The misadventures of a first time father

Monthly Archives: August 2012

You don’t usually think too much about being sick other than the “ugh” feeling that comes along with it during the entire ordeal – until you have a kid.

For the first time in these past six weeks since he was born, sickness has hit the household, and it’s not just me. Within the past 48 hours, both my wife and I suddenly started coming down with something affecting out throat, chest, nose, and head. Being sick can be bad enough, but fighting back the gunk falling into the back of your throat, the burning sensation in your eyes, and having the baby screaming at the top of his lungs?

This is all new territory for us, my friends.

Last night, our dinner was a bowl of chicken soup, with hot tea (echinacea tea for me), and some hot lemonade for dessert.

Naturally, we’ve been incredibly concerned about possibly spreading it to our little one, and this morning, wondered if we already had. He screamed for well over an hour, and nothing could console him – not the melodies of Simon and Garfunkel, not food, not rocking, not snuggling, nothing. Imagine how scared we were to hold him close, too, considering our fears about spreading whatever sickness we’re carrying at the moment.

So, we called our pediatrician and expressed our concerns – especially his resistance to eating, whether it be breast or bottle.

He’s not running a temperature, which was a good sign, and they recommended running a cold mist humidifier, along with saline drops in his nose (to then be pulled out with a bulb syringe) to clear out his head. They said it could be that if he IS sick, that he could be stuffed up in his nose, making his mouth the only way he could be breathing. That means when he tries to eat, he is possibly blocking off his only way to breath, which could be why it’s been so hard to get him to take breast or bottle.

So, we’re going to see how things go in the day(s) ahead. I feel guilty that while I’m at work, she’s at home, dealing with a fussy baby who’s eating schedule is hit and miss while at the same time fighting off illness herself.

Any suggestions on keeping a six-week old from catching what mommy and daddy have?

We have had to do a lot of sterilizing lately.

No one is sick, but we have what you may call a “binky bandit” on the loose in our home. Binky being what we sometimes refer to our little one’s pacifier as.

At first, as we would reach for a pacifier and find it missing, my wife and I thought we might be losing our minds, finding them in odd spots throughout the house. Did we drop them, we would wonder?

Needless to say, we wouldn’t go popping them back in the baby’s mouth, and they’d instead get tossed into the “sterilization” pile for the next time we’d boil a pot of water containing pacifiers, bottles, nipples and the like.

Still, the mystery still waged on – short of growing legs themselves, what was happening to all these pacifiers. Was I sleepwalking? Egads, was the baby sleepwalking? If so, when did he learn to walk in these past five weeks?!

However, one morning, I awoke to hear some weird noises, like something being pulled across the floor. I followed the sound into the baby’s room, where I found, not our human baby, but our feline baby, Winston, looking up at me, with the pacifier in his mouth as if he were Maggie Simpson.

Now, I was unfortunately not quick enough with my camera to grab a photo of this bizarre sight. I wish I was, as I can not imagine how anyone would believe it otherwise. So you’ll have to settle for this “not as cool or funny” one from some time later.

There it was, though, our little gray guy – definitely the “baby” of our trio of felines, looking up at me as though this was perfectly natural for him to have a pacifier in his mouth like a baby.

Into the sterilization pile it went.

I have currently begun reading the book “Magical Child” by Joseph Chilton Pearce.

A quick web search of background on Pearce turns up his belief that active, imaginative play is the most important of all childhood activities because it cultivates mastery of one’s environment, which he terms “creative competence”. Children denied that form of play develop feelings of isolation and anxiety. He also believes that child-parent bonding is crucial, and sees modern clinical childbirth and lack of breast feeding as obstructions to that bonding.

I have so far only completed Chapter One of Magical Child, but I plan on sharing what I’ve come across as I move further through the book.

Any quotes that I reference should be automatically attributed to Pearce.

In it, Pearce covers a myriad of findings on a child’s brain as it develops from birth, including assessment that, much like the instinct found in other animals in nature (who learn and grow much faster than we humans do), the first few years of a child’s life are primarily made up of movements tied to their instinct or intent.

