Buddhist babies vs. Freudian freaks

March 31, 2015

Other than the parents you see on TLC and Nancy Grace, I think most folks want to raise children who are compassionate and caring and not monsters who follow the flowchart into mass murder. It’s not easy because all babies start out as future Charles Mansons.

According to the good Doctor Freud, we are born with primitive Id drives, the pleasure principle. The Id is the “Me” in us all that wants it right now, whatever it is. Babies are selfish creatures. If it feels good, do it! (As I type this Cozy is farting. At least I hope it’s just farting.) This aids in baby’s survival. I want to eat! I want to sleep! I want to crap my pants! Deal with it, Dad!

Around age 2, the kids starts recognizing that society don’t play that shit forever and you gotta start learning the rules. Potty training is the big one. All of sudden those biological urges that were just followed now have some social restraints. You can’t just pee whenever you need to. This is the development of the Superego, according to Freud. It’s the “They” that is meant to balance the “Me.” Our Ego sits between them and decides who we should listen to, the devil on our left shoulder (Id) or the angel on our right (Superego).

The problem is this “psychodynamic” isn’t always balanced perfectly. Sigmund blames the parents here. (I knew it!) An overbearing parent that pushes potty training and other rules too early or too harshly creates an overpowering superego and a grade A neurotic. Imagine a 3-year-old Woody Allen. “Why should penis envy be limited to girls?”

As a fellow neurotic, I would say the opposite is even more frightening. When the superego doesn’t show up, you are left with the unrestrained Id and a full-blown sociopathic personality. Eric Hickey’s wonderfully researched and insanely creepy book, Serial Murderers and Their Victims, makes the case that at least 80% of serial killers are sociopaths. Look at the three child antecedents of any self-respecting serial killer; bed wetting, animal cruelty, and fire starting. If it feels good do it. Fuck society.

So as a neurotic, I live in fear that I will raise a serial killer. Fortunately, since Cozy is female the statistics are in her favor. (Only about 15% of serial killers are ladies.) She won’t have the same rush of teenage testosterone telling her to listen to the devil. But we are in by no means safe from her wrath.

#CozyBlazak and the sound of desire. #ID #devilbaby #sopa

A post shared by Randy Blazak (@blazakr) on

Cozy Blazak, 7 months, is a raging Id. She knows what she wants and she will tell you. She doesn’t have words. It’s more like a low guttural growl. Have you ever seen Linda Blair in The Exorcist? When I first heard it, I thought she was pooping. No. She’s wanting. When she sees me preparing a bottle, Arrrgh! When we’re having morning coffee, Arrrgh! (She likes to rub her teeth on the mug.) When Dad’s gotta a spoonful of peanut butter in his mouth, Arrrgh! When Mom is topless, Arrrgh! Oh wait, that’s me.

She is consumed with desire. It’s certainly a normal state in our consumerist society. Like shoppers at the opening bell on Black Friday ready to kill to save $20 on a Keurig coffee machine, we are trained to want. But that way leads to misery and credit card debt. As Jedi Master Yoda once said, “Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.”

I think we can agree that Buddhists are pretty happy campers. Science backs up that their core principles are the things that make people the happiest.

10 things science (and Buddhism) says will make you happy

You don’t have to be a chanting monk in the Himalayas to adopt some basic principles of Buddhism. The most challenging for Americans is the issue of desire. Capitalism is based in desire. “I desire an Apple Watch, no matter the debt it may incur, the labor conditions that created it or the toxic waste it may generate. I NEED IT!!!!!” Shut the fuck up. You don’t “need” it. You need food, water, shelter and the occasional booty call.

Buddhists believe that all life is suffering and that suffering is caused by desire. If you eliminate desire, you eliminate suffering. Now I’m not about to eliminate my desire for the new Alabama Shakes album, but I’ve certainly cut back on wanting crap that I don’t really need and it feels good.

Can I pass this liberation from want to my daughter. What will a 5 or 15-year-old Cozy tell me that she “needs”? Of course, I will want to spoil her. But will freeing her from wanting the new i-gadget be more valuable than the gadget itself? Can I build an angel on her shoulder that sounds like Yoda?

I had a beautiful moment with a wonderful mentor named Albert Cohen. Cohen wrote Delinquent Boys in 1955 and it played a huge role in my thinking about racist skinheads. He was born in 1918 but is still alive and a vital voice in the field of criminology. We were having coffee in 1994 in Miami at the annual conference of the American Society of Criminology.

