Money Matters

This morning I got this crazy idea in my head:  to ask my Facebook friends and B(itch)Log fans if they as parents would assume their children’s financial business is theirs for the asking.  Interestingly enough, the majority of my friends/fans said “no, absolutely not.”  Only two people said “yes,” with caveats, though.  And one of those with the caveats said that it would really only be a matter of showing a good example until the kid was old enough.  Finally, when I just asked if anyone still spoke about money with their families (regardless of who brought it up), a few more said they did; however, everyone stated unambiguously it was about things like good deals at the store, nice investment choices, and never about paychecks, weekly budgets, etc.

The response seemed quite common sense to me, although to many it may not be.  The idea of having a conversation about my personal finances with some of my family seems absolutely ludicrous.  Not only am I almost thirty years old, but in many cases it is just not anyone’s business.  But the thought of asking my kids where money is coming from or how things are getting paid when they are my age seems even more absurd.  What a wholly pompous and presumptuous thing to assume; and (in truth) if your kids are so irresponsible that you have to ask them about how they get/spend their money, than it is really more of a statement on your failures in parenting along the way.

The “no”s on the topic of assuming a right to one’s kid’s finances really took the morning’s conversation, though – the best of which included all sorts of wonderful insight.  One woman that I know from a local writers group explained the situation with her own grown son:  “While the kid was a college lower classman I gave lots of advice about how the money was to be spent. After I saw him being responsible with it, I backed off. Now, I think offering advice is way off limits however, I’d be willing to discuss it if he wanted and might suggest something for him to consider.”   Another great comment (and from a friend who is an accountant) stated that with her son she plans on instilling in him the understanding of money and responsibility as soon as he understands the concepts of dollars and cents.  To further, though, she stated:  “But I am totally an anti-enabler parent, so my child will know that he is responsible for his own finances.”  

I think here is where the conversation needs to go:  there is a divide between the families that enable and those that do not.  There is a divide between the families that believe everything – including finances – are a matter of everyone’s business and those that believe the discussion is off the table after a certain age.  Let’s examine the possible outcomes, though:

You over-involve yourself in your child’s financial affairs beyond college and young adulthood, well into regular adulthood.

The possibilities are endless:  it could end contrary to all psychological and sociological evidence and still all be okay; or it could end in complete disaster, which is what the statistics predict.  In the worst case scenario, your child grows up to be entirely codependent on other people’s advise or approval in matters of money, and is unable to ever gain the confidence to make their own decisions.  One day you and your spouse are no longer around and your child is completely unable to function because of an inability to make decisions.  Another possible outcome is that your child grows up to have serious problems with understanding personal responsibility for the financial blunders that come up.  One more simple possibility (on the other end of the results spectrum) is that eventually your child will grow to resent you for always asking and implying that it is your business where money comes from and goes to.  I know a few people right now that are extremely resentful of the fact that their parents ask them where certain monies come from, or that offer unsolicited advise on a regular basis.  And, in fact, one of the people commenting in the discussion this morning said that:  “I know my father still thinks that its his business due to the fact that he is my father and wants me to be as safe and comfortable as I was as a kid living at home. There are always many arguments between us about this.”  As with all enmeshed family systems, the over involvement of helicopter parents usually ends either in destruction of the child as a grown individual, or destruction of the family.

You raise your child by showing a positive example, as well as by teaching them individuality and – at a certain point – knowing when to draw the line and wait for them to come to you if advise is warranted.

Perhaps I am just biased because I have done such extensive research in school on the negative affects of families that are over-involved in each other’s lives and family systems theory.  But then it wouldn’t really be a “bias” so much as it would be an educated understanding of psychological and sociological findings.  In any event, one of the most important things we as parents can do is to teach our children to be responsible, upstanding adults.  Over-involving ourselves in our kids’ lives, though, is a recipe for not doing that.  It’s like when the baby bird just cannot learn to fly and the mother finally just pushes it off the tree branch – if kids do not experience financial assessment and responsibility for themselves, they will never learn the tools necessary to be able to live a functional life sans parent.

