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Fatherhood in the 21st Century

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Archive for September, 2008

I came across a link at MSN this afternoon that kind of opened my eyes. The article was about designer babies, “Designing the $100,000.00 baby”. I don’t think it will come as much of a surprise to many people that modern genetics can be used to identify certain traits in people before they are born. The ‘future’ of this technology is that some day parents will be able to design children to meet certain criteria – criteria that the parents would determine.

In some ways, this is evolution. Natural evolution would ultimately design a being so advanced that it would be able to modify it’s own genetic code, for it’s own purposes. It’s super-evolution. It gives us the ability to erradicate diseases – wipe out MS, Cancer, or diabetes by programming a genetic sequence into a group of cells.

Of course, there is a downside. There will be people who will abuse the technology. They will see the opportunity to make everyone like THEM, to wipe out diversity and create a ‘Perfect Race’, a ‘Perfect Warrior’, a ‘Perfect X’.

Technology is of course, amoral. The ability to do something positive is always balanced by the ability to do something negative. Nuclear technology gives humanity the ability to create loads of clean energy, but also the ability to utterly destroy entire countries or cities.

One thing technology does do is force us to look at our own values and how we view the world. By forming our own well-informed opinions and sharing those (and our reasons for them) with our children as they come of age, we excersize the ultimate responsibility of parents. It is not ensuring that our kids never get sick or suffer hardship, but ensuring that they have the values and sense of self to deal with whatever comes their way.

You can see the original article here.

A few weeks ago I posted a story about choosing the best stroller. One of my criteria was that it was compatible with a good infant car seat. We ended up choosing the Peg Perego Pliko P3 stroller. I didn’t mention anything about the actual car seat that goes with it at the time, so I’ll fix that right now.

The matching car seat is called the Peg Perego Primo Viaggiocar seat. There are several things that we like about this chair. First, it’s one of the highest rated car seats on the market. Second, it has a base that stays permanently in your vehicle, and the car seat simply clips into the base. It actually couldn’t be any easier to put the seat in the car and remove it. It clips in with a gently push, and comes out by just pulling a little lever on the seat.

Even better is the fact that the car seat is rated to be used without it’s base, attaching it to a car with a seatbelt. This is really handy when visiting other people or travelling, as you can jump in whatever car you need to without the need to swap bases out or add any equipment to another car. It would also be fantastic for use in a Taxi.

The Primo Viaggio is also available in a whole range of colors to match the interior of your car, or simply to compliment a color scheme that you have in your mind.

The one down side is that the car seat is only rated for a baby that weighs up to 22 lbs. However, we found that by the time Nick hit 22 lbs, we needed up upsize him to a bigger car seat anyhow, so this wasn’t really much of an inconvenience. In short, if you are looking for an infant car seat, I highly recommend this one.

I’ve been listening to the local media a lot today, and the news hasn’t been good. An angry high school kid, expelled from school last year has returned with a gun, and has tried to get even with the school by taking the staff and students hostage at gunpoint. Thankfully, a rapid Police response and some quick thinking by the Principal resulted in the kid being apprehended. Thank God nobody was hurt.

It’s a scary thing – kids with guns in schools. In today’s society, this is probably one of the biggest fears that we have as parents. As the spouse of a teacher I have double the fear, with the worry that both my child and my spouse could be placed in this type of situation.

When these things happen, the blame must always rest on the person committing the crime. We should not try to explain away his guilt. Still, I have to wonder about the home life of the perpetrator. Where are this kid’s parents? Are they involved in his life, or Drunks, or indifferent to him and his world? It makes no difference once the act has been committed, but could it have been prevented? Being a parent isn’t just about feeding and clothing kids, it’s also about providing direction, morality, and guidance to your kids. It behooves us as parents to think about our own positions so that we can adequately talk to our kids about them.

I sincerely hope that everyone is alright, and hope and pray that there is a lot of community support for those impacted. I also hope that nobody else gets the idea to copycat this event in the coming days.

Update: as of late this afternoon, the Police have announced that the student was armed with a pellet gun. Aside from a few minor injuries from kids rushing out the doors, everyone was fine. It sounds like everything worked out alright this time.

