Stupid “You should be doing more” arguments from people who aren’t

On the NYTimes or forums or blogs etc, a common refrain among commenters when the subject of fertility treatment comes up is that there are so many kids in the world (and so many kids in the US) that people should really be adopting.  And they should really be adopting in the US (because apparently international children are not as important as US children).  [They seem to think that adopting kids is as easy as calling an orphanage and having Anne of Green Gables sent on the next train.  The reality, of course, being that adoption can be as heart-breaking and uncertain a process as infertility itself, even in states with supposedly easy adoption and quick termination of parental rights.  (We have some friends who tried and failed adoption when a biological aunt came out of the woodwork.)]

Even people that are supposedly skeptical and critical thinkers can fall into stupid fallacies.  For example, PZ Meyers is very vocal that people who homeschool their kids are selfish assholes equal in their danger to society to people who refuse to vaccinate their kids.  He says:

I am not a fan of homeschooling; in fact, if I had my way, I’d make it illegal.

and

If you don’t believe in vaccination, then don’t vaccinate your kids.

Sorry, but the same logic applies. Public schools are for the good of the community; homeschooling is intended for the good of the individual child.  I know that homeschools can be good (but most aren’t), and that public schools can be awful (and most are), but I consider homeschooling to be a distraction from the cause of a greater good.

he goes on from there in the comments, basically arguing that if you keep your kids out of (bad) public schools that hurts all the kids still in public schools, mainly because the school doesn’t get the federal money for the kid being there (partly because he says parents have some kind of obligation to be involved), despite perfectly logical arguments responding to his own (such as:  I homeschool because my child is autistic/requires other special accommodations– he would be costing the district much more than he brings the district in per-student federal funds and isn’t mainstreamed anyway… or, My kid was hospitalized after getting beaten up/bullied to the point of self-harm and the school did nothing… or simply, I pay taxes but am not costing my district anything).

All you holier-than-thou folks on the internet: It’s easy to volunteer other people to be saints.  Not so easy to be one yourself.  If you don’t have 20 foster kids and 10 adoptees, then don’t tell people using fertility treatment there are tons of needy kids out there needing homes and that they’re sinners for trying to have a baby instead of adopting one.  Bless people who do foster and adopt, but if you’re not one of them, then why are you telling other people that they should do more than you are?

If you don’t have your own kids in dangerous crumbling schools (because you decided to live in a more expensive district, your kids are grown, or you just don’t have kids), and you’re not volunteering regularly and donating heavily, at least the amount that the federal government would be giving* for say, I dunno, 5 kids, then don’t say that parents who pull their kids out of public schools for private or homeschooling are selfish.  You’re even more selfish because you have more time and money to give, and you wouldn’t be physically, mentally, or emotionally scarring any minors as collateral damage.**

These “you want/have a child you should be doing X” are all stupid arguments.  No one person can save the world.  And nobody, just by dint of being unable to easily have biological children or by having children should be required to contribute to those specific causes.  Nobody is actually required to contribute to any specific cause.  But if someone chooses to put their kids in private school and also donates to people starving in developing countries rather than joining the school board at the local public,*** does that make them selfish?  What about public school teachers who send their own kids to private?

These kinds of arguments seem to be focused on fertility, race, and gender.  If you have kids then you’re supposed to support specific causes.  If you want kids but can’t have them, then that must be a sign from God that you’re supposed to adopt (but people who can have kids easily have no such obligation).  If you’re a black college grad, then you’re selling out your race if you’d rather be an investment banker than a high school teacher (this is a narrative that two of my black studies colleagues frequently argue about).  If you’re female then you have to have a certain kind of active feminism and aren’t allowed to make choices to be the trailing spouse or the one who cooks dinner, even if your husband is allowed to make those choices.  Why do these immutable characteristics (it’s hard to give a kid back), many of which we have no choice over, provide such obligations when others do not?  Owning a pet doesn’t make you have to support spay and neuter laws or pose nude for PETA.  Being a white male provides no obligation to any race or gender.  And yet, when historically you’ve been chattel, all of a sudden you have an obligation to change the world.  IBTP.

*~8% of the school’s budget… meaning that actually your paying state and local taxes without costing the local district to educate your kid (at a cost of ~10K/year to the district) is probably more than making up for not having your kid in school.  And if you kick an additional $800/kid-you-don’t-have to the school district, you should be able to say STFU to any guilt-mongers.  Me, I prefer to spend my education charity dollars in high poverty districts using Donors Choose because they need my money more than the local school district does.  If our district had less money they wouldn’t fricking change districts every 5 years because they wouldn’t be able to afford to bus kids to schools so far from where they live.

