The World is a Classroom: Ukrainian Revolution Firsthand Account

The world is a classroom, as I am sure someone would say. No doubt about that. But what is this classroom trying to teach us? I have been thinking about this a lot recently because of the current events in Kyiv. These are heady days here, EUROREVOLUTION! Great opportunities to teach and be taught about the true meaning of democracy.

The revolution is here in Kyiv, Ukraine and it's a great learning opportunity of democracy in practice for Pappa Goob and his kids.

The revolution is here in Kyiv, Ukraine and it’s a great learning opportunity of democracy in practice for Pappa Goob and his kids.  Photo of 12/1/2013

Copyright All rights reserved by anagrudnyi  Check out his photostream, including amazing Ukrainian Revolution photos, on his Flickr.

And honestly I have felt much more threatened at demonstrations in other, more established, democracies than I have here. Here people aren’t trying to destroy the symbols of society, they are trying to get access to those symbols. The government has failed them and for the second time in the last 10 years, they want to hold someone accountable for that failure. Wow, awesome. Continue reading

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Easier Childhoods Make it Harder on Parents

I take it for granted that we have chosen to make things harder for ourselves. I mean this in the personal sense and in the societal sense. Personally, I have chosen to share my life with a partner from another country, I have proceeded to produce three children with this foreign partner and then temporarily moved to a third, middle income country in the former Soviet Union. I could have made other choices that would have made things a bit easier. Like have less children or not move with
them.

In the simpler days (without pesky child labor laws) kids would be out working not making it harder for parents by demanding a well-rounded and fun childhood.
In the simpler days (without pesky child labor laws) kids would be out working not making it harder for parents by demanding a well-rounded and fun childhood.

I think we as a society have also chosen to make things harder for parents as well. When we decided that children under the age of 18 were to have childhoods, no matter their socio-economic position, we made a decision that makes living harder. It was easier when kids were broken and put to work right away. Children were largely less happy (this is a normative conclusion, I have no scientific research to back this up, although I am sure that it is out there. I think just the combination of child mortality rates and common sense would back me on this.) but they were occupied. (This depends on how far back we are looking. There was a problem of poor children in newly industrialized citites not having enough to do 100 years ago, but that was about the time that we started to give kids childhoods, i.e. didn’t allow them to work any more.)

There might be a risk to read me as saying that there was no such thing as childhood 200 years ago. That isn’t exactly what I mean. Rather, it was that childhood had a different meaning. We don’t love our children more than our ancestors did, we just love them differently. In the end, I think that while I have chosen to make my life more difficult, I have in fact been able to help my children in a way that parents who are raising kids in the environment that they themselves were raised in might not be able to do. The fact that I live in a transnational environment means that flexibility in solving a given problem is greater as a result of a dominating norm. The problems of children are the same all over the world, but the solutions to these problems are very different.

To give an example I’ll use RAT and girls with ADHD. The process of helping her get better returns from her efforts has been life-long, but it has only been in the last year that we have seen some real results. RAT is a hard worker, who struggled to get anything out of the work that she put in. Despite this she never gave up, which I find impressive.

What this has to do with difficulty is the fact that we were able to use one country’s medical system, another country’s school system and vast array of advice from a number of different countries to create an environment that is slowly allowing her to succeed. (As a side note, this success has a down side: School is getting more demanding, if not harder which is natural for anyone in 3rd grade).

We might have done this without creating difficulty, but I don’t know. My partner would disagree. She would say that if we had stayed in Sweden RAT would have made steps anyway. I am not sure.

Babies to students

What happens to you when your children leave one phase of life and move on to another? What happens to parents when babies become students? Can’t say that I have thought much about this. After nearly 9 years of being a parent of very small children I have over the last year, become a parent of still small but not as very small children.

From kids to students, the youngest is actually student-driving the car!  THATS WHY ITS SO FUN!

From kids to students, the youngest is actually student-driving the car! THATS WHY ITS SO FUN!

My oldest is in second grade, so this hypothetically could have happened at least two years ago. But for whatever reason it hasn’t hit me until our middle child got half-way through kindergarten. This has its explanations (the learning problems that our second grader has, the move from the Swedish school system to an American international school) yet explanations only take me so far.

