Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tiger Mom

This recent article has been weighing on my mind lately and yes, I might as well join forces with my mommy bloggers and speak up. But rather than judge the parenting tactics or defend my own way of doing things, I want to get to what this article really stirred up inside me.

I think the motives of encouraging (and at times forcing) your kids to practice their craft (musical instrument, sport, etc.) are pure -- it's for their own good. My job is to expose my kids to a variety of activities that will give them the opportunity to develop skilz. Problem is that nobody really enjoys learning to do something, the enjoyment comes from already knowing how to do it (at a basic level) and learning to master it. People who are forced into doing something they dislike will naturally resist and that's how the coercive and manipulative parenting techniques enter the foray (yes, I'm all Colorosso here -- no bribes, threats, rewards, or punishments).
So is the alternative to just let them quit? It's contrary to how I was raised -- "perseverance before all else!" And yet when I think about how pressured I felt to continue figure skating ("look at all the sacrifices we've made and the money and time we've invested") years after it stopped being enjoyable, I shudder at the thought of forcing my kids to stick to something because it's expected of them.

Then again, some would say that it's just plain 'ol lazy parenting to let your kids quit prematurely. I can relate to this too. Anytime my daughter gives up in frustration while trying something challenging, like doing a puzzle FFS, I let her move on to something else. I just want PEACE and my little angel is fiery hot like her mama. Force her to do anything and everyone pays for it. This article also says that left to their own vices, children will choose to waste their time watching TV or pursuing other leisurely activities. I agree -- we are all inherently lazy.

So what to do? I'm not going to relent from the 'gentle discipline' style of parenting we've chosen -- I believe in my heart that it's the right thing to do. Maybe I can lead by example? When was the last time the kids saw me twinkling the ivories or playing my sport? Maybe we can do some of these things together? We also try to send the message that once you've made a commitment to an activity, you're expected to attend for the duration of the season and that you don't have to continue if you'd rather not, which I suppose is a compromise between the two approaches?

Unfortunately, I don't think this blog post has really helped me sort this out -- I am still torn. In the end I want it all -- I want them to be happy AND successful. Here's hoping that our parenting inconsistencies will get us there.

Monday, January 17, 2011

dolce far niente

'The sweetness of doing nothing', as told in the book 'Eat, Pray, Love' is meant to be the ultimate goal of working. Zoning out in front of the tube is not it -- it's about seeking pleasure, not having a plan, just 'being'. How incredibly liberating is that?
However, my first reaction was that time should never be wasted and that idleness is laziness. I could relate to the author's description of her Puritan work ethic -- "growing up, the walls were papered with to-do lists!" And the ingrained sense of guilt for not deserving happiness (hense the popular slogans : 'you deserve a break today' , 'this bud's for you', 'because you're worth it') really hit home. When the author tried to settle into the beauty of doing nothing, her urge was treat it like a task -- "how is pleasure most efficiently maximized?" OMG this is so me.
Neurosis, aside I'm beginning to appreciate the fine art of just going with the flow and not feeling guilty for not being productive.  This way of life is so healthy and utterly beautiful.... and within my grasp, if I just let it happen.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why men and women cheat

I'm often curious about this because it seems to be so prevalent, even amongst couples who say they are happily married. Do 1 in 2.7 men really cheat? Why? Is it because of problems in the relationship, a lack of self-esteem, or is monogamy just unnatural? All of the above. Here's what I've read:

Not feeling appreciatedThis one strikes a nerve because I dislike feeling obligated to thank my partner for every little thing he does for our family. It's his job after all! However, I can see how a complete lack of appreciation can build resentment over time and even start to affect your perception of self-worth. Everyone wants to feel like they are making a difference, especially when they are making sacrifices. We certainly don't intend to hurt each other like this, so how does it happen? EXPECTATION is the culprit. At the beginning of a relationship you do nice things for each other and before long you begin to expect that it will always be that way. When it's not, you start to feel let down. I've even told my partner as much -- that he was a big disappointment to me (Gawd, I still feel the shame for saying that). Someone else starts to take notice of how great you are or says a few kind words and suddenly you've formed an instant emotional connection with someone who is not your partner.

BoredomFamiliarity breeds indifference. The routine (kids, bills, chores) dominates any communication you have with your spouse. The things you once talked about -- aspirations, fantasies, even current events are rarely discussed because you are so busy running the family. If it continues long enough, the intimacy that comes with regular emotional connection eventually dies. Routine in the bedroom is also a contributor. Once you've figured out how to touch each other and what the other person likes, you stick to what works, especially when you've got a limited window of opportunity to work with. I'll admit when my partner suggests trying something new, I immediately think of how awkward it would be to sustain that position. So I roll my eyes, remind him that we're not in our 20s, and tell him to just 'give me the usual'.

CuriosityWe are sexual creatures and for most of us, there is a deep-seated desire to have a taste of the forbidden. An ex-boyfriend of mine is a self-proclaimed intimacy junkie. He craves the emotional highs from new-love and can't bear to stay in a relationship once the spark has dwindled. I can relate to how seductive and addictive that can be. However, I know that the euphoria of new love is not sustainable. I wish to gawd it was, but it's not meant to be, otherwise society wouldn't work. We'd all be walking around completely drunk off love and not be able to get anything done. Those feelings are there to bring people together, not keep them together. It takes a lot of discipline to not give into your impulses. The key is in focusing on the long term effects of an affair. No romantic interlude, however mind-blowing it is, is worth the destruction and pain it will cause your family when the affair is exposed.

