tiger_spot: (sword)
[livejournal.com profile] chinders has become completely obsessed with Hamilton. This seems to happen a lot. But if you don't understand the reference in the title and you would like to, look! The whole cast album's on YouTube! Here's the relevant song.

(Management is not responsible for resulting musical theater addictions. If your earworm lasts longer than 24 hours, seek medical treatment or listen to something else real loud.)

Anyway, this is really good advice for our current stage of parenting.

Talk less.
Especially when you're giving instructions. Yes, kids this age can understand and follow multi-step directions. But they need some processing time to do it.

Furthermore, when tantrums are happening, interaction prolongs them. As long as there's an argument to be had, the kid will reflexively continue having the argument. Make your point concisely once, then stop. Eventually the flailing will burn itself out. But every time you say something (or, in M's case, try to touch her -- I hear some kids like being held when they're upset, but NOT THIS ONE) you reset the clock.

Example from this morning: Morgan is chewing on the edge of a box of Go Fish cards.
Aaron Burr: If you put cardboard in your mouth it will get wet and the box won't hold the cards anymore. ::waits for child to process information and come to conclusion that she should probably take the box out of her mouth; or not, honestly, no particular skin off my nose either way::
Alexander Hamilton: Morgan! Stop chewing on the box! It'll get all wet and the cardboard will fall apart and then it won't hold the cards in! Then you won't have a box and the cards will get lost! So you should stop chewing on that right now! Or the box will break! Morgan! Stop chewing!

Smile more.
Two points: One, if you can think of a way to make it a game, make it a game.

Example from yesterday: Morgan is scared of the doctor and doesn't want to lie down so he can check her tummy. She has brought a stuffed animal along to keep her company.
Aaron Burr: Do you want Figment?
Morgan: Yeah.
Aaron Burr: Here he comes! Oh no! He's jumped on you and knocked you over! ::gently tilts M backwards onto the exam table::

Two, praise is magic. Catching kids being good and thanking them for behaving nicely or being considerate or doing their chores promptly makes everybody happy.

Don't let them know what you're against or what you're for.
Okay, for this to be parenting advice you have to interpret it a bit differently than it's meant in the song. But I find it helpful to keep in mind during tantrums that I don't need to argue her into my position. As the parent I have all the power; I have already made the decision; I am waiting for her to accept it or emotionally process the disappointment or whatever, but I don't need her to agree with me. (I am in fact totally happy to have discussions about what the rules ought to be at some other time, when everyone is calm and capable of discussing them and bringing up relevant points, but not when there is already upset happening.)

Also, it helps a lot to be able to present choices you are more or less indifferent between. Either you get your shoes on and your dishes put away by X time and we'll go do Y fun thing, or you don't and we'll stay home. If your room is picked up you can have iPad time, otherwise find something else to do. It's much easier on me having a plan for either way things could go; otherwise I am standing there banging my head against a brick wall trying to figure out why the child does not want to do some ridiculously simple thing and is blocking the whole rest of the day. Obviously I usually have a preference here, and I don't generally mind telling her that I am sad that, say, she wouldn't get dressed so we have run out of time to go to the zoo this morning, but the more I practice non-attachment to my vision of how the day will go, the better the day in fact usually goes.

Furthermore, kids this age are practicing differentiating themselves from their parents. That means that they have fairly recently realized that they are independent entities, and just because you told them to do something doesn't mean they have to do it. So direct instructions will tend to invite "No!" or ignoring you or otherwise experimenting with Not Doing What Parents Say, while information that reminds them what they're supposed to be doing without actually being an instruction doesn't trigger that reflex.

Example from this morning: Morgan requests help picking up a pile of stuff on the kitchen counter.
Alexander Hamilton: Okay, start with these hair clips. Your hair stuff box is over on the table by the comfy chair, so go put the clips in there and then put the box away where it goes, then come back and get the next thing.
Morgan plays with the clips while Alexander Hamilton puts away the bag they were in.
Alexander Hamilton: Morgan, are you going to put the clips away? Put the clips in the box and put the box away, it'll just take a minute.
Morgan: You do it!

Later, Morgan again requests help picking up.
Aaron Burr: Okay... I see some shoes and a pair of pajamas in the bathroom.
Morgan picks up the pajamas and puts them in the hamper, then returns for the shoes.
tiger_spot: (Magritte)
Some months ago, I found myself having the same conversation over and over with different friends: Why are we all so busy? I had kind of mentally chalked it up to having a small child, but it’s not just my friends with kids who feel overwhelmed. Another friend pointed out that this level of activity isn’t inherent to small children, either. Our parents weren’t this busy, when we were small children. I had to think hard about that, when she pointed it out -- the perspective from knee-height is pretty different -- but I sure don’t remember multiple events on a weekend day being a regular thing when I was a kid.

So what’s changed? My theory: mostly the internet, especially the rise of social media. I bet there's been research about this, and I haven't looked into any of it. Totally unsourced speculation ahead!