**Before having kids the one of us with a kid volunteered extensively tutoring and teaching math in failing urban school districts and at migrant summer programs in rural agricultural areas.  There’s a lot more time to volunteer when you don’t have a small child.

***After years on the school board, and while still on the school board, my mother sent my sister to a Catholic high school.  Does that make her selfish?  She continued on the school board after my sister graduated as well, even though she no longer had kids in school.  Her research career suffered substantially from her public service.

Pizza algorithm

A big question for any children’s party in which you are providing lunch is how many and what kind of pizzas to provide.

The internet has a few algorithms that address this subject, but I can’t find the super-useful one we used last year (that I probably got off a mommy forum). Instead there’s people’s own personal algorithms, which seem to be a bit, I dunno, personal-preference heavy (#2, for example, feels about mushrooms how #1 feels about eggnog, and #1 has a green pepper intolerance).

Do these algorithms really work?

In my years as a parent to a small child and chauffeur to and chaperone at children’s parties, I have made the following Scientific Observation: Kids seem to like Cheese or Pepperoni (originally had “and Pepperoni” but in reality, the cheese eaters eschew pepperoni entirely, and some pepperoni eaters will not eat plain cheese, “no! want pepROni pizza!”).

I have also noted: Adults seem to like more variety (and pepperoni, unless they’re vegetarian).

Last year we had 15 kids and at least 15 parents and didn’t get it quite right– there wasn’t quite enough veggie and one vegetarian kid was sad to have cheese as hir third piece…

Here’s what we’re trying this year for 4-7 year olds and their parents (or n people total):

(n+1)/4 for large pizzas (because we’re from the midwest and would rather have leftovers than run out of anything)
Order of pizza ordering based on number of people:
1.  Cheese
2.  Pepperoni
3.  Cheese
4.  Pepperoni
5.  Something with veggies (ex. vegetarian lover)
6.  Something with meats (ex. meat lover)
Then cheese, pepperoni, individual veggies (mushroom or onion), individual non-pepperoni meat (sausage or hamburger), cheese, pepperoni etc. Normally I would prefer onion to mushroom in terms of individual veggie, but this part of the country seems to be anti-onion, which I don’t understand.

If there were more adults, I would make pepperoni the first ordered pizza, and replace every other cheese pizza with a single-topping vegetarian pizza.

Hopefully this modified algorithm will work!

What are your pizza preferences and what is your ideal algorithm?

Push presents

Back 5 or 6 years ago when I was in the process of becoming a mommy, I hung out on a forum that had infertility, pregnancy, and mommy sections.   It’s amazing how much drama can ensue in an online forum environment.

One of the big debates, and something I had never heard of before, and have never heard of IRL, was whether or not Push Presents were appropriate or crass.

A Push Present, btw, is an expensive present, usually a piece of jewelry, that the baby daddy gives you for pushing out (or c-sectioning out) his offspring.  You know, for a job well done.  (#2 says:  Ewwwww.)

One of the things that I noticed in these debates was that the women who were heavily pro-Push Presents, of the “I DESERVE this piece of jewelry” arguments were also the ones who were always complaining that their husbands were never around and were always working.  The women who thought the presents were crass tended to have what seemed to be better marriages– or at least they complained less about their husbands on the internet, which may or may not be the same thing.  They tended to say things like, “It’s OUR baby, the BABY is the reward” and so on.

I’m not really big on jewelry (in fact, I may have told DH I wouldn’t marry him if he went into debt on an engagement ring), so I’m not really the person to ask about the suitability of jewelry as a post-baby gift (and I kind of like the idea of charm bracelets with birth stones… you know, all symbolic.  Don’t want one, but like the idea.).

But I will say that time is so much more valuable than any piece of metal and stone.  I would rather have DH taking me to Bradley classes, feeding me when I can’t keep anything down but smoothies, taking over my chores when I’m too exhausted to do anything… and so on.  There’s no expensive present in the world that could make up for that (even a butler/valet/housekeeper/personal assistant just wouldn’t do it– I’d rather have DH there than the most highly competent servant taking care of every need).

Are push presents still a thing?  2011 was the year of weaning off mothering forums so I’m no longer hooked in.  Had you heard of them?  What do you think about them?  And what do you think about the standard “he’s not around but he’s working so he can secretly buy something nice for YOU” trope that I don’t even enjoy in Christmas anime episodes?

