Drop the “To get to her, you need to go through me” tough-guy act with our daughter’s dates.

57585073You’ve all seen them. The pictures, the posts, the memes with a father and his infant / young / teen daughter. Sometimes the father has his arms crossed with a scowl on his face. Other times he’s holding a gun with the same menacing expression. Sometimes there’s even older male siblings practicing being a bodyguard. All of these with the intent to intimidate and be confrontational when it comes to future male suitors for their daughter. “To get to her, you have to go through me first”.

I know, no big deal right? Harmless fun. Only I find these things laughable and ridiculous for a few reasons.

a) It shows that there is absolutely no faith that boys can be raised to be respectful and polite to women (or by default to people in general). Instead of raising daughters to fear men, lets raise our boys to respect women. To have self-worth. To say it’s wrong to go against a woman’s wishes. To stand up to those who do.

b) It shows that those fathers have zero confidence in their ability to raise their daughters. If they truly believed they could raise a self-aware, strong, confident woman then this whole song and dance becomes pointless and unnecessary. It shows no confidence in their daughters ability to be a good judge of who she befriends.

c) It shows that feminism still needs to be talked about. It shows that woman are still weak and feeble creatures that need their fathers with guns to protect them. It shows ownership over someone else’s body and decisions.

Yes I have a daughter. No, I will never bully or intimidate a friend or future boyfriend or girlfriend she brings home to meet me. If s/he is worthy enough in her eyes to bring him/her home, then s/he worthy of my respect until s/he proves otherwise. This thought process of the possessive, over-bearing father is outdated and rooted in insecurity.

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I chose you.

20140824_101344-EFFECTSThere were dishes collecting in the sink. I saw them. We created them. I also saw you. A different you. A disconnected you. A you reaching out for attention. I chose you. Together we went to the zoo. I held you while you fed a giraffe. I ran next to you while you tried to race a cheetah. I flew with you while you soared next to the bald eagles. I laughed with you as we made a mountain of mulch in the play area. I discussed animals with you while we enjoyed lunch; and napped with you after our day in the sun. I chose you.

There were 3 hampers and a pile of clothes that needed folding. I saw them. We created them. I also saw you. A you vying for your mom and dad. Parents whose time is now split with a new family member. I saw you in a confused moment with an unfamiliar feeling. I chose you. Together we went to the park. I walked next to you along the creek shore, throwing small rocks into its waters. I held your hand as we crossed the chilly flowing water to the hollow tree. Through the trails we ran, laughing as I tried to catch you. I chose you.

There was a living room in disarray. I saw it. We created it. I also saw you. A you in need of assistance. An F4 tornado version of you that needed wrangling in.  A you without a compass. I chose you. I invited you on my lap to do your favorite activity: reading books. Together we read the same words as you learn how to read. I enunciated while you mimicked the sounds. Together we read 5 books; all of which you can recite by heart. I chose you.

There are things that can wait, and things that simply cannot. In the days since your sibling’s birth your behavior slightly changed. It’s a lot to process in a small amount of time for someone of your limited capabilities. You were not jealous of this new arrival, in fact quite the opposite; you embraced her. You felt you were losing your home base. Your security. I could see that. Your behavior was telling me when your words could not.  I chose connection over control. I chose love over fear. I chose you.

First Year of Fatherhood – A Reflection of Sorts

     Thank you Bub for being there for me. This past year has been tremendously eventful and altering. I love you so very much. You have become my sun in which I revolve. You make every day bright and optimistic. I look forward to a lifetime more of sunny days thanks to your warmth.     My son’s first year of life is just a couple days away. That means I have been a father for approximately 21 months.  Never in my life would I have envisioned ending up where I am today. I could write about how my life has changed. I could write the differences in my day to day after my son’s arrival. How elated and stricken with an instantaneous overabundance of unfiltered love and pride the day he was born. Then how two days later when we arrived home I cried because I felt so lost and confused as my son lay crying in his swing; and how I overcame that. This could be about all the small things that fill me with joy every day being in his presence. How my heart swells with pride with each accomplishment he achieves on a daily basis. His mental development is staggering and amazes me every step of the way. I could write how my heart is capable of expanding infinitely to accommodate all these things to fit. But I won’t. I’ll instead write about how having my son changed me as a person.  He’s opened my eyes to many worlds and circles I was never aware even existed.