“The intent is simply an impulse that moves the child’s body in its initial crude attempts to interact with the actual world…the intent that drives the child for the first few years is that of physical interaction with all the possible contents of the living earth (its creatures, phenomena, experiences, and things) and, above all, its principles and laws of interaction. These principles are quite practical and mundane, such as “fall down, go boom,” and “fire means burn.” Each physical contact the child makes brings about a corresponding patterning, or learning, in his/her new brain.”

As a child grows, as does their brain, their intelligence (or ability to interact) comes from their interactions with the new phenomena they come across.

“Although this seems obvious, this movement from the known to the unknown proves to be both the key and the stumbling block to development. Most intellectual crippling comes from the failure to observe the balance of this movement. In our anxieties, we fail to allow the child a continual interaction with the phenomena of this earth on a full-dimensional level (which means with all five of his/her body senses); and at the same time, we rush the child into contact with phenomena not appropriate to his/her stage of biological development. That is, either we block the child’s movement into the unknown and so block intellectual growth, or we propel the child into inappropriate experience.”

Pearce says that in order to nurture the intelligence in our young, we’ve got to honor their progression from ‘concreteness towards abstraction,’ meaning that they must experience a full interaction with the earth as it is so that they their brain might structure a knowledge of the world.

“This is physical knowledge, or basic body-knowing. Only out of this kind of knowing can abstract thought develop, such as an understanding of the law of gravity rather than “fall down, go boom” or the laws of thermodynamics rather than “hot, don’t touch.”

He goes on to say that a child’s ability to have flexible logic is dependent on their ability to differentiate between their experiences and then put them into useful categories.

“This differentiation begins quite early in life and is the function of regulatory feedback. One automatic and natural result of this differentiation is the development of a conscious, personal awareness, a sense of individuality.”

One of the most interesting tidbits is Pearce’s thoughts on the dependency that the human race has put on tools. For years, academics have always argued that the human race’s ability to craft and use tools was what made them “‘so evolved,” yet it is those same tools, Pearce states, that are becoming such a crutch that we are actually holding back our own mental development.

“This belief is so ingrained that we actually believe that only through tools (houses, clothes, weapons, machinery, writing, books) can we survive. We assume that tool usage is the real mark of intelligence and set up tool capacity (including writing as a tool) as the final criteria for intelligence. We mold young minds accordingly, centering the training of children on tool usage and the complex abstract systems we have evolved out of such usage. Finally, we conclude that without this engineered tinkering with the mind of the early child, that child would be as a beast of the field, without language, thought or writing or horrors – tools.”

It doesn’t meant that we should go live with the wolves, he notes. He simply is stating that there is a balance meant for humans that were not meant to live in the conditions and ways that we have trapped ourselves into.

“The human was not meant to live in the wilderness. On the other hand, the current breakdown of social life clearly shows that we were not meant to live in the strange nightmare world of a city. Humans are designed to live in the garden. To live in the garden, we must tend that garden. We must be good stewards of our resources and exercise careful dominion over them. Tools could be an adjunct to this stewardship over the earth. We get in serious difficulties when we substitute mechanics for personal power, for they are qualitatively different functions.”

I know some of this may read like a text book as I quote form throughout the chapter, but I really did find this stuff fascinating, and felt Pearce’s quotes explained things better in some cases.

For those that I may have frightened off with these delving into child-rearing and development, don’t worry. I’ll still be writing about the myriad of other misadventures of fatherhood as I always have. Here and there, though, I’d like to continue sharing some of these interesting tidbits as I move further through Pearce’s work.

I think I’ve hit another milestone of fatherhood.

Sure, I had already been sprayed during diaper changes and been spit up on during burpings.

But as of this this past weekend, (drum roll please), I was pooped on…right into my hand during a diaper change. 🙂

And all I could do was laugh.

That is all.

It’s no secret that I absolutely love reading to my son.

