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FKB: Whistle Down the Wind

I don't often miss work, but I was out of the office for a couple of hours last month. It was March 17th, which to some might be St. Patrick's Day, but which to me is my grandfathers' birthday. Yes, both maternal & paternal; neither Papa or Gramps descended from remotely Irish stock.

I was late to work because I had gone in to see the doctor. Not my doctor, who was booked for nearly a month out, but a nurse practitioner working at the same clinic, but who I had never seen before. I was there not because I was called in for labs or an annual exam, but because I needed to know if I needed to start planning for dying.

Since January I'd had some impingement in my right armpit. I first noticed it when I kept pulling at the sleeves of my shirts & sweaters, trying to stop what felt like binding under my arm. It took me a little while to give up on the idea that it was my clothes, or because I didn't fit them anymore, that was causing the problem. I scratched my head for a day or two.

Then I noticed that I had lost some range of motion, and that it felt like there was something in my armpit that was limiting my movement. I couldn't put my finger on what it might be, and examining my axilla just reminded me that I had to look up the technical name for "armpit." The anatomy that lay underneath was mostly a mystery, save for one very worrying set of organs. I puzzled on the motion problem for a couple more weeks. When my forearm started hurting below the elbow, I knew I had to do something.

The first thing I did was tell Mrs. Hayes that I needed to see the doc, and why. Then I told her what was scaring me – the sensation that there was something, possibly swollen, in my armpit that was causing some problems with my arm. And that my paternal grandmother had died of lymphoma at 61. I didn't need to remind Mrs. Hayes that cancer claimed Pops at 52, or that one of Pops' sons, my half-brother, is a leukemia survivor. So I made the an appointment with a stranger possessing a medical license to find out if I was dying.

Her answer was pretty definitive. She could not find any sign that my lymph nodes were inflamed in a way that might be causing the impingement. No signs of lymphoma, she said. She prescribed self-directed PT, figuring I had strained some connective tissues and was experiencing referred problems in my forearm as a result of compensating. She observed I had a toddler at home who I likely lifted with improper technique a few times too many. I didn't need her to tell me I had a kid at home, because that kid was the thing I was most afraid of losing.

Later, in an unguarded moment, I told my bosses about my "scare." (Does it really count as a scare? I dunno, but I can tell you I was more scared than I've been in a long time.) One of them told me the story of a serious car accident she'd survived. A bystander observed to her, after it was evident she'd escaped without a scratch, that it was "probably a birthday of sorts" for her. Indeed.

What do you do when life reminds you that the endless treadmill of waking up, getting out the door, working, commuting, daycare pick-up, supper, and evening chores will end one day, possibly abruptly? What do you do when you are reminded that your time with the people you care most about is running out at a mostly imperceptible rate? What do you do to make sure that the treadmill and other distractions don't steal special moments that you can't get back or replace? I thought a lot about these questions while I was waiting to find out if arriving at some concrete answers was a matter of urgent necessity.

Thankfully, I am not in immediate danger. The genetic IEDs inside my body are, at least for now, armed but un-detonated. Still, I could be hit by a Mack truck tomorrow. I could swallow a fly. I could get shot by a man in Reno. (This last seems somewhat avoidable.) But I realize I haven't done a good enough job about thinking who in my life (apart from my wife) I would want to entrust with the most precious person I've ever met if I'm not going to be around. I need to find an answer to that question while I'm still around to answer it myself.

Some questions for the new or recent parents out there: If you're a new or recent parent, how much planning for the worst have you done? What did you find helpful or comforting in that process?

For the seasoned parents/parents of adult children: How did your planning change as your children grew up? How are you planning now?

For all: How did you interrupt the treadmill of everyday life to enjoy the fleeting moments of being with your kids? What would you do over again? What do you want to change about what you're doing now?

42 thoughts on “FKB: Whistle Down the Wind”

  1. Great post on a subject that is always uncomfortable to consider.

    For the first question:
    Our little one is still very little, but we set up a lot of legal paperwork once he was a few months old. We but created wills for the first time and set up a trust on his behalf. In this process, we had to decide who would be the executors of our estates and the trust as well as a backup for each. Similarly, we had to determine who we wanted to raise him if we were to both die in the same car crash. That was difficult to consider. It was interesting having conversations with the people we chose (especially the backup couple to raise our son because I'm sure they were not even remotely expecting that we were considering them for the role) as we explained to them why they were chosen in the hope that they would act in a way that would carrying out our wishes of necessary.

