Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On Their Own

It's Not That Far, Honey
It's Not That Far Honey
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
I have a few cardinal rules for parenting...

Wait. No... I have several cardinal rules for parenting...

Hrm. Okay, actually I have bazillions of cardinal rules for parenting.

One of our hard and fast parenting rules pertains to 'helicoptering' or the avoidance thereof. DrC and I try so hard not to hover that we have achieved a state of zen subterraneanism. The manner in which our children venture forth into the world completely unguarded from the various slings and arrows of outraged Other Folk can and has been described as neglect. I prefer to think of it as creative unobstructionism.

While cruising, it is easy to forget how unusual we are because we literally swim in a sea of corner-case people. It is also true that the cruising community might well be the most supportive place in the world to raise children. In the absence of winged parents, the girls have spent years with cruisers in all shapes and sizes who want nothing more than to see them to a better place physically, emotionally, and educationally. Maybe small towns are like this, maybe communes. Hard to say. I just know that DrC and I -- never mind our daughters -- owe an exceptional debt of gratitude to the amazing people who raised the girls with us and who continue to support them.

Which is all to provide context for the oddly Rut Roh! quality of the week. The first hint that we're not the average North Shore family came in the form of an email from one of the girls' deans.

"Your child missed a day of class without a note and was late for two more. She says she has trouble catching the bus in the morning. Would you please write said child a note and help her get on the bus?"



"No really. Her problem. What's your policy for such things?"

"Um.... detention?"

"Great. Go for it."

"No note?"


"No help for the bus?"

"Absolutely not."


The child in question immediately stepped up to the plate. "Yeah, I screwed up. Yeah, I'll do detention. Yeah, I'm sorry. No, I won't do it again." She's now talking about staying every day after school for an hour in a self-imposed detention since it appears to be the best way to force herself to sit down and master physics. I don't know how much of that I believe, but I do know that she wasn't surprised that we wouldn't defend and protect her. We're not Uncle Sam. Her mistakes, her responsibility, and her job to fix it. And honestly? This child isn't a child any more. She's a very smart young woman who is making her own choices. Some of those appear in the short run to be surprisingly bone-headed while others are so smart they make my eyes water. Ultimately, I am positive she is going to be just fine, assuming we don't all kill each other before we get her off on her own. And if she's making decisions now that mean life will be tougher in the future, she gives every appearance of understanding the trade-off.

Another befuddling problem is the fact that every single person who interacts with the girls appears to think DrC and I give a damn about their scheduling commitments. I really don't care if they have a meeting, netball practice, rehearsal, or spray tan appointment. The sole service I am willing to provide is to add the events to the family calendar and print it once a week. As soon as the home network gets set up (please let those pay checks start to roll in!), I won't even do that. If paid, I will taxi them around town. You think I'm joking. Every month the girls get a bus allowance. If they want me to drive them because the skies are falling -- and in Auckland this is actually a literal weather condition "Skies Falling" -- then they pay me $1.10/person. I'm just about ready to route all the school notification spam to /dev/null.

Jaime at the Lakes
Jaime at the Lakes 
 Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
So the question becomes at what point are we failing to provide the supportive and loving environment deemed necessary for kids to thrive? What I believe what might ultimately redeem us is that we will do just about anything the girls ask us to do. Dad, can you please chaperone the intermediate school disco? Yes. Mom, can you put my hair in pin curls every morning for the play? Of course. Dad, can you read my essay? Yep. What makes people mean? Can you find me an alternative to going to college straight out of high school? Can you help me find white knee high socks? Why is my body doing this? What is the square root of 7? Can you stay up with me while I try to make the national level in this math game? Did you download Glee? How do I calculate the volume of a bottle of mustard? Where's the cat? Can you help me build a shelf? Why are people homophobic? Clearly, we are not completely disengaged, though it's hard to say if the pull method of parenting rather than push notifications is any superior.

So no, Dean Good Guy, we're not going to rescue her. No Director Great Show, we're not going to hold her hand and make her little sandwiches. No Coach Energetic, we don't plan on driving her to morning practice. We suck. Fortunately, the girls don't, so don't worry about it too much. They'll get there.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Do It Yourself - Science

Hands Across Takapuna
Originally uploaded by toastfloats
I am not impressed with our global, political leadership. Actually, I am not particularly impressed with their economic leadership, their intellectual capacity, or really any important aspect of their personalities, politics, choices, or methods. In fact, I am becoming That Guy when it comes to politics. Cranky.

Basically, every single one of them appears to spend their day figuring out new ways to make me cranky.

