Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

To date none of Nathan’s grandparents have asked about his uncircumcised penis. As in, no one has said, “Hey, what’s up with your kid’s weiner?” Or, “Hey, when did you guys become dirty hippies?” Or, “Hey, aren’t you worried that the only role models he’ll have growing up are European porn stars?”

All (in)valid concerns. But it’s worth pointing out that unsnipped American boys are becoming the norm:

Steep Drop Seen in Circumcisions in U.S.

Hospital circumcision rates are down, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report — and there doesn’t seem to be any clear reason.

The report from the center’s weekly report on morbidity and mortality showed that, depending on what numbers you used, hospital circumcision rates from 1999 to 2008 dropped from 62.5% to 56.9% (National Hospital Discharge Survey) or from 63.5% to 56.3% (Nationwide Inpatient Sample). And according to SDIHealth, from 2001 to 2010 the rates dropped from 58.4% to 54.7%.

You can read more here, here, and here.

Finally, because our previous conversations about circumcision got a wee bit contentious, I’ll leave you with a joke:

MG: Hey, did you know they use foreskins for replacing eyelids?

JG: No they don’t.

MG: Yeah, they do.

JG: Come on, really?

MG: Yeah, but afterward you tend to look a bit cock-eyed.

Internet high five for the first person who guesses who “MG” is.

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I love a good rivalry: Ohio State vs. Michigan, Coke vs. Pepsi, People Who Procreate vs. People Who Don’t. Wait — what’s that, you say? You weren’t aware of that last one? Neither was I, but now that I have a kid it seems to be popping up everywhere. First, there was that study that compared the relative happiness of childless couples to couples who have kids (the former win in a landslide). Then, this week, the intertubes had approximately 712 articles about how being a Mommy makes you fat (if you eat too much). And, today, in Details, I read an article by Brian Frazer called “The No-Baby Boom,” which is as much a jab at parents as it is an apology for non-breeders.

What gave me that impression? Well, (a) Frazer divulges his own disinterest in having kids and wrecking his super hip lifestyle, (b) Frazer peppers his article with less-than-neutral prose like “Unless you’re among the less than 2 percent of Americans who farm for a living and might conceivably rely on offspring for free labor, children have gone from being an economic asset to an economic liability,” and (c) Frazer includes diagrams such as the following, explaining the benefits of being a Cool Uncle instead of an Uncool Dad:

Wait, I think I get it. Having kids is bad, right? And it says something negative about my personality, doesn’t it? Well, as luck would have it, Frazer has also found an expert to testify to exactly that:

According to Laura S. Scott, who surveyed 171 subjects for her book Two Is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice, that kind of attitude [not wanting to have kids] is linked to a specific personality component: “A lot of introverts, thinkers, judgers—these are people who think before they act,” she says. “They’re planners, and they’re not the kind of people who can be easily led into a conventional life just because everyone else is doing it.”

Ah, yes, the thinkers and judgers. I met a lot of them in the 35 years that I’ve impulsively waited to have a child. I met even more while I spontaneously accrued two different master’s degrees. I wish I could have been more like them. No, instead, I heard the call of the lame and domesticated and moved out to Hollywood, California, where jobs are easy to come by, and where I have been all-but-too-happy to settle into the time-honored conventional lifestyle of being a Stay at Home Dad, mostly because that’s what everyone else is doing too.


Seriously, folks. You make your own choices. If you want to drink Pepsi, go ahead. If you want to root for Michigan, you can do that too. I won’t make fun of you for either. But if you want to passive-aggressively rip my decision to give another human being a chance to blow out birthday candles, or cry when his dog dies, or kiss a girl on the lips, I say poop on you.

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I play baseball on Sundays. Okay, it’s softball. And it’s co-ed. But they line the base paths and keep score and everything. At any rate, this past weekend I was standing in center field, stuffing another wad of Big League Chew in my mouth, when my life flashed before my eyes.

Because it was a particularly nice day – sunny, upper 70s, breezy – Leigh Ann and I decided to bring Nate to the game, and now she had him with her in the stands. Before I go any further, I should note that Leigh Ann is a FIERCE MAMA GRIZZLY when it comes to protecting our little man. To illustrate this point: you know that Grizzly Bear video Colbert uses in the Threatdown?

Well, that Bear would crap its pelt if it ran into Leigh Ann.

Anyhow, if you’re a parent you know what comes next – i.e. the moment where you let your guard down for one second. Someone in the stands asked Leigh Ann a question and she reflexively turned to answer. As she did, the batter – who I will not ridicule here for being unable to hit a ball pitched underhand – fouled the ball straight back, up and over the backstop, and on a direct trajectory for my 5-month-old son’s forehead.