    We worked with a friend who specializes in end of life planning, and she drafted everything up for us.

    Third question:
    I don't have a great answer, but I have never had much of an imagination. When I how imaginative he is, I love trying to cultivate it and help him enjoy the world of make-believe. For example, he has decided that everyone has pet spiders. He named his Petunia (although it sounds like Pet-tuna when he says it). I named mine Cheslor (I guess I had random Royals infielders on the mind), and we talk about their days and laugh as they crawl all over him.

    1. DP: Your eyesight is failing. Those spiders aren't make-believe. (Though they're harvesters/daddylonglegs, not true spiders.)

  2. We set up wills when our boy was about a year old. We were leaving on our honeymoon for a week (without him) and I think that inspired us. Our family is so chill and so supportive that thankfully it was an easy process. We told everyone the pecking order we wanted for taking care of our son (one pecking order for caregiving, one for money) and everyone said, "Sure, that sounds good." And honestly, even if we didn't have a will, I imagine the pecking order would wind up the same anyway with everyone pitching in.

    I'm not very good at appreciating moments during the day and I find myself wrapped up too much in getting to the next thing. I had a cancer scare last year too when I had bladder problems, but thankfully it was just an infection. I'd like to say things changed, but I just sighed and went back to business as usual.

  3. I write wills and help people with this stuff. Yet, I don't have one written up myself. Part of that is that I don't know who I would have take the kids. 4 kids is a lot to throw at anyone, and the obvious choices (grandparents, either side) are starting to get to the point where they're not such obvious choices, because they might pass on before the kids are grown... We've been talking about it, but not coming to any solutions.

    I don't have to worry about leaving any money...

    1. We're in a similar position. Two grandparents are young enough to theoretically take over if we are gone, but one of them has an adult child with a permanent disability and the other I would not ask because I don't want her raising her granddaughter. My brother in law is a sweet guy, but he's an early thirties bachelor who is kind of treading water. The only one of my siblings I'd consider is my youngest sister, who currently is a sophomore in college. The Poissonnier's godfather lives in Seattle, and our closest friends with a child of similar age live in Memphis. My uncle & aunt in NE Minneapolis might be our top choice. They're smart & loving, we deeply respect their worldview, and they're roughly the same age as the youngest grandparents. And they would've had a kid a couple years older than the Poissonnier but for a health issue that that closed the door on children.

      I have upped my life insurance coverage, but that won't pay off more than half our mortgage.

  4. I pulled a comment I'd intended for the Cuppa, without having first read the FKB post. Now I see that it was probably very, very appropriate for this context (even as it flips the script). But the linked reading I provided was damned disturbing.

    Death is hard to wrap one's head around. I've had my moments of existential dread (who hasn't?), but for the most part, I ignore the inevitability of life.

    This is one place where my lack of faith is a challenge. Being willing and able to believe that there is Something After must be an incredible comfort, because the very concept of It Ends And Then I Am No More is just not something any of us can really grok.

    1. I believe in an afterlife (so I hope I find myself headed somewhere good), but I honestly don't find much comfort in it. This place is all I've ever known, and I have a lot of things I need to be here for. Maybe it'll be more of a comfort if I make it to my elderly years, but quite honestly I have a hard time grasping why I would feel any comfort in leaving my kid & wife behind for some other plane of existence. Even contemplating the idea makes me really upset.

      What was the linked reading, Doc? Found it in the Cup.

      1. I'd echo this. I think the comforts of this life - namely, family and friends, humor, good food, beauty, the ability to create - are things I do not want to give up, ever. I'm left to simply hope that the Something After maintains these goods, and I feel anxiety about missing those things if they aren't there.

        I've thought about this quite a bit, and I've come to the conclusion that, since Heaven is supposed to be eternal, God doesn't want to fill it with holy people (because being holy for eternity is boring), he wants to fill Heaven with people who are fun. The kind of people you'd want to be around for eternity. So our time on Earth is a test, but the test is to live our best lives.

    2. This is one place where my lack of faith is a challenge. Being willing and able to believe that there is Something After...