Fortunately, my good friends in the computer world introduced me to ways of thinking that I find sufficiently utopian and anarchist to salve my bruised spirits. The open source movement gives me a nice tingly feeling every time I prowl around and download software or read a well-written blog. When I hear bits of news about progress driven by an X prize, learn of software bazillionaires funding private expeditions to mine asteroids, or monitor the progress of Diaspora, a wee bit of optimism returns.

Kickstarter rocks my world.

Now I have another in my list of reasons to not despair: the #SciFund Challenge. From their web site:

The #SciFund Challenge brings scientists together on RocketHub to raise money directly from people like you. The goal: To fund research in new ways and to connect everyone to the excitement of doing science.

Yeah! You want science to move forward, and you don't think your pet interest is getting enough love and attention in the form of public funding? Fine. Pay for it yourself. I like this idea at so many levels. As a serious skeptic, I'd like to see a lot of nonsense debunked with nice, double-blind, ultra-well constructed tests. While there will always be those who choose to ignore the results, having them in hand to argue with is certainly a starting point. Or maybe I would just like to see more SETI research or help some high school students do serious science or help someone design a better hospital gown.

See, it really doesn't matter, right? I can throw my $10, $20, $100 at whatever toots my horn, yanks my chain, drives my curiosity.

Actually, it's all a bit nepotistic on Don Quixote since I confess that we chose this year to fund a friend doing evolution research. One of those things that routinely has us banging heads on the desk is political leaders who think the world is only 6000 years old. Or 3000. Or ending in 2012. Anything that supports evolution science is yummy tasty to both DrC and myself. Siouxsie's project is a nicely blended mix of "support evolution science" and "figure out how to deal with the super bugs evolving to kill us" dripped liberally with flossies. I'm a cruiser. Small bits that float around and phoesforesce is near and dear. For our pledge, she says she will draw a few words of our choice in glowing bacteria. Be still my beating heart. DrC would like her to write "Fiat Lux" while I am rather partial to the completely self-aggrandizing Toast Floats.

Your opinion matters! Tell me... what should we have Siouxsie write in bug lights?

And PS, go fund science. Now.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Their Adventures

Could Be Mars
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
I need to talk about my children for a few minutes. This is going to be a fatuous, fluttery, overly sweet and sentimental in-your-face-my-children-are-awesome post. Either move on or brace yourself.

Jaime is climbing mountains. I think I might have mentioned that before. Briefly. I don't mean she is climbing mountains metaphorically. No, I mean that she took her hard earned work money to pay for a trip to Taupo so that she could do the very challenging Tongoriro day hike. This warms the cockles of my heart for several reasons. First, she's spending money on experiences... an expenditure at this age of which I wholeheartedly approve. Second -- and a corollary to the first -- she spent all her money and can now not afford to buy a car, which is another situation of which I wholeheartedly approve since her driving terrifies me. Third, she's hiking across mountains. That is just so awesome! She went without us, which is probably four because it indicates a certain independence of thought and spirit, but... I want to hike across mountains. I might be jealous.

Okay, I'm jealous.

Mera is a star. Well, actually she is "Unnamed Young Shark Girl #3." We're okay with that. She is one of the only year 10s in her high school production of West Side Story, and she is thriving. I enjoy watching her grow more confident, learn about the theater, and become an increasingly better vocalist and dancer. She's pulling that A+ student plus extracurricullar thing with a vengence. Probably more important is she has Friends. Lots of them. She is starting to have a rather busy social calendar. Go Mera!

You Can Do It Mom...
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
Number 3 is playing netball. Despite our initial groan of comically American dismay, DrC and I are attempting to step up to the parental plate and learn the rules. All thoughts of this not being a contact sport are evaporating in the face of several team injuries, including Aeron's rather nasty jammed finger and an elbow to the eye. I still find some of the rules bizarre (and do not even get me STARTED on the uniform skirts), but there is no question those girls run for 45 solid minutes per game. She is starting to look like a lean, poorly fed, fiendishly blonde animal. Apparently, a steady diet of fresh veg and fruits, good quality breads and meats, and a glass of warm milk in the morning are insufficient for her current metabolic rate which runs at roughly the same pace as a squirrel on Ritalin. I might break down and start stuffing sausage pies and Pop Tarts into her lunch.

My husband is a musician. Now would somebody please just give us a call and agree to play with him periodically. It is time he got out of my bedroom and started playing in front of someone other than his sleepy wife. He's better than half the buskers you hear out there. Actually, maybe that's the solution to our money problems too... I could just send him out to busk every night. Hmm.

I am sort of employed. I should start work next week in fact. Maybe hopefully probably. Before anyone asks, no details forthcoming until the final paperwork gets through the byzantine adminsitrative system of my employer. I don't want to jinx anything. So while the family set the bar pretty high, I'm limping along behind them waving the weekly calendar and chore chart and trying to get them take their fish oil. Sadly, only the cat is impressed.