He was telling me that he was cleaning out his office at the University of Connecticut and getting rid of many of his old books. (I’m doing the same thing with my PSU office right now, sadly.) He was in the process of downsizing his life and moving, with his wife, into a smaller house. His mother was still alive and living in a retirement home. He said something powerful at that moment:

“We spend our lives accumulating things. Now I’m trying to get rid of most of the things I’ve collected over the years. All the things my mother cares about in the world now fit into a drawer next to her bed.”

We live in an id-driven culture of want. It causes so much suffering. Cozy is in the Id stage right now and that’s important, but comes a time to be free from want.

This book was mentioned in this blog and available at Powell’s by clicking the cover.

10 Things I Forget (Dad of 7 Month Old Edition)

March 27, 2015

  1. I forget what it’s like to sit on a couch that doesn’t smell like regurgitated breast milk.
  2. I forget not to run my fingers through my hair after I’ve changed a diaper.
  3. I forget the rear-view mirror is used to see traffic behind the car.
  4. I forget that the baby can now leave the room.
  5. I forget to read the weekly to see what cool bands are playing.
  6. I forget that we cosleep with a baby, but am reminded when, during sex, a 20 pound troll doll bounces across the mattress.
  7. I forget that I used to make fun of people who didn’t go to parties because they had kids.
  8. I forget what it’s like to have domain over my own body as my nostrils are regularly penetrated by tiny little fingers.
  9. I forget that dust bunnies appear to be edible treats to rug rats.
  10. I forget that there are things to do when I’m looking at her. Like breathe.

A dad

Time is a Thief. It stole my baby!

March 23, 2015

Time is not a constant. Sometimes it moves very slowly, like when you are waiting in line at the post office, tortured by seconds. There are devices meant to slow time even further. Have you ever spent 20 minutes on a StairMaster? And sometimes time races by. It’s already Spring! Today is my father’s 73rd birthday. I remember his 30th birthday and thinking he was so old. That was about 5 days ago.

The people who know the most about the flexibility of time are athletes. Races are won in hundredths of seconds but a well-covered wide-receiver catching a football feels it all happens in extreme slow motion. I remember a street survey about basketball great Michael Jordan. They asked people what they thought his top hang-time was, from when his feet left the ground to when his hand slammed the ball in the basket. Answers ranged from 5 seconds to over a minute. His record hang-time was 0.928 seconds.

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Parents know this time flexibility so well and now I do as well. The mantra, “They grow up so fast” gets uttered multiple times a day. It’s insane. Just yesterday, Cozy was a little blob, swaddled in a cradle. Today she is a 35 week old kid, scooting across the floor, curious what’s around the next corner.

And yes, I’m still counting weeks. Seven months and 6 days if you prefer. I’m one of those parents. How old is your daughter? She’s 156 months. Oh, you mean 13. Gotta slow time down.

This weekend we went to Target and bought a Magic Bullet so we could start making our own baby food for Cozy (and Piña Coladas for us). She’s eating the same things we are now. (OK, you can refer to the earlier post on breast milk, which now has over 3200 hits.) Last night we all had chicken soup. This morning she shared my PB&J sandwich. Who is this person?

I know how we anthropomorphize our animals (My cat prefers French impressionism), so I am aware I may be writing more into this child’s brain than is actually there. Regardless, I often feel like she is now a fully formed person with her own opinions and tastes. Maybe time is moving too slow and I want to hurry up and have a conversation with her about what a douche Ted Cruz is. Or maybe time is moving too fast, and I’ve forever lost those times when I could just stare at her and not worry what household danger she is crawling towards.

One of my favorite memories of my grandmother happened one Christmas. The gathered Blazaks were at my Uncle Dick’s house in Chattanooga. Before dinner we were all in the living room, singing “Silent Night” in front of the crackling fireplace. After the song, Grandma lifted up her hands and pretended to take a picture. Then she said, “I just wanted a snapshot of this moment.”

There’s a BB King lyric that goes, “Oh, time is a thief that will rob you of your years. And never return one yesterday.” I just want a snapshot of this moment before it blows away. Cozy has peanut butter and jelly on her face for the first time. Where does the time go?

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A Crawling Baby is the Harbinger of Doom

March 18, 2015

Cozette Blazak turned 7 months yesterday. You know what that means – She’s a crawling Kingsnake! Suddenly my house is a danger zone of death traps. Even the bed is now the cliff Thelma & Louise shot over.