Ultimately, I think this is the fear the parents of young adults today are having a difficult time coming to terms with:  that life does go on without them for their kids.  For years, we are the sole reason those little miracles survive in a cold, heartless world; for them to move on and be able to function without us is overwhelming.  What a better way to secure our place and importance in the world than by making sure those little miracles never canfunction without us – emotionally as well as financially.  One of the most resounding comments from the morning stated that:  “Ultimately I think its all about parents being strong enough to look at their children as adults and not kids.”  In a time when more young adults run home to mommy and daddy whenever finances get a little scary; or when mommy and daddy taken upon themselves to assume financial dominion over their adult-aged children:  truer words were never spoken.  Whatever the reason may be, parents of these enmeshed families refuse to allow their children to ever be more than children.

Consider where you are on the spectrum of finances and your kids.  Are you creating autonomous individuals that will go out in the world and prosper -whether you are there to help or not?  Or are you creating codependent kids that have no idea what the value or responsibility of a dollar is?  It’s hard to be a parent in a today’s world.  Consider, though, that it’s even harder to be a kid.

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Birthers Gone Wild

My first post on this new blog site was called Birthers, and I have blogged on the topic many times since.  Ultimately, I think that people today have taken having babies (something done for millions of years) to whole new levels of narcissism and stupidity.  It isn’t just the tendency of parents to be obsessive compulsive, and as a result completely uneducated in the decisions they make for their children.  It also isn’t only the breastfeeding dads or the pictures of dirty diapers on Facebook.  The truth is that I think the Birthers have gone wild – in the entire process of birthing; from conception to high school graduation.

It seems as if these Birthers – the narcissistic newbie parents that truly believe they are the first people ever to have children – actually get some rise out of being so pompous and obsessed with their job as parents.  You can see it in the way they judge others for parenting in a different style than theirs, or in the way their lives become 100% focused on their child.  I used to have pregnant friends for whom pregnancy was just another thing in the day – now that baby belly is the center for which all things revolve.  You can see it in the monthly baby belly pics posted on Facebook or TwitPics.  And while I can consider that you are (literally) carrying the little tike with you 24/7, and it is a major life thing that is coming down the pipeline (so to speak), it would be a pretty major thing on your mind quite often; however, there are still things to life besides having those babies.

But I think what has happened is our entire culture has become so obsessed over almost every thing we do that these Birthers now have their non-stop talk of birthing and rearing as an outlet to truly express just how much they get off on the entire process.  Whereas before, being a parent was another thing in the list of what we did as human beings, the Birthers have let birthing define their very essence.  Of course, then, it’s no-holds-barred in a world where everything revolves around the process of conceiving, delivering, and raising children.  Coupled with the redefinition (read: loss) of privacy and we are now all inundated with the things put out there by the people for whom babies are the center of the universe.

Today I went on Facebook and saw that one of my friends had gone into labor.  She posted frequent updates through the course of the experience and it bothered me how extremely personal the update the comments that followed were.  While I scrolled through the comments to get to the bottom to post my simple “congratulations,” I was reminded of that episode of I Love Lucy when Lucy has the baby and you see nothing except Ricky pacing around the waiting room.  There was no detail about her epidural; no discussion about squeezing anything from Lucy’s hoo-haa – just Ricky pacing around the waiting room, I think smoking a cigarette.  I’m not suggesting that the process of giving birth is something to hide or to be ashamed of, I’m simply saying that it is an intensely personal thing that is not always a cutesy “hee hee, hoo hoo.”

To put it a little more bluntly, if someone wants to spread their vag and everything that comes out of it around for the public to see, the least they could do is consider how that makes the rest of us feel.

Another example of how the Birthers have gone wild is in their ridiculous characterization of what it is to give birth.  Halloween is just around the corner and people are going above and beyond the call of traditional pumpkin carving to come up with the most unique pumpkins they can.  Along with this obsession over birthing, the Birthers have taken to putting that obsession in their Halloween decor.  When I started seeing some of the absurd things the Birthers had come up with was when I actually accepted that the Birthers have gone completely wild.  Consider these three pumpkin sculptures – each of which appear to have gone viral on Facebook; each of which get more and more graphic as you go down the line:

It seems that the graphic sharing of the process of giving birth has transcended to an all new level with these pumpkins.  And I thought the daily updates on Facebook and personal blog posts, or the countless graphic videos on YouTube, were bad enough.  As I said, giving birth to a child is an extremely personal, (and for many people) a private thing.  Additionally, it’s a beautiful thing – absolutely astonishing.  That another human being can come of tiny specs of D.N.A. is – in itself – awe inspiring.  To devalue such a mysterious and often miraculous thing with sharing every single detail – from the fertility treatments to the end of bottle feeding – is (in a way) disrespectful of the wondrous experience of bringing life into this world.  Worse, to put it on a pumpkin – to debase an experience that is different and unique for literally every woman (or couple) out there, is a little insulting.  As a woman, I am disgusted that someone would carve a vagina with a baby coming through it onto the side of a pumpkin.  It was bad enough when the Birthers acted as though they were the first people on the planet to have a baby; and it was certainly horrific when men began trying to induce lactation to breastfeed.  I still don’t want to see photographs of your child’s dirty diapers, just as I don’t want to hear all the details of your baby moving down through your birth canal.  To the Birthers Gone Wild:  stop turning the experience of having children into such a joke.  Your antics, your stupidity, and now your pumpkins.

Helicopter Down

Earlier this week, I talked about the CNN opinion article Why Men Are In Trouble, and also the broader issue of responsibility in our time.  I think the general consensus is that men and women alike have lost all sense of what it means to be responsible for their actions.  I see this being the result of a few possible things:

  1. There are no more consequences.  It seems that as time has gone on, less focus has been put on the consequences of our actions than the actual actions, themselves.  You can see this everywhere, even in the most intricate family or work situations.  Take for example the amount that people get away with petty crimes in this country.  When you speed, it is only considered wrong if you actually get caught; and when you do, (at least in California) you have a 60% chance of getting away with just a warning, as well as a 40% chance that in the event you do get a ticket, the officer will never turn it in.  There are a lot of places in society today where there are no consequences for poor actions.
  2. Even when there are consequences, there is always someone waiting there to bail you out.  I used to work with a girl that came in to work every day wearing some new, cute article of clothing.  She was a single mother, refused to ask her child’s father for child support (as a matter of pride), and worked at Longs Drugstore for a whopping $13 an hour.  One day I asked her exactly how she was able to afford such cute, new clothes all the time and she responded “well, I charge it and usually my boyfriend pays the bill .. and I figure that if all else fails, I’ll just declare bankruptcy.”  When all else fails, there seems to always be someone there to bail us out:  be it the government, bankruptcy filing, or family.
  3. Helicopter Parents.  Ultimately, I think what this all boils down to is the Helicopter Parent.  You know at least one of them:  that mom or dad that is so over-involved in the actions of his or her kids that there is an entire team of psychiatrists out there just salivating in anticipation of the situation turning ugly.  How the Helicopter Parent is to blame is simply that by always coming to the rescue, or by always handling the problems or being the one to trouble-shoot any of life’s troubles, the kids of the situation never learn how to deal with problems on their own.  Further, most children of Helicopter Parents rarely understand the notion of consequences and (most importantly) have a skewed understanding of what it means to take responsibility.  Helicopter Parents are most seriously causing a problem with the education of their children, for when things go awry the children always expect mom or dad to come fix the problem.  This, over years, transcends into a much greater problem, though, for in college children of Helicopter Parents are now being found to either suffer or still need “mommy and daddy” to come to the rescue; and there are even young adults with Helicopter Parents that have a number of difficulties functioning in society as a result of having been babied all their lives.

It is strange to me how much Helicopter Parents have become the “norm.”  As a parent, one of your principle responsibilities is to raise your child to become a functional and well-rounded individual; and included in that must be a sense of being able to handle things on their own.  Helicopter Parenting is rife with so many disastrous possibilities:  from social awkwardness to co-dependency issues, even to emotional or physical abuse on the part of the child simply because they don’t know how to deal with situations on their own.  So as all of you faithful blog followers are out there populating the already-overpopulated world with your love seed, just remember not to let your propellers get too close.

The World Does Not Stop…

I’m not quite sure why this has happened, but more and more it seems that people have this weird idea that the world stops just because [fill in the blank] has happened to them.  To be honest (and I’m sure this will annoy some of you closest to me), it really makes me pause and question just where our heads are.  Sad to say, I think they are on (ahem, in) the wrong end.