Continue reading

Neezy gets on my nerves more than the rest, because he’s just like me

I have been meaning to write about my 6 year-old for a while now. I look at him and I see myself. What is it about this that makes me so angry about this. I have two other children, both girls, one 3 the other 8. They do not make me angry in the way that my son does. I take that back, RAT, my 8 year-old can make me plenty angry. But it takes longer. And since she was evaluated for ADHD my tolerance for her sheer and utter relentlessness has increased. But with NAT it seems to be going in the opposite direction.

What appears to be cute and playful is really just a little helion version of me

What appears to be cute and playful is really just a little helion version of me

My partner thinks the two are related. On the one hand it can’t be easy to have RAT as a sister (she pushed him down the front steps the other morning, he didn’t hit his head, but it was close) and on the other hand it doesn’t help that he makes things worse by being so irritating.

There, I said it, he is irritating. Not always, of course. In fact he is wonderful to be with when you are one on one. He is in the process of discovering that he is Canadian (He was born in Sweden, but we are living in Kyiv, Ukraine. His first language is Swedish, although I have always spoke English with him. But now his best friend is from Cah…na…da. As a Californian I can’t even pronounce it the way that he and his friend do.) His personality and interests have doubled in the last year. He is growing like a weed on a spring day. All this is great, wonderful actually. But there is a back side to
this development.
He doesn’t take criticism well. (Who does, for that matter, this is a stupid point) Okay, he doesn’t respond to anger, he just gets more crazy. (This is good, ’cause in the long run I should learn how to deal with his moods, instead of just getting angry.) He does what he wants, when he wants to do it, but doesn’t want to do it himself, he wants me to do what he wants for him. He is an emotional roller-coaster, a 12 year old in a six year old’s body. And all this comes back to his sister as well. She has been the center of the family since her birth and NAT was born to exist on that periphery. And maybe that just doesn’t suit him so well. Good on him, because I as parent have to see and respect that. Hope I can…

Who Does What In A Healthy Co-Parenting Relationship? Obviously, She Still Does The Cooking and Cleaning, Right?

Approaches to survival and the ability to endure are determined by the realities that each of us face. – PapaGoob (January 25, 2013)

In my case, I had my first child when I was 23. She was conceived when my partner and I were living in a third country (she legally, I illegally). We then moved to her home country, Sweden, but not to her home town. In the following 8 years we had two more children, moved 4 times, I completed one education, then another. And now we are living in Kyiv, Ukraine, as diplomats and untouchables (not in the Indian “untouchable”-sense, but in the above-the-law-sense, I can literally do whatever I want without fear of reprisal or punishment).

Ah... the good old days when there was no "co-parenting" there were clearly defined roles.  Yes, I will have another gin and tonic dear, please put cherry 7up in it, just how I like it!

Ah… the good old days when there was no “co-parenting” there were clearly defined roles. Yes, I will have another gin and tonic dear, please put cherry 7up in it, just how I like it!

These details are not interesting to me (I know that some people think the details of their lives are interesting to themselves, but I am not one of them. Or maybe I am, I do like talking about myself when I have an audience or I don’t know what else to say. But then I always feel guilty afterward. This is my partners fault. She thinks I am a typical loud American male who doesn’t let anyone else get a word in edgewise. I think I am just jovial in certain situations. I digress).

The details are, however, the essence of a life and determine the prerequisites to my relationship to my children. That I was born in California and my wife was born in Western Sweden is also important. We, my partner and I, are the product of two very different parental philosophies. This despite the similarities between my upper-middle class Californian background and her middle class Swedish background.

Yet even if we had grown up in the same town, at the same time, and in the same socio-economic class, my partner and I would still be very different parents.

A generation ago, or maybe two, (or maybe even this is a reality to others of my own generation) this would not be a problem. The women were in charge of the home (including children) and the men were in charge of everything else (excluding children). But now we are all in charge of everything (and sometimes in our rush to have a career too, we let the childcare worker become the most important parent – but that’s another post) and that isn’t without its difficulties. In the end, it is the kids that win the most out of this experiment. I believe my children will have a better chance of being loving, happy, gentle and good adults if I play a positive, active, and equal parenting role, together with my partner. Despite the fact that this is significantly easier with a monarchy rather than a democracy, at home at least. These are my prerequisites and the stuff that my children’s future therapist will pay for their own children’s college education.