I don’t know if, at just a few weeks old, his mind absorbs anything of what I’m actually saying so much as just listening to his father’s voice, but either way, it’s one of my favorite parts of the day. I try very much to make sure that at some point in the evening before bed, we get some father-son time, holding him, and reading him a story.

Needless to say, that makes children’s books my Achilles’ Heel. My wife will attest that I could spend the entire day in the Children’s Section of a bookstore, fascinated by all the offerings, both classic and modern. It can be a dangerous thing, I admit.

With that in mind, I wanted to share a few of my most recent finds to add to the little man’s bookshelf.

We’re in a Book by Mo Willems

I had never heard of Mo Willems before, but apparently Elephant and Piggie are a series of books, which is great to hear, because I really loved this one. Sat down and read it last night, once to the kid and once to myself because I got such a chuckle out of it.

With cute color drawings of Elephant and Piggie set against stark white backgrounds, the fourth wall is broken as the duo learn someone is watching them and that someone is the reader. They jump for joy that they’re “in a book” and then go into a panic when they realize that at some point, the book has to end. I really, really loved this and think it would be hard for any parent to resist.

Mr. Daydream by Roger Hargreaves

Being the open book that I am (all pun intended), it will come as no surprise how much I adore the Mr Men and Little Miss books. I went off on my Roger Hargreaves lovefest in an earlier post, and jumped at the chance when I found this one mixed in with some Berenstain Bears at our local Barnes and Noble, especially since they aren’t carrying the Mr Men series anymore.

So when I came across the last one remaining in the store, I snatched it up quickly. The 13th book in the Mr. Men series, it tells the story of a little boy named Jack, who lets his thoughts run wild when he looks out the window at school one day and suddenly sees Mr Daydream, who teaches him the power of imagination.

I Wish that I had Duck Feet by Dr. Seuss

We haven’t read this one yet, but I love the message of it. Published in 1965, it is the story of a young boy who wishes he could have different animal body parts (like a tiger tail) or mechanical body parts (like a water spout on his head). As he thinks about what life could be like with these wishes granted, he also realizes what problems might arise from them, and, in the end, realizes that the best thing to be, is just himself. What can I say, I love a good “be who you are” story. 🙂

So, those are the latest additions to the bookshelf that I’m sure we’ll be pulling off time and time again in the years ahead.

Whether he understands them or not right now doesn’t matter. He’s still developing. What’s nice is that we get to spend time together, as father and son, and that’s a story that I never want to end. 🙂

Sorry for the Sinatra (or Sid Vicious, based on your musical tastes) reference, but ever since this weekend, I have carried with me a great sense of regret.

After our boy got his very first bath in the kitchen sink, I sat him down on my lap and watched some classic 1940s Donald Duck cartoons. Even my previous blog post was about cartoon watching, discussing wanting to watch Inspector Gadget with him, only to be disappointed it was no longer on Netflix.

Fate works in mysterious ways, and it’s a good thing it’s not on Netflix, because I have, since that day, deeply regretted exposing my little boy, just three weeks old, to television. I just couldn’t shake the nagging feeling inside me that what I was doing was more for myself than for he, and was nothing but detrimental to his development. “What was I thinking?” I keep asking myself. I fear I’ve made a big mistake, and truly hope that there is still time to make sure he is not negatively effected by this weekend’s couch-potato activity.

I’ve done a bit of reading since the tinge of regret has slipped in, and have come across a great deal of work by Dimitri Christakis of Children’s Hospital in Seattle and how babies can be harmed by watching television and video. Here’s some information on Christakis’ studies from the website

According to studies by Christakis, the first 2 years of a child’s life is a critical time for their brain development and watching television takes time away from a child exploring, interacting and playing with parents and other, as well as actively learning by manipulating things around him. These are activities that help your kid develop the skills they need to grow intellectually, socially and emotionally.

