem to grasp is that overcoming problems is the key to interesting plot and stories that people care about.  Nobody wants to read about the princess who fixes every problem by waving a wand and magicking it away!  They want to hear about suffering and challenge and effort to overcome long odds.

I am not quite sure what to tell her about this.  On one hand I like the idea of letting her just go with her stories.  Criticizing her and telling her that she is doing it wrong doesn't seem especially productive when I really want her to just explore her options and be creative.  Her stories aren't *wrong* after all, they just aren't compelling.

On the other hand I want her to understand how to craft a narrative.  I want her to learn how to tell a tale that will entrance her audience, and capture their imaginations.  Stories about invincible heroes who defeat all comers without any effort are boring.

(The fact that Eddings' stories about Belgarion are as popular as they are is still a shock to me, considering how badly they violate the guidelines I am laying out here...)

I have defaulted to just letting her solve problems instantly with magic or luck without any comment from me.  It doesn't make for good stories, but eventually she will see that and begin to craft more interesting resolutions to issues.  Or not, I guess, but telling uninteresting stories isn't the worst character trait you can have.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Supplies report, Day 11

The world boardgaming championships is over for 2017 and I am home again.  In terms of raw winningness I ended similarly to last year.  I made two final tables in both years, though my results of 2nd and 2nd last year were better than my 4th and 3rd this year.  I am still immeasureably happy to have gone and it was wonderful to reconnect with so many people.  Playing games or even just kibitzing games with people so talented is great times indeed.  Those final tables were made along with a total of eight semi finals, so my 25% advancement rate is right on schedule.  I still haven't won an event outright, but clearly it is just a matter of time if I keep up this rate of getting into semi finals for various events.

My food plan worked out really nicely, as I brought only a little bit of my supplies back home.

I brought 64 granola bars, and only 6 came back.  Of my 2 jars of pickles, half a jar returned.  The peanuts were the only real failure as I hardly went through any of those.  Thankfully I can just eat them over the next few months.  All of the meat and fruit and cereal all got eaten and I went to the buffet twice, just enough to stop me from going nuts from not having a hot meal for days on end.

All in all I managed to stay at a nice hotel for a nine day convention and have an absolute blast for a cost of under $1200 CAN in total.  As far as entertainment dollars go that is a steal.

I am really lucky to be able to do this.  My inlaws and Wendy taking Pinkie Pie for ten days is required for me to attend and some people don't have that offer on the table.  The ability to attend WBC this way really makes parenting overall a much more rewarding and enjoyable thing - knowing that every so often I get to run away from my responsibilities and party like it is 1999 (seriously, WBC is an awful lot like 1999 was for me!) is a critical release valve.

I am exhausted but deeply happy.  Already looking forward to next year.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Report on supplies

I am at the world boardgaming championships this week.  So far it is a highly enjoyable affair, particularly the part where I get to get reacquainted with a bunch of smart, interesting people that I met last year.  It is wonderful to be able to so easily step into really intense strategy discussions and debate with people who are so talented at this thing I do.

My actual gaming results so far are pretty mediocre, but that isn't surprising considering the schedule.  I played a lot of Agricola but I am not one of the sharks in that game - to be good you need to know every one of the hundreds of cards and also know just how good each of them is and how they interact with all the other cards.  I know a few of them.... but I am nowhere near a strong player.  I have enough skill to beat a lot of the randoms that show up but I am not the best player at the table.  I ended up with a 2nd, 2nd, 3rd set of results, and I feel like that is reasonable because I think I was the 2nd, 2nd, 4th best player at the table in those games.

It isn't often I sit down for a strategy game thinking that I am the worst player at the table, but it happens in Agricola at WBC.

My food strategy for last year worked reasonably so I am following it again.  I bought a ton of fruit and vegetables that would keep and lots of granola bars so I don't have to go to restaurants.  I just can't convince myself that paying $25 US for a buffet is reasonable.

It is Day 2 so far and I have eaten more meat than I bargained for.  My meal plan calls for half a package of meat per day, and the first day an entire pack went away.  Cereal and peanut stocks remain full though, so total calories for the week is probably okay still.  Last year I bought 4 pounds of carrots, and after 3 pounds I was DONE with carrots.  This year I went with 2 pounds of carrots so it should be fine.  I budgeted for 6 granola bars per day for the duration and I am on schedule there.  My suspicion is that I will end up with peanuts left over but that the rest will all get consumed.

The absolute best thing about this year though?  Instead of losing my phone at the hotel before the convention and spending days in a panic trying to figure out how to find it and get it back, I have my phone in my pocket and I am focusing on the fun bits.  What a mess that was.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Keeping my eye on the prize

My post about answering a question from Pinkie Pie "Daddy, why do we clean up so much for guests?" got an interesting response on Facebook.  Someone I don't know waded in and opined that mine was an example of the disaster that is permissive parenting.  His basis thesis was that children raised in permissive households do terribly in school, both having emotional problems and testing poorly.  I want to break this down into parts to address each of them separately because I think that will be most revealing.

The assumption is that permissive parenting creates huge problems in school, and the conclusion is that children should be raised to be obedient in a more authoritarian style in order to avoid this.

I don't actually buy the assumption but the person writing it claims many years of experience teaching children, so I would be pitting my opinion against the opinion of a presumably better informed person.  I would greatly appreciate it if any of my teacher friends or family members could shed light on this issue from a more informed or even scientific standpoint.  Does permissive parenting truly make school much more difficult for children?

Let us allow the assumption to hold for a moment.  Assume that children raised in permissive households where they are allowed to ask questions and their opinions are given substantial weight have a difficult time in school and make it hard on themselves and their teachers.  Does it then follow that I should raise my child in a more authoritarian fashion?

It does not.

The problem is that the conclusion rests on an unstated assumption that the most important thing I can do is raise a child that will fit into a structured, hierarchical system like our schools are.  Not only do I completely reject that assumption, in fact I think I should be doing the opposite.  I don't want teachers to have a difficult time but beating my child into being the round peg that the system demands is exactly what I don't want.

I want my child to be curious.  I want her to feel that she has the right to guide her own life.  I want her to feel that she can and should confidently ask for reasons for the things she is asked to do.  I want her to be independent in action and thought and to question the dogma and common assumptions that are made all around her all the time.

When the school asks her to stand and sing the national anthem I want her to question why we sing a song that references God in a country that should respect all religions and those who do not subscribe to one.  I want her to have the courage to say no if she wants to, and know that I will back her up all the way.

I want a child who knows that when an elderly relative demands physical affection that she can say no, and that her decision will be supported and respected.  I want her to push past the boundaries of what everyone expects to find her own path.

And none of that comes from teaching her to obey without question.  My job isn't to raise a person who does what she is told.  My job is to raise a person who forges paths nobody else even thought of, who does things people say you can't do, and who builds things that were thought impossible.  I don't get to that point by telling her that she has to obey because I said so and I pay the bills.

I don't subscribe to some Permissive Parent Philsophy, if there even is such a thing.  Children are almost universally given more responsibility and autonomy as they grow, and I know I give her more autonomy at a given age than most parents do their own children.  I tailor her freedom to her abilities and desires as well as my own sense of safety.

I don't want to create difficulties in school for my child, but if raising her to think, to question, to seek to understand, and to resist orders that she thinks are wrong makes school difficult... then school is going to be difficult.  That is a price worth paying.