Self-wetting and nonself-wetting or the person you are and the person you would like to be

Image

Eventually we all grow out of bed-wetting, and then eventually we start growing into it again…

I think that most of us have a picture of ourselves. It is a physical picture or a digital one or one whose existence is merely in our heads. Most likely it is the latter that is most common. A picture of ourselves looking our very best, feeling good. I don’t know how your picture looks. But mine is exactly eight years old. I know that person in the picture. We get together now and again. But recently he seems to be busy elsewhere. Where did you go, my friend?

My guess is that he is sleeping. Because I haven’t slept a whole night in 8 years. (Wha wha, say all of the insomniacs out there, I’ve never slept, they say. Okay fine, you win…) This fact doesn’t really bother me much. Not really. There must be scientific research that proves that if you are chronically, ever so slightly, sleep deprived that you get used to it. You might die younger, you might lack creative thinking. But you don’t suffer, at least not emotionally and not on a daily basis. Not like those that stay up too late one night, then are hungover and it takes a week to recover. (That happens to me too, except I don’t recover, at least not yet anyway. Plus I don’t think there is anything else worse than being hungover and have three kids under the age of 9. I have another picture of myself. New Year’s morning, 2007. Uppsala, 6:45. RAT playing on the floor in our friends’ kitchen. Everyone else asleep. My head in my hands. Or New Year’s morning 2012. Water gushing into the apartment from the hallway. Me thinking, “Geeze, did we spill so much last night?” No, it was a broken pipe…)

wet_bed_temp_forWBD

Perhaps it doesn’t look this bad after a particular wetting, but sometimes it feels close. Image courtesy of ithinkx’s

What I am talking about is gray hairs. Crows feet. Blue bags. That picture I was talking about earlier, he doesn’t have those things. I do. (Wha wha, someone else says, you are a white, middle-class male living as a diplomat, what are you complaining about. Okay fine, you win, again…) What got me started here actually doesn’t have anything to do with sleep. It has to do with pee. And the perfect storm. All three, awake, and self-wet. In my bed, in their beds, in the mattresses and cots we have spread out throughout our house.

That is what I have a problem with. Not being awake as such, but rather being awake and being damp, but not self-wet. That picture I was talking about earlier, of that young man, he didn’t even know what he was getting himself into. Good thing, because otherwise nothing would ever be done in this world. And honestly, I don’t miss that guy all that much. I’m much happier today with my non-self-wet bed, even if I am a tired.

How does one become WBD?

A philosophy of parenting, or perhaps a manifesto, so to speak. One that surrounds two general concepts in which all matters of parenting then proceed.

1. survival

As defined in the broadest possible terms. Children are merely visitors to your life. You had a life before children and you will have a life after they stop returning your phone calls. It is thus important to maintain friendships, interests and sanity so that these will be intact when the time comes. Perhaps even a living partnership with another adult who also loves your children is important. The last one is the most difficult of all and plays into the second general concept, namely:

2. endure

This comes as a result of the fact the child rearing is (at times) relentless, excruciating and just plan boring.* This must be endured, with a modicum of goodwill. Knowledge of this will enhance patience and produce appropriate survival skills. To endure is to love your children. And to endure one must also survive. But don’t forget the goodwill. My belief (take it as you will) is that to endure is to enjoy and that enjoyment must be shared with the children and those other people that you need for survival.

What’s left then?

*Sometimes it’s not and it’s those times that we remember, at least I think so. Ask the grandparents. They have a tendency to only remember the good times and the hard times seem not have existed at all. This is curious because many adults seldom reflect upon the good times of their childhood and focus all of their energy on the bad times. This thought is also important to this philosophy. Parents have, at the end of the day, very little influence upon whether the children end up being good, or not so good people. There is very little we as parents can do about this. On the other hand, if we treat kids like second class citizens, but then we almost certainly create second class adults.