      Meaning to tread lightly here, but doesn't the disbelief in a Something After require a faith assertion as well? I mean, I believe in Something After, but I don't know what that thing is, and I don't think any one does with any certainty. So if we don't know, both acceptance of a Something After and rejection of a Something After are faith-based, not knowledge based.

      Also, let me be clear that I don't mean to suggest that one can simply change their faith to accommodate a more palatable assertion. In my experience that isn't how faith works.

      1. Without advancing any particular dogma on matters eternal, I suppose disbelief in a Something After is a faith assertion. (What agreed-upon proof do we have?) I suppose true agnostics would occupy a middle ground on the question, being simply disinterested in a faith statement about whether Something After exists or not.

        The more I learned about apophatic theology in adulthood, the more comfortable I became with the parameters of my own faith in things, which by lived experience the faith tradition of my upbringing simply could not withstand.

        1. I might opine that Occam's razor suggests the burden of proof for life after death probably isn't on the atheists. Or for the existence of a deity.

          No disrespect intended. But disbelief in a particular (or any) supernatural argument really is not something that can or should be termed a kind of faith.

          1. Null hypothesis usually wins.

            Also, no disrespect intended, on either side of the belief/non-belief divide. Similarly, my lack of belief in an afterlife is the one religious tenant I wish I could ascribe to. I feel as if it would make the big losses of life a little bit more palatable, though having never really experienced such a world view I don't really know how it would change things.

            1. But null hypothesis really only applies to observable phenomena. If I were to give you a locked safe and ask you to tell me what was inside it you wouldn't conclude the answer was "nothing" you would conclude the answer is unknowable.

              I guess that's what I was saying from the outset. To the extent that anyone claims with any certainty knowledge about the unobservable afterlife (or lack thereof), that certainty is a statement of belief, and the burden of proof rests on anyone claiming that knowledge, whether they assert pro or con.

              Anyway, I don't need to say more here, being a "tread lightly" subject and all. So I'll just close with the fact that I take no disrespect in anything anyone said on this topic, and I mean none either. I appreciate the philosophical question for itself (some really great metaphysics and epistemology stuff at play here), and the spiritual question on a more personal level, that doesn't really enter into the conversation.

              1. In which Philosofer tries his thought experiment on his wife:

                ME: If I were to give you a locked safe and ask you to tell me what was inside it, what would you say?
                HER: Papers.
                ME: ...

          2. No disrespect taken. My understanding of Ockham, though, was that he posited as a purely scientific tool. Being a theologian, he was more or less convinced that theology was solely the province of faith, figuring that the divine (God, to Ockham) existed beyond rational human understanding. (I think Kierkegaard thought the same thing, but can't point you to specifics.)

            If we're essentially theorizing whether Something After is falsifiable, my thought is that Popper basically said that any universal statement which does not conform to our ability to verify is unscientific. I think it's fine if folks want to apply the principles of the razor to this question, but I'm not quite sure it's within the parameters of the razor as Ockham intended. Similarly, if someone feels the burden of proof rests on the believer, I suppose that's perfectly fine; I'm just not certain proof one way or the other could be provided.

            1. I've seen it suggested that Occam's razor cuts in favor of belief because "God made it" is simpler than the infinitesimal odds of life existing. I appreciate the humor in that suggestion.

              1. I appreciate the humor in that suggestion.
                Never heard that suggestion before. Now, so do I.

            2. if someone feels the burden of proof rests on the believer, I suppose that's perfectly fine; I'm just not certain proof one way or the other could be provided.

              I guess I more-or-less agree. Faith is, pretty much by definition, not founded on reason or empirical evidence.

              We actually have considerable evidence regarding evolutionary processes, which stands as a challenge to at least some interpretations of some major origin stories. We know quite a bit about brain function, but not nearly enough to "understand" consciousness or unconsciousness, I think.

              I'm on the side that thinks that consciousness and cognition are features of sufficiently complex neural nets, and that there's an "off" button, such that there probably isn't a whole lot that constitutes my sense of self that survives removing the power source that keeps the neural net intact. Maybe there's enough wetware "ROM" that a lot of who I am could in principle be transcribed, enabling the neural net to be reproduced (hey, I'm a sci fi fan!). But I don't see any scientific evidence for a "soul." Which leaves it in the realm of faith. I'm ok with that.