Whoa, kind of a lot of unsourced speculation. )
tiger_spot: (sword)
One more requested topic, delivered via non-comment means: "interesting things to teach a child that did not naturally occur to you (that you had to think about or get from other people or literature)"

This is a fantastic question and I apologize for taking so long to get around to answering it. The big thing, the major important thing I am trying to teach Morgan that does not come naturally to me, is emotional awareness and regulation. I knew that little kids have tantrums, and that bigger kids eventually grow out of that sort of thing, but it turns out that this is not entirely a matter of time. Emotional regulation is a learned process (with some developmental inputs) and there are lots of things I can do to help Morgan get through a tantrum, help reduce the frequency and intensity of tantrums, and teach her other ways to deal with the feelings that lead to tantrums. And every single one of them is bizarrely non-intuitive.

The primary thing I'm doing now is giving her vocabulary words about feelings. We've gotten books specifically about feelings from the library, with photos and illustrations of faces expressing different emotions, or illustrated situations in which she's supposed to guess what the character is feeling (I think my favorite is How Does Baby Feel? by Karen Katz -- it has several different positive emotions, which is a little unusual in this type of book). I try to point out bits in other books where characters are illustrated with clear emotions. And when she's experiencing a strong emotion, I try to label it for her, or to provide several possible emotional explanations if I'm not sure what it is she's actually feeling. This is, sometimes, magic:
T: No, you have three stickers already. You may not have any more stickers until after dinner.
M: ::wails::
T: Are you sad because you can't have any more stickers? You can say "I'm sad."
M: I'M SAAAAAAAD. ::abruptly stops crying, as though a switch has been thrown::
We also talk a bit about the emotions other people are feeling, like if a kid on the playground starts crying we will talk a bit about what he might be feeling and why, or we'll talk about how the dog is feeling when we're walking him.

The other backwards-seeming tantrum stopper is to agree with her about how cool it would be if she could do or have whatever it is that she is upset that she can't do or have. She's not developmentally to the point where this is as magic as I've read it can be, but she's verbal enough that it does work now, slowly. To some extent this reduces tantrums for the same reason that learning a bit of baby sign reduces crying (ATTN ALL NEW PARENTS: LEARN SOME BABY SIGN) -- much of what causes the upset is the feeling that she hasn't communicated her desire clearly, that I don't understand what it is she wants. So if I clearly indicate that I do understand the desire, and that I don't think wanting the thing is a problem, then she feels better about the situation even if she still can't have the thing. (Also I tend to talk about when she can have the thing -- after dinner, maybe next week, when you're a grown-up, whatever the appropriate time frame is.)

There is a fine balance between, one the one hand, ignoring Morgan's emotions, and on the other hand making them too big a deal. Neither of those is great. The ideal is kind of what we aim for when she falls down: notice, give her a moment to have her own reaction, then make a neutral informational sort of comment ("You fell down." "You look upset.") and stand ready to provide help or comfort if she needs it. Morgan specifically does not want as much physical comfort through emotional upsets as a lot of kids seem to, which is a little weird for me, so I am trying to practice being more verbally supportive rather than scooping her up for a hug, because if she's actually tantruming hugs really do not help.

Actually, speaking of informational comments, that's another cool new non-intuitive kid-herding technique I've been trying out lately. But that may be another post -- it is time to get ready for swim class!
tiger_spot: (sword)
There are two situations in which I ask for help:

1. It would obviously be quick and easy for the other person to do the thing, and would be significantly easier for them than for me at this time. Examples: While you're up, could you get me a glass of water? Since you're taking the car to visit a friend who lives near the pet store, can you pick up dog food on your way home?

2. I am incapable of doing the thing, and the results if the thing does not happen would be awful. Examples: I am really, really sick and just cannot manage walking the dog. I have an important meeting at work but someone needs to be home to meet the repairman.

So there is this enormous missing range in the middle, where it is hard for me to do a thing (but not completely impossible), and the results if it doesn't happen would be bad (but not necessarily catastrophic), and the thing would not be trivial for someone else to do (but might still be easier than it would for me). If there is no time pressure on these, I can usually work around to asking for help if I need/want it, but when I am sick or otherwise partially incapacitated it is extremely difficult for me to ask for help with daily or already-scheduled things, especially when the people I could ask are also sick or busy or otherwise dealing with whatever it is that's got me functioning at less than full capacity.

Partly this is because explaining the task, in enough detail for the other person to do it, can be more effort for me than just doing it, because of how my brain works (my introversion, let me show you it). Partly this is because I do not have a simple way to compare how difficult it is for me to do a thing with how difficult it is for the other person to do the thing, and I only want to ask if it will be easier for them than for me. I think this second part is probably broken. I mean, (1) it is not actually a moral imperative to create maximum total easiness at all times, (2) even if it were, I am not the only person who can do the comparing-relative-ease work, (3) "no" is a possible answer, if the other person would rather not do the thing.

On the other hand, if the other person says "no", then I have just wasted all this valuable energy I could have spent doing the thing on finding the person, explaining the thing, asking for the thing, maybe discussing relative energy levels for a while... which is all clearly suboptimal. So minimizing "no"s seems like a reasonable strategy to conserve energy, except that then I am missing out on some "yes"es that would save me more energy. But the task of calculating the probability of "yes" times the amount of energy saved, with consideration for the amount of energy spent on asking and careful examination of the amount of energy I actually have, is really a lot of work. I don't have a simple bright line other than the near-certainty of getting a "yes" in the situations outlined above, so when I don't have the time to sit down and work out the calculations, I default to not asking.

