Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle

Have you ever heard the phrase “like a fish needs a bicycle?” If not, you’re welcome.

This phrase fully covers my spiritual belief system. As a non-theist (the cutting edge in fancy terms for not-a-believer in god or gods), I often find myself defending my beliefs. Sometimes I utter a firm “no thank you” to god-believers wishing to share their faith, and sometimes I weave masterful arguments ranging from logical, to emotional, to downright sassy, against god-believers in an imagined verbal sparring match that never comes to be. I spent some time in my youth as a god-believer, and I was often told to beware of persecution for those beliefs. I never once encountered any. It’s possible that this paranoia has followed me, gently reinforced by reactions when I share disbelief in gods.

“So you don’t like religion, but you must believe there’s something bigger up there right?” No, I mustn’t.

“You can’t possibly believe this entire universe just happened on its own.” Oh, I can, and do.

“You never know, your views may change, just give it time.” I’m not trying to cure a hernia over here; I’m comfortable with my beliefs.

nothanksSometimes, when I’m feeling very “citizen of the world”, I experience a bit of guilt over not having researched many religions yet summarily rejecting them all. Just because the handful that I know often baffle and sometimes anger me, doesn’t mean they’re all like that. So why don’t I try to find one that fits? Because I’m a fish that doesn’t need a bicycle.

Have I so far functioned effectively and independently without a god? Check.

Do I consider myself a decent human being without fearing eternal damnation? Check.

Does the moral code I have developed through life experience and observation closely match that of other people (god-believers and non) who are also not assholes? Check.

Can I better myself through intrinsic motivation and support from my peers? Check.

Does my life feel in any way empty because I lack a relationship with a deity? Nope.

Have I ever been struck down by unnatural forces for operating without theism? Nope.

This fish just doesn’t need that bicycle.

fish on a bikeMy husband is a like-minded fish, and we’re just not a cycling family. We won’t be buying our fingerlings (baby name for fish – totally adorable, right?!) bikes or teaching them to ride bikes. We’ll teach them to swim and blow bubbles, to avoid worms on hooks and watch out for sharks. They’ll learn to keep their fins to themselves in a school and do nice fish things for the other fish. We’ll teach them to ask the tough fish questions. (That fish is blue and I’m orange, but are we truly that different? Do we not all need to eat fish food? Do we not all like to hide behind plastic diver dudes? Do we not all poop where we eat? The holes in this analogy are starting to leak.) We’ll try to keep them safe, but hope they’re never too scared to touch the butt. (If you haven’t seen Finding Nemo, I promise you we will not be teaching our kids to invade people’s personal bubbles.)

touch the buttIf they do grow up and discover their own deep yearning for two wheeled transportation, we’ll love them just the same.  We may have questions, but we’ll trust their judgment.

Now if you are a cycle-loving fish, I may not understand your passion or your particular bike model, but if it makes you happy, that makes me happy. If it makes you uncomfortable and causes you pain, I hear they make a nice gel bike saddle for that.

gel bike saddle

3 Rules for Parenting Correctly

When we tell other parents that I am pregnant, we hear 2 responses. The standard congratulation sounds something like “Aww, that’s wonderful! Parenting is amazing/rewarding/life changing.” The shockingly more common than expected response is more like “hahahahahahahahahahahaha! Suckers.”

Parents seem to think it’s going to be hard. They read parenting books and blogs. They seek advice from family, friends, certified psychologists, and Dr. Phil.

Dr. Phil

Through my extensive non-parent observation of parents, I’ve learned the 3 universal rules for parenting correctly. I know, I know, but trust me. I had parents, so I totally know what I’m talking about.

  1. Don’t beat your children. Corporeal punishment debate aside, (I’m accumulating soap boxes over here) avoid violently inflicting injury on your child. Not only will the state take them away, it’s a douche move.

 

  1. Pay attention to your kids. Feel free to ignore their 82nd request for you to look at this Elmo sticker. (No need to reinforce monsters who can’t learn personal pronouns in FOUR AND A HALF DECADES. Sorry, this soapbox is bolted to the floor.) Pay enough attention, though, that they don’t go days without food, water, or diaper changes. Since the parenting job description includes feeding your children, consistently choosing not to do so disqualifies you from parenting correctly.

Elmo

 

  1. Try not to judge parents for doing, or not doing, pretty much anything that isn’t covered in rule 1 or 2. This anti-parent-shaming rule applies to you too. Bettering yourself is great and all, but so is cutting yourself some slack. Feel free to judge in the case of child abuse. First call Child Protective Services, but then mumble, mutter, and stink-eye to your heart’s content.

That’s all there is to it folks. The only rules that are indisputably applicable in all cases. All of the other ones are totally up to you. Well, not totally, your local, state, or federal government often has their own guidelines (i.e. don’t let your 6 year old drive the car on the highway). I make no judgments of universal validity.

See? Super easy. You’re just left with a few thousand individual decisions to make along the way. You’ll have the expected choices range from natural v. epidural to student loans v. pay for college. You’ll have unexpected choices, too, like wash the poop off the 2 year old or the spit up off the baby first. No one wants to read a truly comprehensive What to Expect book.

what-to-expect

Mommy Prepares Buster for Double-Income Dependency

Employment Disclosure

I am not qualified to be a better person.  I have submitted my credentials and been rejected from job after low-paying job.
When I started my career in banking, I would have shuddered at the thought of having a career in banking.  It was a job to earn money while I finished school.  I needed to finish school to become a better person.  I figured with The Degree would come The Job, but I didn’t get The Degree, I got a degree.  This degree seemingly qualifies me to do marginally lucrative and soul eroding work.