A lot more notes on the negative effects of television on child development:

  • When your kid plays, he is actively learning about how the world works.  He wires his brain by experimenting with cause and effect.   When your kid interacts with people, he meets his emotional milestones.   TV keeps your kid away from these activities.
  • The first 2 years of your kid is also a critical time for learning language.  Language is only learned through interaction with others, not by passive listening to TV.  If you not respond to your kid’s attempt to communicate, your kid could miss this important milestone.  Also, your kid will not learn to talk by listening to TV characters baby talk or talk down to him.  Your kid learns to talk by mimicking adult language.  He learns from the adults’ simplified but correctly pronounced speech.
  • Note that when your baby smiles at the TV, the TV does not smile back.  This may affect him socially and psychologically.

Researchers have found that over the last 20 years, an increasing number of 9-month-old children are having trouble paying attention to voices when there is also background noise coming from the TV.  This may affect their paying attention in class when they go to school.

Also, when kids who watch TV go to school, they have to make a change from being primarily visual learners to listening learners.  If a kid watches more TV than interact with the family, he will have a hard time making this transition, and his school learning will suffer.

Dr. Christakis has found that children who watched television as babies are more likely to have shorter attention spans, problem concentrating and impulsiveness by age 7. He also states that although Attention Deficit Disorder is genetic, TV can also trigger this condition because TV rewires the baby’s brain.  The still-developing brain adapts to TV’s fast pace and overstimulation.

Also, in his study, Christakis found that children who watched TV as babies are less able to recognize letters and numbers by the time they go to school.  A 2005 University of Pennsylvania study found that watching Sesame Street before age 3 delayed a child’s ability to develop language skills.  This may be because babies are wired to be active and not passive learners.

  • Many TV shows and videos geared to kids are actually teaching them the wrong things.  They distort reality with their cartoonish and unnatural depiction of the world.  Also, the pacing of these shows is fast and teaches the baby’s sponge-like brain to always expect fast-paced input.  The real world, as they will soon find out, is much more boring and requires patience to adapt to.
  • Many other studies have found that long-term exposure to television diminishes children’s ability to communicate via reading and writing.   It can also lead to attention and learning problems in the long term.

In 2008, France’s broadcast authority has banned French channels from airing TV shows aimed at children under three years old. The High Audiovisual Council of France have found out that “Television viewing hurts the development of children under three years old and poses a certain number of risks, encouraging passivity, slow language acquisition, over-excitedness, troubles with sleep and concentration as well as dependence on screens.”

There are tips that are suggested regarding babies and TV watching:

  • Child experts agree that children under 2 should not watch any TV at all – and this also includes videos, computers and video games.
  • If you have to do work that requires concentration and you cannot multitask, do it at a time when your baby is napping.  If this cannot be avoided, let your kid play with toys on the floor or in the playpen instead.  Arrange a caregiver who interacts with your child if your child craves for human companion (which he naturally does).
  • Interact with your child as much as possible.  He needs this to build his brain.  Respond to his smile, speech and actions.   Entertain, recite rhymes, and sing to him in an engaging way.  No show on TV can beat what you have to offer.  Your voice, touch, smell, and your reaction to things he does are what he craves.  Don’t let your baby be passive.
  • Do not expect that you can use TV and video to tutor your child or will have any positive effect on his brain.  At best, it should be a means for you to take a half-hour break from interacting with your child in a way that will help him developmentally.
  • If your baby has to watch TV, watch with him, and make watching an interactive event.  Reinforce what he sees on TV by talking or singing to him.

I’ve got a lot to learn about the dos and dont’s of parenthood, I fully admit that. However, I hope that I can take these feelings of regret of what I perhaps SHOULDN’T have done, learn from it, and educate myself as to what I CAN do to make sure my little guy becomes the magical child he can, and can live up to all his wonderful potential.

The great Inspector Gadget – hi-tech scourge of the underworld, has met his match, apparently. It was not at the hands of M.A.D. Agents like Presto Chango, Greenfinger, or even through the machinations of his arch enemy, Dr. Claw.

No, this time Inspector Gadget was finally done in by the villainous Netflix.

This past year I had relished the chance to relive a very vivid part of my childhood, courtesy of Netflix streaming the complete original series of Inspector Gadget. The complete series is not even available on DVD, yet here it was, readily available for my viewing pleasure at the click of a button.