What heuristics do you use to decide when to ask people for help with things?
tiger_spot: (sword)
I have been thinking for a while now that I ought to sit down and write a big long thinky post about the work of parenting and society's views on it. I have thoughts, you see. They're not very coherent thoughts, but sitting down and writing them out and then rearranging them and trying to build some sort of sensible connective tissue seems like it might plausibly reveal a thesis, or at least a point.

I haven't had time for that, as I have been doing the work of parenting.

I am becoming less certain that putting all the bits together would, in fact, result in a sort of holographic overarching point springing into existence; perhaps it would remain a pile of slightly banal disconnected observations. At best I think there's some insight into my own personal psychology, which is interesting to me, and probably to you, but less compelling as a reason to make time to sit down and think hard about the topic.

But here is the least banal of the observations:

I like to feel productive. I'm pretty good at interpreting that more widely than "making money": I feel reasonably productive on days when I do housework, or run errands, or spend time maintaining social relationships. But I noticed, a while back, that I did not feel productive on days when the baby's needs prevented me from doing any of those things. If I spent all day sitting under a sleeping baby who didn't want to be put down, or reading books to the baby, or going to the park so she could run around, or playing with toys with her, or tossing her in the air, or supervising her interactions with the chickens, I didn't feel like I'd been productive.

That's odd, I thought. I did not quit my job to do housework. I quit my job to spend time with the baby. Why does a day spent entirely on the baby not feel productive? It's supporting her physical and emotional growth, allowing her to explore new environments, objects, and interactions, providing a good secure base of attachment -- this is what I'm supposed to be doing! Why don't I feel like I've been productive?

And then I realized: Because I've been having fun.
tiger_spot: (Default)
I changed jobs a short time ago.

At my old job, I changed words in questions about numbers and how they work to make sure that all the parts of the questions were true. I also made sure that the words were not too long or too hard, and that the questions used the smallest number of words that said what they were supposed to. I made sure that the right answer to each question was there and that the wrong answers were wrong because of not understanding how numbers work (instead of wrong because of not understanding the words).

I did the same thing for questions about how the world works. I also put these questions in order to make groups of questions taken all at once. I made sure that each group had questions about all the different parts of how the world works that each age of student was supposed to know, and that each group had easy, less easy, and hard questions about each part of how the world works.

Before I had the job of changing the words in the questions, my job was to check that other people's changes to the words in the questions happened the way they were supposed to, and that the changes did not make new problems in the questions. I still did that sometimes when my biggest job was changing the words.

Right now my job is to play with my baby. I give her food from my body to help her grow. I keep her safe and help her learn how to feel safe. I show her fun things to play with and take her to new places. I help her to sleep when she is tired and change her clothes when they are wet. I read books to her, I make songs for her (and play songs other people have made), and I talk to her a lot. I wave her around in the air and pretend to eat her head, which she thinks is very fun.

She is learning how to move around in a room by herself and how to eat food that I didn't make in my body. I think she might be learning what some words mean, but it is hard to tell what she knows about words since she can't say them yet.

Soon, I would like to have a job where I help people learn about how the world works. I would most like to help people learn about the places where animals live and the ways that different living things change each other and the world they live in. But I like helping people learn about other parts of how the world works, too. I like helping people learn by talking to them sometimes but not all the time. I would most like to help people learn by writing and making things for people to look at and play with. In a month or so, I will start looking for a job like that. I plan to start with jobs that don't pay money, because there aren't very many jobs like that that do pay money, and I want to make sure I have the right kind of job for me.

I used the Up-Goer Five word checker to make sure all the words I used here were in the ten hundred most used words. I was surprised that these words weren't used enough: math, science, milk, plants, common, affect, interact, cannot, sing, teaching.
tiger_spot: (Default)
Here are some endearments I use:

1. Kid. Applies to anybody substantially younger than me: my sibling, the dog, Sputnik, the chickens. Almost always appears in a greeting phrase such as "Hiya, kid." Occasionally I go a little Arlo Guthrie or Foghorn Leghorn with it, which expands the range of usage a bit, but normally I use it on things that don't quite have an independent existence... which is why my sibling doesn't like it.

2. Hon. Used before requests, or before questions that are probably going to be followed up by requests. "Hon? Could you go get me another one of these in a size large?" "Hon? Did you take the trash out?" "Hon, have you seen my brush?"

3. Sweetheart. Used before, or occasionally instead of, phrases equivalent to "You sure did that wrong," or "You are about to do that wrong." I noticed this was what I was using it for when I started calling some movie characters sweetheart without thinking about it: "Oh, sweetheart, don't do that!" Also used as an expression of sympathy (I use hon this way occasionally, too); you can tell the difference because if it's the sympathy one then there's probably a hug or a sad face or maybe an "I'm so sorry," attached. The tone of voice is exactly the same, because it's not a censorious sort of "doing it wrong," it's a kind of wincingly sympathetic "this is about to go / has just gone badly." If I use a string of probably-goofy endearments together ("Baby pumpkin sweetie-pie...") that's equivalent to "sweetheart" in that it is about to be followed by a carefully-phrased explanation of What You Just Did and How Not To Do It Again.

