Moved Again

Dear diary, it’s November 21, 2021. I recently moved. It was an in-town move, so not too tough. I moved a lot of stuff with a rental truck and a two-wheeled tilting hand-truck, but had movers for the furniture.

A little over three years ago, we showed-up one day after driving over a thousand miles – we needed a place to stay. Our prayers were answered when we found ourselves living in a 2-story top-floor condo. Financially, I only expected to live there for less than two years. Yet, we lasted over three. I’m not sure why, but we randomly received some checks in the mail. We seem to come into enough money to scrape by when needed.

Then all of a sudden, the owners of the condo (I was renting) wanted to sell. It was an investment-property that didn’t pan-out and they wanted to cut their losses. I barely have enough money to rent, let alone buy, so purchasing wasn’t an option – therefore, I started packing. We ended up staying another four months.

A guy bought it and said we could probably stay until the middle of next year. But very soon afterwards, he re-listed the property for sale. And soon after that, he told us we had to be out by the end of this year. Your classic “kicked out for the holidays” tale.

To be fair, I didn’t mind leaving – I had a significant portion of my stuff packed anyway. It was a nice place and I would’ve considered buying it if I had the resources, but I’m fine with something different. The new place is a bit smaller though, so fitting stuff in has been the real challenge. The entire dining room was packed with boxes for over a week – but it’s almost empty (closets and cabinets are full though).

Well, that’s what’s been going on dear diary: dealing with a limbo-like living situation, unsure about where to live and what would happen. I was quite dissatisfied. So what could I do when all I saw were external problems? Turn inward. “When surrounded by darkness, should you not seek a light?”

I meditated a lot. Three times per day, about twenty minutes each – morning, afternoon, evening. I wrestled my mind, trying to remain calm. Then one day my wife came home and said she toured a condo for rent – and here we are. It’s nice enough, not as spacious, but it gets the job done and probably fits our family better for now.

Familial Lamentations

Dear diary,

I’m at my mother’s house today. I’m not pleased. When we left the hotel today it felt like I was on my way to prison — the party’s over folks. Last night I was livin’ the high-life eatin’ Mint-Chip Dazzlers at Disney Springs, tonight it’ll be hot dogs in the kitchen.

Of course I’m being overly-dramatic and I can readily recognize it. But my mind is swirling with the worst thoughts possible. I don’t like this place. I could quite easily compose a one-hundred item list of all the things I don’t like about it.

I want to go back to where I just was, my real home. I want a nice condo on main street, I want an annual pass to the parks, I want a nice school and restaurants within walking distance. I want to go strolling right from my front door among all the pleasant little neighborhoods.

I’m still waiting to hear back from the property manager about our approval — I’m just super-impatient. And what if… what if… no I can’t even consider it — we have to be approved! I need that place like I need air to breathe!

Oh diary, we’re running out of time and alternatives. Our old house is gone (and good riddance), but now we’re in limbo, an in-between state of residential uncertainty.

Speaking of family, I went and visited my father’s grave today. Nothing new to report, he’s still dead.

Yours Truly,
Rich

Well-crafted Elle

elle-office

This is a picture of my darling wife Elle in her new office. It’s a small walk-in closet with a folding-chair and a folding-tray for the desk. I am documenting her meager beginnings as an Internet-influencer and entrepreneur.

In but a brief time for instance, she amassed over 25,000 followers on Instagram by posting beautiful pictures of the local landscape. She really has quite the eye for photography. The lens through which she sees the world can be a rosy one, and she’s able to capture this view in her photos.

Unfortunately though, she stopped caring about that account and moved onto something new. It was either playing Seabeard or watching The Great British Bakeoff, I’m not sure which distraction it was this time. That’s the trouble you see, her talent erupts like a mighty volcano spewing bright magma in all directions, causing heads to turn and stare, only to fizzle-out as the lava quickly cools into motionless mud-like glops stuck to the side of a once shapely mountain.

Sometimes she’ll chastise me for my lack of success. I think she’s just angry at herself and takes it out on me though. I don’t really care about my own success, I’m not very competitive nor do I have much drive to prove myself. But in an attempt to please her, I try to do things that might lead to success — although they usually don’t amount to much.

Even if I was successful, I don’t think she’d be satisfied until she found her own creative outlet. I, on the other hand, can be satisfied just sitting in a small room all day. One day I imagine she’ll find her niche and success will come pouring in. I see myself as part of her support system, keeping things well-balanced.

She’ll often get in moods where she imagines burning bridges to all pre-existing relationships, ours included, but I suppose that’s part of her artist’s temperament (it’s actually PMS, but she hates when I mention that). Her creativity does tend to follow a monthly cycle by the way. Spurts of motivation in the beginning until an eventual crash at the end followed by a month of rest and distraction.

I write all this, dear diary, because sometimes it’s tough to be criticized for days at a time by a loved one. Of course I try to tell her all the tips and tricks of happiness, many I learned from her, but they are of no use to someone in a mischievous mood. So around and around we go, the sun rises and the sun sets. The cycle continues, spring follows winter and sure enough bloom-time will come again.

