Sunday, January 26, 2014

Parenting And Gaming

   I remember the first game that I really fell in love with.  I was a teenager, and I had just discovered that some games had stories every bit as good as what I could find in a book. I have written several 'love letters' about books on this blog, so if you've been reading... you know. If not, suffice it to say that I am the book fanatic of all book fanatics. But I had never really looked for the same kind of writing in a game. I sat down to play for kicks, but never really got hooked. My sister was the person who really was the gamer at this point. My little sister was the one who saved all of her birthday money up for a Sega Saturn, which I kinda ignored, and then a Playstation. And then she brought home something called an RPG. I was like, "What's that?" Little did I know I was fixing to fall into the RPG suck zone. I would never make it back out again; I'm still there.
   Bet you can guess the game that got me there. Bet you can. Well, maybe you can't, but most of you can. Final Fantasy VII. That is an awesome story. I cried my heart out when Aeris died, although Tifa was my favorite. I was captivated. And then I got m grubby little gamer paws on Final Fantasy VIII, which got a lot of guff for the 'draw' system. That system never bothered me, and honestly, I thought that Final Fantasy VIII was such a romantic story, I was hooked. I have been a Final Fantasy fan ever since, although I haven't liked one as well as those two games, and I've never even played the all online versions of Final Fantasy, because I don't like to game online. I have to be social all day long at work; when I come home and manage to get time to play, I like to be antisocial as all hell. Don't talk to me, I don't want to talk to you, I just want to do what I am doing. Maybe one day I will jump into online gaming, but I am really not into it right now.
   Of course, mine and my sister's gaming got my mom gaming, especially when she realized the story-telling that goes into some of them. She is the person I get my bookwyrm tendencies from, after all. And with a whole family of gamers, my daughter becoming a gamer as well just makes sense.
   You can get a lot of flak from people when they find out that your kid is a gamer. "Games are so violent." True, some of them are, but violence is also in movies, television, books, and unfortunately, every day life. This is not to condone violence, or violent behavior, but what exactly am I supposed to do with that statement? Maybe I could lock my daughter in a bubble, but I have no interest in doing so. I think that would be a sad life. So what I do instead of putting her in a bubble, is I pay attention to what she is doing, how she is acting, and how she responds the things that she sees and hears.
   You should always be aware of what your kid is doing. I have said that I do not ban books (for the most part. 50 Shades Of Grey = banned. I will ban the hell out of my daughter from reading that book until she is an adult.) But just because I don't ban books, this does not stand to reason that I do not know what she is reading. I ALWAYS know what she is reading. Usually, I have read the book myself. If I have not, which is happening a little more often now because she has been into reading books based on true stories and books based on historical events, I familiarize myself with the book itself. I look at the book, and read the blurb, and flip through it, and most importantly, I ask her about the book. I don't know about your kids, but all I need to do is ask my daughter, "So what is this about?" and she talks my ear off. She will follow me around the house, even to the point of talking to me through the bathroom door, telling me what that book is about.
   Games are easier. All you have to do is sit there and watch; you can see everything. There are a few games that I am not comfortable with my daughter playing yet. Dragon Age, for one; I am not comfortable with my daughter being able to manipulate her character into doing the deed with one of the other characters. There are other games banned as well, but my daughter is fine with that. So far, following Mom's rules has not been an issue for her. Honestly, she tends to prefer the G-rated games anyway. We play a lot of Harvest Moon and Rune Factory, but yes, she does have a fascination with Skyrim. What can I say? She gets it honest.
   The point of all this, I guess, is that I have my daughter under control. If you have strict issues that disallow gaming for your kid, then I respect that.  I would never force my parenting methods onto another mother, because different kids have different needs. But I am raising a 3rd generation gamer, here in my home, and I just don't see a problem with that.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Advice To Anyone Who Feels Like They Aren't Going Anywhere

   I don't know about the rest of you, but sometimes I feel like I am stuck in time. I have goals; both short term and long term, and sometimes the gaining of the things that I am working for seems like a long, slow slog to nowheresville. I work and work and work and just seem to be treading water, not moving forward at all.