The moment that simplistic, yet catchy theme song began and the voice of Don Adams hit the air, I was like a kid again, and I could not wait to sit down with my kid and enjoy the adventure.

I was around pre-school age or slightly younger when Gadget was originally on the air, and I remember how much a part of my daily routine he became. My naps were scheduled around him, and if I didn’t take those naps, you know for darn sure I wasn’t allowed to watch Gadget – something that little kid was not going to let happen.

I had the Inspector Gadget toy with extendable limbs, and a helicopter you could place in his hat. I used to run around the neighborhood with other kids, re-enacting the characters we watched on TV that afternoon. I was all over it.

So, imagine my disappointment when I say down with my son yesterday to introduce his open mind and imagination to the wild world of Gadget, Penny and Brain, only to find that Netflix has removed Inspector Gadget from its streaming. A quick search online revealed I was not the only one suddenly caught by surprise, with the series’ page on Netflix flooded with messages from like-minded viewers just wondering “wha’ happen?”

So, I picked up the phone and gave Netflix Customer Service a call. The gentleman I spoke with was great, and mentioned that he had just been watching the original series himself. A quick check and what he surmised is that Netflix’s contract with whomever holds the rights to the show likely expired. He said while that does mean it’s gone for now, it doesn’t mean it’s gone for good, and was nice enough to make a note and log the call as “wanting Inspector Gadget original series” returned to streaming, for what it’s worth.

Hey, cartoons are not what they used to be, so somebody’s got to make sure this next generation gets exposed to the “classics” of animation and preserve these animation greats.  🙂

And, just as Gadget says, “I’m always on duty.”

A medium-sized package awaited me on the front steps yesterday as I returned home from work, and in it, a visit to the past and anticipation to the future.

The package, with its familiar “half-smile” logo from contained the very first Christmas present that I have purchased for my little boy. At only a few weeks old, he’s too young to know what it is or for him, I’m sure, but regardless, I scurried it away to the top of my closet shelf, where I keep Christmas gifts I want out of sight.

Inside was the 40th Anniversary, hardcover set of Roger Hargreaves’ “Mr Men” children’s book series.

If you’re unfamiliar, Mr. Men was a series first published in the United Kingdom that would yield 49 books total over time. It began back in 1971 and featured characters with names like “Mr Tickle” or “Mr Bump” with colorful characters whose physical form looked like what a child might picture a tickle to look like, or messy to appear.

The books spawned a female version of the series called “little Miss” and continued beyond Roger’s death in 1988. After that, his son, Adam, who had inspired the series by asking his dad “what does a tickle look like?” took over with new stories and characters.

This is a series that i have loved ever since I was a kid, and remember time and again the amount of glee I would get taking one out of the library and looking at the incredibly colorful, very geometric characters in Hargreaves’ world.

They were simple stories, but each one with an important message, and drawn in a very simple style with bold colors that were striking to any child, as well as any adult with an imagination.

My wife and I came across one in our Barnes and Noble this past year that we decided to pick up well before our little guy was born, Mr. Cheerful. We used it one night when he was antsy in his cradle, showing him the bright, colorful drawings splashed across the pages to calm him down. I probably had more fun reading it than he did sitting there staring at me acting so goofy.

Unfortunately, though, we recently learned that Barnes and Noble was no long carrying the books, which made me Mr. Sad.

So, when I saw the 40th Anniversary set containing the original ten volumes (Mr. Tickle, Mr. Greedy, Mr. Happy, Mr. Nosey, Mr. Sneeze, Mr. Bump, Mr. Snow, Mr. Messy, Mr. Topsy-Turvy and Mr. Silly) and for the bargain price of just over $13, I could not resist snatching them up to add to the little guy’s book collection this Christmas.

What fun awaits us in the world of Mr Men when he will be able to pay attention to what’s being read to him, let alone when he starts to read on his own. Perhaps we’ll come up with a unique name for him too, like Mr. Yeller, or Mr. Poopy. 🙂

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