So to help us all get those proverbial heads out of our real-life asses, I’ve decided to make a list of things that the world does not stop for.  The point is not only to advocate for a healthier, less egocentric viewpoint (typical of the misanthropic vein of this blog); but more importantly to harken back to the idea of happy and healthy balance that we discussed yesterday.  There is hope for everyone, and there is no room for “well everyone has different priorities…”  So with that in mind:

The world does not stop … because you are having a baby.  Remember that first blog on this new site about the tendency people have now to act like they are the first people on the planet to have a baby?  Well, you aren’t … and the world does not stop for that very reason.

The world does not stop … because you have a big project going on at work.  This one hits really close to home for me.  While I know that in a trying economy, employees want to bend over backwards to please their employers or open new career paths, there still must be a balance to make sure you do not hurt your entire life in the process.  If you cannot have that balance, you either need to find a new job or consider whether it is the best time in your life to take on that extra level of responsibility.  Just because you are working 24/7 does not mean that bills can go unpaid, kids can go uncared for, prior commitments can be canceled, and relationships outside of work can just set to autopilot.  That just isn’t the case.

The world does not stop … because you are planning a big event.  It could be a wedding; it could be a baby shower.  In any event, as important as that big event seems to you, a lot of people around you don’t care.  Remember with friends, family, and coworkers to talk about things they are interested in; and give them a chance to talk about their big things too.

The world does not stop … because your girlfriend/boyfriend dumped you.  Get over it:  there are plenty of fish in the sea, right?  Just because your girlfriend/boyfriend couldn’t take your snoring/feet/body hair anymore, doesn’t mean life around you ceases to continue.  Marriage is a much different story, but as for kiddie-type relationships that probably never went further than first base, try and move on.

The world does not stop … because your favorite TV show/sporting event is on.  God is there nothing more annoying than someone who will blow off an important phone call because of Dancing With the Stars; or someone that spends an entire dinner watching the baseball game showing on the big screen behind them.  Invest in a DVR if it’s that important to you.

The world does not stop … because you walked in the room.  More accurately, I should probably say “… because you got on the freeway.”  These people that act like they own the road (when the rules of it generally mandate that we should all be sharing …) really have gotten bad.  It starts with those people that do not realize they are supposed to yield to traffic when they are entering the freeway; and is capped off with those that change lanes without even looking.

The world does not stop … because you are on the rag.  Yep, I did just say that.  What a terribly sexist thing for me to say; but I’m a woman and I can say with absolute certainty that the worst thing ever is a woman that thinks the world is supposed to bow to her because she has cramps and a foul attitude.  It goes for men too (because they do, in fact, go through monthly hormonal fluctuations just like women); so perhaps I could soften it to “… because you are in a bad mood.”  However it’s phrased, take note.

 

The list could go on, but you, faithful blog followers, get the point.  Head-in-ass-syndrome could very well be substituted for “egocentric” or “narcissistic personality disorder.”  There is a healthier, balanced way to live life than you are.  Wise up and realize that the world does not stop for anything.

The Lady With the Pink Hat

About a week ago some controversy was spurred over a trend that is growing across the country, that trend being the No Children Allowed Restaurant.  More and more, restaurant owners are responding to the complaints of clientele who would prefer to eat their meals in peace, rather than have it ruined by some bratty kid whose parents are entirely hands-off on the discipline.  On the surface, this seems vaguely reminiscent of the old “one bad apple ruins the entire bushel;” although, to be fair, those without children at the dinner table have just as much a right to eat in peace as those with them have to let their kids run the show.

Some varied responses have been made to this.  Some have agreed, even those with kids, because they recognize the fact that parents these days just don’t believe their child should be disciplined (or, possibly that their child can do no wrong).  Some have disagreed on the basis that, while they recognize children can be completely out of control, it seems inherently wrong to refuse service to people just on the basis of the fact that they happen to be in a particular group of people (dare I call them:  the birthers).

We’ve talked about this before, the notion of people acting as though they are the only people on the planet, and so everyone else should cow-tow to their desires.  And, in fact, it seems to be happening more that people in society feel a sense of being entitled to do whatever they want, even if it means that they and their children are infringing upon the rights (and even safety of others).

