“I support breastfeeding. But…” – A list of common rhetoric.

Supportive PartnerYesterday I saw a meme about a conversation a mother had with her 4 year old over breastfeeding her younger daughter. The comments on the post were…..well, very discouraging.  “I support breastfeeding. But…..” followed by a host of excuses. If there is ever a ‘but’ after “I support”, then you don’t support it. Period.  If your support was true, it wouldn’t need any modifiers. There always seems to be a core list of ‘buts’ that people use to mask their conditional support. I’ll try, as feeble an attempt it may be, to dispel these common modifiers through my own experiences.

“Use a cover!” – Ummm, no. My children do not like covers. They are hot little creatures that sweat and a cover compounds that. Have you ever seen a mother attempting to cover a child that doesn’t want to be covered while nursing? Yeah, little flailing limbs that draw about 1,000% more attention than the act of nursing without a cover ever would. Covers are not an option for us.

“We’re trying to eat here.” – And so is my child. We eat at the table, my child eats at the table. It’s simple really. Should I deprive my child of food because you yourself are eating? That seems illogical. You’re also making my wife uncomfortable, so please swivel your head the other way and focus on your own table and family.

“I don’t want my kids seeing that!” – What, how nature works? What breasts are really meant for? A special bond between a mother and child? If anything, kids SHOULD see this. If anything, a child will think NOTHING more of a nursing mother other than she is feeding her child. Children do not see a problem with that, adults that think their children shouldn’t see it do.

“That child should be on regular milk.”  – Regular milk? You mean pumped breast milk from another species of mammal designed specifically for their own offspring? Because that sounds like what nature intended to be natural and regular. The only milk I’ll ever classify as regular is the milk that my wife produces for my child with her own body.

“If they’re old enough to ask for it, they’re too old for it.” – By this logic a child should never be breastfed because they ask for it no sooner than they are born. A lot of children sign it by 6 months and most can ask for it verbally at 1 year. AAP and WHO recommends it until at least 2 years old. This is a completely flawed argument. Humans have evolved this special ability called speech, and a child being able to ask for it, whether through crying, signing or verbiage, makes it much simpler on the child and mom.

“I don’t just pull my stuff out in public. That’s all these mothers want to do.” – You figured them out. There is this whole sorority of nursing moms that get their jollies on flashing their breasts in public. Nursing is legal exhibitionism don’t you know. The last thing any mother (and their partner for that matter) wants is a stranger staring at her breasts while she feeds her child. And honestly, as much breastfeeding and nursing as I’ve seen (not just from my wife but from the plethora of parenting related events, conventions, rallies, etc. that I have attended) I rarely see that much actual boob. And as a side note, your ‘stuff’ cannot nourish and sustain an infant’s life; so until it can, it stays in your pants.

“Can’t you pump and use bottles?” – Doesn’t work that way. It can, but most of the time it doesn’t. Most babies have difficulty transitioning from bottle to breast and latch is greatly affected. Some moms, no matter the grade of pump, just won’t produce milk with one. Only the baby stimulating the breast will work. And then there’s the working moms. Moms that spend the day away from their child (my wife falls into this category). When they are home; they are nursing. Plain and simple. That is their bonding time. They pump all day and can’t wait for their little one to latch on and have that reconnecting moment.

There is a good chance that mother had a hard time getting to the point she is currently at in her nursing relationship. It may be her first time being comfortable enough to publicly nurse. She may have overcome a great struggle to even breastfeed in the first place. Also, the nourishment and hunger of my child will always trump your argument. Every. Time. So the next time you are slightly uncomfortable around a nursing mother, you might to think twice before reaching into your bag of worn out rhetoric.

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I always give choices.

I always give choices.

But won’t that allow them to walk all over you? – No. It won’t. Quite the opposite. A child that’s happy with their choice is more cooperative to do the task they chose. If I say “Hey buddy, would like to help me vacuum or help mom pick up your blocks?” I’ll get a happy little boy helping clean the house.

They’ll just get what they want all the time! – Well, what exactly is wrong with that? I get what I want most of the time. So does my wife and most people I know. Unless it’s work, I indulge in my wants and interests. Childhood shouldn’t be a sacrifice of choice and wants over an irrational parental fear. Besides, isn’t life spent pursuing our interests?

