We went to Greytown and left the toddler behind

Deliberately. In the loving care of my parents. For more than 24 hours. We stayed away for a night in a cute little cottage and it was amazing. First, when we arrived, we had a nap. Then we went to an early movie. Then we had dinner. Then when we got home to the cottage, we had baths. Baths! Without a small companion! Then, the next day, we slept in! Then we went out for lunch! Then we went back into Wellington and retrieved our charge. 

If you’re reading this and you’re in a childless two-income couple I probably just described something not too far off your standard weekend. OH MY GOD A STANDARD WEEKEND IS INCREDIBLE! Our standard weekend used to be like that, we would do things in the evening – sometimes at home, sometimes out, but the “things” were not “chores”, they were leisure activities. We had leisure! We used to spend time together! Turns out, we get on really well! We’re not just partners in household chaos control, we have things that we can chat about! We have overlapping taste in movies and tv! I’d almost forgotten!

Meanwhile, I’m pregnant again. 

Yay for babies!

And ughhhhhh. Ughhh being pregnant is so not fun.

All the time with the tiredness. I’m 13 weeks, and I think by about this time when I was pregnant with the little dude I was basically over the worst… but maybe this time my baseline level of fatigue means that just a little bit of extra tiredness is really really draining? 

Ahhhhh, I’m not looking forward to the bit next year where we have a 2 year old and a newborn and sleep deprivation is a major thing again. 

So, being pregnant and therefore hormonal, there are lots of things that are annoying me even more than they otherwise would. 

Most of them are wrapped up in that ol’ chestnut of attitudes towards women and motherhood and childbearing. 

In one corner, there’s National MP Simon O’Connor saying during the first reading of the Paid Parental Leave Bill that he has “philosophical concerns” with the Bill because “having a child is generally not an accident”, and the “responsible state” only needs to step in in “unusual circumstances”. I’m not sure what the fuck that means. Retirement is not generally an accident, but we have a universal pension. Question: can you simultaneously work to support yourself and also look after a 5 month old child? Answer: generally nah, that’s not a thing most people can do. During the time a child is very young, they need constant care and that care is usually performed by a parent, and that parent is therefore not able to work, and that is why there should be government-funded payments to that parent, who is almost always the mother. I don’t get how there is any debate about this! Either it’s ok that tens of thousands of women work for free because wombs, or it’s a major fucking issue that needs to be urgently rectified for reasons of justice and gender equality.

In another corner, we have the mooted proposal to require parental notification for under-age abortion. Those pesky wombs again. I’ve ranted about this before on this blog. Again to recap, I can’t fathom how a health provider is expected to be in a better position than a patient in deciding who should be told about the patient’s health care situation, even if that patient is 15 or 14. But it’s not just giving the doctors permission to tell parents, it would require them to tell parents! Why?! These are parents that the child has identified as being unlikely to be supportive (because otherwise she would have told them, duh), so there’s at least a decent chance that their response will make bad situation worse! And to be really fucking blunt, an abortion is a much less major thing for a 15 year old to go through than a pregnancy and childbirth and parenthood. 

Finally, while we were away I read an old North and South magazine that was in the cottage and its cover story was about fertility decline among smart educated women blah blah. And I’m interested in the topic of fertility decline – my hunch is that my generation will be the one in which childlessness among university educated women becomes more common than childbearing – so I read the article. I fucking hate it when I’m reading something which doesn’t have to hate on parents and then boom, there’s a little box with the perspective of someone who is happily childless and she has to go and say all this stuff that makes me angry, like how parents should be grateful that she pays taxes which fund schools. Many of my dearest friends don’t want children, some are not yet sure but will probably not have children, and I totally get the attraction. I have a toddler! I understand why you might not want children! I live daily with the reality of how much work it is to be a parent and how much it limits your other options! I also live daily with the reality of how essential it is to our whole world that it be done a) at all and b) well. If you don’t have kids, and don’t want kids, that’s cool! But hey, being a parent isn’t a hobby you do in your spare time. It isn’t self-indulgence. It’s the opposite of that. It’s rewarding the same way that any other care work is rewarding, but even more so, because it’s even more care and more work. It’s rewarding because you get to watch them grow, and they do cute stuff, but it’s exhausting. We had our first childfree weekend this weekend just gone and it was amaaaaaazing. Did I mention we slept in? On the one hand while we were away I got no toddler snuggle cuddles and no tickle games, but on the other hand, I didn’t have to touch anyone else’s faeces or clean up food from the floor, and I didn’t have to try and discipline anyone for cruelty to cats. Also did I mention we saw a movie?! AND WENT OUT FOR DINNER! AND SLEPT IN!

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Piquing an interest

Like many Aotearoeans, I’ve long had an attitude of “meh” towards our current flag. Also, that was my attitude towards the whole flag change process. Because right up until the final four were announced, it was impossible to form a view for or against change. I want a better flag, not just a different flag. 

I checked the shortlist when it came out and my immediate response was “they are all terrible”. Not just “meh”, actively bad. How could they be worse than our current flag?! But they are. Suddenly I cared because what the hell, those are the contenders? I assumed there’d be at least one I wanted to vote for. 