Also I use "sweetie" with reasonable frequency and "babe" now and then, but they do not have any particular secret auxiliary meanings that I am aware of.
tiger_spot: (bubbles)
Recently, [livejournal.com profile] chinders and I visited some new friends[1] and raided their bookshelf. One book I flipped through there, then put back on the shelf because I clearly needed my own copy, which I have now got.

It is called Becoming The Parent You Want To Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Years, by Laura Davis and Janis Keyser. The first few chapters are an overview of the general principles they think are useful for basically everyone, followed by chapters on specific issues such as sleep and toilet training learning. It is about the right level of hippie-granola for me; parts of it are more hippie-granola than I tend towards, and parts are less, so overall it balances out about right. It's also remarkably non-prescriptive for a parenting book, which I appreciate. It recognizes that different parents, different families, and different children will require somewhat different approaches to similar underlying issues, and provides a range of tools for dealing with upsets and changes. It contains lots of illuminating little stories and quotes from the authors' parenting classes, and does a good job balancing those between mothers, fathers, and other caregivers.

Wow, I sound like I should be selling the thing. Anyway, I am slowly working my way through this book, taking it in bits because it inspires lots of thought, especially the early chapters, which include interesting questions about your parenting values and experiences. I shall now record some of said thought, mostly so I have it later and can refer people specifically to it if needed. But if you find it interesting and would like to share your own thoughts, feel free.

My primary parenting goal is to raise functional, self-reliant adults. Therefore I should encourage the acquisition of life skills both specific (cooking, doing laundry, using public transport, coping with finances) and general (navigating to locations both familiar and new, making independent decisions, resolving conflicts, researching new ideas). This is more complicated than "protect my child from everything that could possibly go wrong" or "have a well-behaved, obedient child", but I think it'll work out better long-term.

Values or traits I particularly wish to encourage are:
* Kindness. My benchmark here is my sibling, age 8 or so, giving half zir sandwich to a panhandler.
* Interest in the world. That could be science or exploring or whatever; curiosity is good.
* Appreciation for nature.

My parents were overall quite good at these things (along with a bunch of other stuff that is so basic I don't even think to mention it, like gender-neutrality[2]), so for the most part my basic instincts and first responses should be about right. However, there are a few things I want to do differently:
* Less mocking. I did all right, but statistically speaking it's hard on most kids. This will take work from all of us, because it's a difficult habit to break. For instance, we make fun of the dog all the time for being a drama queen. He's a dog, so he neither understands nor cares, but if he were a small child we wouldn't want to do that. The frustrations he experiences -- his walk was short and is over now, everybody is eating dinner and not playing with him, his favorite toy is broken and up on a shelf where he can't get at it -- are in fact frustrating things that it is reasonable to be sad about, and his means of dealing with those frustrations -- sighing and looking sad -- are the best possible way he could express those feelings. So go, Emo-Dog! He's doing a great job. But it doesn't make him not funny, and I'm going to need to work on keeping my giggling and snorting out of audible kid-range, when it is Emo-Kid instead.
* Emotion coaching. This is a technique for helping children develop a variety of strategies for coping with strong emotions. I wound up with basically one: going to my room until I calmed down. It's effective, but it's not always possible, so making more strategies available to my kids sounds like an excellent idea.
* Managing the transition to independence. During college, the set of things my parents covered costs for and the set of things they didn't cover or didn't plan to cover in the future meant that, while I didn't have immediate monetary needs, I did make most of my decisions about part-time and summer jobs based on whether they paid. They didn't have to pay much, but they did have to pay. That turned out not to be the best set of choices, in the long term. I don't know what I want to do differently -- what my parents did would have worked excellently had I been graduating into the same circumstances they graduated into, and those circumstances will have changed again by the time I get to that transition from the other side -- but I want to remember to carefully investigate the actual economic factors on the ground at the time, and be prepared to adjust my launching speed as necessary.

Things I am particularly looking forward to doing with my kids include:
* Working together with them. Cooking, particularly, sounds like fun; also things like volunteer projects.
* Museums and zoos and hiking and whatnot.

[1] I hope. It may be slightly perverse to meet someone new and react, "Hey! You're a cranky introvert too! Will you be my friend?" but hey. We cranky introverts have the reactions we have.

[2] Speaking of which, does anybody have a recommendation for parenting forums or community blogs that are actually by-god parenting forums, instead of mothering forums? Offbeat Mama is adorable, but it's right there in the name! I want to be able to refer male coparents or caregivers or parenting friends to things that don't implicitly exclude them. Also, I myself get twitchy in single-gender spaces because I don't actually belong there.
tiger_spot: (Default)
Let's take a look at those not-resolutions, hm?

1. Take more photos.

Not so far. This would probably go better if I did something more defined, like a picture-a-day challenge, but I don't particularly want to be taking photos-for-the-sake-of-photos, I just want to remember to bring my camera when we go hiking or whatever. Okay, specific plan: Bring camera to Save the Bay event Saturday.