   I think at times we all may feel like this; I think this might be normal at times to become frustrated and feel like you aren't accomplishing anything. But just because you feel that way, this doesn't mean that this feeling is truth. All I know is that when I feel like this, I make myself look backwards. Not to linger in the past, not to open old wounds and remember all the old misery and make myself feel worse, but to remember how far that I have come.
   Just 10 years ago, I was still trapped in an abusive relationship. I didn't have a GED; I was living in someone else's house; I didn't even have a job that I could live off of, which was one of the factors that made leaving abuse so hard. Forward 10 years to now, my life is almost unrecognizable compared to what it was. Not only do I have a GED, but I have a freaking BA. How out of this world is that?
   I'm not done with my education either. I have put my education on hold for a while, because I have come to a place in my life where I have a job that I can manage to live off of, and I would like to be able to focus more on my daughter and my family and some of my other goals. I have been able to make time to be a part of my daughter's education, to volunteer at her school a little bit, and I have found time for some of my own more personal goals; working on my writing. New goals are made and old ones are built-upon.
   Not only this, but I now rent my own apartment. Not only do I rent my own apartment, but I need no assistance in feeding, clothing, and keeping a roof over mine and my daughter's head. That is a big difference compared to 10 years ago, when I couldn't even manage the bills in a shared household.
   My outlining this isn't just to pat myself on the back, although I have to admit that some of this has been a mood booster. My intent with this has been to outline the drastic changes that have actually already taken place in my life, to show  that 10 years of work have made a huge difference, even though sometimes  I have felt as if I have been standing still. In short, my point is this, your life may not change much from day-to-day. There may even not be much change from month-to-month, but if you keep working towards your goals, if you keep striving to make yourself better, in 10 years time, you are going to be able to look back and see the changes that you have made. You will see the improvements. Change will not be easy; let's face facts and admit that nothing is ever gained without hard work and sacrifice, but if you are willing to do that, you can make yourself better.
   I don't know where I will be in another 10 years time. I really couldn't say. A lot of things can happen, both good and bad, and I don't know what circumstance will bring my way, what bends in the road will be waiting, but I do know that in that 10 years' time, my life will not be the same: my life will change. I will keep working for things; I will keep reaching old goals and making new ones, and there will be change. So when you feel like the long slog is too long, like nothing ever happens, I urge that you take a longer view. This is your life, not some extreme dieting plan; you may not see results in a month. Your results may take a few years, but that doesn't mean that you should give up. In the words of a fish, from one of my daughter's first favorite movies ever, "Just keep swimming." 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fevers Are Gross

   Been feeling a little down these last few days. I think that this is due mostly to the fact that I am sick. My immune system hasn't been worth a shit for a long time now; if you even think about sneezing around me I am sure to catch a cold, but I do have to say  I rarely ever run a fever. I have been running a fever the last two days.
   Fevers are gross; I keep breaking out into those nasty fever sweats and I am all clammy and disgusting. I get positive that I stink as well even though my daughter insists that "You smell fine, Mom, geez." I still can't help taking multiple showers because I feel so grimy. I do not like being sick. Sick = gross. I am over this fever crap.
   Still, even with this fever, I have had stuff that had to be done. My Christmas stuff was still up; I meant to take all that down over my last set of days off, but due to my suck immune system that repeatedly fails me, I was sick then too. So I thought, I'll just wait until I am healthy. The tree really isn't hurting anyone; it's fake so I don't have to worry about a dead tree sitting in the middle of my living room, so all's good, right? If I kept waiting until I was healthy though, that tree would probably still be up come next Christmas. So I got my feverish ass up out of bed and took the tree down.
