A discussion on Reddit reminded me of something from my college days.
When I was in college my mother would call the dorm room repeatedly and leave messages demanding I call her back. She was convinced I was screening the calls on an answering machine. She would leave messages like "I know you can hear me. Pick up the phone. Pick up the phone. PICK UP THE PHONE!"
The dorm phones had voicemail. Once the phone stopped ringing you heard NOTHING until you picked up the phone to listen to messages.
My freshman year roommate was not impressed with having to slog through multiple messages, sometimes a full voicemail box, because my mother had repeatedly called and left messages while I was at class. Apparently he didn't find out his father had been hospitalized with a back injury until his mother drove to the university to tell him in person because the voicemail was full of my mother's ranting demands I call her back!
Between one of my sisters and myself my mother had a child at that school for seven years. In all that time nobody was ever able to get her to understand how voicemail differed from an answering machine.
I took to calling her back as soon as I got her messages. Since I was a college student with an active social life this usually meant I called her at close to midnight. She'd ask what was wrong and I'd respond that since she left 12 messages while I was out for the day it MUST have been an emergency, so I called as soon as I got the messages. It took a few months, largely because she spent a lot of time convinced I was lying about when I got the messages, but eventually being woken up by her eldest son saying "Hey, I just got your messages, what's the emergency?" wore her down. By the end of my freshman year she only left multiple messages in one day if she forgot she'd already called me.
Caleb is currently burning through The Rainbow Fairies book series as well as Encyclopedia Brown. Despite having read the exploits of Encyclopedia Brown as a kid, I'm kinda more comfortable with the fairy books at the moment, as I'm realizing the Encyclopedia Brown books cater to a lot of stereotypes about women and Native Americans symptomatic of the time during which they were written.
When I was in fourth or fifth grade I went on a "survival in the wild" kick. Robinson Crusoe kicked it off. One of the books I checked out had a title along the lines of "Baby Island." The premise was a bunch of girls, slightly older than I was at the time, were shipwrecked on an island with a handful of younger kids. I was intrigued at how the addition of helpless infants would change the strategies needed to survive.
One of my teachers however withheld the book for close to a week, requiring me to go in and convince her to let me read it because it was a "girls" book. I though of that book when Caleb showed an interest in the The Rainbow Fairies series. The boy can read what he wants dammit. I was a bit proactive however and chatted with him about it a few weeks ago.
"You know how you like Stan Rogers songs?"
"Well, some people think you're too young for those songs, but I know you're not. Some people with very limited imaginations think there are whole categories of things that only certain people should enjoy. "
"Yes it is. There are people who think Minecraft is only for boys!"
Caleb responded with a look of disbelief and said, "No way! That's STUPID!"
"Exactly! Now, you know the Harry Potter books?"
"Yeah," Caleb replied a bit timidly. We've read the first one but it scared him.
"Well, it has Goblins, like Rainbow Faries, and the later books have elves, which are kinda like the faeries in the Rainbow Fairy books."
"OK." He seemed suspicious, like I was going to suggest a return to Harry Potter.
"Well, to tell you how silly some of these ideas are, and some of your classmates might share them, so I'm warning you now so you can tell them they're bing silly if they bring it up, there are people who think the Rainbow Fairy books are only for girls."
When Caleb is really dumbfounded by something he thinks is absurd, he kinda laughs in disbelief. "But Harry Potter isn't just for girls!"
"Silly, isn't it?"
"You read what you want to read. Mom or I will warn you if it has things in it we don't think you're old enough for just yet."
"Thank you Daddy. Good-night."
He then snuggled into bed and resumed reading a book about the Autumn fairy.
I recently bought a bottle of Rye Whiskey in Harvard Square. The clerk and I chatted. I learned that there's been a rash of students buying Rye because it's "Gluten Free."
"But all distilled liquors are gluten free," I pointed out.
He then told me some of the students even complain about how much they HATE rye, but they buy it because they've gone gluten free. I was tempted to bring up the potato origins of Russian vodka, but there was a line forming behind me.
When I related this conversation my boss a few days later he replied, "Well, they're Harvard students, not MIT."
As some of you already know, my lovely wife is expecting. Our bundle of joy is expected to arrive around February 2. Our existing son is very excited and looking forward to his sibling being old enough to play with. He also insists that when the time comes to help out, he'll "Do everything for Mom."
My only regret is that the coffee trees Hootiebird and I are growing in the bay window at home aren’t large or old enough to produce fruit. I anticipate a considerable need for caffeine in the near future.
This morning I learned how my six year old son handled a friend of his being bulled at Summer camp. Bullying is, sadly inevitable. There are limits to how much supervision camp counselors can be expected to provide.
A younger girl was being bullied by roughhousing boys over the course of a few days. My son chose the following course of action:
1. Ask some of the bigger kids on his bus how to block punches.
2. Pay close attention as they taught him blocking techniques on the moving bus.
3. Once at camp, hang out with the bullied friend so he would be nearby when someone bothered her.
4. Jump between her and the bullies to block the punches they try to throw at her.
5. After successfully defending her, tell the bullies to stop bulling her.
6. Not bother telling me about this until he brings it up nearly a week after camp has ended. Even then, he only mentioned it when he found out I was scheduling a play date between him and the little girl in question.
I'm particularly proud of the fact that he didn't ask for help learning how to attack, but in how to defend. He wasn't trying to hurt the bullies, just stop the bullying.
That said, he needs some self-defense lessons, preferably in a martial art that emphasizes defense and De-escalation. It's one thing to jump in when the big bully is seven, MAYBE eight, it'll be another matter completely when he's dealing with kids who can knock a tooth out in a fight. Aikido has been mentioned by a few people.
For years I was convinced I had heart problems. My mother refused to let me talk to the doctor about my frequent chest pains because she was afraid of what it would do to the family's health insurance if I DID have heart problems.
One of the first things I did when I had my own health insurance was talk to the doctor about the periodic chest pains that had plagued me for years. He listened carefully then grabbed the cardiac specialist in the practice to consult with him..
"Not consistent with any known form of heart disease, but a textbook description of panic attacks."
I learned some meditative breathing techniques and started using them whenever I experienced chest pain. I radically reduced my overall stress level in the process and began what has become a lifelong process of calming the fuck down.
Whuffle and I are expecting a baby. The due date is February 2, 2015. We do not know if it will be a boy or a girl.