Standing some 300 feet away, I watched this unfold the way you might watch a murder unfold through binoculars – unable to do anything but no less affected. Someone yelled. Another mother screamed. And Leigh Ann, by the grace of whoever invented pumpkin ice cream, turned her body just enough that the ball whizzed harmlessly by, thereby saving us both from a life of therapy.

Ho ho ho.

Later that night, I was flipping through channels. F/X was playing the movie Face/Off, which I’d heard was poop-on-a-stick-bad but had never actually seen. So, fool that I am, I watched the first scene. In it, Nicolas Cage is a hitman trying to take out John Travolta. He’s got Travolta in his rifle sites, but Mr. Saturday Night Fever is playing on a carousel with his son, so Cage is having a hard time finding an open shot. When at last he thinks he has one, Cage pulls the trigger — only the bullet goes in to Travolta’s back, out through his chest, and straight into the boy, knocking them both to the ground. Travolta spends the next few moments not crawling away for his life, but cradling his dead son’s body and crying.

It made me angry. Not because it’s a laughably over-acted scene – it is – or because John Travolta is the world’s most obvious closet case – he is – or because Nicolas Cage used to be in good movies – really, he did. No, it made me angry because it made me imagine what it would be like to cradle Nate that way. And in doing so I was suddenly and acutely aware that I now had an incredible vulnerability. And that I would always have it. And that hack directors like John Woo would be able to exploit it at their pleasure.

Luckily, the Final Four was on another channel.

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A few weeks ago we talked about how parents of boys get divorced less often and report more happiness than parents of girls. At long last I’ve figured out why. It’s because of crap like this:

That’s right, folks. Abercrombie & Fitch is now making a padded push-up bra for seven year olds. What’s that you say? “Seven year olds don’t have breasts to push up.” Well that’s what the padding is for, silly! Best of all, after you buy this top, all your little princess will need is some hooker pants (try Gap), and she’ll be ready for the sexual slave trade.

I hear Thailand is beautiful this time of year.

(Hat tip: Babble.)

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Apparently Mommy & Me groups do not always welcome Daddys. I was talking to a buddy the other day, another SAHD (pronounced “sad”), and the conversation went roughly like this:

HIM: I hate going.
ME: Why, what’s up?
HIM: Every time I ask a question someone rolls their eyes at me.
ME: Find another group then.
HIM: Really?
ME: Yeah. And stop asking when your kid will be old enough to play Halo.

Then, a day later, I saw a post on Baby Center about a guy who wasn’t even allowed to join a Mommy & Me group in San Francisco. San Francisco?!? Are you shitting me? San Francisco where Good Vibrations was founded? San Francisco where Harvey Milk was elected? San Francisco where they’re about to ban infant circumcision?

Is there another San Francisco in Kentucky maybe?

At any rate, I don’t have either of these guys’ problems. Mine is worse: Nate’s Mommy & Me group has officially accepted me as one of the girls. I know this for a fact because of what happened last Monday. I was standing outside the classroom making small talk with one of the other Moms when, suddenly, in the middle of our conversation about I don’t know what — probably how much poop a diaper can hold — this Mom pulled down her nursing blouse and shoved her nipple into her son’s mouth. I don’t think she even broke sentence, just kept talking.

My first thought was, “Cool, everyone has finally relaxed around me.” But a couple hours later it occurred to me that this was actually kind of depressing. What did it say about me that a strange woman thought nothing of whipping her boob out in my presence? Let’s say I really did look like George Clooney . . . or Brad Pitt . . . or that Neanderthal they’re basing the next Ken Doll on. Would she have done it then? I bet not. Which, despite my iron-clad marital status, is still a little depressing. It’s like you wipe your kid’s butt for a couple months and all the sudden you’re some eunuch who’s allowed to sleep in the same room as the virgins. “Nighty night,” the King is telling us. “If anyone is tired, Scott will give you a foot massage.”

I don’t know. I guess I’ll just keep my loin cloth pulled low and try to blend in.

Maybe no one will ever notice.

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Word is the American Academy of Pediatrics is revising its car seat recommendations. I know your kid is Glo Worm cute and warms your frigid and uncaring heart every time you peek back at him, but he needs to be rear-facing until he’s 2 years old. Also, you should probably be watching the road.

From the article:

The AAP policy, published in the journal Pediatrics, was last updated in 2002, when it advised that baby should be at least 12 months old and 20 pounds before riding forward-facing. But research has shown it’s best to keep babies rear-facing as long as possible — certainly until they reach until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. A 2007 study in the journal Injury Prevention that found that children under age 2 are 75% less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash when in a rear-facing car seat.