After squandering money with a finding-myself approach to early course selection and a Scarlet O’Hara approach to student loan debt (I’ll think about that tomorrow), I earned a B.A. in Psychology.  I studied team work, motivation, child development, conformity, and the brain; and no one will pay me to make the world a better place.

There are positions open.  I’m fighting other candidates to be underpaid and under-appreciated in a county family services position; and I’m being turned down.  Meanwhile I can continue to teach swarms of bankers how to help wealthy clients become wealthier and pay less taxes.  I have the skills to promote leveraging one’s home as collateral to pay for a dream vacation.  I have what it takes to work for a company that might actively lobby against consumer protection laws.  And they say you can’t have it all…

Now I’m grappling with the choice to stay at home and use my degree to raise and educate my son through Kindergarten, or to pay a potentially equally qualified stranger to do it for me.  Because our society values that educator’s patience, creativity, hard work, and skills less than mine as a banker, it will be cheaper for me to keep working and pay the professional.

You see the disparity here, right?  I am paid 3 times what I would pay for a good preschool.  Not a babysitter, a certified educator and child care provider.  While I continue to reinforce financial practices and attitudes I don’t always agree with, I will pay someone, less than she deserves, to do the job of molding my starter human into an intelligent and productive member of the world.  They will do this job while I sit on 8 years of child development coursework, occasionally pulling out a 1999 Simmons-Chabris Selective Attention video for robbery training.  Our family would seriously struggle financially (ironically due to student loan debt) if I took the full-time-mom gig.

To summarize: I can’t afford to raise my own children and no one will hire me to do meaningful work.

Sorry kid, you get to bond with a qualified stranger while Mommy models effective management of cognitive dissonance.

How Babies are Made

When two people love each other very much…

OK, we all know about the birds and the bees. At least I hope we all had thorough sex education courses in school. (Let me scoot that controversial soap box aside.) What they taught me in these classes was to be petrified of getting pregnant. They emphasized how easy it was and how it could happen the first time. It was cautionary tale after cautionary tale of unplanned pregnancies. What about the actual biology and mechanics? Sure they taught that information, but it was awkward and there was a cute boy flirting with me while we were supposed to be watching the videos. I’m sure I took enough information in to pass a test, but I was 15 and I didn’t want to know about fallopian tubes.

Grandmother FaFast forward a decade or so.  I dodged that pregnancy bullet like some kind of contraception and good choices ninja. (Or a very lucky ninja… I’m reminded of Grandmother Fa blindly crossing the busy street with her “lucky” cricket in Mulan).  Suddenly I’m 26 and I want to get pregnant. Easy enough, just let John look at me with bedroom eyes and I’ll be popping out babies like a triple seven slot machine; this is what I was promised.

That tricksy biology teacher lied to me.

3 months passed and I started reading books and relearning how my body works. Hmm… there’s only a 48 hour window for conception and it requires the alignment of all the planets to carry through to implantation? Even if we make it through the obstacle course that is charting my fertile window, the slim 15-20% chance of conception mocks us.  There are teen moms on diets of Cheetos, Red Bull, and pot; I should get brownie points for taking prenatal vitamins and exercising.

So we try harder. We watch the calendar and slowly drain the spontaneity out of our intimacy. Scheduled baby making is still baby making, so we’re having a good time. At about 8 months we talk to the doctor. She makes us wait for the one year mark, but recommends ovulation tracking. A little more romance ebbs away. There’s still something exciting about texting John a picture of the digital smiley face test stick, if we can both ignore that I peed on the other end. If Thomas Dolby could be blinded with science, certainly I could be impregnated by it.

Ovulation Test

At a year we started “the drugs”. Side effects include dizziness, nausea, and not wanting to be touched. Funny that. Try as we might, my uterus was a fortress guarding our DINK status. Then came “the advice”. Like “the drugs” this is a thing to be feared.  Side effects included irritability and defensiveness.

“Just relax.”

“Stop trying and it will happen.”

“You just have to believe it will happen and you’ll get pregnant.”

All well meaning advice, and all potentially true for someone, somewhere. For us, taking a few months off just added a few more wasted months. Even when you aren’t testing or tracking, you’re in the habit of referring to dates as cycle days. We tried not to try. We even booked an impromptu Disney World vacation to de-stress (and maybe catch some Disney magic). Then we came home and called the fertility clinic.

These doctors found a cyst which “shouldn’t be causing the infertility” but also wouldn’t allow us to begin IUI cycles. Every month they took my blood, a sonogram of my ovaries, and a little more of my sanity. By this point I was bitter. I hid soon to be moms from my Facebook news feed. I resented families in the grocery store, sometimes intentionally cutting them off in parking lots. Luckily this kind of funk takes a lot of energy to maintain.

I can’t say it happened all at once, but eventually I gave up. I still peed on sticks, but the smiley face was less exciting, more a calendar marker for what would probably be another disappointing cycle. I still went to the doctor so that they could take my blood, poke and prod my ovaries, and tell me to wait it out.  I found myself liking baby pictures on facebook again though, genuinely wishing growing families good luck. I stopped crying when I saw a stroller and started smiling at toddlers in spite of myself.

We had the serious talks:

How many IUI cycles will we pay for?

Will we try IVF?

How long will we wait for this cyst to clear?

When do we throw in the towel and use the money to adopt?

What if I switched from Clomid to crack? People have crack babies all the time.

I took the time to acknowledge that while I wanted kids, probably more than I have ever wanted anything, John was enough. I could grow old with him and only him and have a wonderful life I never would have imagined.

Somewhere in there, we conceived on our own.  Because when two people love each other very much…

Little Guy