  5. Regarding the third question, it's easy to feel guilty when you're away at work most of the week plus have a few sideline items like softball, etc. I always looked for things that Runner daughter and I would enjoy doing together: our reading time, Legos, shared movie or TV time. Even at 26 she looks forward to dropping by after work to watch one of the TV series we like together.

  6. I would definitely recommend hiring an attorney to prepare estate documents. The guy we used brought up a number of things to think about when picking guardians, executors, trustees, etc.

    It was a struggle to figure out a guardian. We have no family here. We finally decided on my sister-in-law in StL since there is extended family there, but she has 3 kids of her own now. It would be pretty devastating if our kids lost their parents and then were shipped 8 hours away but we don't have any better options. Let's hope we stick around another 7+ years!

    1. This is on point with what I've described below ... especially the "shipping 8 hours away" but also, a "we don't want our kids being raised there" kind-of thing.

  7. Thoughtlessly hit 'refresh' and lost my comments ... here's a condensed version:

    1. The process of getting life insurance was helpful when it came to estate planning - will & trust drafting, health care directive, etc.. Biggest challenge was figuring out who we felt most comfortable entrusting out children to and acting as executor of the estate. Long story short, neither one of us were crazy about the other's suggestions (or adamant about our own suggestions) so, by process of elimination, we came up with a workable solution. We're not completely satisfied with the final selections, which is curious and rather bothersome (really, we have no "obvious" answers to identifying those roles!?! .. jeez), but we had to make a decision. We also agreed to not die at the same time.

    2. Not there yet, but we will reduce, and eventually eliminate the life insurance. Will continue to monitor our selections for raising kids & executing the estate plan (one of my 'options' are, rather unexpectedly, getting a divorce. They weren't in the final conversation because my wife is both smart & intuitive, but I'd considered them, so ... yeah).

    3. Occasionally, I'm a bit unhappy that my kids spend so much time with teachers and caregivers who are not us, but I never feel guilty. Basically, we've made choices about our family and how we want to raise our kids. We've been fortunate to make those choices as opposed to being forced to respond to things beyond our control. When we're at home with them, we work hard to be engaged with them, no matter the task or activity.

    With regards to my views on mortality generally, more and more I've come to think that this is all we get. Our time as living, breathing, walking, talking, thinking ... loving ... beings is limited to the duration of our lives. As such, I try to make sure that I embrace and experience every opportunity to live - parenting, marriage, career, entertainment, etc. - all of the encounters, events, occurrences, relationships ... consciousness ... that make up life. I don't know when I'll die, and likely won't have much to say about it when it comes. Living and planning for it, knowing that it WILL HAPPEN, seems a better option than worrying about it.

    Perhaps it's a bit trite to quote movies, but these always come to mind when thinking about mortality:
    "Death comes for us all in the end."
    "Get busy living, or get busy dying."
    "Every man dies, but not every man really lives."

    1. I like that you included "career" as part of "opportunit[ies] to live," CoC, because I often find myself in a work ≠ life mindset and it's helpful to interrupt that. Maybe it's because I am in a career that I didn't plan for or actively pursue until realizing it was something for which I had skills and find reasonably bearable and occasionally rewarding (in the sense that I was pleased I helped someone else). The number of opportunities to point to a significant "finished" product that I was instrumental in bringing to fruition are fairly minimal. I probably wouldn't choose to spend so much time in my office if I thought I had other options. I know the work I do is important on very small scales, but there are very few opportunities or mechanisms in place that allow people in my line of work to reflect on the significance of our work in the aggregate, and even fewer that allow others at this institution opportunity to see the same. So even though the work is something of a vocation (in the sense of personal inclination or calling), I don't find myself celebrating accomplishments that resonate with celebrating life.

      I hope that doesn't make me sound like someone who isn't committed to the work, because that's definitely not the case. But I very rarely feel "alive" or satisfied by the work I get paid to do; instead, I find that kind of satisfaction comes more regularly from things I would rather get paid to do, but do instead because I love them (editing the journal, for example).

      When I was looking for an image for this post, I ran across a few old tombstones with variations on the following inscribed upon them:

      Remember me as you pass by,
      As you are now, so once was I,
      As I am now, so you must be,
      Prepare for death and follow me.

      1. But I very rarely feel "alive" or satisfied by the work I get paid to do

        I hear that. I have had jobs in the past that were very satisfying (my previous one, for example), but extenuating circumstances prevented me from being able to enjoy the enjoyable parts of the job. Currently, I don't feel particularly happy with the actual work I'm doing right now, but the better pay and far shorter commute are allowing me to enjoy time at home more. Now if I could just stop getting into arguments with my daughter all the time...