2. Use my vacation time for more three-day weekends.

This one I defined: at least one three-day weekend every month. January and February both have company holidays in them, so I didn't actually have to use vacation time to meet that goal so far. The half-day off exploring the city worked very well, and I'll have to do that again. Regularly. I have vacation time lined up around next weekend for FOGcon, so that's March taken care of, but I have yet to reserve a day off in April. Do you have any suggestions for awesome events I should plan around?

3. Go camping.

Not yet, but I intend to introduce the dog to the tent this month, probably this weekend if [livejournal.com profile] chinders remembers and one of us reminds the other at some time when we both feel like futzing with it.

4. Get back into the piano habit.

Kind of. I've been playing a few times a week.

5. Work through how-to-compose book.

I'm on chapter 2! It's fun, and actually surprisingly tiring. Whee, focused brainpower.

6. Travel more, locally.

Well, I had a half-day poking around SF, and last weekend [livejournal.com profile] chinders and I took the dog around the Palo Alto Baylands. And there was kayaking before that. So not bad so far. Perhaps I will plan some exploring for my April long weekend(s).

7. More one-on-one or small-group time with friends.

If I'd defined "more", I could maybe declare a success here on some kind of technicality. Likely a technicality involving rock climbing, but that doesn't really seem like it ought to count. Maybe I should set a goal -- lunch or equivalently chatty time period with non-family at least once a week. Is that too ambitious? Am I going to explode of introvert-needs-alone-time or feel bad when schedule flail happens? Maybe I will try it for March and see what happens; I have plans that will fulfill this for this weekend and next weekend already (assuming lack of schedule flail).
tiger_spot: (Default)
I don't really do New Year's resolutions, mostly because I don't typically experience time in a way that chunks neatly into years. But this year, we've been in the house a little over a year and we've had the dog almost exactly a year, so there are some natural boundaries to 2010 encouraging me to think of it as a more coherent whole than usual.

There are a few things I want to do a bit differently this year:

1. Take more photos. I wrote Christmas cards for my grandparents, and thought it would be nice to print out a few photos of interesting things we've done this year to include. But when I looked, I didn't have any photos of interesting things we've done this year -- I had a few good shots of the chickens, and the coop-building process, and a few one-person stills here and there, but not really any adventures.

2. Use my vacation time for more three-day weekends. They're very relaxing, and having them spread regularly through the year helps keep me from burning out quite so badly as I sometimes do.

3. Go camping. We didn't go camping at all this year! Must fix that for 2011. (Must introduce dog to tent first.)

And some fuzzier, less time-bounded intentions:

4. Get back into the piano habit. I have been playing the piano a bit in the second half of this year, but after the Evil Hand Fungus kept me from playing at all for six months, it never really got back into being a habit the way it had been.

5. Relatedly, work through that how-to-compose book. Possibly learn the recorder to go with (it recommends doing the simple exercises for a woodwind, and while I do not have any proper woodwinds, I do have this plasticwind I used to play in elementary school...).

6. Travel more, locally. Particularly, I'd like to do more hiking, visit the Wave Organ, head out to the coast a few times, and have [livejournal.com profile] brooksmoses show me around Carmel like he keeps meaning to.

7. As usual, I would like to spend more one-on-one or small-group time with friends, so if you want to plan a trip to one of those above-mentioned interesting places, or do something on a semi-random three-day weekend, let me know!
tiger_spot: (red river hog)
This is a tad morbid. )
tiger_spot: (Magritte)
Ever so often, we get fliers in the mailbox addressed to "Future Mountain View Homeowner". Having run the numbers, we may not actually be in this category -- 30 years of our current rent is less than the price of homes we'd be interested in, never mind interest and property taxes and so forth. (30 years of more typical rent is closer; our rent is in something under the 5th percentile for comparable apartments.) But the fliers make me wistful.

One particularly wist-inducing flier was for a bit of land down near the library which has, upon close inspection, three separate buildings -- one three-bedroom house, one two-bedroom house, and one thoroughly finished ex-garage. I have got some folks I would love to move in next door, so I know exactly what I'd do with an extra house if I had my druthers. (And entirely separate units are nicely flexible, too, in the event that drutherless reality interferes; much more pleasant to rent out a separate space than a couple of rooms.) But what to do with the ex-garage, I wondered, while carrying the flyer around from room to room with me to sigh at the nice pen-and-ink drawings of the bigger buildings. And then it came to me: it can be my Fortress of Solitude.

I do not, like Superman, have such good hearing that I need to be continents away from other people to not hear them holding up banks or falling into chasms or cussing at video games. But something with a little more insulating power than a typical interior wall is helpful. A couple of exterior walls and a dozen or two feet of intervening air would make an excellent sound baffle for me.

The next question, then, would be what to put in there. I shouldn't put my computer in a Fortress of Solitude -- it's better for me to have people around now and then when I'm working and so forth, and computer lazing time is mostly not very good introverting time. Games are all right, but internet stuff is all interacting with people really, so it doesn't work too well as recovery from Too Many People Disorder. So the Fortress of Solitude shouldn't be my office. It should be just for things that I'd rather do without anybody around at all.