Today I was at the library with my father, who happens to be a candidate for full hip replacement surgery.  Nearing his seventies, his bones have become so brittle that even the slightest fall could result in a fracture of his hips.  He even has a handicapped placard for his car.  While at the library, a child was running around and screaming while his mother was nowhere to be found.  Inevitably, the child ran into my father, nearly knocking him over.  My father looked down at the little boy and said “watch where your going, where is your mother?” and the kid ran off without another word.  Five minutes later, though, this lady in a pink hat stalked up to us and started yelling at my dad – in the middle of the library – for daring to respond to her son, who can clearly do no wrong.  After calming the situation down (although I did say that she should learn to be a parent as she walked away), she went off with her bratty toddler and we went about our business.

Despite the fact that the situation was calmed down, though, and the kid and his mother eventually got kicked out of the library because the little terrorist was ripping books off the shelf and screaming, this raises again the issue of the No Child Restaurant.  Had my father (or any other older person that spends a fair amount of their time at the library) been knocked over, he very likely would have broken a bone at the hands of a little boy that was allowed to run all over the place.  And had my father broken a bone, the only people that would have been liable for it in the end would have been the library.  Worse than him running all over the place, though, was the lady in the pink hat:  his mother.  Without knowing the situation or the health or the beliefs of other people, that woman has taken the position that so many other parents today take, which is that the safety and happiness of others is of no matter as long as they can do whatever they want.  That poor, little boy is on a surefire course for destruction later on in life and his mother has done nothing but teach him that he can be a monster, and to raise his voice if anyone questions that.  One day, that little monster will hurt someone in a place other than the library, where the only one liable is him; and then they will all have to pay the price of a mother that simply doesn’t want to deal with an unruly child.

When considering how to act in any public place, it seems we need to remind ourselves that public means that other people will be there, with entirely different situations than ours.    Not everyone thinks a screaming and destructive kid is the cutest thing next to teddy bears.  And sometimes, it can even be dangerous.  To those that still don’t understand why some restaurants have chosen to have a policy that no children be allowed, consider the actions of the lady with the pink hat.

Breastfeeding Dads, or Birthers Strike Again

Today I came across a blog on cracked.com which discussed (satirically, I might add) some of the progressive parenting trends that are almost difficult to believe are real.  The article was originally spurred by some controversy over a video that went viral a while back on Youtube of a woman flipping her baby around, claiming it was yoga.

The video, itself, is disturbing, but the idea it brings up (which the blog addresses) is yet another notion that the birthers have struck upon us.  In the name of being progressive, and of doing everything they can to raise their child the right way, it seems they have gone off the deep end.  You all remember my first blog on this new sight.  Titled Birthers, I discussed the fact that it seems new parents today tend to think they are the only people on the planet to ever have and raise a child; as if their experience is wholly unique, even though women have been successfully having and raising babies for the entire course of human history.  After witnessing and even being involved in some vehement discussions on what is right for infants and children, on topics from breastfeeding to pacifiers, brand of diapers to the pros and cons of placing your child into daycare, today’s birthers have become unrelenting (and often ignorant) in their positions on all-things-children that they will undoubtably fight about to the death, even in the face of knowing they are wrong.

Here is one of those things that the birthers of a more “progressive parenting” generation have begun to embrace:  the breastfeeding dad.  Breastfeeding, itself, is a controversial topic.  While science has proven that breastfeeding is (in most cases) beneficial for baby, the best way to do it (nurse versus pump), how long to do it (less than one year versus up to eight years), whether to supplement with formula; not to mention the issue of nursing in public, have all become topics of bitter debate that women will break entire friendships over if everyone is not in agreement.  Breastfeeding dads are another one of those topics.

Reportedly, a man has two options to breastfeed a baby:  (1) he can wear a handy-dandy milk-filled arm strap that simulates the mother feeding the baby; or, (2) he can actually induce lactation over time and make the milk for the baby himself.  Beyond the initial shock of this idea, alone, there is a very serious problem with breastfeeding dads:  that problem being gender confusion.  Let’s not pretend we are living in some tribal state in South America, or even in Eastern Europe, where cultural understandings of mom and dad’s roles are much different all around.  Even in the United States, where families are defined in a number of unique ways (particularly those in gay couples), there is still a general consensus that each family provide motherly and fatherly characteristics in the Western World.  Empirical science – psychological, sociological, and neurological studies – have proven that this is a necessity to children growing up in this and other Western countries.  To muddy those waters by not keeping boundaries around certain child-rearing behaviors (including breastfeeding) raises concern as to the long-term psychological and sociological affects of such an action.

