CW: Puns worse than my title ahead. Also some vague allusions to where Hypothetical Future Babies might hypothetically come from in some hypothetical future.
Tornado Warnings from Tropical Storm Isaias spring up in the Northeast.
Lavender: “One and a half hours. There is an actual tornado on the actual ground, and Google says we’re a little over an hour and a half away from it. That is just not fair! If there’s going to be a tornado anywhere in this state, why can’t it at least be where about the only two people in the state who could appreciate it can go chase it?”
Partner: “And while we’re at it, if Tropical Storm Isaias is going to cancel our virtual plans because everyone else on the call is without power, why can’t it go ahead and have sustained winds of exactly 75 miles per hour? So you can finally cross ‘hurricane’ off your natural disaster bucket list instead of getting the same level of inconvenience from what is merely your second tropical storm warning?”
Lavender: “Hey! Not all of us have that check mark yet, Mr. ‘Been There. Done That.’ Climate change has already made the Northeast a literal subtropical zone. In for a penny, in for a pound? You know what?! That’s it! Whenever the rest of the world is finally willing to have Americans back again, we need to just go cross ‘erupting volcano’ off the list. Who knows? Maybe it will turn out that that is why that global pandemic hit just in time to scare us off making any real decision about Hypothetical Future Child. Because our kid is destined to someday have to sit through one of the most embarrassing, “was I an accident?” conversations ever. Wherein we explain to the kid how they were sort of planned, but also sort of conceived on the spur of the moment after a thrilling round of volcano tourism.”
Partner: “I thought that awkward story was supposed to be about how we went to one of the world’s best restaurants and…”
Lavender quickly triangulates where in the world there might be both erupting volcanoes and three Michelin-starred restaurants.
Lavender: “So, Japan or Italy? I could work with either of those. You know, I read an article recently about this volcanic island off the coast of Japan that has been erupting in progressively bigger eruptions over the past couple of years. That’s fairly unusual, as volcanoes can’t typically up the ante on their next eruption unless they have a longer quiet period after their first. If they erupt multiple times in short succession, their later eruptions are usually less powerful. The post suggested maybe there was a new mantle plume forming under that island, and that was why. I am not qualified to judge if that’s geologically accurate, but it was interesting. What would we even name a kid conceived at the same time as a baby mantle plume?
Lavender: “I don’t know whether to divorce you or throw away the birth control right now…”
No, we are not pregnant. We’re not even officially Trying to Conceive. Though, I do now know that that is abbreviated in the parenting blog world as “TTC.” Because at one point I logged on to some old baby name blogs that I originally bookmarked first to try to come up with inspiration for a character name for D&D (my normal), and I found myself in the right frame of mind to stay long enough to read some of that site’s articles for their intended purpose (borderline baby fever by my standards.)
We’re not currently “TTC.” But, we’re vaguely talking about maybe, possibly “TTC” in the near future. Specifically, we’re talking about waiting six months to see what the next round of financial chaos from the looming housing crisis brings and then talking about it again.
At one point, in late 2019, we thought that maybe we’d make 2020 the year. We even (amid all those many, many appointments that didn’t happen in March) made an appointment with an ob/gyn to get screened for any other genetic surprises that we might need to take into consideration when making that decision. I even read some of those posts by neurodiverse parents about parenting neurodiverse children in the various Facebook groups for neurodiversity I belong to that, in the past, I’d have scrolled right on by. We discussed what we’d do if our kid happened to be some flavor of neurodiverse sensory profile that needed things very ordered, while we’re both some flavor of neurodiverse ‘adulting fail’ that does manage ‘clean’ but never quite manages ‘uncluttered.’ (Those neurodiverse parenting blogs say to give the kid their own space to be an island of relief uniquely tailored to their sensory profile. We added on, “Could we also pay the kid once they are old enough to just go ahead and keep our own spaces just as orderly? We’re not opposed to that level of order. We’d probably thrive on it, in fact. We just aren’t ever realistically going to be able to produce that level of order ourselves. Might as well help Hypothetical Future Child to help themselves via bribery?)
And then, of course, there was that pesky global pandemic. And – being the overthinking types that we are – we decided to wait and make sure the world didn’t collapse first before making any long-term decisions.
