Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cry, Baby, Cry

The past few months have been rough for me in my dealings with our son. His mood can change drastically at any moment, it seems, from fun and laughing to a complete meltdown in a matter of seconds. Some of the triggers seem to stem from him not getting his way, or not getting what he is asking for or wants. The results of these meltdowns or tantrums often come in the way of throwing things, tossing his food on the floor and/or pinching and hitting us. No matter how much we explain to him that his behavior is not acceptable, or how much we try to teach him how to act properly, we have not yet been able to get through to him.

Because of his actions my mood also changes with his. While I can't get enough of him when he's being sweet and playful, I can suddenly sour as soon as his meltdown or bad behavior ensues. As hard as I try to remain calm, I usually resort to hollering and trying to force our son into better behavior, though of course this rarely does the trick. My wife tends to go with the calm tone, trying to talk our son through the issues, but I don't feel that works either. Is this really just a phase, or are these behaviors we'll have to somehow deal with for years to come? I know meltdowns are typically at 1.5 years, of course, but the frequency of his are what bother me. I couldn't have imagined it would be a daily struggle coping with his multiple meltdowns.

Our son sleeps through the night 95% of the time, he eats well and we do our best to engage his mind with activities as much as possible. I don't know if he is bored with his toys at home. His daycare has had a lot of turnover recently in his classroom, with several different "teachers" handling him the past few months. We feel this could be a major factor in his recent behavior, not having that structure he had the first year at his daycare. Even still, he eats well there and he sleeps well during nap time. As far as we know he gets along well with the other kids in the room. We're not sure if he has learned certain bad behaviors at daycare, like dropping food on the floor and biting, though is seems likely, and we're not sure how much he is being taught correctly. While we have issues with how the daycare might be providing some services for our son, he knows the place well and should feel comfortable there (I guess).

So I don't know if my rash way of dealing with him (some tough love) are having some ill effects in his behavior. Is the good cop/bad cop technique I feel is sometimes employed in our house any better? Are the 8+ hours he spends at daycare five days a week that much more shaping than the hours he spends with his parents? Does having a "problem child" now (a vague phrase, to say the least) mean he will be a problem the rest of his life? What can I do to lower my expectations and accept how my son is instead of thinking how he "should" be? Does anyone have any clues?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Love is a Battlefield

I just read a great article that really hit home for me. The author reflects on questioning the love of his new baby son when asked, "Don't you just love your baby?" For the first few months the author wasn't totally sure if he felt "love" but as the article concludes he is getting used to the idea while having more success at being a father. This helps him realize his son is growing on him, which is often commonly called, indeed, Love.

What the writer goes through in the article -- colic, vomit, spousal arguments, etc. -- are normal aspects for new parents. It definitely was for us (and still is, in many cases). I learned a lot about myself in those first several months, things I've recounted in this space before. Most notably was my realization that I don't have very much patience, in general, and little toleration for my son's crying/screaming. The spousal arguments/debates continue to this day, though recently I've been trying harder to "tame the beast within" and pick battles better (with varying degrees of success, probably).

I do admit that I am not sure the "love" for my son flowed so easily as it is portrayed in films or by women. I was really pleased that he came out okay, especially since it was found he had a knot in his umbilical cord that could have posed problems had we waited any longer for his birth (he was deliver a week early via C-section). When I spent time with him right after his birth I felt really nervous and a bit sad for him because he was so upset (for obvious reasons). I wanted to really be there for him and comfort but didn't know how. "Love" is not the word I would have used, even at those early minutes with him. More like nervous excitement, at best, but the good kind. The next four days at the hospital, however, were the most challenging, defeating and draining days, as I figured I was well in over my head. A lot of the cliche "This isn't what I signed up for" was being tossed about, from what I remember.

The first three months or so are called "the mother's months" because the men don't have as much to do, really, as the women. Sure, we help out as much as possible, but we can't breastfeed, for one, and the baby needs/wants that mother-baby bonding a lot more in the early days. So while I liked my son and didn't mind putting the work in, I still wasn't "gaga" over him. It wasn't his fault, he just had a lot of baby issues I was dreading, like colic and a piercing scream instead of a cry. Even now when I hear new babies with these sweet little cries I get envious!

More recently, as our son moves head-first into two-dom, my feelings are much different. It didn't take long to really feel genuine love for the kid. Once you hear the first "dada" your heart has to melt. Now he really is communicative and I feel pretty confident in my abilities to care for any of his needs. I can feed him, clothe him, make him laugh, get him to sleep (or fall back asleep), sometimes even by myself, ha ha. He comes to me for certain things, but still wants mommy for others. When he awakes during the night with gas pains he cries out for mommy, and even when I pick him up to comfort him, he still cries for her. So while I'm useful, she will always be the go-to, the default parent. I'm okay with that, for the most part.

The other side of the coin is now he is testing us, almost daily. While he's practically described as an angel at daycare, he can be a beast at home, setting us up for his little tests of what he can get away with the most. His tantrums, like his screaming, make me want to flee the country, and my tendency is to just let him cry it out until he can communicate what he wants (which he can, he just chooses not to in this state). He's even prone to some drama, like when he pretends to have a headache with his hand on his forehead, while with the other hand he points to the freezer asking for an ice pack (which he then promptly puts in this mouth instead of his head -- a miracle cure!).