What should it matter if they want the red cup? Or if you picked out a green shirt but they want the striped one. Big deal. We turn it into an issue that really isn’t there. Let them have their red cup and striped shirt. It won’t spoil them. It won’t entitle them. Give them the choice before you pick it out, before you pour the water.

Lamenting the Past. Embracing the Present.

I was driving down a pedestrian inhabited street, looking at all the various people as I pass them. My mind drifting to imagine their life; their current state of being. While observing all the smiling, carefree faces as they walk, jog and congregate at will I was suddenly struck with a sense of limitation. Everything now took planning and preparation. The inability to be spontaneous was subconsciously being mourned.

I lay in bed; listening to the 3-day music festival taking place just a block from my house. Its heavy bass and screaming vocals infiltrating my quiet bedroom as my family slept. I found myself envying all the people participating in its controlled chaos. A favorite past time of my wife and I: going to many concerts and festivals throughout the summer on a moment’s notice. The possibility of never experiencing the rush of singing side-by-side with powerful artists was subconsciously being mourned.

I was sitting on the couch watching recorded shows while my children took their nap. Commercials for vacation destinations were being splashed in my face during every intermission; almost to the point of taunting. Places that were once annual retreats as well as places I have yet to experience. My mind filled with possibilities of what could have been. Places that were not meant to be were subconsciously being mourned.

TheBoy and I enjoying the zoo; transfixed on something.

TheBoy and I transfixed on something while while riding the shuttle at the zoo.

It’s okay, healthy even; to be mournful of past lives now simmering in purgatory.  After all, they define who we are and how we have ended up where we are. But that’s exactly what they are: past lives. The lives I see on the streets while driving, the ones I imagine at concerts while lying in bed or those I see enjoying destinations I may never visit are no longer mine. They are no longer a priority.

I forwent those lives for my current one. A rebirth of who I am, who I choose to be.  When I come home and a little boy comes running for a hug; when I spend my evening reading books to an audience of two; when that little boy is snuggled up to me while his baby sister sleeps on my chest as we watch an evening movie.  I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I am in my place of bliss. I’m at a oneness with who I am and the path I chose. There are no regrets or grudges with the lives of my past; just peaceful content.

Losing yourself in parenthood is not a bad thing. Your children need it; they deserve it; if only for the first few years of their life until they become a little more self-sufficient. Our past lives, interests and hobbies will always be there; either waiting to be revisited or simply serving as a reminder of our journey. It’s important to not let it consume who we currently are.

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.

Skipping Stones.

Down by the creek bed he crouched, grabbing stones without discrimination. He watched as they splashed with a kersplunk when they entered the water. Ripples spread to the tiny shore and he giggled at his accomplishment. Another rock was sought.

It was a very sunny Sunday morning and still slightly cool, requiring a light jacket. The air was clear and we were all alone in our adventure, basking in the moment.

There was an area of calm water that had a shore riddled with fragmented shale begging to be skipped. I was a bit more selective with my choices, picking only those with characteristics optimal for their skipping ability. Too square, too thick, too thin. Ah! This one. It fits perfect between my finger and thumb, perfect weight distribution, just the right circumference. It was beautiful.

This will be the stone I show him his first skip with. I placed the stone in my palm; eager to show him it’s capabilities. I stood and turned towards my son. He was still indulging in his circular pattern: find stone, throw it in water, listen to splash and repeat.

I watched. His blissful moment. There was no concern for the type of stone he selected. No worries on how it entered the water, just as long as it does. His concerns lie in what it can do, not with what it could do. It can splash crazily in the water. He couldn’t care if it has the potential to skip wonderfully to the adjacent shore. It was beyond his realm of current interests and abilities.

I joined him; with my perfect stone; and tossed it high into the air. It spun and twirled until it hit flatly against the water with a quiet plop. My son giggled, commented on its tiny splash and went for his next stone. There will be many future opportunities for that perfect skip. For now this moment is complete with a slash and kersplunk, it was his agenda.

Circumcision. I did not consent and I’m speaking out.

GA Logo Blue CircleI always here the argument: “I never hear guys complain about being circumcised.” Well, I’m here to tell you that you can no longer use this argument. Men complain. And often.  Besides, how often do you approach strangers and ask if they are happy with their circumcision (or lack thereof)? My guess is never. I know I don’t walk around with a sign hanging around my neck saying that I’m unhappy with it. And I am unhappy.