   Then there is the fact that sick or not, I still have to get up out of bed to get my daughter ready for school. Working in retail means that I rarely get an actual weekend off; my weekends tend to fall during the weekday. Which means that I have to get up at 5 in the a. m. to get the kiddo ready for school. One of the reasons that I enjoy her school vacations so much is due to the fact that these consist of the few times when I can actually hope to sleep in a little. She's getting into those tween years, which means two things: she is getting to the age where she herself likes to sleep in a little, and also that she is old enough to get her own bowl of cereal if I am not up yet. But as I said, only when she is on vacation from school, so I've been up at 5 every morning in spite of being sicker than a dead dog.
I actually have the frog one. No joke. 
   Really, do moms ever get to actually stay in bed and be sick when they are sick? I know of very few of them who actually do. We all have too much crap to do. And of course I should be in bed RIGHT NOW instead of writing this post, which is only going to cause me, in a few days time when I go back and read over it with a brain that is NOT warped by fever, to roll my eyes in horror at myself. BUT- I've been having fever sweats off and on for two days in my bed. My blankets are gross. So I am breaking all the 'silent time' rules of my apartment complex and washing my blankets at midnight because I can't sleep in them. Marie: pissing all the neighbors off since childhood. But my blankets are gross. Overusing that word, but really, no better word to use here; I really hate fevers. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dead-Beat Parents And The Reasons We Love Them

   We talk about things with people whom we consider friends all the time. We say things to adult friends that we can't say to our kids, bring up topics that kids should really have no part of, and I was in a conversation of this nature a couple weeks ago. The topic of the day: child support. We mentioned in this discussion that if the parent doesn't pay child support, the state can arrange to take that owed money from earned employment checks, income tax, ect. You get the drift. 
   And then I was gobsmacked because someone started talking about how that this wasn't right, that the parent paying child support might need that money. In fact they said, "They put the child over the parent? That's not right." Wait, what? Yes it is. Regular readers know that typically, I try to not be judgmental. I try to see both sides of an argument. That doesn't mean that I change my own opinion, but I do try to see where the other person is coming from. 
   I don't see the other side to this argument. I refuse, in fact, to recognize it at all. YES, THE CHILD COMES FIRST. End of story. 
   I am a wordy person, so I won't leave you there. I will explain my reasoning here. Firstly, I understand that children come unplanned. My daughter was unplanned. But, sex leads to kids. You can use precautions, I did, but they are not always 100%. Sex leads to kids. And the kids that come along, they didn't make you go have sex. They had nothing to do with that. But now you have a kid. So put on your big girl/boy pants, and deal with the kids when they come. 
   Let's get this straight - I am not against birth control or condoms. Use them; I am not saying don't. But understand that they do not always work. When they don't, well, now you have a little breathing, feeling, living responsibility to deal with. Don't like that ideal: don't have sex. Or get your tubes tied or a vasectomy. To my understanding, even these extreme methods can fail, but there you have it. 
    So now we are past that. Sex=babies. Got that covered. Now let's get to the next argument. I never married. I was in an abusive relationship; I did not know that the relationship that I was in would downgrade into the rotten state it ended in. So I am not gonna be one of those people screaming at you that all people must marry. I don't care who you sleep with, I don't care how many, I don't care what gender, I just don't care. Whatever your personal beliefs are, some relationships end, and they are meant to. This isn't a religious piece meant to shame you into marriage. And sometimes, the person left with the prime custody of the kid did everything they could, gave every chance that they could safely give, and still ended up as a single parent. This happens. I know this, because this happened to me. Whatever your beliefs are about whether parents should be married or not, the kid still needs to be taken care of. Hence child support, because while, yes, there is more to raising a child than money, there is still a financial aspect to raising kids. 
   If you do not feed your child, they call CPS. If you do not provide your child with clothing, they call CPS. If you do not get your child medical attention when they need it, they call CPS. All of these things cost money. Financial aspect. Kids=money vacuum. 
   There are good parents out there who have not remained together romantically, but co-parent, sharing equally the various responsibilities, financial and otherwise. The type of people who end up with court-ordered wage garnishments are not usually (sometimes, but not usually) in that category. Sorry, but they aren't. Kids need love, they need time, they need guidance, and the type of people that we call dead-beat parents, they don't generally help provide these things on a regular basis. Cards at Christmas and birthdays do not count if they are the only contact, just to clear that up. Kids need a lot of things, but you can't court order love. You can court order money. Child support is sometimes the only thing that a child will get from one of their parents. Isn't that the saddest thing ever? I think so, but back to the issue.