        But yeah, as far as feeling satisfied by work, I'm glad I have external pursuits that I do find invigorating. It makes me feel less bad about jumping jobs and, more or less, following the money.

        1. Not the point you were making, but,

          arguments with my daughter

          I don't mind the arguments ... I just wish she'd let me win one once in awhile!

          1. I wouldn't even mind losing some, its the completely irrational arguments we get into that are the problem. Like yesterday, when we got home I asked her to bring her backpack inside before she played outside because I had too much stuff to carry. That resulted in a lot of shouting and tears (the shouting being something I really hate about myself to the point I'm trying to get professional help on it) and probably a lot of judging by my neighbors. In the end, I brought her into her room where she eventually just fell asleep.

      2. until realizing it was something for which I had skills and find reasonably bearable and occasionally rewarding

        the trick is understanding that most, if not all, work can be reasonably bearable. Harder than it seems.

  8. My approach to question number three is that I think of all that treadmill business as life, not an impediment to what life should be. The lives of my family members are very, very busy. I feel like I run, run, run at all times, and have little (if any) time for myself to relax, do what I want to do, etc. If I have time in the evening after the kids go to bed, it usually spent grading. And, my wife is in the same kind of job as me, putting us both into a seemingly never ending pile of papers to grade, proposals to write, or paperwork to deal with, students to respond to, etc.

    That also means our time with the kids is limited. They each spend far more time each week day at school/preschool/childcare than they do with my wife and I. But, even if the time I do get to spend with my kids is spent in the grocery store, or making dinner, or driving between activities, I try to make that time mean something, to be a chance to be silly with them, or talk about our days, something that connects us as a family.

    I used to have a very hard time with thinking that I was wasting the time I have at home with my kids, but I'm now much more in the mindset that any time can be quality time with them. The time we spend getting ready in the morning can be impactful in their lives, it doesn't have to just be some big event to be important family time.

    1. This was a helpful counterpoint the treadmill problem, Mike. When I start getting oppressed by the idea of the treadmill preventing me from getting to life, I think I'm going to try to focus on the amount of time I feel like I spend on it – both in ways that I can feel like I'm adding value to the mechanical tasks of living (which is a very low-fi reduction of what I took from your comment), but also reminding myself I'm more fortunate than some who spend more time on the treadmill. It's daunting, because I've kind of given up on the idea that I'll ever be able to retire, but it seems like there's a recipe for madness if I don't try at all.

  9. I have nothing useful to contribute as far as planning goes. I’ve been thinking about that last set of questions since your post went up, but I’m still not quite sure how to put my thoughts into words. After the peperoncino was born, I was more aware of time passing quickly—a 3-year-old is giant after you’ve been holding a newborn! I also find that I’m more able to appreciate the special things about each boy because of the differences between them. But I wouldn’t exactly recommend having a second child as the answer to appreciating the fleeting moments.

    By reminding myself that I won’t be putting the boys to bed for the rest of eternity, I can better appreciate that time now (frustrations and all). I try to also cave out occasional time when I can do something special one-on-one. Last week the jalapeno had a day off school, so he and I came up with a plan for some things to do together that we don’t normally do, and we had a lot of fun. It was a good counterbalance to the moment when he didn’t want to do homework a few days later and started throwing things around the kitchen . . .

    I suspect that just by asking the question and giving it thought, you’ll come to your own answer in time.

    1. When I take off a long piece of time, like around Christmas, I try to have a one-on-one hike with each kid separately.
      It was based on realizing that in the weekends where EAR has been out, and it's been me and four kids, "It's like I've hardly seen them".
      (Maybe that won't be so bad as they grow up and we have five-part conversations rather than four dialogs.)
      So now, I try to do things with one or max two kids. They feel like they're getting special attention and I get to talk to them and show them things, not just keep them all in sight.

      During regular weekends, AJR is typically willing to leave computer games* and cartoons to go on a walk in the woods with me, but only if none of the others are going.
      But that does lead to this:
      1 AJR: I'm going with Daddy!
      2 LBR: Then I want to come too!
      3 AJR: Then I'm not going!
      4 LBR: Me neither!
      5 GOTO 1
      I usually get out of that loop by distracting LBR.