So that means the furnishings go like this:

1. My piano.
2. A comfy chair.
3. Good task lighting.
4. A nice window or skylight.
5. A small cabinet for art supplies; some shelves for sheet music and a few particularly rereadable books.
6. A desk or table (ideally some kind of fold-out desk so it doesn't take up too much space most of the time but can be deployed as necessary for crafting).
7. A chair for the desk.

And nobody else will ever ever go in. If I wind up living with anybody who likes listening to my piano playing, I can open the window and they can sit on the lawn. Art is nicely transportable, so if I feel like working with other people around, I can just carry it in to the kitchen table like I do now.

I don't know that I'm ever going to wind up with a Fortress of Solitude -- we've got more important things to look for in a dwelling, and better things to do with most possible rooms. But it's a very nice place to have all tricked out in my imagination.
tiger_spot: (Default)
There are two reasons I don't like attention.
1. I'm an introvert.
2. I'm a bit of a perfectionist.

I don't dislike all attention -- just because I'm an introvert doesn't mean I don't like talking to people. But I much prefer attention and interaction on my own terms, in smallish doses, at times and places of my choosing. I want to turn attention on when I want it and have the default state be pretty much off.

Therefore, I want any attracting of attention I do to be a result strictly of my behavior rather than my appearance. I'll attract attention by my actions if and only if I want to, since my actions are under my control and can be turned on or off at any time, directed at specific people, etc. Clothing and grooming choices, on the other hand, send a message to everyone who can see them, and that message cannot be altered or stopped without resources and effort. There isn't much I want to say to the whole world. Some version of "I am competent, I am respectable, I am professional, I belong here, and if you fuck with me you will regret it (but I am not a threat so long as you don't start anything)," is usually good. Competent and professional mean "Pay attention to me when I ask you to," and the rest more or less adds up to "and leave me alone the rest of the time."

In detail. )
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By request! I hope this is helpful, or at least interesting. Questions are welcome.

The basics:

DO invite me to stuff.

DON'T think my turning down an invitation means I don't like you.

That pretty much covers it, really. Everything else is my issue, and other people shouldn't have to think about it. But if you want to think about it, here is some background information, with additional suggestions for application.

Kind of a lot of background information, actually )

Bad Habits

Mar. 27th, 2008 11:17 pm
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1. I believe people when they tell me things.

I don't believe advertisers or other people who have something obvious to gain from lying, and I don't necessarily believe people who are telling me verifiable facts about the world that don't seem to mesh well with what I already know, but I do believe people when they tell me things about themselves. Things like "I'll be there at noon."

It gets me in trouble sometimes.

2. Unspecified "we".

Once upon a time, when I said "We went hiking this weekend," that meant my parents and my sibling and me. These days, it could mean anybody at all (and me), and I'm terrible about remembering to say who was with me when. I'll say things like "We saw Kooza!" and "Then we went off to dinner at Marie Callender's" and never specify who "we" is (seven people in the first instance, five in the second). I'm actually much better about this on LiveJournal than in person or on instant messenger, because I can look back over the post and go "Oh, before I put the funny thing so-and-so said in the last paragraph, I should probably mention that he was there" and go add that helpful background information to the first paragraph.

3. I think everybody knows everything.

Not everybody everybody, but once I've told three or four people about something, some little switch in my brain flicks over to "everybody knows that" and I sort of assume I've told everyone I'd expect to have told. LiveJournal is particularly bad for this, although enough repetitions of "I told you that!" "No you didn't." "But I posted about it on LiveJournal! I must have told you!" have at least trained [livejournal.com profile] andres_s_p_b to read the darn thing occasionally. Also, if I have been meaning to tell someone something for long enough that I've planned specific bits of phrasing to use, sometimes I forget whether I actually said it or only thought it.

Recent examples: A friend from TAMS first realized I had a boyfriend more than two years after we started dating. (How many of you knew I went to TAMS?) Today I was amused by a long list of viola jokes, and [livejournal.com profile] andres_s_p_b was confused -- "But you've never played violin or viola or cello!" he said. "Yes I have," I said. And yet he complains that he's heard all my stories. Clearly not.

Relatedly, I often mention things in very casual, tangential ways without realizing quite how tangential and casual they actually are. I think I've given someone a brief outline or portion of a situation, with an opportunity to inquire further if they are interested, and the other person doesn't realize there was a situation to be inquired about. (This fed into the friend-didn't-know-about-boyfriend-for-two-years incident: I had mentioned him -- in a how-I-met-my-partners context, even -- but the friend didn't realize that was a current relationship. Then, when I mentioned the boyfriend more later [instead of using unspecified "we"s, go me], the friend didn't remember the name and therefore had no idea I was talking about a romantic relationship. Not that he should be expected to! I thought for sure I'd given him the background at some point.)