I said a link, love, linketty love

What if colleges ran attack ads?  Dean Dad asks. — #2 thinks this is HILARIOUS

Stupid Protestant work ethic, complains Geeky Mom.

A retirement comic.

Empirical evidence for something Cloud and I were arguing on another blog whose owner was against the changes to residencies.  Doctor sleep is important for patient outcomes!  So reports the blog that ate Manhattan.

Mama in translation with the joy of books.  Also apparently repeated by #2 below.

Future economist kid.  And the unintended consequences of government intervention.

Colbert tried to help pay for the SC Republican primary, but that 400K must be footed by the cash-strapped counties instead.  “If nothing else good comes from this, we have at least narrowed down the exact value of sanctity — somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000.”

If you like Diane Duane, she could use some fast cash that you could give her by purchasing an ebook.  Via Scalzi.

This is ALL OVER the internets this week but if you haven’t seen it, it is charming:

We were in this week’s carnival of personal finance.

Your Google Questions Answered

Q:  is being grouchy a sin

A:  Um…. let’s see here… sloth, greed, pride, lust… um… envy, gluttony… that’s six.  Uh… wikipedia?  Aha, wrath.  Wrath, who knew?  (#2 did, but does it anyway!)  Ok, so it looks like being grouchy is a subset of the “wrath” sin, so yes, being grouchy is a sin, though probably a minor one.

Q:  why do some folks love us and some hate us

A:  We’ve often wondered that ourselves.  We think it’s because we have fairly strong personalities which mean that we’re more likely to attract or repel.  We’re not milquetoast.

Q:  do you like spending or saving money

A:  Both!

Q:  effects of titanium dioxide “does it cause cancer”

A:  We defer to wikipedia.  They say, possibly yes.  But #2 says you should worry about many other things before you worry about that particular one.

Q:  does your partners career matter?

A:  Of course!

Q:  how to get rid if so many toys

A:  We suggest finding a smaller child to hand-me-down them to or just pack them up to Goodwill.

Q:  why gifted students hate group work

A:  hoo boy can we answer this one.  We hate group work because we hate having to do all the work.  We hate being group leaders for people who dislike us and taunt or tease us whenever they can.  I dunno, that probably covers it.  #1 also hated how art projects were invariably involved no matter what class, though she was generally able to delegate that part to other group members, meaning she did in fact not do 100% of the work, since her artistic abilities are, let’s say, not gifted.  We hate that our grade reflects the stupidity and laziness of our classmates, and that therefore the teacher may think less of us or unfairly believe we are like our classmates who hate reading.  We love reading.

Q:  are the dresden files for male readers

A:  Yeah, they’re pretty misogynistic.  My female colleague really enjoys them (and at least one of us has a partner who has read through 5 of them), but they irritate #1 with their pretty blatant misogyny.  #2 has read about 5 of them and I don’t find them that bad, really. We recommend the Kitty series to hit that same werewolf/wizard/vampire etc. popcorn feel and for something a little more intense, the Kim Harrison Rachel Morgan series.  All the vampire/were/wizarding, less of the patriarchy.  Also:  the women don’t look at every single member of the opposite sex (or their own sex!) as a sex object, only the vampires.  But I think that’s part of vampire description, the sex object thing.  I sure hope every guy that comes into contact with me doesn’t give me the up and down for his readers like Harry Dresden does every single female character in his book (but not the male characters).

Q:  why kids are better then parents

A:  Regression to the mean (or mean reversion)

Q:  do university jobs work over the summer?

A:  Depends on the job.  Often student jobs are on a semester-to-semester basis.  It’s something you should ask about before accepting a job offer.  Some jobs are year round.  Some are only part-time during the school year but full-time during the summer.

Enrichment activities: A deliberately controversial post

We at grumpy rumblings are pro-learning.  There it is.  We came out and admitted it.  We think learning things is great!

We also think that in many cases K-12 schooling does not actually promote learning.  Especially for kids who are different from the average (or perhaps, different from the lowest common denominator in class, depending on where the teacher and school are aiming their instruction).

We are pro-learning-outside-of-school using whatever means necessary.  If you’ve got money and time, we’re pro-traveling out of state.  If you’ve got money and no time, we’re pro- summer camp and classes.  If you’ve got time and no money, we’re pro-whatever you can scrape together.

The current trend in the media these days is a back-lash against “over-scheduling” whatever that means.  (In the interest of giving us “opportunities they never had,” my parents had us highly scheduled… yet, we still managed to watch a lot of tv and read mountains upon mountains of books.)