     Before he was born, I’ll admit this with some hesitancy, I was not fond of children. In my life I have never really interacted with them or held them or really have ever been in the vicinity of them. For the sake of keeping honesty forefront, they kind of annoyed me. So why would someone who did not care for kids want kids? My wife’s ovaries were panging fiercely, sending messages she could not ignore. Despite my tussle, I could envision myself as father; but this is delving into another story of its own.
     What my son has taught me through experiences is that children are completely awesome, unique beings. When I see a child laughing or smiling, I smile back. Before I would turn away because it felt awkward to look them in eye for reasons I can’t quite explain. Knowing the impact a simple gesture has on child’s psyche changes how I interact with them. I see it every day with my son. A smile brightens their lives, even if they don’t know you. A friendly wave enriches their view of the world. I realize now these tiny little people are forming opinions of their world, not just living in it. Who am I to taint their fragile psyche by ignoring their curiosity rather than thriving in it?
     My view and opinion of children have changed. They are little people with concerns, needs and real emotion to each decision we make for them. A long time ago I adopted a one-size-fits-all opinion to children. This simply is not true. Children are as unique as snowflakes with personalities to match. What works with my son may not work on his friend at day care. When I see a young child playing and giggling and enjoying life I’m overtaking with a smile and acceptance.
     With the realization of how mentally fragile children and infants really are, my level of empathy has grown to levels I thought myself incapable of. Understanding the emotional need of my son has transferred over to many other areas. Most significantly to parents with special needs children or parents I see struggling for one reason or another or simply a child have a tough time of it. You could say I have bias empathy. But that empathy has never been tapped in me before.
     Love is instantaneous. Cliché? Perhaps. Fact? Absolutely. I was one that had to work on love. There was no love at first sight in my life. Yes, this includes my wife. That’s another story as well. But the second I saw my sons head emerge from its 9 month hibernation; I knew love can be instantaneous. Didn’t I say I was not going to write about being filled with love upon his birth? I did, and I lied. How could I not mention it? It’s one of the greater experiences of becoming a father.
      With my sons arrival I felt the urge to learn all I could about the decisions that needed to be made regarding his upbringing. Instead of just going with the flow of what society and western medicine want to you to believe, I researched each decision with vigor. It’s that need for further clarification that had ultimately led me ultimately to where I currently stand; which is an advocate for a variety of issues that I never knew existed!
  •  Breastfeeding.  Who knew it was a “controversial” act in public? Never would I have imagined I’d be advocating for the most natural of ways to feed a child. Why would that even need advocacy? Breastfeeding has been an integral part of our son’s upbringing.  He has been exclusively breast fed up to 6 months and still nurses at 1 year.
  •  Natural, safe and intervention free birth. This is a big one. The birthing realm mystified me from the beginning. My wife was pretty knowledgeable, but not me. Now I know more than ever! This happens to be another advocacy dear to us. In fact, we just attended our first Improving Birth rally just this year. I could not have had more fun there. The things you can learn and teach others are astonishing!
  • Child Advocate. We have learned that children have no say so in a number of areas. Whether it is spanking or bullying from adults; I have come to understand how kids are being raised by being systematically beat down by parents (psychologically) in an unintentional manner (sometimes intentional). Through learning gentle methods that exclude physical and mental harm; we try to understand better how to handle disciplining children and teaching natural consequences
     These are just a few of the ways my path has changed. Nights once spent seeking out records and reading comics have morphed into seeking information and reading various “parenting” books about gentle parenting and AP parenting. I have even began dabbling with a blog about the whole experience of raising my son and things we now advocate for. Wait a minute? Where else would this have posted? So my life has changed drastically in the past year. It’s been fulfilling in ways I can’t put into words. Where I once stood as being inconsequential I now know where my path lies. I am still learning how to get there and I will allow my son to be my guide.