4. I expect people to ask questions when they are confused.

I don't know why; they hardly ever do. But for some reason, I still think that when people are confused about something, they'll ask me about it, either when it comes up in conversation or when presented with an opportunity like this one. (If it's important and it's bothering them, I even expect them to bring it up on their own, some time after it's been particularly confusing. This is why I don't usually realize when people are missing fairly basic information; they don't ask about it, so I never twig to the confusion.)

Personally, I don't ask a whole lot of questions. I very much like learning about people, but I'm happy to learn whatever they want to tell me rather than hunting specific pieces of information. Way back when I was in the Puzzle Pirates beta, my mom joined the crew I'd been sailing with for a month or so, and asked everyone all these very basic questions -- "What do you do for a living? How old are you? Where do you live? What's your name?" -- that it had just never occurred to me to ask. I'll ask questions about things as they come up, to keep a conversation going or if something intriguing is mentioned, but I don't tend to produce questions on my own.

I'm not sure if that makes expecting other people to do it weirder or not.
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I am an introvert with high social needs. That means that social interaction, like exercise, takes energy in the short term, but if I'm regularly getting an appropriate amount I have more energy and feel better overall. More is better pretty much up to the point where it's too much, so my ideal range of social interaction is very small.

Andrés, for reference, is an extrovert with low social needs. He's happy with a level of social interaction low enough to distress me and also happy with a level high enough to entirely overwhelm me.

Fig. 1:
A: . . : : :::|||||||||||||::: : : . .
T:    . . : : :::||||
   social interaction --->
(Higher density is better; note the abrupt drop-off at "too much".)

Interacting with people takes a varying amount of energy. The most important factor is how well I know someone or how comfortable I am with them (those aren't quite the same thing, but they're closely correlated). Interacting with someone I don't know well takes a lot more energy than interacting with someone I do know well. Interacting with several people I don't know is lots more effort than interacting with one person I don't know, but interacting with several people I do know is only a little more effort than interacting with one person I know. This makes hosting parties a very efficient source of social interaction -- it takes only slightly more effort than having one or two people over and results in a whole lot of social interaction, giving it a very high return on investment. (Going to parties is less efficient, because other people's parties usually include people I don't know, sometimes in large numbers.)

I have been skating on the edge of cranky-introvert-needs-alone-time-now for the last two weeks. I was all proud of my introversion management at apc16 -- "I'm not overwhelmed at all!" -- but I neglected to figure that unusual social energy expenditure into my plans for the next while, plus I got a number of exciting social situations dropped in my lap all at once (a small number, but they interact in interesting ways). Also I owe a bunch of people e-mail (::waves at some of the people -- most of them, come to think of it::). Now I am feeling weirdly insecure about whether people like me and stuff, which I think is about equal parts (a) having overdone it socially this week[1] and (b) basically all that socializing having been with the same people (who are lovely people I like hanging out with, but who I don't know all that well and who are part of one of the exciting social situations, which makes hanging out with them a little stressier than it might otherwise be). And this isn't letting up anytime soon. Last week I was thinking "Gosh, I haven't seen [long list of specific people] in a while -- time for a party!" but it's going to be a while before previously-planned things let up enough that I'll have the social energy to plan a party.

This is annoying, because I'd like to see the various specific people (hi, people! ::waves at the half of the list who are probably reading this::), but I would also like to avoid messy brain explosions. I think I surface some time in March, which is not so very far away. I shall try to plan ahead enough that there is not too long a gap between previously-scheduled things and theoretical party (busy is good), but I have to leave enough of a gap for my brain to settle down enough to handle planning (not too busy). Must aim carefully!

      . . : : :::||||
                   you are here

[1] Somebody somewhere sometime between last month and last year explained that when they had a sudden burst of "These people hate me!" in the middle of a convention it meant it was time to go sit quietly in an empty room and coddle the introvert. Thank you, somebody -- it's a very useful signifier, and much less distressing when recognized as a temporary symptom.


Jun. 10th, 2007 10:25 pm
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(This isn't about anyone in particular. I am just noodling.)

I try not to make assumptions about what other people think of me. When I get signals that would be appropriate for a range of possibilities, I try to remember that the whole range is possible and not assume one particular state is true.

Say someone agrees to drive me to the airport -- I don't know whether that means they like me, or they enjoy being helpful and would assist anyone who asked, or whether they happen to be bored and like driving, or what. Or from the other side, if someone doesn't talk to me for months, I don't know whether that means they've decided they dislike me, or they're really busy but would love to hang out if only they had the chance, or etc.

Because I'm keeping all these possibilities open, I tend to interact in a way that would be appropriate for the whole range. And it occurs to me that that may be why my interactions with others tend to get stuck at a particular level of friendly acquaintanceship. If I'm not told that the other person would be interested in more specifically-friend-like (is 'intimate' the right word here?) activities, then I don't know that they are, so I won't suggest them. Things that would be appropriate to the higher end of the range of possible friendlinesses, but not to the lower end, like one-on-one activities or just hanging out without any particular activity in mind, don't happen, because I don't suggest them. Therefore, the relationship doesn't ever move past 'friendly acquaintance' into proper friendship, because the activities that would support a friendship don't happen.

