Why I Had Kids

Following on Meaghan’s meditation on childrearing and work and the putting-together of grown-up puzzle pieces, commenter Vanderlyn asked the following not-crazy question: "Why do people still yearn to have biological children? Especially when doing so will render one’s life (more) financially tenuous, when there are so many unwanted children already out there, and when the world is already straining under the load of 7 billion of us?"

Amusement Park Tally: What It Cost, What It Was Worth

As promised, my little family hit up Coney Island this weekend for some sun, fun, and bruising brought on by the Cyclone, one of America’s oldest and ricketiest wooden roller coasters. Here’s what we spent and an analysis of whether each purchase was justified:

+ NYAquarium tickets

COST: $24 for two adults. Babygirl got in free.

WORTH IT?: Mostly. Did you know there are penguins in South Africa? Warm weather “jackass” penguins! They are small and adorable; in the water, swimming, they resemble ducks.

The aquarium is pretty small. A good chunk is still under construction, post-Sandy. Babygirl enjoyed trying to catch the tiny, iridescent fish in the tanks and was less enthusiastic about the sea lion show: she shrieked in terror at the sight of their sleek, monstrous bodies emerging from the water to clap their fins. Overall, it was a fun family outing, though I wouldn’t rush to do it again.

+ One Cyclone ride

COST: $9

WORTH IT: Ben emerged battered and hoarse with a huge grin on his face. Unequivocal yes, says he.

In Praise of Non-coworkers

Coworkers are the protagonists of our workplace sitcoms and soap operas—they are the fully realized characters who make the long hours from punch-in to punch-out as tolerable or intolerable as they are. But have we ever stopped to consider that wonderful class of bit players who fill in the interstices, upon whom we can project whatever back story suits us? I'm referring, of course, to the employees of other workplaces that share some physical space with our own, the people we basically don't know, but see enough to offer a nod and some small talk on This Weather We've Been Having—let's call them Non-Coworkers. I love this class of people, and the non-relationship I have with them. Let me sing their praises.

Tips For Hustling

The New Financial Advice is shaping up to be a real bummer: if we know anything, it is that we should expect to earn and achieve less, to be unemployed more, to carry debt always, and not to live where we want, but where we can. But beyond accommodating ourselves mentally to straitened circumstances, what shall we do? The answer, it seems, is that we shall hustle.

One Answer for All the Advice Column Questions Ever

At 37, I frequently find myself talking with people about whether they should have kids. This is an understandable dilemma, with the sands running out of the biological hourglass and all that, and the key issue always seems to be, "Will I regret not having kids?" or, "Will I not love having kids as much as I thought and thus, regret having them?" (Here’s a letter to Dear Sugar that lays out the general script.)

Chatting About Amusement Parks

Ester: Good morning, Meaghan! I have the song “Fancy” in my head, which is especially roughly since I know about five of the words. How are you? Meaghan: You mean by Reba McEntire? Wow you are having a better Friday than I am. I’m good! I’m excited we made it through the week, and without publishing any men at that. How are you? Do you have any PLANS this weekend?

Josh Michtom’s First Job: Helping Teach Argentinians English

The joy of a given job often comes down not to the salary but the intangibles: coworkers, setting, commute, and the like. This is doubly so in our teenage years.

An Illustrated True Saga of Costly Car Repair

At Coney Island on the last weekend of my kids’ summer vacation, we rode the Cyclone, which has been operating under electric power since 1927.

When we started our long journey home, it was on the subway, which has more than a century of electrically powered travel under its belt.

From there, we got on a Metro North commuter train, another shining example of electric locomotion. Our car was in the parking garage at the station in New Haven, waiting to carry us on the final leg of our journey.

But alas, the last bit of our electric journey was ill-fated: our little ’02 Prius, reliable in its first decade and, thereafter, in its first year with us, greeted us with a dashboard full of automotive alarm. The central feature was an icon of an exclamation point inside the silhouette of a car. Traditionally, this symbol appears as a very small light on the dashboard of gas cars and means “check tire pressure” (even though it seems like it should mean, simply, “Car!”). But in a Prius, according to our owner’s manual, it means, “Hybrid system error. TAKE CAR TO TOYOTA DEALER IMMEDIATELY.”

A Modest Proposal to Reduce the Likelihood of Unjustified Shootings by Police

At this point, it is becoming evident that there is something about the way police officers are trained in this country, or about the culture that seems to pervade police departments, that needs to change. We can speculate about why this is so (or argue whether it is so). Greg Howard at Deadspin has smart things to say about the militarization of police forces (when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail). I have a lot of ideas about the general stratification of society along race and class lines, and how that plays out in policymaking, law enforcement, and perceptions of poor, minority neighborhoods. But whatever the causes, it is safe to say that black men dying unnecessarily at the hands of police is a problem, and one society cannot quickly fix. So perhaps we should consider some sort of temporary solution.

Raising Kids to Trust People but Distrust Corporations

My children are seven and 10 years old, and in teaching them to navigate the world, I find myself swimming against a great tide of distrust in the world. Despite data to the contrary, the prevailing notion among the middle class parents I meet through my kids’ suburban school is that children today simply cannot do the things that we did as children because there are too many lurking perils, principally in the form of bad people who will do bad things if given half a chance. I try to counter this notion, urging my boys to go outside, to explore the blocks surrounding our building, to make the world their own. Of course they know not to get into a stranger’s car, but I think they also know that most strangers are just people like us, people with kids of their own and jobs and places to go. Even when we talk about the people I represent in court (children charged with crimes and adults accused of abusing their children), I try to put bad deeds in the context of complex circumstances: “People are generally good,” I always tell them.

But then this: the 10-year-old is playing some seemingly innocuous game on the iPad when he asks, “Dad, what’s your email address?”

I start to tell him, then hesitate. “Why?”

“It says that if I sign up to get some emails, I can get free points in this game and…”

“Forget it,” I say. “It’s a scam.”

“What do you mean, a scam? They just want to send emails! And it’s the only way to advance to the next level!”

Of course. He thinks people are generally good. What could be the harm in sharing my email address with the folks who already proved how thoughtful they were by providing us with a FREE IPAD GAME?

So that is the dilemma: In everyday interactions, most people are good and kind. But when they organize themselves into corporations, most people are trying to get over EVERY TIME.