Because I – and I guess my Partner, too, though he prefers not to count them – have ACES. As a result, we are very committed to our Hypothetical Future Child not having ACES. That seems simple enough (in principle to a non-traumatized brain) for most of them. Just don’t abuse your kid. But, the concept of trying to make sure our kid doesn’t have any of those ACES like “didn’t have enough to eat” doesn’t always seem as straightforward when the U.S. keeps pushing off a housing crisis of epic proportions, unemployment rates are at Second Great Depression levels, healthcare is collapsing under the strain of our mismanaged pandemic, and America is openly embracing Fascism…
Trauma takes an incredible toll on the brain. It takes enough of a toll, in fact, that my own pesky Sense of Foreshortened Future from my own history meant that, for most of my life, I always kind of implicitly assumed having kids wouldn’t be in the cards for me. The prospect of being the only bulwark keeping another human alive and “safe” for eighteen full years (even before paying for college!) was just too daunting.
I still can barely fathom the responsibility. I refuse to recapitulate my own childhood. But, I am also terrified that I won’t be able to avoid doing that despite my best efforts. Maybe my Partner and I won’t really be able to avoid falling into old family patterns? Maybe my family’s unicorn zebra genetics might force my hand by leaving another generation at the mercy of ‘the system’s’ lack of care? Maybe the world will fall apart to the point that even all of my incessant planning for disaster won’t protect us? Maybe I just fundamentally don’t trust myself?
And, maybe, fundamentally, I just don’t trust that safety itself even really exists. Not when the 9th Circle of Hell keeps managing – has managed as recently as 2018, in fact! – to reach out and destroy everything it touches. Not when it always feels like the “subtropical” Northeast might still be the illusion and Hell the dark truth underneath it all. Not when it feels like neurodiversity and chronic illness were so often used as justifications for trauma (past and present) in Hell that the prospect of neurodiverse-positive parenting seems impossible. What would we even do if we had a non-verbal child? How would we keep them safe? And, if I can’t even keep myself – and the ones I’m already responsible for – “safe”, how could I possibly not be an abuser myself by dragging another human being into that?
I don’t think I’ve ever actually known what safe truly feels like. At least, in any meaningful way beyond “I can probably enjoy this vacation I’m currently on without everything collapsing around me tomorrow.”(And, even then, I’d never totally let my guard down. I know that vacations can – and have – had intrusions from Hell within them.)
But, my Partner has just enough fewer ACES and has had just enough of a permanently patient answer (that he’s willing to repeat a dozen times over to reassure me) for every possible human-made disaster scenario that I have been able to throw at him, that he has almost convinced me that, worst comes to worst, if I can’t trust myself, I could at least trust him. The Bully-in-my-Brain and my own worst nightmares hadn’t (yet) quite come up with a proper rebuttal to “what if I just left primary caregiving responsibilities to Partner and just focused on making sure I kept food on the table for the kid?” as of early 2020.
Things were pretty decent in 2019. Because things were pretty decent in 2019 – especially in the latter half of 2019 – that whole year kind of felt like a lie. Because safety feels like an illusion. But, objectively, it was pretty safe. Safe enough to at least make an appointment.
And, 2020, for all it has been a dumpster fire of global proportions, has not so far been a crisis for us. It has sucked, don’t get me wrong, in the sense of “no one wants to live through the fall of a nation and the rise of Fascism.” But we still have money coming in and one 2018 personal crisis + one 2020 global crisis faced together does start to maybe suggest that Partner isn’t going to cut and run once he finalizes what being shackled to me – and thus to Hell – actually means.