Pondering Preschooler

I’ve spent a lot of time in the presence of a particular little boy that I’ve known since birth — he’s almost five now. I previously assumed that a child was more sponge-like, a “tabula rasa” soaking up his surroundings, becoming a product of his environment. Now though, I’m struck by the pre-existing character that seems to be in place. Natural tendencies find their outlet within the given environment. I don’t get the feeling that I’m teaching him, but rather his abilities are simply revealed over time.

For instance, take walking. His mother didn’t teach him the mechanics of walking, she simply stood him up and he stumbled towards her, improving over a short time. Similarly with talking, we didn’t teach him sound formations with the mouth or even grammar, he just started speaking. A few words at first, then sentences. He seems to see what’s possible then attempts those activities himself, often adding or adapting.

Even with more advanced activities such as math or video-games, I still don’t feel like I’m teaching him. The speed at which mathematical concepts were adopted and applied implies an aptitude already present. And the aptitude for video-games is ridiculous, actually matching or exceeding my abilities in some aspects by age four. He’d often watch video-game videos and apply what he saw within the actual game — but beyond mere mimicry, he’d adapt and problem-solve, displaying ample creativity.

So I don’t feel as though I’m his instructor. Our role as parents seems to be: provide food and shelter, prevent him from exploring avenues that could be injurious, display affection as well as empathy towards any discomfort, remain respectful and considerate of his feelings, encourage smiles and laughter, engage in play, expose him to different avenues of expression, listen and converse. Essentially, create a hospitable environment in which he can be himself.

In the “nature versus nurture” debate, I’ve swung hard to the “nature” side. Learning seems more about gaining confidence rather than mechanical training. His abilities appear as if they’re unlocked via prompting at particular stages. With gentle prodding along the way, he’s been able to do what’s expected, no rote training required. The trick was not to rush a particular skill before the time was right, we simply let him know it existed and periodically encouraged its practice.

So in my mind, a child comes with a pre-existing personality — that’s his nature. Nurture on the other-hand, is not about teaching or steering the child, but providing a suitable setting for him to develop his own path through life.

Equipment Manager

I don’t attract attention. I’m quiet, short, and average looking. I’m rarely approached and people oftentimes forget I’m in the room. And I’m fine with this. It’s obvious that not everyone’s designed to be the flashy hero that’s out front saving the day. Someone’s got to handle the backend stuff, managing the supplies, and cheering on the champion.

Outward achievers receive so much attention that we on the logistics end can get confused and not appreciate our role. But we would do well to remember: the foundation that no one sees is a crucial part of the overall structure. I’m not competitive and have little drive to excel, but I tend to know things, I can explain what’s complicated, I’m good at budgeting, and I’m loyal.

I relate more to Merlin than Arthur and to Krishna rather than Arjuna — I’m more the wizened wizard encouraging the talented young warrior. As an advisor, I must rely on a hero to achieve my ends. And what I must provide to the hero, is stability and support. Should the hero have doubt, I must quell it, as friend and trusted advisor.

I’m perfectly fine with being in an entourage, I’m not envious of attention, I require little upkeep, I’m honest, and I stay out of trouble. Too often we think of ourselves as the star of the show, but it’s an ensemble cast, we all have our parts to play in order to maintain the production. If we on the logistics end lack, it’s likely that we’re attempting to gain directly instead of through our supporting role.

Daydream Director

From this moment to the end, what circumstances need transpire for you to thoroughly enjoy a cinematic telling of your life’s entire narrative?

First, having come from what I’d describe as a dysfunctional family, I’d like to see my character live out the rest of his life within a functional family. Me as the supportive husband and dad, having uncomplicated relationships filled with kindhearted communication. My wife should attain the prominence befitting her talents. My son should develop the understanding and introspection of his dad mixed with the positivity and cleverness of his mom.

The scenery should be pleasant, somewhere between quaint and breathtaking. And within the surrounding society, a renewed sense of positivity and hope should usher in a time of unity and cooperation, a time when struggles aren’t dire or depressing, but challenging and rewarding, a time when lives are lived authentically, fulfilling the best aspects of one’s intrinsic nature. And within this environment, we thrive and marvel at the age we live in.

I suppose the theme is darkness into light. The character starts out confused by his surroundings, mired in grays — his family, his society, his own self — everything dour and broken. Then the orange glow of dawn appears, color, exhilaration, vibrancy, but too much vibrancy, the confusion only intensifies. What was beautifully patterned colors, now streaks and mixes and darkens. But from behind the storm, comes the full and mighty sun, lighting up this new creation. What is revealed is not a mess, but a masterpiece.

Family Ties

I had an uncle whose abusiveness destroyed his family: wife, himself, two kids — each had a tragic end. And although my siblings and I fared better, the atmosphere we grew up in was generally unpleasant thanks to my father’s unbridled temper and disinterest in his kids — plus all the cigarette smoke made it difficult to breathe. So after witnessing the effects of poor parenting, I was determined to learn from those mistakes should I ever have children of my own.