Are the birthers right in the controversy over the breastfeeding dads?  As of right now, all we have is the research, which suggests to us no.  In the end, whether anyone is right or wrong is not really the issue.  The issue is the absolutely stubborn inability of birthers to accept any position other than their own.  Ignorance and refusal to look at factors other than our own opinions is perhaps the most dangerous thing we, as a society, can do for our children.  In all the time the birthers spend defending what they think is right, they really do nothing more than show just how wrong we all can be.

Cloudy With a Change of Imminent Rapture

Well it is now well into Sunday, May 22nd in some parts of the world and Harold Camping is sitting at his abacus, desperately trying to figure out just where he went wrong.  In the words of one of my near-and-dear Facebook friends:  Cheer up, Harry!  It’s not the end of the world!

Oh wait, that was a little awkward wasn’t it?

If you are anything like me, you are sick of hearing about this whole rapture business.  From the Judgement Day billboards to the fanatics that quit their jobs to pass out fliers; from the Tweets giving shouts out to Kiritimati for first-hand accounts of people floating in the air to the endless postings of worldwide earthquake hotspots – now that the hour has passed, it’s time to let it die (no pun intended).

But before we do just that, I think it’s time to sit back and question just why Rapture Fail 2011 captured the hearts and minds of so many people, and on a global scale at that.  While only an approximate 2 or 3% of the world’s population actually believes in the The Rapture Doctrine of Camping’s radical Evangelical sect (with even fewer having subscribed to his actual prophecy this time around), it seems that everyone and their mother has jumped on the rapture bandwagon to capitalize, poke fun at, and gossip.  Predictions about the end of the world are nothing new.  We all remember the grocery lines right before Y2K, and the 90s were not exactly free of believers in the imminent apocalypse, either.  In fact, as far back as the 1800s (just shortly after the origins of the birth of belief in The Rapture Doctrine) doomsday predictions based on subjective interpretations of the Bible were being talked about.  Something tells me, though, that even if the Internet and Twitter were around for the failed predictions of William Miller, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the other pre-Facebook civilizations, they wouldn’t have been standing around Tweeting, gossiping, and throwing parties.  So why now?

There are a number of possibilities over just why now, more than ever, the buzz of Harold Camping has had such a phenomenal impact on what we talk about, the three most probable being: (1)  subconscious fear, (2) subconscious atheism, and, (3) a disdain for cult mentality.  What I think really has happened here, though, is the same thing in the viral nature of Rebecca Black parodies, Bin Laden death photoshops, and the ongoing controversy over just why Obama’s long form birth certificate was submitted in PDF.  In these trying economic times, when unemployment is at an all-time high, gas prices continue to soar, and families finding themselves struggling just to put food on the table, people are just as succeptible to parodies as they are to belief in such nonsense in the first place.

Okay that was awkward too.  While economic hardships are just as probable as fear, atheism, and a disdain for cult mentality, what I really think this whole rapture business is all about is this:  people just don’t take anything seriously anymore.  With all the viral puke that flows through the Internet; the virtual (read: fake) lives we are able to compose for ourselves ala Facebook, Twitter, and the like, and the massive mindset of failure that the above economic state has put our contemporary culture in, who would?

The good news is that the world – even some that believe in The Rapture Doctrine (but probably not Harold’s) – were able to get a chuckle out of the events that unfolded as May 21st came, and went.  The world needs a little levity once in a while, and I’m sure Mr. Camping is considering using that as an excuse come Monday morning when he’s expected to be on air at his usual time.  While there may been some earthquakes in various places of the world (earthquakes which happen hundreds of times a day), Camping’s predictions most certainly did not come to fruition.

In the words of one late-night Tweeter, after New Zealand was either spared from the rapture, or proven to be entirely full of sinners: “Yeah, there were some earthquakes no one felt, and the world is still crazy, but it ‘aint like people were flying into the air and shit.”  That’s right, Twitter user.  People weren’t flying into the air.