   There is not a single reason in the world that an able-bodied, healthy person can not find SOME KIND of a job to pay that child support and support themselves. If they have to work two jobs flipping burgers, then that is what they need to do. They aren't having to worry about day care, are they? They don't have the restricted hours that a single parent finds themselves saddled with because they need to be home some part of the day for little Suzie or little Johnny. The problem is that a lot of these dead-beat parents don't want to work; they bitterly complain about the 'free' money that the other parent is getting, not realizing that child support barely covers a fraction of the expenses that raising a child accrues. Unless the parent paying child support is rolling in the dough, and honestly, in America, how many of us are finding ourselves in that position? The wealthy make up what, like 3% of our citizens? I think I read that somewhere, but even if that is off, it's not off by much. And even if you are, if you have kids, you need to pay for them. Especially if you are not doing a single other thing to help them. 
   I know that this is a bit of a bitchy rant, but you are never gonna get me to see that kids don't come first. They do. They just do. Kids come first. Get over it. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Chaperoning School Field Trips; Otherwise Known As Hell

   My daughter has a school field trip coming up, and once again, I have found myself agreeing to chaperon this event. Yes, this is a good way to get to know my daughter's teachers, this is a good way to get to know the kids she is choosing to hang out with, this is a good way to meet some of her friend's parents, and this is a good way to participate and support her education. These are all the reasons that I agree to do the chaperon thing (that and the knowledge that if the school does not get enough volunteers, they cancel the trip altogether, which would make me feel massively guilty. Understandable, because there has to be enough adults to keep the kiddos supervised and safe, but pressure, nonetheless.)
   The reasons that I dread field trips are simple. I am not a child person. Never in my life have I ever wanted to be a teacher; I don't have the patience. My sister works in the early education field, and the stories she tells gives me true horrors; even the ones that she thinks are hilarious. You found the kids playing in the toilet? They need to be coated in Lysol now; they are contaminated. Yes, my daughter has done disturbingly disgusting stuff, especially during her toddler years; kinda the definition of being a toddler: gross little mini-human who gets away with disgusting shit by being adorably cute and innocent. I smell a conspiracy, but I digress; with my own daughter, there was no one around to judge as I ran after her cleaning up the messes and disinfecting, all while dealing with massive gag reflex. People are gonna look at a preschool teacher or daycare worker a little askance if boogers and baby shit bring on epic amounts of gagging.
   Of course, these are older kids that I am chaperoning. They might pick their noses, but exposure to society and their peers has taught most of them to do so in secret. What I don't know won't hurt me, right? But older kids bring more issues, albeit ones that do not make me gag. Last year, my daughter's class went to see a limited-time exhibit of King Tut's tomb for one of their field trips. They also did a segment on ancient Egypt, so that the field trip could be incorporated into the lesson plan. This was the first time I had heard of a lesson being given just so that a field trip could be justified, however, as I said, the King Tut exhibit was only there at the Science Center for a couple months. The 5th grade teachers saw a chance to have a really cool educational field trip, and certainly, I can't blame them. So field trip it was, and of course, my daughter wanted me to go. (I kinda like that part though, being well aware that one day, she is NOT going to want me to come.)
   When you chaperon at my daughter's school, they split you into groups of four or five, each with a chaperon, and the teachers wander and bounce from group to group, checking on stuff. Which means that the chaperon is in charge of four or five little ankle-biters, and only one of them is hers(his). Can you say....outnumbered? And there I was with four rambunctious ten year old kids, in a room full of ancient Egyptian artifacts: priceless relics, thousands of years old, and they all want to touch everything. Eight hands. Eight hands grabbing shit that I couldn't even imagine the cost of. Can you say...heart attack?