This may also be why I'm uncomfortable with the concept of flirting; the greater the possible range of what the other person is thinking, the harder it is to come up with responses that are appropriate across the whole range. So flirting of an "either I like you romantically or I like you as a friend" sort doesn't bother me much, because those aren't very far apart, but flirting of an "either I like you or I don't" sort gets distressing.

Also, mixed signals (such as someone explicitly saying they think I'm nifty but then never initiating contact) confuse the heck out of me. Generic middlin' multiply-interpretable signals I can deal with, albeit poorly, as outlined above. But apparently-clear yet contradictory signals I really don't know what to do with.

I'm not sure what to do with that, now I've realized it. Staggering up to people and demanding "Do you like me?! How much?" seems both remarkably awkward and highly unlikely to produce accurate responses.
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My internal image of a "social circle" is a group of people who all know each other at least a little bit. Any given pair may not deliberately socialize, but they're around the same people enough that they recognize each other. Each person has a sense of where all the other people fit into the social landscape.

Opposed to this, there's the social spike model -- one person knows various people, but those people don't know each other. A diagram of the relationships would look like an asterisk.

I have been pondering the advantages and disadvantages of the two models. In middle school and high school, I pretty much had a circle. Various subgroups might be hanging out at any given time, but for the most part "my friends" were a discrete group within the larger school population, and the people I would identify as my friends would be the same people that those friends would identify as their friends. Then, during and after college, I had more of a spike thing going on, where I knew a few people here and there, but they mostly didn't know each other. Now I have an oddly mixed situation, with various separate groups attached to me, but a fair amount of cross-contact within those groups (and with parts of those groups that I don't know).

The advantage of a circle situation is that it makes party planning and information transfer much simpler. If someone wants to arrange a surprise birthday party, say, they know who to invite and how to get in touch with them, since they know the same people the birthday person knows. No-one has to put a lot of effort into planning compatible personality combinations for dinner parties or anything, since those combinations are already known to everyone involved. If someone has news they'd like everyone to get but don't have the energy or time to contact everyone individually about, like a death in the family, then they can easily deputize people to spread the news, and those deputies will know who to contact.

The disadvantage of a circle is that false information, rumors or slander, can travel just as easily as good information, and any individual falling-outs can have nasty ripple effects as people try to avoid each other, but don't have anywhere else to go for social contact.

Spikes avoid those disadvantages, and give you neutral people to vent to or get advice about interpersonal conflicts from, but don't have much to recommend them otherwise. It's hard to get an objective view about a conflict from someone who only has your version to go on, even if you're trying to describe things fairly.

I'm thinking spikes may be way more common these days than they used to be, as people move around and keep in touch with a few people here and a few people there, rather than growing up in a group.

It's been an interesting thing to ponder. I would like to keep pondering it, but I ran out of thoughts. Do you have any?
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Hm, this looks interesting. Via [livejournal.com profile] serenejournal:

From the [livejournal.com profile] altfriday5:

1. What makes you feel as if where you live is your "home", rather than just somewhere to stay?

All my stuff is here. More than that, all my stuff is arranged in a manner which is pleasing to me, and I know where it all is. I plan to be here for a long time, and I like that idea.

2. How "homey" does your current abode feel to you?

Pretty homey. I am dissatisfied with five things:

1. It gets really hot upstairs.
2. Downstairs is not laid out well for entertaining.
3. People using the pool are sometimes noisy, as are people at the school next door during the school year.
4. No backyard; dogs not allowed.
5. The gate is irritating when we want people to visit or deliver things.

Other than that, it's great. It definitely feels like home. We're not here permanently, but we are here indefinitely; we are probably not moving out until we're actually buying a place. I don't think we could find a rental we'd be happier with.

3. What would your dream home be like?
Whoa, that got long )
4. What would your nightmare home be like?

Squalid, dark, cold, and inconveniently located. Things would break all the time, it would be too expensive, and the neighbors would hate us and each other. It would be shared with roommates of odious personal habits, loud and horrible musical tastes, and no sense of privacy whatsoever.

5. Of all the places you have lived in your life, where did you feel most "at home"?

Here. I was attached to the house I grew up in, but that was strictly the house and the backyard. I didn't feel like the city at large was really home. Here, I have lovely home-feelings for (parts of) several cities in multiple directions. I haven't even been here any appreciable length of time, but this is it, can't get me away, will dig fingernails into ground to avoid being pulled elsewhere.
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Today we went to see Tempest give a free concert in the park with [livejournal.com profile] tenacious_snail, [livejournal.com profile] tshuma, and... er... lots of other people with LiveJournals.

It was very cool. I have a CD now, but only one because that is how much cash I had. :(

The lots of other people know real dances, and did very spiffy actual dancing in circles and pairs and lines and trading partners and weaving in and out around each other and this odd one where three people would dance and one would kind of watch them (pretty much everything was based on groups of 4 or in some cases 8). Also they started one of those thingies where everyone holds hands and skips around in a long line, which [livejournal.com profile] andres_s_p_b and I got pulled into.[1] There was leaping involved. Clearly I need to incorporate leaping into my daily exercise routine, because my little legs were kinda wobbly after that song.

Then we went and got ice cream. Tasty, but not as good as Amy's. Nothing is.

[1] )
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