Look at the bright side. You’ve got someone on the lookout for that ominous 1968 Dodge Charger R/T 440 Magnum that’s always following you around.*

*Warning: some allusions may be obscure.

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Barring an afternoon suicide, I will have survived one week of taking care of Nate. If you’re a working dad, I will now share with you what I’ve learned. You know how you went back to your job last week and left your wife at home to care for the little one? And you know how you sit in a cubicle for 10 hours a day now, silently resenting her, thinking, “That b$%#@ gets to sit on her butt all day and play with our kid while I have to cold-call retirees in Florida and trick them into buying swamp land”? Well, my friend, I can now testify that there is an approximately 0% chance that your wife is sitting on her butt all day. Also, if your kid was born in the last 6 months, then “playing with him” really just means preventing him from swallowing a razor blade. Fun fun.

As for getting chores done, I’ve also learned that there are precious few that can be accomplished with an infant attached to you and that the ones that can require 3 times the time and 10 times the effort as usual. So that leaves you rotating your planet around the mythical afternoon nap — should your baby terrorist child actually take one. And even if he does, you get only about 60 minutes to . . .

1. Eat.
2. Sleep.
3. Shower.
4. Wipe your ass.
5. Brush your teeth.
6. Find clothes that don’t smell like curdled milk.
7. Install child safety latches on the kitchen cabinets.
8. Install outlet covers and corner protectors and toilet locks.
9. Attach the Baby Einstein Neptune Soother you just bought to your kid’s crib.
10. Fix the light switch in your kid’s closet.
11. Change the crib mattress sheet.
12. Go downstairs and smear anti-bacterial ointment in your cat’s eye infection.
13. Clean out the cat box.
14. Do a load of dirty dishes
15. Take out the garbage.
16. Hit yourself in the face with a hammer.

Feel like taking a shower this morning? Go ahead. Be selfish. It just means that the garbage is going to sit for another day and the cat box is going to stink and your cat’s infected eyeball is going to rot out. Your call.

From what my out-of-work-but-really-hip actor friends tell me, being a parent is a bit like being an actor — the camera is always trained on you, you can never flub a line, and you can never break character. Only your close-up starts shooting at the crack of dawn and the director doesn’t yell, “Cut!” until 6 PM. And what happens if you mess up? Well, that’s the good news. Because you’re going to get to shoot this very same scene again.

And again.

And again.

"Let's try that again, Scott. This time with a little more competence."

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You know how I was having a blast raising Nate? Like how after he was born I was suddenly full of hope and sunshine and had a reason to get up in the morning? Well it turns out there’s an explanation. I’m delusional:

Kid Crazy: Why We Exaggerate the Joys of Parenthood

A new paper shows that parents fool themselves into believing that having kids is more rewarding than it actually is. It turns out parents are in the grip of a giant illusion.

The paper, which appears in the journal Psychological Science, presents the results of two studies conducted by Richard Eibach and Steven Mock, psychologists at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. The studies tested the hypothesis that “idealizing the emotional rewards of parenting helps parents to rationalize the financial costs of raising children.”

Their hypothesis comes out of cognitive-dissonance theory, which suggests that people are highly motivated to justify, deny or rationalize to reduce the cognitive discomfort of holding conflicting ideas. Here’s how cognitive-dissonance theory works when applied to parenting: having kids is an economic and emotional drain. It should make those who have kids feel worse. Instead, parents glorify their lives. They believe that the financial and emotional benefits of having children are significantly higher than they really are.

To “test” this theory researchers took two groups of parents. To the first they showed statistics about how much it costs to raise a child (about $200,000 to age 18 – gulp!). To the second, they showed these same statistics, plus several more about the financial benefits that parents enjoy over non-parents (like having kids who take care of you when you’re Kirk-Douglas-old). They then had both groups answer questions about how emotionally rewarding parenting is. The results? Parents who saw only the financial cost statistics rated parenting as more emotionally rewarding than parents who saw both the financial cost and the financial benefit figures.