And, so we found ourselves occasionally commenting on our recent mini-vacation just how different our own Hypothetical Future Child’s life might be like growing up in the Northeast compared to our experiences growing up in regions we both wish to remain at least half a continent away from. For instance, our Hypothetical Future Kid might grow up sailing on weekends in the
summer fall and spring when the weather is still livable. Because it turns out sailing is actually pretty awesome, and – thanks to the same connection that taught us that “jibing” has a meaning beyond some form of club dance that sounds horrible – we now know that actual middle class (not just super wealthy) families in the Northeast often join actual “sailing clubs” and have family outings on the water. It’s apparently a thing real non-tourist people do out here. Who knew? (We used to think maybe our cold-climate native kid would take up luge – a sport we both agree is truly underappreciated among winter Olympic sports – because it’s the only Olympic sport a dysautonomiac might be able to compete in lying down and it might actually be cold enough in winter out here. But, that whole ‘we’re now subtropical’ bit might be an issue there…)
We agreed sometime during our vacation that – though we were not yet so mature that we could resist dousing each other with seawater on the boat like five-year-olds – we might be willing to contemplate having a future five year old in about six months. Not tomorrow. After all, we are both still overthinkers, and my Partner, in particular, would like to see just how crazy things are going to get for our Second Great Depression after our Next Great Disaster of an election. Just to be safe. But, maybe not at some indefinite future point so far off that it might as well be never.
So that tentative decision-to-make-a-decision, by the power of Irony Magnet, virtually guaranteed that I’d return from sailing to find a fun new August workplace crisis just in case I needed to plant a few more seeds of doubt in my mind about the wisdom of trying to keep another human in food and shelter consistently. (So, by that token, maybe it’s a good thing that the rest of the world probably won’t welcome Americans back within the next six months. If I tried for Mount Etna as my volcano tourism, the universe would probably give me Campi Flegrei instead just because!)
The basic gist of the crisis is this: there had previously been a lot of employee turnover where I currently work in and around 2018. High enough turnover that most of those coworkers and bosses that I have had a good relationship with (and who have encouraged me to take vacations) haven’t been there much more than two years themselves. I now know the reason for that turnover, and it involves allegations that a fair number of those former employees left because some other of those employees were harassing other employees in a way that really should have been investigated. But, former employees allege that some of the most senior management did not follow company procedures and investigate complaints, and they are now pushing the board to conduct full investigations of all senior management. And hopefully push out most of it.
To be clear, I absolutely support coming forward with allegations of covering up workplace harassment, mismanagement or bullying. Anyone who remembers my old Bully-of-a-Boss and his horrifyingly workplace abusive ways – or the Great Purge of 2018 – will know I absolutely support holding senior leadership accountable if they did permit even a fraction of that environment in my current workplace in 2018. It just sucks that most of our clients don’t necessarily realize that only a couple of high-profile folks involved from that era are even still around. The rest of senior leadership – such as my current boss – are having to try to figure out how to manage a situation they themselves are learning about for the first time. And, they must try to convince those who keep us in business that they are a new regime (and thus worth continuing to give money to!) It will probably be fine. It just sucks that the remaining senior leaders who were around aren’t handling it the way my instincts tell me they should be. It just sucks that means there will have to be a full investigation and all the uncertainty and fear that creates for me of, “what if the current incarnation of this place loses so much business because a few remaining relics of the past won’t just be transparent that we have to face layoffs? What if those layoffs mean last hired is first fired? And what if that’s particularly frustrating because the new blood – and I don’t just mean me! – are actually pretty decent, as best I can tell? What if I really still can’t ever feel safe? Because no matter how careful I am to try to forge a working environment I can succeed in, someone else’s poor decisions will still leave me unsafe?
Argh! It will probably be fine. This workplace probably won’t tank because of the wrong actions of a few in 2018 + that pesky global economic downturn the way my own last one did.
But, it does start to give me a complex about
being out of the office anytime other than Christmas when the whole office is usually shut down anyway whether maybe I really can’t keep a kid safe long enough to revisit having one in six months or so. How much more stressful would any given workplace drama be if I had another mouth to feed besides just my own? I know “they” say that if you wait until you are “ready” you will never have a kid. But, well, most of “those” who say that also can’t quite manage to forecast company outcomes even a year ahead, while that’s a crucial part of my job. So, I don’t tend to trust the wisdom of those with short time horizons in general. But, at the same time, how do two mathematically inclined risk-modeling (in our family planning, if not quite in our extreme tourism!) overthinkers ever decide they are “ready enough” when they can always forecast another disaster of someone else’s making just around the corner? How the Hell does anyone ever choose to have a kid when they know just how “Hellish” things can get?
Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out my Glossary of Terms