Her mobility started a few months ago with rolling. The first time she figured out how to roll over we were over the moon. What a landmark! It also reduces the chances the baby will die of SIDS, so that’s good. The flip of that is now she wants to roll over every time you want to change her damn diaper. Suddenly our sedentary newborn was on the move, rolling all over the floor like the meatball that rolled off the spaghetti.

Watching her roll around the nursery floor became a new pastime for us. You could see her bright mind enjoying the mobility as she explored her environment. We’d watch her problem-solve when she’d roll under the crib. That’s when she figured out how to back up. She’d scoot herself backwards all over the place. But forward movement remained elusive.

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But then a funny thing happened. Cozy discovered the laws of physics. If she could get herself up to her knees, she could rock back and forth and she could use gravity to launch herself forward a few inches. It looked painful but she was thrilled to move in the same direction she was looking. Then it was just a hop, skip and jump to the army crawl and the standard baby crawl. It was like that scene from Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. “Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door.”

The big breakthrough came when we put a flashlight on the floor about five feet in front of her and she made a B-line for it. “Go toward the light!” we shouted. Maybe she was having a birth memory. When people “die” on the operating table and report being in a tunnel headed to a bright light, I’m like yeah, you’ve been there before. It’s called a “vagina.” Cozy knew it. Get born, keep warm.

Of course now the thrill has turned to terror. Where’s the baby? Under the bed. Suddenly, I realize how un-baby-proofed this house is. The hard wood floors that seemed so cool, the vintage door frames, the stack of sneakers with their laces so inviting. Everything is something to bang your head on or to choke on. The rooms I didn’t take the crappy old carpet out of when I bought this house are now safe (safer) zones.

The bed is the scary one. Your bed is supposed to be the place where you feel most safe. Now that Andrea is not working, we can sleep in on weekdays. Awesome, right? Well, we co-sleep with Cozy. She likes to sleep in, too. But once she wakes up, she’s on the move, headed for the edge of the bed like it’s Niagara Falls. Maybe it’s time to sleep on a futon. That’s what unemployed artists sleep on, right? You can’t fall far off of a futon.

When Cozy was a new baby, I was anxious for her to do something other than coo and be beautiful. Friends said, “Enjoy this phase when she’s stuck where you put her.” I get it now. She just crawled across the bedroom floor and opened my wife’s bureau drawer, looked back at me and smiled. “Look what I can now, fucker.” Oh, I’m starting to long for swaddled baby who was right where you left her. A lawyer friend just emailed me, “Get ready to give chase on the drop of a dime from here on out.” Lord.

The great part of this is I can see how her mobility helps her cognitive development. The down side is she is now crawling out the bedroom door, toward the hardwood floor and mom in the kitchen. The Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home” is playing in my head.

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I’ll bring her back in in a second, like a turtle being placed back at the starting line of a turtle race. I can always lure her back by placing the laptop on the floor with her picture on it. Narcissism knows no age. But at the moment she is in the bathroom, feeling how the tile floor is different from the carpet. I hope this little rugrat doesn’t disappear down the laundry chute.

She’s leaving home, bye, bye.

Dad, the Provider – A request for a kick start

March 16, 2015

Whenever I lecture about traditional gender roles, I mention how, in our culture, man is supposed to be the provider. (Whenever you discuss gender roles, you should always specify which culture you’re talking about.) And women are supposed to be the provided for. Obviously that has changed a lot in the past 40 years. More women are working now than men – a weird nexus between feminism and Reaganomics.

So when I left my job at Portland State in January, I also left my role as the provider of my family. Sociologically, I’m fine with that. But as a socialized being (this is the intellectual vs. the emotional trip), it’s been very hard. The uncertainty of my family’s future is something I’ve worked my whole life to avoid. And here it is.

My parents divorced when I was 17. I know a part of it was my mom started making more money than my dad and I think he felt it undermined his position in the house. We all suffered because of that version of masculinity. I think I’d be fine if my wife was bringing home mad stacks of (vegan) bacon. I rather enjoy planning dinner for her. But the sad reality is that she just lost her job on Friday. (Hey, I thought the economy was getting better!)

So my work as a writer is even more important now. It’s not just a luxury to write. I’m writing for our future. I know there are bloggers who make a living on their wonderful blogs. I don’t think Watching the Wheels is there yet. But I’m hoping the fiction writing is the ticket. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, my first novel, The Mission of the Sacred Heart, did pretty well for a self-published book and has been optioned for a screenplay (and might actually generate some income down the road).

