Archive for January, 2010

Early Resources for Dads

I’m probably studying harder for having a baby than I should be. It’s not terribly difficult. I mean, I don’t technically have to do anything. Well… I had to do one thing, but I took care of that a few months back. Checklist is now clear.

Moms need to worry about their food intake, their exercise, their vitamin levels, their sleeping position, their exertion level, their shrinking wardrobe and on and on. For a Dad, getting educated is pretty much the way to be involved. Talking with the baby and tagging along for doctor’s visits and being generally supportive are a way of being involved, but that’s the fun stuff. That’s like sitting down to eat a meal your wife made for you, and then later recounting the tale of the delicious meal you made the other night. Unless you’re in the kitchen doing something that looks like work, you’re taking some liberties.

So what kind of stuff is out there for you to get edumacated with?

As with all things, don’t listen to the internet. The internet is tricksy and filled with things like this and this (don’t click that first one, by the by). The internet is a silly place. Let’s not go there.

If you must internet, visit a well established site like The Bump, but as with all places on the internet, may God have mercy on your soul if you read the comments. And if you must read the comments, think about them this way. You’re walking down the street. A person that you have never seen before and you know nothing about is standing on a street corner and telling the world around them that when they had a kid, they found that he slept better after they rubbed butter on his eyebrows. Would you take that person seriously? Exactly. Just because they wrote it down doesn’t mean they’re any more reliable a source.

I would like to toot my own horn and say that you could consider this site a reliable resource for you, but it’s a pretty scant resource at this point in time. So, bear with me and hopefully it will become more utile.

Books are the way you should go when you’re dealing with media. With a book that you find at any major retailer, you know that someone actually checked into the author and trusted them enough to spend a bunch of money on having them write something and then printing the hell out of it. Books written for Dads are few and far between. General guides about babies and child-rearing, while typically written with a slant towards the mother, are by and large neutral and filled with info. Here’s a look at a couple I’ve been reading:

Your Baby’s First Year: Week by Week – This book is basically a catch-all for baby info. Janelle is reading the version regarding the pregnancy itself, and I’m reading up on the aftermath. This book will tell you a ton that you won’t need to know (you can skip sections regarding twins or preemies entirely if you’re not in that particular scenario). It’s also hideously organized. Each chapter deals with a particular week, but only some of the information is arranged in a manner that tracks week to week. I’ve read information in Week 48 that is actually only viable for children under 12 weeks. Best to read things in advance and not as you go.

However, the book is great for information on health and diet schedules. There are sections regarding illnesses for the child scattered throughout the book that list causes, symptoms, home treatments and signs you need to call your doctor. Other areas deal with good foods for your child and ideas for how you should be adapting and changing their food schedule as they go. Useful stuff by and large.

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer – I’ve only just started this book, but it seems to be a very practical guide for dealing with your baby not as an object you need to be curator for, but as a little person who is always learning and trying to communicate with you in the ways it understands. I like the message so far, and it seems to be providing a mindset for dealing with a baby that I think jives very well with me. I’ve also found some great practical tips early on in the book (such as, pre-opening packaging for baby items since it’s hard to open things with a baby in one hand or cooking and freezing meals in the week before the due date so you can take it easy on cooking right after the birth).

Waiting in the wings I have What to Expect the First Year and Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, both encyclopedic tomes that I imagine I will be skimming through more than reading. And that’s the thing to remember about books. They need to be written for the masses, and they need to be written to deal with the extremes. This means that they more than likely will scare you far more than you need to be about your upcoming baby and that they will tell you a great many things that you will be able to figure out on your own. They’re best for reference for the items I’ve covered earlier: illness, treatment and diet. Even those areas will vary child to child, but they’re a bit more overarching – and something you’ll want to be prepped for more than the rest. Don’t overthink too much of how you’re going to be raising a kid in terms of playtime and discipline, but you had best know what a sick kid looks like and that you had better not feed them honey.

In the end, your best resources are going to be yourself and your parents. Trust in your instincts, and trust in your family to give advice that has been field-tested by people that you hopefully don’t think are insane. Take advice when you want it, disregard it when you think it doesn’t apply to your unique situation. There is no baby and no parenting situation like yours anywhere in the world, so you are by and large going to have to make it up as you go no matter what. Your family knows who you are though, and they’ll be able to tailor their words to match your parenthood as best they can. And don’t discount the in-laws out of hand (unless they are insane). Just as advice from your parents can help smooth thing for you, advice from your partner’s parents will do the same. Even if you have to trade back and forth on who gets listened to this time, try to find a balance.

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Respect the Authoritay

You see a lot, in real life as well as in general media, of parents laying down the law in defense of their child or their child-rearing practices. You see a fierce, sometimes belligerent, energy being output from people that you might not have otherwise considered Type A individuals (well, Type A isn’t exactly right for what I want here, but what I do want is what most people think of when they hear “Type A”).