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Pictured above: four flags which are all terrible. 

I quickly decided that I would protest vote in the first referendum by writing something like “they are all terrible” on my ballot paper, and in the second referendum I would vote no change. Try again in 15 years maybe. If there’d been an ok koru design, like Otis Frizzell’s Manawa, I probably would have just trucked on with a low level of interest and voted for my favourite in the first stage and reserved judgement in the second stage. The four designs put forward are so bad that I cannot bring myself to favour any of them. I can’t even decide which I hate the most.

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Pictured above: Manawa, an ok koru design.

And the more I thought about it, the more I thought maybe the whole “camp koru” vs “camp fern” was precisely why we ended up with such shoddy choices. 

And then Red Peak started getting momentum. 

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Pictured above: Red Peak, a not terrible flag. 

I’d discounted it at first, on the long list (”meh, triangles”). Then I read about how the design was developed – the left hand side with the red, white, and black of a tukutuku panel and the right with the red, white and blue of a Union Jack; the red base representing Papatuanuku with the white representing our mountains or alternatively the land of the long white cloud. Black for night, blue for dawn. First to see the sun. Four colours representing a vibrant and multicultural society. 

It’s pretty damn cool. 

It references Maori design, but in a way that integrates the design into a cohesive whole and reflects bi-cultural foundations of our nation and a forward-looking embrace of the multicultral place we are now . 

It connects us to land and sky. 

Like the greatest of great flags, it could come to symbolise our nation, instead of merely being a picture of an existing symbol. Think the difference between the Union Jack, which says “BRITAIN”,  and Canadian flag, which says “MAPLE LEAVES ARE A CANADA THING”. (I’m not knocking the Canadian flag, it’s a damn sight better than any of the top four designs being put to the preferential vote in November, because at least it’s a well-stylised emblem and good colours.)

Here’s the other thing about Red Peak: it’s the sort of flag that can grow on you. The abstract geometrical design becomes more appealing the more you see it. In contrast, all the top four designs have features which start to get even more irritating with increased exposure. The Kyle Lockwood fern/star creations look more and more like clip art. The black and white koru looks more and more like a weird vortex (worst koru design ever). The black and white fern looks like the feather of a seabird caught in an oil spill. Wait, that could be the perfect flag for us! 

Red Peak, now that’s a flag that people can grow to love. In just five days, the petition to have it added to the ballot has got 32,000 signatories. Wow! 

Yet it’s unlikely that it will be added. John Key has said no, but more to the point, adding it will make it less likely that one of his preferred designs be chosen. So – we’re back to where I started. Spoil the ballot in the first round, and vote no change in the second round. Try again down the line some time. 

I plan to spoil my ballot by sticking a picture of red peak over the four contenders and writing “RED PEAK FOR THE WIN” underneath. 

Independent thinkers just like me

A few weeks ago, Marama Davidson of the Green Party posted the following on Facebook:

Got told that me trying to raise empathetic, justice driven kids, who have a sense of care for their planet and their community, and who understand power imbalance and privilege, and the importance of having a voice and fighting oppression – is holding them hostage to political ideology in the same way that people who make their kids stand in public with ‘God hates faggots’ signs is.

Help. This is possibly an issue that seriously needs addressing once and for all. Help me write. This is basic stuff I know but I’m going to admit to some vulnerability and say I’m a little wound up over this which is restricting oxygen to my brain. Please grant me your collective critique on what we do and why. Thank you.

I think it’s an important question and it comes up a lot in the sort of social justice circles I used to be engaged in before I had a baby and found myself completely without spare time…

A few thoughts:

1) People are more important than ideas and values are more important than ideology. A good person should never be defined as a person who believes a certain set of things. A good person is a person who treats others with kindness and respect, even when they disagree with their standpoint.

2) Humility is important. None of us are perfect, and we all have room to improve, and we are enriched by opportunities to have our ideas critiqued – because we might come to a fuller understanding.

3) Tell the truth and trust your kids to draw their own conclusions. Many of the most powerful political lessons my parents ended up instilling in me were semi-inadvertent. Don’t try and make the world seem fairer and better than it is. Children are born with a strong sense of fairness and with caring and generous little hearts. When they see injustice, they will want to do something about it. Help them hold onto that reaction as they grow up.

4) Let your children teach you. Each new generation has fresh insights. Maybe if you are struggling to convince your kid that you’re right, you need to listen to what they’re saying and consider the possibility that you’re wrong. If you let your children challenge you, it teaches them that it’s ok to challenge authority – that the person in charge doesn’t always know best. This is a good lesson to learn.

5) Affirm the idea that everyone should be able to make their own decisions about their lives. This means making space for children to exercise autonomy commensurate with their age and stage. 

These are principles of parenting that everyone could adopt. Also, they’re progressive, liberal principles. I think they could be sort of a check-list of how to make sure that you’re not “holding them hostage to political ideology” even while you’re conveying a message both directly and indirectly that you favour a particular view on some issues.