Adventures In Daycare

     For those of us who are unable to have a parent stay at home to raise the new little one, finding a babysitter is essential. We have had many an issues when looking for somewhere for Bub to stay. This is not an easy task by any means. As new parents, we are entrusting our child to complete strangers. And with that we hope that they are giving them their complete attention and love.
     This is our adventure in finding a caregiver when what we had arranged had fallen through. We tried to decide between a chain-care, as that’s what we were familiar with.  It came down to just two places. There was a waiting list of over 200 kids for each place! About a couple weeks before Mrs. K had to go back to work (I was already back to work) we got a call from our first choice chain-care saying we were accepted! Mrs. K insisted on shadowing  for a day and they obliged. It was that shadow that changed everything.
     These are Mrs. K’s accounts as I was not able to attend. It started out problem free until Bub became hungry.  EBF (Exclusively Breast Fed) babies feed from bottles completely different than bottle fed babies (which is beyond the scope of this article). This seemed to be beyond the comprehension of the employee who ignored everything Mrs. K told her about feeding our son. She laid him down and crammed the bottled in his mouth, right in front of Mrs. K! In addition to blatantly ignoring the requests of my wife, pacifiers were picked up from the floor and put back in mouths unwashed, babies were rocked a little too roughly because they were crying and not sleeping in their roller-cribs and toys from obviously sick children were given to other kids without being cleaned. If all this was done in front of a parent, imagine what happens without eyes peering in. Within 2 hrs of being there, she collected our son and walked out, leaving us on a mad scramble to find somewhere for Bub to go.
     Mrs. K was part of a couple AP groups on-line and sent out an SOS to her groups. One person came recommended and we visited her right away. As soon as we walked in her home I knew it was not going to work for us. While she was completely in line with our beliefs (anti-CIO, knew how to feed an EBF baby, etc.) her house (basement area for her daycare) was deplorable. Cement floor with small carpet patches, actual dirt and garbage all over the floor and a completely filthy and broken couch for us to sit on. Through the whole interview her child of 1.5 – 2 yrs. old kept running out of the bathroom with a dirty toilet brush and scrubber. The “nap room” was a mini dungeon with a couple mattresses on the floor and no windows with cement brick walls. We played along through the interview and never called back.
     A few more people were interviewed by my wife to no avail. Then she stumbled upon an in-home care provider that we fell in love with.  She was set up as a drop-in provider with a few permanent spots, the last of which we were extremely fortunate enough to occupy. We are still thankful to this day Mrs. K happened to of heard about her. Who knows where Bub might be going right now?
     Here are a few things we discovered throughout our mad scramble for a provider in the last 2 weeks of Mrs. K’s maternity leave:
1) We found the most important; vitally important; thing would be that your caregiver is in-line with raising methods and is more than just a means for you to work. They raise your child over 8 hrs. a day. That’s a lot valuable, impressionable, learning and growing moments that they are in charge of. You’ll want to make sure it’s not spent parenting in a different manner than you are trying to instill. For example: if you are against CIO and the employees put the children down for naps with CIO would you follow along? If you’re practicing gentle parenting, would you send your child to a disciplinarian? Like we found out with the chain-care, it’s a production line: feed, put in a crib, change and repeat. Not ideal for any child.
2) Almost just as important as the first is shadowing BEFORE you actually drop your child there for an entire day. My wife’s instinct to shadow Bub for a day saved him from who knows what at the chain-care. If you feel am irk or are not 100% comfortable with the environment or personnel; leave. You’ll never breathe easy while your child is there.
3) What’s the attendant to child ratio? I would not send my child to any place where it’s more than 4 children per attendant. This ratio requirement various from state to state; however 4 would be my personal max I’d be willing to accept. Especially when they’re only 6 weeks old going to daycare. The lower the ratio the more attention your child will receive.
4) Start your search LONG before you will ever actually need to utilize the provider; unlike us. We did not research all of our options that were available to us. We went with the popular consensus and chose a popular outfit with an insanely long wait list to attest to its blind following. Know that there are many other viable places and often they are more economical 

     When you know far in advance what your plan is for child-care and know all your options and are secure in where you child is going, the process can be much smoother and more simplistic than ours was. We now know that the popular choice is not always the best choice. There are so many individuals with private, in-home services that far supersede what any chain-care can offer.

New Dad? Feeling Helpless? You are Important!

     
Image courtesy of
Google Images

     So, you have become a Dad. First off, congratulations on your new arrival! This is truly a magnificent time in your life. There’s nothing more exciting than returning home with a new life that you in part created. After all, nothing has ever seemed more in line than that first day back after all has sunk in and the reality strikes like a personal attack from Zeus.