I, on the other hand, consider myself staunchly Type B, to a fault. I prefer not to make waves in just about all ways. I’m fine being the center of attention, but I certainly don’t want to be the cause of distress or conflict. I will, ironically enough, be stubborn and argumentative to the point of creating a whole different conflict if pushed to do so.

This was all before I was given stewardship of a small human. Babies don’t make any decisions and they cannot protect themselves. This puts any parent in a position to need to take on these responsibilities. I imagine this is especially true for single parents, where there is no chance for a good cop/bad cop routine. After a few years, any parent is apt to become pretty accustomed to calling the shots. At least until a child is old enough to speak for themselves and really try and force their own hand, a parent has the option of ruling their household with an iron fist.

Dominion carries out into the real world as well, in a bubble around wherever your child roams. I can tell you right now, mild-mannered as I claim to be, I already feel ready to throw down if need be. Babies are hard work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I don’t particularly relish the notion of someone either disrupting that work or injuring that child. That there kid is a fine specimen of my best genetic sculpture, dammit. One of a kind.

I am, however, hoping that I can manage to play things loose with the child directly. My natural inclination to not cause any disruptions is going to extend to my child. Loud noises, making messes, running around and drawing attention. These are all pretty natural parts of being a child, and they’re exactly the kinds of things I strive to avoid myself. Striking a balance between authoritative and easy-going is a tricky art. I would prefer to avoid having Janelle or myself take on each of those roles separately. The notion of a kid running from one particular parent each time there is trouble afoot doesn’t sound savory to me (of course, this might end up being unavoidable).

I find myself more and more watching children when I’m out in public. I watch them, but more importantly, I watch their parents and the public around them. A two year old child that toddles through a restaurant dining room. The parents are watching carefully, but not reacting, even as the kid gets farther and farther away, moving between tables. But… she’s a quiet little girl and all she’s doing is walking up to people and looking at them shyly, and everyone she walks up to waves and says hello. Just as she’s about to move out of sight entirely, they pop up and retrieve her. It’s exactly the kind of thing that I would have jumped up and stopped from being a situation before it started, but perhaps it’s also important social learning for the little girl.

I’m not too sure how I’m going to find the balance between these extremes, but I’m guessing there’s going to be a lot of trial and error involved.

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The New Year Post

In the fashion of screenwriting guru John August, I’ve decided to make my New Year resolutions more about areas of focus than specific statements. It’s very easy to slip from a targeted goal, but much easier to simply keep a particular frame of mind, so that’s what I’m aiming for.

2010 is going to be an insanely busy year for me. Around about June I become a Dad. If things go according to schedule, in February I will own a home. Making things busier still will be my first goal:

1) Focus more on creative work

I’d like to say that I’m going to crank out a couple screenplays and a novel this year (and that’s really what I’ll be keeping in the back of my mind), but I think it’s more reasonable to tell simply ensure I’m continuing to think about and chip away at creative work. I want to be making sure that a certain portion of my free time goes to continuing this trend—and I’d like to start doing a bit more learning and exercises as it relates to writing.

To date, I’ve depended largely on natural ability to get me through most things. I don’t do so well with intense practice at much of anything and tend to reach a point at which my ability plateaus on its own and that’s where I rest. Sure, I have a degree in Writing, but my previous statement holds true for my time in that program as well. I was good enough at the outset to work through all those classes, and didn’t really sit around studying techniques and methods and writing out exercises. In 2010 I want to work on actually improving my work rather than simply doing more of it. This means I’ll be tackling more sitting on park benches and writing descriptions of what I see and trying out small page-long exercises.

2) Focus more on single tasking

You can’t multitask with a baby. Rather, I don’t want to. It’s not something I want to start training an infant to do, and that makes this year the perfect time to break the habit for myself. A subset here (2a) will be Shave More/Shave Better. In 2010 I want to get to the point where I’m shaving daily. I’ve got pretty sensitive skin on my face, so I think it’s time to delve into the tricks and techniques of this classic bit of manitude. I have the resources near to hand. This just seems like one of those things that every dude should know how to do, and the only reason I’m not better about it now is that I don’t take the time to allow myself to be. So I wake up 10 minutes earlier to get it done. I can handle that.

3) Focus more on my leisure

A subset of this is 3a) Read more. I’m going to relax a bit more. Janelle and I have a lot of fun, but we’re also busy a fair amount of time. 2010 is going to have a lot more of my sitting around the house and doing what I want to do. From reading to watching DVDs to writing to playing games. It’s hobby-time.

4) Focus more on my health

I don’t want to lose a certain amount of weight or get a certain number of abs (27), I’d rather just make sure that I’m thinking about better choices, plain and simple.

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