      *We got a second hand-me-down iPad. So, with the desktop and CER's own small tablet, they can all play Minecraft together: 5 year-old to 13-year-old.
      Sometimes they all play legos together, too. I can't imagine myself as the child in those situations.

      1. ...I get to talk to them and show them things, not just keep them all in sight.

        Even with "only" two, this really rang true.

  10. Thanks for sharing the story and all the writing in the comments as well. Phew!

    My neighbors whose daughters almost died this summer in a four-wheeler accident (I'm 90% sure I shared that story here) had another scare as the father had a heart attack at 52. I was out of town for work and my wife (for reasons) ended up taking him to the emergency room, sitting with him for three hours. Transfer to Mayo, three stents, another hospital visit, a failed install of a fourth stent, and now he's home figuring out his new reality. He's a runner who eats very little and has no family history of blockage. Maybe the little he ate was the wrong thing? Who knows. It's baffling.

    Planning. Buh. We took too long to get a will going. Yet apparently we beat most people to it. At the time, we told my sister that the kids would go to her (3 hours away, but near grandparents) if we have a simultaneous accident. In the past 5 years we decided we really don't jive with their parenting and the kids have roots where we are, so switched to my wife's sister who lives in the same town. (We also don't jive with _their_ parenting, but it's less non-jivey than the other family.) We didn't tell my sister about the change, figuring it's probably not going to matter and not really worth the hurt feelings.

    Life insurance is a must. I'm definitely a term guy. Fortunately we've been able to make the choice for one of us to stay home. Our life insurance is set up accordingly. The first time we did it, the plan was… During the "kids at home" years, if I go then the mortgage would be paid and there'd be enough to provide some annual income to offset the difference between what I was making and what she'd make going back to work. Her insurance was much less. Maybe enough to pay the mortgage and provide a little domestic help. The policies would lapse as the kids got out of the house.

    Since the first time we did this planning, our income has thankfully grown and so we decided to add some coverage. While we don't plan to pay for all of our kids' college, if one of us die, they will get that advantage. Our thinking was that they've had to deal with some pretty serious "real life" if one of us die, and perhaps any worries we have about the impact of paying for all of their schooling can go by the wayside. We ended up each getting two policies. One will lapse in the midst of our kids getting out of the house and the other will lapse when they should all be out of college (if they choose college).

    (I think it was the book _The Wealthy Barber_ that had a particularly nice section on life insurance.)

    We're terrible parents who just started saving for the kids' college last year. Well, not so terrible. Our opinion was to work on our own retirement savings first before helping them out because who knew what was ahead of us. Also, I believe the principal on a Roth IRA can be withdrawn before retirement without penalties/fees if the money is going toward the educations of dependents. (Double check that!) If my career is fortunate to continue as is, we'll end up saving enough for each of them to pay our guesstimate for what four years of in-state tuition will be when they hit college years. They'll need to pay/loan out room & board and any additional tuition costs. That's the plan anyway.

    Life passes by. I think at any given moment a good parent mostly feels like they're doing several things pretty terribly. (A bad parent has no sense of this.) For instance, I do most of the cooking and we don't eat out very much. I'm a great example! I'm cooking! Lots of times with fresh ingredients! They're seeing me in a creative pursuit! But I'll ask a kid some detail about a thing I do almost every day and they don't seem to even realize I do it. On the flip side, they seem to pick up on every terrible habit you have. So…the truth of what they actually absorb is probably somewhere in the middle.

    The oldest wants to take the whatever-home-economics-is-called-now class in junior high next year, but really only for the cooking. My advice to her was just to help me out when she has time between homework and activities. And she enjoys it. I wish we could do it every night, but we can't.

    I don't do well with these type of insights. I gave you the one example which I seem to have made a good call. Look for more things like that, I tell both you and me.

    I'd always like to cut away the things that are not uplifting to me or my relationships with my kids. Yet I still find myself time to time looking at my phone when I shouldn't. Lately I've decided that I should never feel guilty about reading a book, but maybe I've taken that too far in the evenings. Who knows?!