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My fabulous wife had the idea of starting a Kickstarter campaign to fund the new book. We picked $10,000 as a goal to pay for some of the cost, the rewards for funders (and the 8% of fees that gets taken out). It won’t pay the mortgage for a year, but it will give us a few months. Very quickly, friends started chipping in. $40 here, $100 there. We’re already over the 10% mark but these things go into a slump after the kickoff, which scares the hell out of me.

So I’m putting this project out there into the Dad blogosphere to help fund the book and the family. There are some great rewards for pledges, but if you can’t chip in $10 for a really cool book project, I’d appreciate if you can pass it around to your network. And if you ever loved Cheap Trick’s Dream Police album, this thing is made for you.

My wife and I are a total team on this project. She’s really helped make it happen. We are both trying to be providers. The next chapter is starting. Thanks!

Here’s the link: PORTLAND WRITER DREAMS OF DREAM POLICE

My first novel is available at Powell’s Books. You can just click the cover.

Babies are on acid.

March 12, 2015

The baby brain must be an amazing place. Everything is a new sensation and nothing really connects yet. Door? What is this concept? There’s just a magic portal to another dimension. Light? Sometimes I can just see more stuff. Someone controls that? WTF.

They are learning at such a fast rate. We should be envious of how quickly they can put shit together. Cozy just figured out waving. Every parent of a little bean knows that every day it’s some new discovery. I’m still waiting for “Dada,” but until then I’ll settle for the raspberries she blows when she sees me.

At the moment it’s clear that babies are on drugs. It’s gotta a be like Alice In Wonderland times a thousand, with all these new images, sounds, tastes, and feelings. We gave Cozy a taste of Nutella the other day and her eyes about popped out of her head like she just hit a Whip-It.

Neuroscientists don’t believe babies dream. They spend half their sleeping time in REM sleep but don’t have enough experience to fill all that time with dreams, so it’s used to build the brain pathways. That could imply the waking state is more like a dream to them and you know how weird your dreams can get.

What Do Babies Dream About?

I’ve watched Cozy stare at her hand for 10 minutes straight like it was a season finale of House of Cards. I did that on my one big acid experience and my hand turned into a paw, and then a fish fin and then an amoeba. I de-evolved and realized I contained the DNA of the first living thing on earth and the alien life that thing came from. I can only wonder what my daughter was thinking.

One of the most misused words in American culture is “surreal.” It’s used by any dingbat who wants to say something was “awesome.” It’s like when people say, “My head literally exploded.” Wow. That must’ve hurt. Surrealism is an artistic movement that taps in the the subconscious to create dreamlike juxtapositions of images. Just think John Lennon in 1967. He was the walrus (or was it Paul?). That’s all to say that I think Cozy is the girl with kaleidoscope eyes. She must see so much. Our house is filled with art, so it must be an endless trip.

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I know when I was a little kid, living below the parent eye-level, I could stare at a crack in the wall and imagine that there was a whole world in there. I used to stare into the blue light on my parents hi-fi and see the rabbit hole to Wonderland. I’ve seen my daughter doing similar things and would love to have a peak into her perceptions. Right now she is staring at the bedroom ceiling like it’s a Cecile B. DeMille epic.

And what is she looking at? Sometimes I think she sees things that we can’t. I’ve caught her looking past my shoulder with great intent, like a scene from The Conjuring. This house is over a hundred years old, so it could be a ghost of God knows what, maybe an early Portland hipster. Hopefully she’s getting good fashion advice. “Oooo, Cozzzyyyy, never wear Crocssssss.”

It must be weird not to be able to communicate clearly with the people around you. I’ve been to countries where I didn’t speak the language and it also felt dreamlike. I was lost in Venice and the only Italian I knew was, “Dov’è la stazione?” Then people would just start babbling some gobbledygook. Goo goo ga joob. What is it like for a baby to want to say, “Dad, your beard is made of ants and I really need a dry diaper.”

There’s a lot lamenting the loss of child-like wonder as we get older. Instead of imagining what could be, we just ruminate on our own past. When we’re young, everything is ahead of us, all that potential. What do you want to be? Finally we get to a point where nothing is ahead of us and it’s all refection. What could I have been?

