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Full Moon

The night is crossed by dark shadows even though the moon is full. Trees whisper their gossip and the river tells stories to the stones. Cluj-Napoca is getting ready for winter.


Well, worried

ImageYesterday I went to the doctor. Its the first time for many years. Some persistent minor ailment, increasingly frequent recurrence of a swollen ankle joint, gout. I’d been advised that I have circulation problems so went to a cardiologist. She said I needed to see a rhumatologist but justified her time by diagnosing deep seated varacose veins. No more hot baths, wear elastic tights on airplanes and for long car journeys, don’t sit or stand for long periods. I score four on a severity scale of one to ten and no, it won’t get any better. If you ignore the advice thrombosis waits like a suicide belt strapped inside your legs. Suddenly I didn’t feel well or young or fit anymore. The rhumatologist joined the party, ordered a slew of tests and pronounced a death sentence on red meat and wine, beer, pork and fun (I made that last bit up). I might as well move to the West Coast of America and drink deionised water with my skinless chicken and boiled fish.

My point is that if you feel well keep away from those whose job it is to keep you well but make you feel miserable. A study of health checks draws a similar conclusion . The worried well go to the doctor and have their fears confirmed, you are fine but maybe enjoying life a bit too much for your own good. The seriously sick avoid the doctor, the bad news and the chance of treatment and a cure. As the saying goes ‘do you want life in your years or years in your life?’. I believe that if you pursue life with energy and a positive spirit you will add to whatever years you have been given in both ways.

Helpless, moi?

ImageEver since I had children of my own I have been aware of the power of those marvels of manipulation we call babies. Hiding behind a description so opposite of the truth that it can only have been coined by Orwell, helpless babies are anything but. Their ability to survive, grow and thrive in all but the most dire circumstances is proof of the powerful selective process of evolution. It does not matter that babies cannot walk, talk or even focus when they are born. They don’t need to because they have one and often two or more creatures, each with between fifteen and thirty or more years of experience of walking, talking and focusing, at their beck and call, unable to ignore their slightest whim. As Lauren Becall famously said ‘ you have to put your lips together and blow’. Well actually open your mouth and make a noise.

It isn’t just parents whose lives are frozen mid thought when the baby starts to cry, complete strangers are unable to ignore the compulsion to respond, or at least the feeling that they should, the feeling of discomfort if they don’t. We didn’t need fancy science to tell us this but its always nice to see the obvious demonstrated by clever people with time on their hands and toys to play with.

We are never so powerful, never so in command of others as we are when we are newly born. Life’s progression is one of becoming increasingly independent at the expense of losing our hold over the immediate reactions of others. Only in love do we perhaps recapture some of that hold over the reactions of another, perhaps that’s why some look so earnestly for love and others fear it with equal determination.

Drugs and sex, what every parent should read (and every child as soon as they are old enough)

I’m a dad. I have sons. I never had a girl and reading blogs today I feel relieved about that even though I always wished for a daughter.

Drugs were close around when I was growing up as a teenager. Some, most, of my closest friends were heavily involved but I never had the courage to let go, feared losing control to an addiction that would rule and ruin my life. That’s how I saw drugs, though not alcohol or tobacco both of which I enthusiastically consumed at every opportunity.

Sex was around too in the usual messing around, experimental, hesitant way in early teens. By my late teens I had a regular girlfriend and sex life.

I say all this to put into a context me being led by a Guardian website article into reading blogs today about drugtaking and sex written from personal experience by Cat Marnell.

Cat Marnell has generated some noteriety and a lot of followers for her frank and vivid descriptions of life as she sees it. Vivid is a strange word to use for someone who desctribes herself as being flatlined by stimulants but her writing is both vibrant and humourus. This is important because it makes it more lokely it will be widely read and discussed. The key audience is young people to whom she seems to speak directly. Her message is equally important, though painful for parents.  

The main lesson from the writing on drugs is that her addiction to stimulents started when her father put her on Ritalin to improve her grades. This parentally inspired chemical dependence is far from uncommon she suggests. The way a drug numbed mind dictates an unsatisfying sexual trajectory is the bit that made me glad I don’t have a daughter and made me determined for my sons to absorb this insight as soon as they are old enough. Can better grades ever be worth this?

The internet led me from problem to an unlikely source of good advive for teens and young twenties on sex. Karley Scortino presents a vlog, Slutever billed as the sex ed you never got in high school. It delivers clear information for young women (which makes it essential viewing for young men) on everything from when to lose your virginity to female orgasm and more.

Karley’s vlogs are grounded in providing the information to empower young people in an age where pornography is the main sounre of socialisation in sex and sexuality. This was a theme addressed in thre unlikely setting of a TED talk by Cindy Gallop in 2009.

I’m sure that inside my kids and I generally have the same desires and urges, fears and hesitations but out there the world they are growing up in is very different from the one I experienced. Faster, more demanding, less forgiving as well as exciting, information and opportunity rich. The antidote to the numbing dangers of porn and drugs comes from the same source, both river of life and sewer, the internet. Drink from it with care and understanding but without fear.

Children don’t share you with work

ImageI came to my senses this afternoon. I was in the middle of feeding my small son when I tried to respond to a skype from someone at work. Multitasking with a less than 1 year old does not work. As my attention went to less than 100% on the task in hand, manovering half spoonfuls of sticky goo past flailing arms into a momentarily open mouth in a moving face, a windmill hand struck the spoon and goo went impossibly far and wide. I punished him by leaving him to get a cloth. He punished me by breaking the legally enforcable occupational sound maximum and maintaining his tearful hubris for many long minutes. Time for an e-mail to my boss and colleagues to manage their expectations of the work deadlines I would be able to deliver on this week while I was being temporarily full time daytime parent to my youngest boy. Of course it was an email I wrote in my head and not on the keyboard at the time and even that mental distraction was noticed and commented on with extra clinginess. The lesson which I failed to observe properly with two older children is that young childrenrequire and demand full time attention and nothing less. If you give them less they will protest and you will both be stressed. If you let work or anything else intrude on your childcare then you will both be stressed. Your child will demand more attention. This ever tightening loop around your chest is called deviation amplification. The more you ignore your child the more they will do anything to get your attention. If you react negatively then it just cranks up their determination to get you focused on responding to them by fair means or foul. The alternative is simply to treasure and enjoy your child and give your whole self to them for the time required. The reward is the immesurable pleasure for both of you of being a parent and being a child.