So, the bottom line is, he's definitely grown on me, and probably even more so than he thinks. I never pictured having a son with blond hair, but now I can't picture him with anything other than blond. I love his vocabulary (which is probably double what I believe it might be), how he feels the need to "cheers" his milk cup with us at dinner at least a dozen times, how he is able to see the moon in the sky no matter how faint or thin, how whenever I put soccer on the TV he yells "ball!". I love that he doesn't mind wearing hats, can't say "dog" but says "woof, woof" instead, says a version of the word "tattoo" if he sees me with my shirt off (I have tattoos), and just moved from "mama" to saying "mommy" after having started using "daddy" for a couple months now.

Don't I just love my baby? Well, yeah, I'd be crazy not to. (As long as he stops throwing his food!)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Reflections on Father's Day

My second Father's Day has come and gone, and I'm only now starting to decipher my feelings about my day, and the day in general. While I enjoyed the activities that were scheduled for me, including a nice picnic breakfast with friends on Saturday and a family dinner on Sunday, I felt too much trouble was put into all the planning and execution. I can't speak for every father, obviously, but I'm beginning to think Father's Day, if nothing else, should perhaps be a day where we actually prove our worth as fathers, allowing the "men to be men" by doing some of the things we do best.

Now, I'm a guy who enjoys a nice facial from time to time. I don't mind sitting down for two or three World Cup soccer matches in a row. I appreciate getting "props" for being a dad, having a day where fathers get some due. But sitting around while my wife slaves in the kitchen might look cool on Mad Men, but it's not really my thing. After one or two 1-0 or 0-0 World Cup matches, I'm itching for something to do. It being "my day" doesn't mean I can't lend a hand. I mean, it's not my birthday!

So when our son went down for a nap or he and the wife went out for a(nother) run to the store, I tried straightening up the house, doing laundry, even attempting to organize an already fairly organized garage. Unfortunately, we live in a rental so there's no yard work or house upkeep to perform. No dog, so I couldn't walk it, etc. What I'm getting at is I now feel Father's Day is a good day for fathers to do manly things -- around the house, with the kids, whatever. Taking a day off, "earned" or not, isn't all that "manly" is it?

Which brings me to the food and cooking part. My wife's father and uncle are very good, some say great, grillers of meat. They know what they're doing, and I've learned that grilling a piece of chicken until it's burnt is not how it's done. There's skill to the art, and I'm happy to have two guys close by that are willing to impart their knowledge to me (and enjoy the fruits of their labor, as well).

So, on all days, I'm now thinking Father's Day is the perfect day for dads/guys to do at least one thing we do well and enjoy. Given it's June, firing up the BBQ is easy and appropriate. I was in on the decision making for the menu, so I surely ate food that I and others like, but if we grill we are in total control of what we want and how it's done. And when it comes to being a father, who among us doesn't enjoy a little control now and then?

Yes, I know this isn't the ONLY thing(s) Father's Day is about (soccer, BBQs and control, haha). I know it's about being a father, a dad, getting recognition for whatever it is we actually do to help raise our kids. The day is about spending time with our kids, our families and maybe getting a pat on the back for being that guy. There are many role models for being a good father, but we are also the role models for future fathers. And I guess THAT is what it's all about.

About the photo: The above photo was one of many of our son from a "secret" photo shoot that my wife had done for me, shot by a work friend who is getting into photography. The shirt reads "I 'heart' Dadoo," which my wife made using a stencil and iron. "Dadoo" is one his early versions of "dada" so it's a thing that's stuck. The photos were great and one was used on a coffee mug for my Father's Day gift. It was a nice surprise :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Fifteen Months

(Photo from March, when J got his ear tubes inserted. We think it has made a noticeable difference!)

Because I enjoy jinxing myself, it's been a nice recent several days that our now-15-month-old son has been sleeping through the night. Nice because for the several days prior to that he had not. We noticed the other day that he had new molars on the bottom row of gums, which may have been a cause for his waking up. Also, he developed bronchitis (again) and got conjunctivitis (pink eye) while we were in Portland the other weekend for our god son's third birthday. Who knows how long that was percolating before rearing it's goopy head.

While J-boy has many typical tendencies for a kid his age, it's been really fun watching these developments in person, with my own child. He asks for things, sometimes using the couple baby signs we taught him, and can do simple tasks like putting his dirty clothes in his laundry basket or tossing out trash/recycling. This isn't to say he "listens" but he obliges when he is interested. Any request involving the words "Don't" or "No" are ignored, of course. He loves books; one of my favorite things he does is hand me or my wife a book he wants read and then sits on the floor in front of you to listen.