   And this is just one field trip. I get suckered into most. I've helped the kids plant trees, released salmon into the wild, visited zoos, just to name a few, and I can tell you horror stories about ALL OF THEM. Shovel wars, mud fights, pulling the feathers out of the peacock's tail!!! The list could go on, but regardless, all my daughter has to do is look at me with her sad, chocolate-brown puppy dog eyes, and say, "Please, Mom?" And there I am, saying that I will go. Chaperoning is a hell that many parents endure, but we all make sacrifices for our kids, and I make this one because I actually think that field trips are valuable to education; they give the kids a chance to learn something from a different angle than a school book or a lecture. Plus, going on a trip tends to make learning fun. Win/win. Except the parental hell part, but who counts that, really? Yay, parenting! 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Women Are More Than Wombs; Not All Women Need To Have Babies

   Of course, I am a mother, and I love being a mother. I value and cherish my time with my child and am thankful that I have her, but there is something that I would like to address here. I have a lot of friends, and I am not the type of person who limits myself to friends who only have beliefs, desires, and lifestyles similar to mine. I would miss out on so much if I did that.
   There are a few of my female friends who have absolutely no desire to have children what-so-ever. They are focused on other things and like their lives, and feel no need to bring a baby into the world. But they often get told that once they have a child, they will change their minds; that women are meant to have children; that they don't know what they are missing. This attitude is even worse for the married ones, "Why did you get married if you don't want kids?" Like a person can't love and respect and want to spend their life with someone if there are no children involved? Children are not the glue that holds a marriage together, and if that is what you are using your children for I submit that you are placing a horrible burden on said child.
   The thing is, there as so many options for a woman today. Why should a woman be confined to having a child if that is not what she wants? If the human race were in danger of dying out, maybe this would be a different story, but this is not the case. I am not going to spout nonsense about not all women have maternal feelings, because to me, that implies a lack in the woman, and that, I believe is not true. There are many childless Aunties out there who seem to me to show a great deal of what could be considered 'maternal' instinct, but they choose not to have children because they have others goals and other dreams. What is wrong with that? In a world so full of opportunity and choice, why should woman all make the same choice, all have the same goal? To me, this does not imply a lack, but instead, merely a different path than my own.
   To me, women who choose not to have a child, but who choose to instead give their energy to following a career, these women give my daughter another example of what her choices are. In my mind, this does not limit their femininity, but instead offers another side of that femaleness. When we see men, we do not think that only the athletes are male, we do not see that only the soldiers are male, and certainly, we do not see that only the fathers are male. Why should only mothers be female? Of course, I feel that good mothers are to be respected, and I feel that many aspects of motherhood are NOT respected in today's society, but the women who decide not to be mothers, I see them disrespected as well. They are told they will change their minds, they will be lonely in old age, they will regret. They are held in judgment because they decide not to be mothers, as much as stay-at-home mothers are judged for not having careers. But I have addressed my feelings towards the disrespect of mothers; both stay-at-home and working. Now is the time where I address the disrespect towards women who do not want children.
   I do not think that these women will regret not having children; not if they live their lives to the fullest and do what they set out to do. I do not see them as being lonely in old age. Not all family is related by blood, and certainly, not all family comes from the womb. And I value the fact that a woman today can make a choice, and choose not to be a mother if that is her wish. If my daughter grows up and has children,  I think she will be a wonderful mother, but right now (and at the age she is, I know that this can change) she doesn't talk about growing up and having children. She doesn't play with dolls and has never tenderly nursed a baby doll, dressing and changing and feeding it with the love and care and interest that I have seen my niece display with her baby dolls. From the second grade, my daughter has wanted to some kind of scientist. The type changes yearly, but the scientist part remains. She has coveted encyclopedias of scientific fact the way other children covet Harry Potter. She has reveled in science experiments and rejoiced over the fact that finally, in 6th grade, she finally gets to have a daily science class.
   I do not want my child to grow up thinking that women have to have children in order to be women. I want her to grow up believing that having a child is yet another opportunity for women, but I do not want her limited to that one opportunity. If she spends her life furthering the knowledge of scientific fact (or some other goal), and not having children, I will not see her womanhood wasted. She will have brought something of value to the human race; every bit as much so if she decides that she will have children.