From my early emotional scarring, it seems I am forced to behave in a certain way toward my son. I smile, I’m attentive, I’m interested, I try my best to make him smile, I treat him with respect and I help his mom remember to do the same. My behavior has not been perfect, but any misstep has only reinforced my determination to do better.

Whatever happens in life, I don’t worry, I can’t control it, that’s not my job, all I can do is restrain myself from becoming a negative influence while creating a positive atmosphere for him to grow up in. Having been a hardcore pessimist, I now ignore it all, I don’t waste my time on that stuff. Life is a place to laugh, enjoying the time we have together — that’s it.

Being dedicated to the goal of a happy well-functioning family, it does make me realize how difficult such an endeavor is. I put so much time and energy into it, lovingly so, but it’s odd how it’s not the default — it requires a lot of work. In that sense, I feel sympathy instead of blame toward those that came before me, those seemingly unaware of the dour environment they fostered.

The Baby Years

I’ve always had an interest in childrearing, and what better way to observe and participate in the experience than to immerse oneself. So thanks to the financial support of both grandparents and the enduring patience of the boy’s mother, I’ve been able to stay at home with my son for the past three years.

I am by no means a spectacular parent, as the boy’s mother does the bulk of the work — I’ve been more of a helper and cheerleader. In some ways I probably get in the way more than I help. But having no previous experience around babies or little children, I was eager to witness the process.

I suppose the most surprising aspect of babyhood is the amount of strain placed on the parents. A lot of energy is directed toward the practice of remaining calm. Rest is reduced while stress is increased. And while under strain, the parents must perform without faltering, all with a pleasant attitude — which is difficult even under ideal circumstances.

But of course, there are many moments of reward. A smile, a little guy falling asleep in your arms, a sleeping face, a tearful boy comforted, the milestones such as talking and walking, plus there’s the constant conversation with the wife about our little one.

It was quite an all-pervading experience and one I overall enjoyed — although I would not be keen on repeating it. Now on to boyhood and beyond….

Baby to Boy

It was quite a ride from 0 to 3. And now, after just turning 3, I finally sense an easing. “Why are you crying?” has become “What game do you want to play?”.

If the baby was upset I had my checklist: feed, burp, change diaper, check for diaper rash, check limb positions and clothing comfort, swaddle, pick up, rock, speak soothingly, and offer pacifier. I even knew the 5 words babies use (as explained by Priscilla Dunstan):

neh (neh, neh, naaah [not loud]) = hungry
owh (ow!; oh!; ahh!; [quiet howling like a cat]) = sleepy (try pacifier)
eh (ehhh ehhhh [breathy, tight throat, drawn]) = burp
eair (ehh! [higher pitched tight throat scream]) = lower gas (try bicycle legs)
heh (heh,heh,heh [breathy]) = discomfort (hot / cold / uncomfortable position / diaper)

It was serious business being on-call 24/7 to a tiny little need machine. Nothing was optional, everything was necessary — and urgent.

But now he talks, he can explain his discomfort, he can be reasoned with, and he can wait. He can oftentimes entertain himself or ask me to play. And instead of requiring constant care, he wants to help out. He’s become a little boy.

Watching the Watcher

An excerpt from the fictional tales of Raising James

When raising a young child, there’s a base level of supervision that must be met i.e. make sure the child has adequate nutrition, proper attire, treats others appropriately, and doesn’t hurt himself too badly. And once those conditions are met, it’s important to let him express his own personality.

As people, we don’t know what the future holds, the child will readily adapt to his surroundings — therefore it is not our place as parents to force him into a mold of our choosing. We can watch for the direction he heads, and help him along his path.

In order to express himself, the parents must facilitate a kind and cheerful atmosphere. If he’s concerned about constant judgement or admonishment, then he can’t relax and be himself. Oftentimes, the parents must closely monitor and correct their own behavior more so than the child’s.

While watching a young child, we must be aware of our levels of attentiveness and frustration. Any display of frustration must be acknowledged and a strategy must be developed to minimize its future appearance. As for attentiveness, we must monitor our level of boredom and find something interesting about the activity we’re engaged in.

It’s not enough to tell a child what to do, we must engage wholeheartedly in the experience — we are a model he will emulate, not a boss barking orders. We must always be at our best — and if our best isn’t good enough, at least we can remain regret-free, knowing we did everything we could.

When dealing with a child, always assume you have an audience — imagine the feeling of a watcher’s eyes peering at the back of your neck. Think of that child not as a possession forced to be under your rule, but as an honored guest, an independent person due the dignity of any other — seek to earn his respect.

Not merely an accessory to the parents’ lives, nor their sole focus, but a unified team whose goal is the well-being of the family. As individuals, we’re picked apart by life’s stressors, so listen and respond to each other with a pleasant tone, an open mind, and a loving heart.