I had a wonderful weekend. It was Nick’s First Birthday, and we had a house full of people. A few friends, a slew of Grandparents, a Great-Grandparent, and Aunts and Uncles descended on our quiet home to wish Nick a wonderful day. There was a pile of presents too, including a wagon, two child sized chairs, and more toys and books than even old Dad could possibly ask for.

And of course, there was a great big cake – decorated like a building block. Nick wasn’t too sure if he liked the taste of cake initially, but he warmed to it fast and tried to stuff a whole piece into his mouth at one time. I have piles of wonderful memories from the day, and about 100 pictures to sort through so that Nick will be able to look back and see all the people who love him, circa 2008.

So often we go about our lives and we get bogged down in the details of who said what at work, or we let the guy who cut us off in traffic ruin our whole evening. It’s nice to have days like this one to remind us that life isn’t about who won the football game, it’s about family and friends and sharing special moments with each other.

We are really blessed to have found the place that we have for Nick to spend his days at. I was out of town at a conference for two days last week, and my wife had to drop him off at the Day care in the morning. Up until Friday this had been a teary affair for both Nick, and usually whichever parent was dropping him off. Things changed on Friday however. My wife called to tell me that he was HAPPY to be dropped off. It seems that over the past two weeks he has gotten to know some of the other kids, and obviously he has become comfortable with the staff. I was a little skeptical, but after dropping him off three times this week, I can confirm it. As soon as he is put down, he makes a beeline for the other kids.

I’ll be completely honest – it’s kind of a bitter pill to swallow. OF COURSE, I’m thrilled that he isn’t miserable all day long, but… well, it’s hard to see him happy to be without his parents when he’s not even a year old. It’s only a matter of time before he starts asking us to drop him off a block away so that we don’t embarrass him in front of his friends 🙂

Seriously, it’s a wonder to watch him grow. I hope it doesn’t sound silly, but as you look back on your child’s life you really can see how his personality grows and changes. It’s certainly a very special feeling.

One of the things we knew we were going to need was a stroller. Since we wanted to get one that was part of a travel system, so that our infant seat would click into it, we knew we were going to have to spend a few bucks, but we reasoned that we would be able to use the stroller for a long time. Stroller shopping was fun, but was complicated. Our initial research told us that we wanted/needed four things:

1. It had to fold down small. We have a smallish car, and didn’t want the entire trunk to be filled with a stroller.

2. It had to be easy to use. This included strapping Nick in, folding it down, as well as steering the unit and driving it over obstacles.

3. If possible, we wanted it to look cool. What can I say – we’re going to be pushing this thing for years to come, no point in looking bad while you do it.

4. It had to be compatible with a safe and easy to use car seat.

We toured all of the baby stores in our city to look at strollers; we pushed strollers around the stores, we folded them up, we unfolded them. We went online and read reviews. We went back to the stores and talked to different salespeople. In the end, we decided on the Peg Perego Pliko P3 stroller.

The Pliko P3 is great. It has large wheels to roll over obstacles, suspension in the rear for a smoother ride, and the matching car seat clips right in. It’s available in lots of different color combinations, so it looks cool. Best of all, this stroller is ridiculously easy to fold up. Pull two little triggers (one with each hand), reach down to the handle, and pull. The entire unit folds down. It literally takes less than 5 seconds to reach down, collapse the unit, and drop it in the trunk, all without ever having to bend over. Setting the unit up is almost as easy; pull the triggers, step down on the back, and then check to make sure the legs have clicked into place. It takes a bit longer to set up than to take down, but once you’ve done it a few times the time to set up is really just a few seconds.

This is one of my favorite baby products. Oh yeah, it’s even got a cupholder on it.

Peg Perego Pliko P3 Stroller at Amazon.com

As you can probably imagine based on my last post, I’ve been doing some research on babies and colds over the past few days. What I’ve found hasn’t really been all that surprising – THERE IS NO CURE. Well, as someone who gets 5 or 6 colds a year, I could have told you that. I did learn a few things however. When I get sick, I generally progress through the following steps over the course of a week or ten days:

1. Think to myself that my throat is sore.
2. Whine to my wife that I am getting sick.
3. Act like a baby for one day at the peak of the cold.
4. Return to the real world with boxes of DayQuil/NyQuil Value Packs (or Tylenol Cold & Sinus!)
5. Gradually get better and then forget I was ever sick.