   So you see, I submit these arguments that not all women need to have children not only for the sake of my beleaguered friends, who may never want children, but also for the future of my own child, so that she will be truly free to decide what path is the right path for her. We are all  more than a womb. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Tough Love

   Today in the checkstand I overheard a conversation that was pretty private; this actually happens quite often because there are a lot of people who tend to treat checkers rather like furniture, forgetting that we are living, breathing human beings with ears to hear with. Usually what I am privy to is a bunch of mind-melting gossip about who is cheating on who, who is in jail, who got out of jail, who is knocked up, and so-on and so-forth. Not really stuff I give a rat's ass about.
   The woman who caught my attention today was somewhat different. This was the type of conversation that you shouldn't have in public, but sometimes stress gets to us rather imperfect human beings, and we say things when we shouldn't be saying them. Maybe there was a reason that the mom felt she needed to have this conversation right that moment. Maybe she was just heart sore and too tired to think about what she was saying. But before you read further, I just want to say that I am not posting this in order to pick on her. I think she is a strong woman, and I wanted to share her strength.
   This is what I heard, a conversation between a mother and her grown but young daughter:
   "You need to go to treatment. 30 days. I want you in there for thirty days."
    "I don't need treatment. I just need to get a job."
   "You need treatment. You have got to get treatment. I will pay  for it. I will pay for everything, but you have to be there, for 30 days."
   " I don't have a problem. I just need a job. I'll be fine if I can get a job."
   "You will not be fine! You need to get clean. I can't believe you started doing dope. You are fucking your life up. You have got to get treatment."
   "I don't have a problem. I just need a job."
   "Then prove me wrong. Go for 30 days. When you get back, we will renegotiate. We can talk about all this other stuff once you've been."
   "I'm not going. I just need a job."
   "I am offering to help you and you are just refusing to be helped. You are throwing your life away and I am not going to watch. You will get treatment if you want to stay with me."
    And about this time I had collected the money and they were off and I will never know if this woman took her mother's advice and went to rehab or not. You may be wondering why I have even posted this; why would I put this up on my blog?  I posted this because I wanted to say that I think this mother is doing a really wonderful thing. I think that her daughter has a better chance of recovering because she has a mother that insists on her getting the professional help that she needs. I put this up because I think this mother was also doing one of the hardest things a mother is called to do - showing her child tough love.
   As mothers, we never want to think that our children can make mistakes - sometimes terrible ones. To me, the easier route for this situation would be for the mom to say something like, "I know that you have hit hard times. So get a job and see if you can straighten yourself out. I am sure that this problem is just because you have had a hard time lately." I see a lot of people say similar things to their loved ones every day.
   This mom isn't doing that. She is saying, "You are fucking up your life. I love you, but you are going to fix this problem so that you can get your life back." Maybe that seems harsh, but we have all made bad choices before, and isn't repairing the damage from those choices always hard and harsh? We all have to pay the piper. This mom, it seems to me, is going to do her best to get her daughter to pay the piper before the cost is truly sky-high. She is not going to excuse or enable, she is going to face reality and dish out her own brand of tough love. I truly, truly applaud that, because to me, that seems like a hard road to take. I shudder to think that maybe one day I too might have to make a similar choice, but as parents, this is one thing that we all might one day face. We all like to think that the little walking, talking miracles that we gave birth to and nurtured and raised will be prefect, but no one is truly perfect. The best person in the world can screw up and make bad choices. Seems to me like this girl might have the right kind of help needed to correct those screw ups. Of course, she has to be willing to take the help, but she will never be in the position to say that help wasn't offered.
   And so that is why I shared that particular conversation. Because to me, this is an example of parenting done right, and one example that I hope I am never called on to copy. But if that dark day ever does come, I  also hope I can be as strong as this mom seemed to be, and demand that my daughter face the music and fix what needs to be fixed.