I'll try to be more current in posting his developments, not only to give out the updates, but also to keep up this journal in the hopes someone is actually reading it. I enjoy the writing practice and I enjoy writing about the boy. While these past 15 months have shown me levels of frustration and impatience in myself I had hoped never to see, it's nice to realize that we might actually be decent parents (so far) and have our son heading in the right direction, developmentally. And I do have to tip my hat to his day care, too, and of course, our family and friends (or the wife will chastise me for not doing so instead of taking the lion's share of credit).

Sunday, February 28, 2010

On Year Down X To Go

Sorry I've waited almost a month to write this post -- no excuse. On the first of February, our son turned the big One. We celebrated with a nice family lunch at our house then a large play party at Gymboree with what was at least 50 people and kids. Our son was a bit under the weather -- a combo of ear infection, cold, bronchitis, or pneumonia, take your pick -- but survived the festivities. He certainly enjoyed the blue icing from his special birthday cupcake, so much so that he stayed up well past his normal bed time to tell us all about it.

It's been an interesting year (now 13 months), to say the least. I'm sure that's not news to anyone with a child, of course. But for me it had so many highs and lows, some of which I was expecting and others (the lows) shook me worse than I ever would have imagined. I knew raising a new child would be "work" and "change your life" since I heard it practically every day prior to the birth, but it's quite obvious AND an understatement at the same time.

I quickly found my son's crying/screaming to be incredibly saddening and grating to my nerves. I desperately want something to be done to calm him as quickly as possible but I lack the patience do be of adequate service. I make it worse for my wife, who was obviously born with patience to spare, because now she has a baby and a husband freaking out. It's taken a while but now when the boy is upset I feel I have a better understanding of his needs. The racket he makes is still hard to bear but now we he is getting better at communicating his needs and I/we are better able to provide for them. My biggest hope/wish is that I will gain more patience as time goes on and be a good role model for my son when he is able to speak, instead of getting too easily frustrated and making my wife deal with him.

For over a month now our son has been trying to walk and getting more able every day. These days he would rather try and walk than crawl, which is fun to watch. He still is in the "Frankenstein" mode of stiffly walking, but he can crouch, pick up something, and get back up without touching the floor with his hands. Watching him turn corners is funny, and though the thought of him fully mobile presents a new slew of concerns, it's this time of his life that I've been waiting for.

Seeing him develop has been the most rewarding part of this year. I was really worried his numerous illnesses, ear infections, etc., would hinder him in some way. But his sight, hearing and all the other main areas are developing well. He does, however, need to get tubes inserted into his ears in a couple weeks to alleviate the constant fluid in his ears, the cause of his about 10 ear infection of the past year. We are confident this common procedure will go well, and the tubes will make him an even happier and healthier boy.

Monday, January 11, 2010

World News

Two news stories today are frightening and have me thinking a little today about gender and religion.

The first story, which is just gaining traction in the press, is about a Pakistani couple who sacrificed their three-month old baby girl in the hopes they would "get rich". Obviously this is sick behavior, in a variety of ways. Apparently the couple were advised to do this heinous act from a "witch doctor." How backwards is a society when people are still seeking out the advice of a witch doctor? Worse yet, when did becoming "rich" supersede the joy of being parents? Trust me, I know how hard it is being a parent now, and there are a few (very few, actually) times when I wonder if we'd have been better off not having had a child, but there's never been any idea in my head that we could just sacrifice him (or give him away, send him back, etc.) just for the money. In a segue to the next story below, I wonder if the parents and this "doctor" would have felt differently if the baby was a boy instead of a girl. And where do witches go to school to get a doctorate?

Rituals have been part of many of the world's societies through the eons, but I like to believe Earth's people have moved forward. Blind faith is another old tool of the mindless. When the witch doctor told the parents they would get rich by this sacrifice, did he tell them how this would happen? Would it be money in a rainstorm like frogs falling from the sky, or an insider stock tip? Personally, I would really need to see this person's credentials before putting all my eggs in the sacrifice basket. I'd have to ask him how many others got rich from this scheme, or the consequences of giving us the wrong advice (like if a sacrifice made them itch, not rich).

The second story was shown to me by my wife and it involves the drastic difference between the amount of men in China compared to women, and how in a decade's time these men will be without the possibility of a spouse because of it. China has a strict one-child-per-family limit to help keep down the population and an old notion that men are more important to the health of the society than women. According to the article, with the availability of ultrasound technology, parents can find out the sex of the child, and, given the importance of boys in the society, decide to abort a girl fetus to try again for a boy.

While I understand and agree with controlling the population (I sometimes wish there was a similar policy in the US), killing off females for the sake of the state is the ultimate in hysteria. I can almost "get" the maniacal behavior in the first story, given the religious nature of a ritual, but in 2010 it's hard to see how people still believe having a boy will grant them better wishes compared to a girl. Maybe it's China's lack of free outside information in the very rural areas that has not given them the memo that women are/can be successful. If the country isn't going to allow women the same access to gaining that success, then this ugly practice will surely go on unabated.

On a relevant side note, I was fairly pleased with China's response after its large 2008 earthquake that killed at least 68,000 people. It decided to lift the one-child-per-family ban to those parents who lost their children in the earthquake. No clue on how many of the families took advantage of this permission, but I hope there were a bunch of girls born because of it.