    I'm both excited and terrified for them to be grown up and on their own. There are so many things we want to do (mainly around travel) that aren't too practical with the kids. But we really do enjoy the soccer games, music being practiced, concerts being attended, art being arted, etc. And as they grow older, they have become more and more fun to be around. (We'll see if that holds with each of them. 🙂 Certainly it will be a giant hole when they are no longer in the house. We'll have to do our best to remember all the wonderful reasons why that hole feels so large.

    1. .... a good parent mostly feels like they're doing several things pretty terribly. (A bad parent has no sense of this.)

      Pardon my language, but holy shit did I LAUGH at the hilarious/horrifying accuracy of this!

    2. Our parents helped us with tuition for undergraduate at a state college and we mostly worked and paid for room and board, though had some help with that, too. I don't know how intentional it was, but my parents (and my wife's mom, too) focused more on spending money to enrich our childhoods than saving it for us, though they managed to do both. We were very lucky.

      My parents have both voiced regrets over parts of their parenting, things they wish they would have done differently. And I suppose on most of their points I agree. But I've never felt bitter about anything they did or didn't do, including their divorce. They were always open about their faults (even going so far as to get our input into the divorce) and they always gave us permission to be who we were and to make mistakes, while also being there for us when we needed them. They pushed just enough to make sure we weren't complacent and helped us understand respect. They're the same as grandparents: supportive and non-judgmental. I'm eternally grateful.

    3. I am not a financial expert, but I think you made a reasonable choice to focus on your retirement first and college savings second. I have to deal with those types of decisions now, and my intuition is to put extra money into the mortgage and stop spending so much money on interest. Then we can use the money we would have been paying on the mortgage for college savings. I like this strategy because I know exactly how much interest I can avoid on the mortgage, but I am uncertain how much I can gain through investing that money (though for retirement and eventually for college those are risks I am going to more or less have to take.)

      From a child's perspective, I love my parents but I don't love their financial uncertainty going into retirement.

  11. If you're a new or recent parent, how much planning for the worst have you done?

    My wife and I set up a will and also did an advance care directive, or whatever the term is in our area for directing how we want our end-of-life care to be conducted. I see that CoC mentioned the health care directive, but I think it bears special mention. Other than my desire to avoid undesired suffering in my last days on earth, I would also like to avoid leaving my family with health care bills for procedures which extended the beating of my heart but didn't really give me life.

    What did you find helpful or comforting in that process?

    I had a legal benefit through work, so it was nice not having to worry about paying the lawyer. I suppose this sounds trivial in the scheme of life and death, but it gave me one fewer excuse to get things done. My wife was also really insistent on getting it done. As usual, not sure what I'd do without her.

    Other than that, I would bluntly say the process was emotionally difficult. I will eventually die, but I hope it's at least 40-50 years from now. But, shit happens and it's good to be prepared. I think partly I just told myself that having some plan--any plan--down on paper would make things better and less confusing for those left behind.

    How did you interrupt the treadmill of everyday life to enjoy the fleeting moments of being with your kids? What would you do over again? What do you want to change about what you're doing now?

    I've thought about this lately, and I try to think back to my childhood. I was lucky to have two loving parents, and I think they raised me well. (Sure, I'm biased.) What strikes me thinking back on it is that while I definitely shared some experiences with them growing up (say playing catch in the back yard or family vacations), what I treasure most is the values they instilled and the example they set. They lived on the treadmill, but it wasn't really to my detriment. I needed some space to grow and learn on my own. I don't mean to suggest that they were absent, just that they both worked 9-5s and I never for a minute resented them for it, and I wonder if they had really tried even hard to bend over backwards to spend more time with me if it would have been beneficial overall or just stressed them out.

    Having just finished parental leave recently, I felt somewhat bad about leaving my daughter's care to someone else, but there are also things that she is experiencing in the day care center environment that I couldn't really give her at home by myself.

    Maybe that's a bit too convenient to really be true, but it's what I'm going with for now.

    1. Yeah. I see my son in preschool and he just so many more creative things there than we have the energy or time for at home. And he mostly loves it and he has bloomed. My dad was involved in my cub scouts and little league and that was awesome. But at home I don't remember spending a lot of time with my parents. My mom worked evenings, so I only saw her on weekends. And my dad mostly watched TV or read while I also read or played video games or hung out with friends. We'd have game nights on weekends, and I'd occasionally play video games with my parents or watch movies or Star Trek together. But I didn't spend quality time with them every night. I suppose sometimes I felt they were inattentive, but I also really liked being alone.

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