I’m pro-summer activities.  I’m pro-me-working during the summer (more pro- getting paid for not-working, but so far no takers), and I’d rather DC be doing something organized (even something enriching!) than, say, playing with the power tools in the shed, which would also be enriching but dangerous.

My parents valued enrichment activities over stuff, so I took a lot of fun kids classes over the summer at the local community college.  They probably kept my interest up in learning since most of my K-8 so-called education was mind-numbingly boring.  I was usually the only girl and often one of the youngest in the math and science-related classes.

I wonder what kind of activities the other girls were doing.  Or if they were just learning to do chores.  I learned how to do chores too, even with piano lessons and swimming lessons and summer classes and softball and ballet and gymnastics and the play etc.

Even with the scheduling I had crazy amounts of free time.  I started and (sometimes) completed so many crafts.  How many pot-holders does a person need?  Weaving and bead weaving and friendship bracelets and those things you make with yarn that look like carpets and embroidery and knitting and sculpy and shellacing and quilting and goodness knows what else.  Possibly good for my small-motor skills, but did not translate into anything I can do today.  Although being able to mend is still a useful skill, as is cooking.

DH, of course, was learning how to do things like computer programming in his copious unscheduled free time.

There was also the kind of stuff we could do back 20-30 years ago but can’t do without adult supervision today.  Hanging out with the neighborhood kids, bike riding, tadpole catching, exploring, going to the park alone etc.

The best part of free time, of course, is visiting the library and reading.  Mmmm books.  After I ran out of children’s fiction I discovered the humor section upstairs in adult.  Then folk-lore.  Then fantasy, and that changed everything.

So, bottom line:  we think scheduled activities mainly suck for the parent doing the driving.  Kids are mostly still left with plenty of free time to goof off.  There’s probably some line where there’s too many activities but one probably only hits that after adding in a sport on top of everything else (or one goes to a challenging school that isn’t afraid of offending parents with homework).  We also worry that there’s differential opportunities, both scheduled and unscheduled, by gender.

Do you think kids today are too overscheduled?  Too underscheduled?  Where do you fall on the debate?  And do you think the gender divide is important?  If so, in what way?

Disclaimer:  DC is not currently scheduled to do anything because hir parents are lazy and the small town doesn’t have year round swimming lessons.  One of these days we’ll get a piano or a keyboard or something.

My adorable little nerdlet

Disclaimer:  If you don’t like reading about parents bragging about their kids, click away now.  Go on.  Nobody is forcing you to read this.  Tomorrow I’m sure will be back to standard grousing about the world.

DH’s main reason for wanting a child was to have someone to game with.  My main reason for having a child was to see DH as a father.

DH is a total gaming nerd.  The first time I spent any appreciable time alone with him, we walked along and he told me about some D&D mission he’d been on, as if it were real.  I thought, amused, “My lord, what a huge nerd.”  He grew on me though.  (Being tall dark and handsome didn’t hurt.)

Our house is full of games, mostly Eurogames which replaced more standard gamer-type-games such as Risk or Stratego (think Settlers of Catan, though it is not actually one of the best, it was the one that introduced Eurogames to the US).   We’re not talking Pictionary here, though we do have Apples to Apples (saved for when DC gets older).

And so DH introduced my little darling to hir first real game.  A simple little $15 lego board-game called Castle Draida in the Heroica series.  DC was hooked.  One lego game became two.  Then DC saved up hir allowance to buy a third.  Then the in-laws got the last (and most expensive) for Christmas.  Ze has spent hours upon hours playing with relatives, alone, trying out different scenarios, intimately getting to know the instructions manual, and so on.  Just like DH with his bigger kid  board games.

Man, I wish I could show you all a video of DC talking about Heroica.  Dark druuuuids and knights and orcs and goblins… and their hitpoints and healing potions and treaaaasure.  High speed kindergarten nerdity.

DH’s next contribution after Heroica, and just in time for the relatives, a fun board game called Castle Panic.  It can be played cooperatively or competitively.

My poor parents.  DH’s poor parents.  They listened patiently to DC going on and on about game mechanics and orcs and trolls and bosses and boulders.  Then they gamely played the cooperative version.  My sister I feel less sorry for– she got the mechanics right away and doesn’t let DC cheat.  Listening to them play is kinda like listening to two kids the same age play together, complete with, “Nooooo, you can’t DO that.”  When played competitively, DC likes to play the monsters.  Last game DH won by a single point when a lucky boulder got DC’s last two monsters, preventing them from taking down his last tower.

Ze is now attempting to shuffle:  this may be hir next big goal now that ze’s mastered shoe tying.