It has become obvious that Nick isn’t able to follow most of these steps, what with him not being able to talk and everything. So more had to be done.

First, what is the common cold? An infection of your upper respiratory tract. Colds are spread by a wide variety of viruses, and you generally become immune to that virus after beating a cold. Since the viruses are constantly mutating however, it doesn’t really matter, as the same cold virus will never hit you a second time. The common cold is spread by contact, especially by objects such as door handles, telephones, and especially for kids – toys. Once you get the virus on your hands and touch your eyes, ears, mouth, or nose, you have been exposed to the virus, and you get sick. As kids play together, with their runny noses and uncovered coughs, colds are passed around a lot. According to Mayoclinic.com it is not uncommon for kids to get as many as 10 colds in a year – yikes. You can help prevent the spread of colds by washing the child’s hands and toys regularly, especially if he or she has recently had a playdate.

How To Treat The Cold
As I mentioned above, there is no cure. That means there is no medicine that will make the cold go away, or go away faster, so you really are limited to treating the symptoms. There have been many recent studies involving children and cold medicines, and they show that medications aren’t effective in young children, and they often overdose the child which, well isn’t good. Follow these steps instead:

First – Take your child’s temperature regularly, and monitor it often.

Second – Call your Doctor with this information. Even if your child doesn’t seem to be having a fever, call your GP or Pediatrician and let them know the age and weight and details of your child and ask for recommendations. Colds can rapidly turn into ear infections in children, and babies are so small it is never worth taking a chance.

Third – keep wiping their noses regularly. If the mucus is free flowing, it will be easy to remember to do this. Nick starts flailing around as soon as he sees a Kleenex come towards his face, and he usually ends up burying his face in my shoulder, wiping the snot all over my shirt. Mission accomplished. I wipe up my shirt and move on. If the nose is kind of dry and crusty, saline drops are available to help break up the mucus. You can then get a suction bulb to suck up the boogers. My success with the suction bulb is similiar to my success with the Kleenex, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Interestingly, our Doctor wasn’t big on the suction bulb, she suggested that it (the snot) will all come out in the end, and to not worry about it. She also said it does no harm. Most webpages and books seem to like the suction bulb, and you probably have one anyway, so use your parental intuition or your own Doctor’s advice.

Fourth – Keep the baby well hydrated and fed. Because babies are so small they dehydrate really quickly, and it is important to keep fluids in them. Nick really lost his appetite for a day or so, but he really kept sucking back liquids. His appetite returned, and now all is well.

Fifth – Run a vaporizer. If you have one, these things are great for everybody in the family. They moisten the air which helps to clear out the sinuses. If you don’t have one, you can sit in the bathroom (on the floor or on the toilet) while running hot water in the shower. The steam generated by the shower can do the same thing. Don’t actually get in the shower with your baby.

NEVER – apply menthol, campor, peppermint, or any product with these ingredients anywhere on your baby. Studies show they can be harmful.

NEVER – give your baby any medicine not specifically prescribed by a Doctor. This includes any cold medicines labelled for infants. There is no proof that they work, and they are often quite harmful. Here are a few links to convince you not to do this:

No Cold Medicine for Infants or Toddlers

FDA – Recommendations for OTC Cough and Cold Products

Here is a great link to the Mayoclinic.com that talks specifically about babies and colds:

MayoClinic.com – Babies and The Common Cold

Finally, please remember that I am a concerned parent, and not a Doctor or medical professional. Do your own research, use your own parental intuition, and most importantly, contact your own Doctor whenever your baby is sick.

The first week of Daycare went well, but ended with a cold. It’s bound to happen as Nick meets more and more people, and interacts with them more often, but it’s still hard to see a little one with puffy eyes and a dripping nose. Naturally, the close contact I have with Nick has also caused me to get sick, and Mom too. Tomorrow will be a quiet day in our house as we all wrestle for the Kleenex box and the TV remote control.