     What? You mean nothing is in line? You feel slightly lost and can’t seem to get a grasp on anything? Sometimes transition into fatherhood can be extremely daunting and quite overwhelming.  There’s no worse feeling than the feeling of helplessness.  It’s a common feeling among many first-time fathers. That feeling is intensified when your precious new bundle is clung to Mom and wants nothing to do with you. After all, Mom’s doing the nursing; getting a good block of bonding time and baby seems to take comfort in only Mom’s company.  Fear not concerned parent! You are more useful that you think.
    It’s important to know that Moms body is going through some crazy hormonal times right now. She’s exhausted. The demands of baby are taking their toll on her (and you no doubt). She’s healing in ways we can’t think of, or choose not to think of. These are rough and beautiful times for her. And you are the most important person she has, that your baby has.
      It all starts with taking a grasp of the bigger picture.  It is essential Mom and baby build the bond they are. Don’t worry, you’re time will come.  I’ll get to that. Right now, your first major responsibility is to play gatekeeper. There will probably be a flood of people wanting to investigate the new arrival, and who can blame them? But it’s up to you to protect your new arrival while Mom and baby take care. The last thing they need is people coming in and out, disrupting the new family time while everyone is still getting settled. For us, immediate family saw Bub in the hospital the day after his birth. After that, no one was to come over till after a couple weeks until some semblance of a routine was being formed. Step one accomplished.
     With Mom tied down; whether it be because of baby or healing from birthing; there’s a bit that needs attending to. There’s everyday chores that’s now up to just one to accomplish. That’s not to say Mom and baby get neglected; just that the shared duties are not so shared for a while. (Really all that I did were very essential things: dishes and laundry when needed, everything else can wait.)
     The best thing you can do for Mom? That’s where things become a little more fun. Even though she’s likely not on her feet much; while she’s nursing a good foot rub could be in order (just don’t expect it to lead anywhere!) Or maybe a light shoulder rub is in order. Or how about simply being there next to her; not that you’d be running about town anyhow, right? Just your presence alone will provide strength she wouldn’t otherwise have. She needs you to be there, reassuring her when she’s feeling her most depleted.
     Now what about my time with baby? Let’s face it, Mom will need reprieve. There’s no way around that. That’s when it’s your time to step in and shine. This is the best part of the deal. While Mom and baby’s bond is far more crucial at this stage, you get to partake in numerous bonding moments. So strap in, here’s a list of things you should be a scholar at within the first few days.
  • Although some of these may be chore-like in nature, they serve as critical bonding moments for us dads. Newborns need their diapies changed how many times a day? Too many, right? (Don’t worry; their poo doesn’t really stink until they start solids) Swoop your little one up, singing and talking to him the whole time while changing. I like to sneak in little kisses on the forehead and stomach. Turn it into a fun, quiet moment. It’s really not the chaotic task that it’s made out to be.
  • Babies need a bath a day. While the cord is still attached, they can’t really take a traditional bath; a sponge bath. Turn this into the same opportunity as changing the little guy. Look him in the eye while singing and smiling. Don’t forget the lotion afterwards! It gets better when they’re older and you can actually bath together. We do almost every day. You sir, should be a changing and washing master.
  • Is baby fussy, just ate and is so tired he’s fighting sleep? Swaddling works miracles! It’s an awesome skill to learn and allows you to rock baby to sleep within minutes. Nothing is more satisfying than having the ability to put him peacefully to sleep. It also let’s baby know you’re a trusted source for the sleep he’s resisting.
  • All those night time waking’s? If you’re not bed-sharing or co-sleeping, you can show that you’re there for your partner by being the one that gathers up baby and bring him to Mom. It means the world to Mom knowing that she’s not taking the full brunt of your new nighttime regimen. That not only allows Mom more comfort while nursing, it also lessens her up-time at night. You might get a chance to use your swaddling skills if he doesn’t fall asleep at the boob! It again shows baby that you’re a source of trust by responding to his nighttime needs, which strengthens your growing bond

     Of course there will be numerous times that you and baby will have together. These are just the basics to get started on a routine of being there for your partner and bonding with your new child. While these may seem like a no brainer, when you’re in the heat of the battle it might not be so simple.

     It’s important to know that you are the glue holding together this awesome new life. Don’t let trepidation and hesitancy stop you from being important.  It’s also very important to understand that Mom and baby’s bond is going to be a completely different type of bond that you will have with baby. Don’t get discouraged and don’t sideline yourself. It’s always tough in the beginning; no matter how prepared you think you are. It’s a new start, wrought with struggles and patience. Hang in there; be there for Mom and remember, you are important and needed more than you know.