We’re so proud.  :)

What are your kids into?  Alternatively, what were you into when you were little?

[p.s. Also, DC isn't immune to my form of nerdity.  Anime may not be an all-consuming passion for hir, but ze will watch it with me.]

Favorite Webcomics

Something Positive  Not really sure how to describe this one.  It started out as a group of seriously deranged friends going through life… and they’ve kind of grown and mellowed and moved apart in their 30s… I dunno, it’s kind of like life.  But with a boneless pink cat named choochoobear who can go through the plumbing to steal panties to sell on ebay.

Questionable content  About a group of 20 somethings disaffected hipster youth… or something like that, but with AI.  The AI are awesome.

Gunnerkrigg Court    Love this story-based comic about kids at a very large very strange boarding school, and particularly about one girl with an interesting past who seems to attract things.

Unshelved  The webcomic about librarians for librarians, and you know, everybody interested in reading a webcomic about librarians.

Sheldon Comics  This comic gets better and better all the time… it is totally different from, but also reminds one of Calvin and Hobbes, because of the awesome.  Oh, it’s nominally about a kid-software-whiz-billionaire living with his grandpa, but it’s so much more.

xkcd  The web comic for those of us who feel most comfortable with other people who read xkcd.  (You know… nerds.)

Penny Arcade  The web comic for gamers.

What are your favorite web comics?

We may not contribute to the IRA this year!

We maxed out our 403(b)s this year and then maxed out DH’s 457.  That is putting away a LOT of money for retirement.  This would be the first year we let an IRA deadline come and go without funding anything.  I’m not sure how to feel about that.

I keep thinking, it’s only 5K… most years we have more left than that after getting through the unpaid summer.   But you know, two of them are 10K, and 10K is kind of a lot of money, especially when your take-home pay has been dramatically cut because you’re putting away a huge amount of money into retirement accounts already.  And we’re doing the ROTH option on about half the work retirement accounts as it is.

If only we made more money!  Then we could do everything.  Stupid lack of COL raises and increasing benefits costs.

The other places for the money would be emergency fund (and we’ve been spending a LOT on trying to keep me fed… also, potential new baby expenses) and pre-paying the mortgage.

Deep down I know that we’re going to need the money sooner rather than later.  Even if DH gets tenure he’s not entirely happy with his job, and having a big cash pot would allow him more flexibility to try new things.  We’d get more happiness about having slush now than we will from whatever tax advantages we’ll have in the future.  Probably…. assuming we continue on at least a similar income/savings trajectory.

But I’m also a creature of habit and it just *bugs* me that we’re not taking advantage of the Roth this year even though we can.  That’s totally irrational.  Though the Roth would probably maximize our returns given certain guesstimates about future tax increases and so on, it won’t maximize our overall utility.

It is so much easier to optimize money than it is to optimize happiness.

(NOTE:  #2 is all Roth’d up in here.  Maxing it out hurts my savings a lot but it makes me feel better.)

Did you contribute to a 2011 IRA this year (note: there’s still time)?  How about your other retirement accounts?  Or did you meet other spending/savings goals instead?

Everyone Jump on the Link love

Tenured Radical with useful advice she learned at her first job.

I swear I do not have this.

This article makes my head asplode: Obesity — it’s Mom’s Fault! Practically every single sentence makes me want to point out three different things wrong with it.  I thought about doing a longer critique but then I realized it wasn’t worth writing 50 pages about why someone is wrong on the internet.  Historiann discusses it here.  This discussion is more detailed.  #2 does note that there is some suggestive evidence that a specific way of bottle feeding and timed feeding may encourage obesity later on (because they teach babies to ignore their “full” cues and tell them they’re in a scarcity environment so overfill their bellies), but again, this would be the doctor’s fault rather than the mother’s.

We were in this week’s carnival of personal finance.

Sorry for the light posting this week; one of us is out of town and the other is savoring the last few days off the internet before I have to do work.

I am also pondering accountability and goals for 2012, but have not yet come to any conclusions.  For now, I am participating in the winter-break writing group over at Dame Eleanor, who makes some thoughtful points during her posts, and has interesting discussion in the comments.  First about time, then strengths and weaknesses, then the ever-fraught decision of big changes or small changes, then a side note about flexibility, then another thing that makes me tear my hair out: transitions.  Go read and feel inspired, if that sort of thing helps you.

If you are bored, go read Gunnerkrigg Court, which I am currently way into.

And now, dear readers, what awesome things on teh intarwebz did we miss this week?  Tell us in the comments.

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