So what does that mean? That parents are delusional? That 2 + 2 = 7? That pro wrestling is real? Maybe all of the above. Look, I’m not going to argue that people don’t search for ways to rationalize what they’re doing or that they don’t sometimes switch to a second rationale when their first doesn’t work out (see: George Bush, Iraq). But what’s with the anti-parenting bent of this piece? Take a look at the closing paragraph:

Does this mean you shouldn’t have kids? Yes — but you won’t. Our national fantasy about the joys of parenting permeates the culture. Never mind that it wasn’t always like this. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we thought nothing of requiring kids to get jobs even before they hit puberty. Few thought of it as abuse. Reformers helped change the system — and rightly so — so that children could be educated. But this created a conundrum. As Eibach and Mock write, “As children’s economic value plummeted, their perceived emotional value rose, creating a new cultural model of childhood that [one researcher] aptly dubbed ‘the economically worthless but emotionally priceless child.’” Or, as the writer Jennifer Senior put it in a New York magazine article last summer, “Kids, in short, went from being our staffs to being our bosses.”

Considering the URL of this article – “Why Having Kids Is Foolish” – I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. What bothers me, however, is that this piece never really addresses its thesis. Even if parents inflate the emotional rewards of parenting, does it necessarily follow that the decision to have a child is “foolish” and that parents are “delusional”? If so, the syllogistic legwork has not been shown in the margin.

I’ll tell you why I think it wasn’t. Because having a child isn’t economically foolish. It costs you money, yes, but economics is about more than just money; it’s about value. To prove that parents are foolish and delusional for having children, you’d have to show that the transaction – “I’ll have a kid for $200,000, please!” – is a net loss. Maybe you could do that, but I’m curious: what dollar figure are you using for the value of an 18-year-old child? $100,000? $150,000? Also, not to get too evo-psych on everyone, but this whole divide between non-parents who have money and parents who don’t seems pretty ironic considering that money is nothing really but a proxy for reproductive success. Why the heck do you think anyone tries to get rich? Because men who do end up with more wives and more biological children. If you think that’s merely an opinion, have a peek at this study. Or consider the lives of Rush Limbaugh, Larry King, and Newt Gingrich who between them have several billion dollars and, ahem, 16 wives (could be more by the time I press publish).

I don’t mean to drive a wedge between the “happy” non-parents who have cushy bank accounts and the “unhappy” parents who don’t. But I can’t help but remember this one time I went to Chuck E Cheese’s when I was eight years old. I spent the entire afternoon playing skeeball, skeeball, and more skeeball, and when I was through I had upwards of 500 skeeball coupons. I was the happiest kid in the joint. But I couldn’t decide what I wanted from the prize booth. Flavored candy canes? Tootsie rolls? A plastic dinosaur? And before I ever made that call my Mom showed up to take me home. So I stuffed the 500 skeeball coupons under my mattress and vowed to use them the next time I went to Chuck E Cheese’s. And then eight-year-old Scott forgot about them. I found them a year later and, with some urgency, rushed back to Chuck E Cheese’s but by that time they had changed coupon vendors and were no longer accepting the old kind. So instead of a plastic spider ring, a candy necklace, and thirty pieces of Bazooka Joe bubble gum, I had 500 skeeball coupons.

You know what I ended up doing with them?

Nothing. I threw them away.

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Act II

Come Monday, it’s for real. Meaning what, you ask? Meaning Leigh Ann’s maternity leave ends and the “Daddy’s My Mommy” portion of Scott’s life begins. Scary stuff, right? I used to think so. But now I’m not so sure. The truth is that being a father has, thus far, been both easier and more rewarding than I expected. That may be because the three of us have enjoyed 4 months of Nate having not one but two primary care-givers. Must be nice, right? But we’re about to see what happens when the more innately skilled of those two care-givers is replaced . . . with me.

This will stand on two legs, right?

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Something terrible is happening at our house. It’s been going on for weeks, but I’ve just now found the words for it. “Daddy” is becoming synonymous with “super fun playtime” and “Mommy” is becoming synonymous with “eating and sleeping.”

What’s wrong, you ask, with having your kid think you fart rainbows? Well, the problem comes when Mommy is already passed out and it’s time to put Little Man to bed but all he wants is more rainbows. And more rainbows. And more and more rainbows.

The other night, a sleepless Leigh Ann brought Nate out for his 1 AM feeding, and this was approximately our conversation:

HER: Don’t look at him.
ME: Oops, too late.
HER: Well don’t smile at him then.
ME: Why not?
HER: Because if he sees you smiling, he’ll spend the next two hours waiting for you to play the ukulele.
ME: What if I play the piano instead?

Leigh Ann was not amused. And, in fact, she was right about the next two hours. But that’s not the point. The point is that I have been stereotyped by my own son. And as someone who has struggled his entire life with the profound disadvantage of being a college-educated white male, I’m sick and tired of it. I’m a human being, for God’s sake. I deserve better. And I will not play another chord on the ukulele, or fart another rainbow until Nate smiles at me.

All right, then. Amazing Grace or Oh When the Saints?

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