Car Seat vs. Shopping Cart

     We were at Costco and while checking out I saw something that I see all too often. I saw a baby car seat (with baby) perched upon the top basket of the cart. Not just any shopping cart: a mammoth, tall, mass consumerism enabler of a Costco cart. As tall as these things are, the baby was literally eye level with mom. Not only was baby dangerously resting on the top, mom and dad were separated from him while they checked out. Ever been to a Costco? Well, you roll the cart on one side of the checkout while the cashier empties it, and you’re on the other side of the lane. You’d think one parent would have stayed with baby on the other side. You’d think wrong. Both just let the employee pull the cart from the front with car seat wobbling on the top while neither were anywhere near him.
     What could possibly make these people think that was safe?! I see this all the time! I’ve never put TheBoy up there. When he was in a car seat, we’d place him in the actual basket of the cart. I pushed and Mama Peaceful had another cart for our actual purchases. This made safe sense to us, why would not it for others? I just don’t get how someone can think placing your infant, unattached; on the top half of a cart would be safe? Someone could bump the cart and knock over the carrier; it could slip and fall; and I have seen some where the baby is tilted back so far to make the carrier fit that his legs were higher than his head. Hmmm, that seems healthy. How can people not tell that they are NOT designed to fit in carts? They are car seats, not shopping cart seats. See the difference? In most car seat manuals it instructs specifically not to do this, as do the feet flaps in fold out section of shopping carts. Not only that it could void any warranty there is AND could damage the snapping mechanism in the car seat rendering it dangerous if in an accident.
     I’ve thought about approaching individuals practicing this and offer advice. But then again, I’m not outspoken in person and don’t like to create a scene. Besides, have you ever given constructive criticism to a stranger regarding their child? The inevitable I’m right/you’re wrong or “It’s my child” mentality ensues and you get nowhere.
shopping-cart-warning-diagram
Image Courtesy of Google

While I’ve never witnessed an actual fall or injury from said placement, I have heard horror stories about accidents. Is it really worth the risk to have them up there? There are other, safer, alternatives to this widely unsafe practice. For example, place the carrier in the basket of the cart like we used to. If there are not two of you, turn the car seat sideways and that creates more room in the cart so you don’t need two carts. Then there is my favorite, wear your baby! That’s the Peaceful-Papa way; especially during those first few critical months of bonding. I can’t think of an instance when wearing TheBoy hasn’t come in handy. It frees up both hands for shopping, there’s no large, cumbersome carrier to contend with and you get great cuddles while shopping! But more importantly, just practice common sense. I realize we’re a society that mimics behavior, begin a new, safer trend by NOT putting your child-filled car seat on the top where it doesn’t belong.

A Becoming Dad Thank You

     
This is the picture that inspired this post.

     As father’s day approaches I find myself as the one being celebrated instead celebrating my father/in-law. It got me thinking about how I actually became the father I currently am. I know where I started, and it’s definitely miles from where I currently am. When we first brought Bub home I was absolutely in love with our bundle, but something still wasn’t complete. I thought in the hospital that I would be completely fine. Everything went perfect there and it seemed like he adored me. Looking back, those moments in the hospital seemed dreamy at best now. It wasn’t until we got home that it went from dream to abrupt reality.

     After our arrival home I found myself looking at a crying miniature human in his most tiniest, vulnerable state. With my wife in the other room, my eyes flooded with tears as I watched my son wailing in his little carrier. For the first time in my life I felt an extreme confusion without the faintest idea of what to do. I was completely clueless.  All of a sudden I felt a disconnect between my son and I that blacked out any bond we previously developed. A little postpartum depression perhaps? With my wife coming back in the room I walked to the kitchen to mask my leaky eyes and onset of confusion.
     Fast forward a day and the confusion settled as I settled into my new role. My feeling of disconnect was still present, but not as severe. I was still lost; well not lost and much as directionless. I loved my son immensely, even through these feelings I was fighting. But as a father, I felt something amiss.
     Somehow I stumbled upon Becoming Dad. I saw Darren’s postings about him and his son; their relationship, all the happy and inspirational moments they share. I went to his site and read what I could and what Becoming Dad was about. Something about this project inspired me. I can’t quite pin-point what it was, but something sparked in my head and saw something in my fatherly role that wasn’t previously there. I began seeing Bub in a new light. Seeing how conscientious a father Darren (and other guest admins) were and his mentoring helped me regain something I left at the hospital. I still couldn’t tell you what exactly it was that helped, but it was through Becoming Dad.
     Shortly after I subscribed to Becoming Dad, Darren set up a Dad’s only group, to which I quickly joined. I think I was one of the first few to join. In this group, fathers from around the globe quickly shared and answered questions. This was quite possibly the best outlet I had since Bub’s birth to receive feedback without feeling judged or ridiculed. Not only did I receive feedback, it felt rewarding knowing I was in turn helping and guiding others.
     So I would like to send a thank you to Darren and his project of Becoming Dad. I don’t know where I might be in my role of father if not for stumbling on your site. I can say that Becoming Dad inspired me to become the father I am today, in my first celebration of Father’s Day as a father. I consider you a silent mentor in my journey, even though we’ve never officially spoke to one another.

     Many will scoff at such a thing as classes for Fathers to be and the like. I say open your mind and accept what could be. It helped me tremendously in my current role. I’m now the strong, conscientious, connected father I wanted to be. I’m now fully immersed in all things Bub and that’s in part why I began my blog and FB page. To share with the others the joy in raising him.