Not enough sex
Apparently this is what causes more men to cheat. Surprisingly it's not the complexity, but the frequency that men want. Luckily for me, my libido is as strong as my partner's and my philosophy is usually 'just say yes', because even if you're not into it initially, you will always feel better for having done it. Bonus is that the more you do it, the more you want it. My problem is when I use it as a weapon ... NOT a good idea because you both end up frustrated and nobody wins.

Ego boostI admit, it feels good to feel desired by many men (to a point). But then I have to ask, why is one man's love not enough? Why do I need validation from others anyway? Ugh ... don't feel like saying any more about this one. We all want to know that we still have 'it' and I think that crushes and innocent flirting should give you this fix. The danger is in taking it too far.  You will lose everything in the process.

There are other reasons for committing infidelity too, these are just the ones I find are prevalent. Why even blog about it? It starts with awareness. I just don't believe people who say they 'didn't see it coming'. We might not be able to affair-proof our relationships, but we can be aware of when we are entering the danger zone and decide to keep ourselves in check. This doesn't mean that every relationship is an island. In fact I think it's dangerous to expect your partner to fulfill all of your needs. Figure out with your partner where the line is and make your relationship a priority. That should be enough to keep infidelity at bay. I guess?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Need to Know

The 'Need to Know' is a requirement in the public service to be able to access information that is considered sensitive or classified (if compromised, might cause harm to personal or national interest). The need to know requirement means that just because you have personal security clearance up to a certain level does not entitle you to be able to see all the information at that level. You have to be able to show that you need it to fulfill the duties of your job.
Well, it's BULLSHIT. In today's information age, people expect to get access to government information. How is it that I can file an ATIP request to get access to just about any bit of government information WITHOUT making a case for my 'need to know'? Public servants are on our dime and we're entitled to know what they are doing and what they are not doing. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big advocate for privacy. But personal information can easily be severed to protect privacy and 3rd party confidences. Too many civil servants hide behind this paternalistic 'need to know' and unjustifiably mark their documents 'secret' to keep others out.
I predict that this so-called 'need to know' will die it's rightful death within the next 10 years. I'd like to personally do what I can to make it happen too.

Monday, January 10, 2011

You're Just Saying That!

I often find myself recoiling when my partner pays me a compliment. I accuse him just wanting me for sex. I hate feeling objectified and his horniness really cramps my desire for him. Of course he's been accused of this so many times now that it's no wonder he doesn't pursue me anymore.

I'm starting to have empathy for his position. "All you want is sex". Yes! He wants sex. Guess what, he's a virile male. And he happens to want sex with ME, the love of his life no doubt. So what's the big deal? Why am I punishing him for wanting what's natural?

I forget what sex means to him. It allows him to feel the LOVE. As archaic as this sounds, it's true. He has a hard time expressing his feelings, being tender, giving me the affection I crave. He can't tap into any of this unless he's feeling the LOVE. And that begins and ends with sex. I notice it almost immediately -- after a roll in the hay, he gives more of himself, has more patience with the kids, is more agreeable. He's just easier to live with. And so am I! It's the only way to release the stresses of the day. I admit it, I'm also an Alpha Male and I need sex as badly as my partner. So I'm going to stop making him feel dirty for wanting it. We are married after all. Guilt-free sex is part of the reason we did this. Let's just enjoy it. More.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Desperate Love

"In desperate love, we always invent the characters of our partners, demanding they be what we need of them, and then feeling devastated when they refuse to perform the role we created in the first place.”

This quote from Eat, Pray, Love is all over the web. It's so utterly honest. Big *SIGH*. No wonder this book has universal appeal! We want so desperately to surrender our hearts, and to what -- someone who doesn't even exist -- the man of our dreams, the one who will never disappoint, who is perfect for us in every way.
Later in the book, the author talks about the intensity and devastation of her rebound relationship : " Addiction is the hallmark of every infatuation-based love story. It all begins when the object of your adoration bestows upon you a heady, hallucinogenic dose of something you never even dared to admit that you wanted -- an emotional speedball, perhaps, of thunderous love and roiling excitement. Soon you start craving that intense attention with the hungry obsession of any junkie. When the drug is withheld, you promptly turn sick, crazy and depleted. Next stage finds you skinny and shaking in a corner, certain only that you would sell your soul or rob your neighbors just to thave that thing even one more time. Meanwhile, the object of your adoration has now become repulsed by you. " ...
I can't quote more, it's too painful. It takes me right back to that place of self-loathing and desperation in my 20s. They were never what I truly wanted and yet all I wanted was their love. Ugh, I see some father-daughter neurosis rising up here.
Let's hear it for marriage! Yes, it's endlessly boring. But it's SAFE, and STABLE.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Emotional Decisions are a Good Idea

Last plug for the book "How We Decide". Lots of great research throughout and in the end it boils down to letting your emotions guide decisions that mean a lot to you. Turns out our prefrontal cortex cannot handle too many variables. It's best to let your gut instinct guide you. One of the experiments that Lehrer references illustrates this point well. When students were asked to rate strawberry jam from best to worst, their results were in-line with tasting experts who had done the same. But when asked to re-do the taste test but additionally explain their choices, the results were completely backwards! They started making up reasons that had no bearing on the taste -- like that they preferred a smoother looking texture. Their rational brain interfered with the wisdom of their emotions which are very good at judging preferences. Another good example of where rational decision making falls down is for house buying. People often end up with the bigger house in the burbs because they focus on less important quantifiable facts like square footage rather than future emotions, like the frustration of a longer daily commute.

This was a relief to learn because I find myself questioning my gut instinct and rationalizing too many important decisions. There's nothing wrong with tapping into your intuition. In fact for complex decisions, it's often your best bet.