I know what I was robbed of. Such a valuable piece of flesh, the foreskin.  Protector, cleanser, lubricator, glider and superb pleasure provider.  I’ll never know the pleasure of intercourse that my foreskin would have provided. I won’t know the pleasure of having an undamaged glans due to being roughened and calloused from a life of exposure, chaffing and constant rubbing. The benefit of having a natural gliding motion, trapping in its naturally provided lubricant, is lost to me. The ridged band and 20,000 fine-touch nerve endings were taken from me, forever stealing my ability to experience sex as nature intended me to. The foreskin; the incredible 15+ square inches of skin; was cut off in infancy because of false information.

Men do complain. You just need to be receptive when they do.

Do I blame my parents? Partly, but not much. They could have researched it, but I was born in a time when virtually all males were circumcised in the US. It wasn’t questioned. It was just done. My parents did not know any better. After all, doctors know best, right? Well, in the case of male circumcision they don’t, and willfully so. They rely on false information[1] and highly flawed African studies[2] to perpetuate the belief that it is necessary. There is money to made[4] in the procedure (cough cough facial cream[3]), so of course it’s in the best interest of those invested to continue the lie. So no, I mostly blame our medical establishments for not keeping the best interest of our male infants in mind.

Our culture is one where it’s so engrained in our psyche that intact penises are not only gross, but unnatural. “I’m glad I don’t have an anteater.” “No turtle neck for my guy!” These are often spouted arguments by ignorant men. Men in need of suppressing facts and realities through cognitive dissonance. It’s funny because the rest of the world views the US culture of cutting boys gross, unhealthy, unnatural and sick. Women that have experienced both cut and intact penises overwhelmingly (85% [1]) prefer intact men; so really the joke is on those boasting about being cut as infants.

When we really boil this down, despite all the false “health benefits” and its “better aesthetics”, we have a violation of our most basic of human rights – our right to ourselves. Our infant males lose this right no sooner than they are born. Their bodies are not their parents to decide what to do with. Our girls are protected from cosmetic alteration at birth. Our boys should be allotted that same basic human right.

My bodily rights were violated. I was not allowed a choice. I did not consent to a permanent cosmetic alteration of my most private of areas. And the very fact that I’m a man writing this is proof that men do indeed complain; and we are not complacent in the fact that this continues as normal in our society.  I’ll close this with my favorite quote which I can’t locate the origin of: “They got my foreskin. But I won’t let them get my sons.” We need to protect our boys.

(1) – http://intaction.org/10-myths-about-circumcision/
(2) – http://www.intactamerica.org/sites/default/files/IASummaryAtlanta.pdf
(3) – http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-cut-above-the-rest-wrin/
(4) – http://www.foreskin.org/f4sale.htm

Moon gazing.

Doug-Zubenel2We were driving home from date night out, my wife and I. DinoBoy (2.5) picked up from care and now in tow, we pulled into the driveway. Upon getting out of his seat he discovered the crescent moon; glowing ever so majestically in the sky.

“I see the moon! It’s right there!”
“Wow. I see the moon too. It’s high up in the sky, huh?”
“Yeah! So so so high!” he said excitedly while reaching up towards it.
My wife: carrying in the food from our date night – “Are you guys coming in?”
Me: “Hold on Mama, we’re enjoying the moon and stars.”
DB: “Ya. The moon mommy. It’s so so high in the sky!”
Wife: “Okay guys. Enjoy. Mama’s going in and getting off her feet.”
Me: to TB – “Can you reach it?”
DB: “I can’t, It’s tooooooooo high!”
Me: “If you could pull it down and grab it. What would you do?”
DB: “Ummmm……”

I could see the mental cogs turning. I knelt next to him and looked up at the same patch of sky, the same constellations, the same glowing moon and ghostly clouds. His mind drifted off into all of the possibilities that could be. He stood in silence, me kneeling by his side with my arm around him and his head resting on my shoulder. Wonderment on his face and awe in his breath.

Me: “Want to hear something crazy? The sun is what makes the moon glow!”
TB: “But the sun is asleep!”
Me: “You’re right! That’s what makes it crazy!”
TB: “Wooooowwwwwww.”

These moments only happen once in our busy workaday lives and can be fleeting, but very magical; and if we don’t slow down and pause to recognize them, they may never happen at all.