My heart broke a little bit yesterday when I dropped Nick off at Day Care for the first time. He’s staying at a wonderful home with a woman who has several other kids in her care, but that didn’t keep me from shedding a few tears as I drove away from the house with him crying.

My wife and I are not in a situation where having one of us stay home was possible. We are both young, and the realities of a mortgage, student loans, and rising costs necessitate both of us working. We certainly looked at all of the options before making the Day Care decision, but in the end we felt it was the best choice for a number of reasons.

First, being out of the workforce for a number of years is a great way to kill your future. If one of us were to take enough time out of the workforce to raise two or three kids, it would be very difficult to transition back in any meaningful way. Any employee with a pension would be severely impacting their retirement savings, and a Professional could impact their reputation and client base in the future.

I don’t want to sound like money is more important than my children, but let’s face it – unless you live in the woods and grow all of your own food, you NEED money to survive. Then there are the trade-offs to consider. We could live in a smaller house or apartment, but then our kids would have a smaller yard, or have to share bedrooms. A less expensive house can mean a poorer neighborhood, which often means a higher crime rate. Less money coming in means less spending money, which means that you might never get to take your kids to Disneyland or Mount Rushmore. And what about your children’s future? More money means that you can save for their future education, or for their wedding day, or to help them out with a down payment on their first home.

There are benefits to Day Care as well. Day Care helps kids learn to interact with their peers and develop social skills. I think that Nick’s time at the Day Care will help him develop his own personality, and I encourage that.

I have great respect for those parents who can make the sacrifices necessary to stay at home with their children. I will try to provide many resources for Dads who choose to stay home, just as I hope to be able to help out fathers who work. Daycare is a hugely controversial topic, and I’m not trying to convert anyone from their beliefs, nor do I expect to be able to. I just want people to know that there are many options out there when it comes to child care, and this was my decision. I hope it spurs some conversation and debate, and can help someone out there with their own decision.

Nick was raised at home until the age of 11 months. He is a healthy, happy boy with a wonderful personality, and doesn’t seem to be too phased by new people. I think Daycare will be good for him, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be sad when I drop him off in the morning. On the other hand, when I picked him up yesterday, he was smiling and laughing at the caregiver so I think he’s going to enjoy it there. Still, no matter how much fun he has, he still stopped what he was doing to smile and reach up to me when I came by at the end of his day, and that suits me just fine.

My wife and I really had a hard time deciding which safety gates to buy for our house. We have only one flight of stairs down to a basement, which should make the task an easy one, but of course, it wasn’t. We also have a cat in our home, and the cat’s litter box is in the basement, but her food is all upstairs in the kitchen. We felt it would be inconvenient to lock the cat in the basement all the time when we spend most of our time upstairs, and moving the smelly litterbox upstairs was out of the question. Also, we thought that the cat would probably be able to jump over the gate from the steps, but would probably hurt itself jumping over the gate and landing on the stairs going down.

Since the stairs are accessed from the kitchen, and kitchens are child-safety nightmares anyhow, we decided the best course of action would be to simply gate off the kitchen completely. This added an additional cost, as our kitchen has two entrances to it, but we felt the cat could easily jump the gate on a level floor, and it would make our home safer by removing the kitchen as a danger, so the price would be worth it.

There are a whole pile of gates on the market, some good, some bad. After a lot of research, we finally settled on the Safety 1st Smartlight Stair Gate. It is adjustable to fit a wide range of doorways and openings, is mounted permanently to the frame of the opening, and is mostly built of out metal. The hinges and latches are plastic, but they have had a fair bit of use and seem to be holding up well. The other thing I like about this gate is that I can easily step over it. I’m 5’11”, and have no problem with it installed at the standard height. Since these gates are installed in high traffic areas of our house, it’s nice not to have to open and close the gate each time. The gate has a motion activated light built into it, but this wasn’t a concern for us so we never put batteries into it.

We found it at Sears, but I’m sure there are a number of places it is available at, including Amazon.com.