But a lot of that wonder is pure hallucination. I know that when I was 12, I saw Bigfoot on a camping trip in Colorado. Know it! When I was 7 and playing in the woods by myself (ah, those were the days), I knew there was a 300-foot tall bear that lived in those woods. Knew it! And when I was 3, I was convinced that cartoon characters would appear on my bedroom wall to entertain me. OK, that was 1967 so somebody might have spiked my juice.

I love that Cozy goes off to her own private Idaho on a regular basis. I want to be able to keep that part of her brain flowing while preparing her to handle some of harsh realities of the world. Can you be 1967 AND 1968? Life is but a dream.

It’s a Mom’s, Mom’s, Mom’s World. Dads to the Front!

March 9, 2015

The other day I was pushing Cozy in her stroller down NE Alberta St. on our daily trip to the coffee shop and a woman said, “You’re a good dad.” I just smiled. Is it that strange to see a man with his child in the middle of a weekday? Being one of the over 2 million stay-at-home dads, you start to notice something; It’s a mom’s world. Especially if you are out looking for a yoga class. Dads are parents, too, you know.

For 25 years, I’ve lectured about the gendered nature of advertising. I’ve had students do random samples of ads during football games and soap operas and discuss the themes about men and women. Or fashion magazines and car magazines (that’s a good one). I’d have them read Simon Davis’ excellent 1990 article, “Men as Success Objects, Women as Sex Objects: A Study of Personal Advertisements.” The message is clear, men are on the go and women stay at home with the kids and look pretty.

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It’s not 1955, but we are still bombarded with images of mom manning the home front while dad does out to make a buck. Products are “kid tested, mother approved.” Sure, there’s occasionally a dad making dinner, but he’s an idiot (not a chef) so he needs an easy solution. Pizza night!

Some might say, what’s the problem? Mom’s deserve recognition for all the hard work they do. True. But there is a feminist perspective that says men get the public sphere outside of the home and women get the private domestic sphere, and that’s all. They have to keep the house clean and the kids fed so the man can go out and get the glory. That behind every great man is a woman washing his underwear.

The goal of second wave feminism was to liberate women from being ONLY unpaid domestic servants. Women deserved equal participation in the public sphere. But to make this work, men had to help out with the domestic chores.

Instead, we got “supermoms,” who work 9 to 5 and then come home and get dinner ready. However, we are finally getting a generation of men who are making dinner and changing diapers in massive levels. Some of this is the result in cultural changes around gender. Real men know how to bake quiche! But some of it has to do with the change in the economy. The “manly” manufacturing jobs have been replaced by low-paid service sector jobs. Fifty years ago the American workforce was dominated by men working at GM. Now it is dominated by women working at Wal-Mart.

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Stay-at-home dads petition for ‘Amazon Mom’ name change

But you wouldn’t know this from our pop-culture. As I mentioned last week, the campaign by a Seattle stay-at-home dad to get the Amazon Mom service changed to Amazon Family is just the tip of the iceberg. Finding a place where dads are fully recognized as equal caregivers is a challenge even in liberal Portland.

I found this out when my wife suggested I take Cozy to a baby yoga class. I love yoga and the idea of Cozy doing “happy baby” poses next to me on the mat seems like a perfect activity. The problem is, every single class is a “Mom & Baby” class. No dads allowed. I know because I made several inquiries.

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As a feminist, I can appreciate women wanting a “safe space,” to work on some of the postpartum body issues. But does a dad with his baby going through his vinyasa flow with his kid next to him imply “creeper”?

The demand is there so I think “Dad & Baby Yoga” is coming soon. I got an email from one Portland yoga proprietor who said, “SO many papas have asked, that I am considering alternating weeks: mama baby, daddy baby.” I can’t wait to go and write about the experience there. Hopefully it will happen soon. Cozy is kicking my ass when it comes to being able to put your feet in your mouth.

The larger issue is the marginalization of dads and how it reinforces patriarchy. Men can be high paid chefs, but can’t be expected to make breakfast for mom and the kids. Why are these men doing the work of women? They should be out slaying dragons! The absence of the nurturing dad in our popular culture adds the pressure to the “supermoms” and undermines the promise of true gender equality. Dads are parents, too.

It’s exciting to see things change. The “dadvertising” I wrote about after the Super Bowl was a step in the right direction. The growing voice of dad bloggers is adding to the momentum. Soon we may see images of dads in the kitchen who aren’t bumbling fools. Dads taking their daughters shopping and dads who can fold laundry. This would be twice as good for families with two dads.

Until then I’ll just do yoga with Cozy in the living room.