Category Archives: A Dude’s Guide to Parenting

Charlotte Parent: Boiling Frogs

Dudes can get used to just about anything.

Consider the door that swells in the summer and won’t open quietly unless you pull to the right while opening it. At the start of the summer, it’s a pain in the nether regions. By the time autumn rolls boiled_frogaround and the humidity drops enough to reduce the swelling and noise, it’s become just something you do when you open the door.

What seems shocking or horrifying at first, can often become just another everyday thing over time.

Which, when you’re taking care of a baby, can be a really good thing.

Today, over at Charlotte Parent, I’ll be talking a really horrible metaphor for this sort of thing as well as pointing out a few times when it’s a good thing we can become habituated to even the most disgusting things. As usual, I’ll be blogging under our Stay-At-Home Dudes column name.

Join us, won’t you?

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The Luckiest Unluckiest Day Ever

It wasn’t until later that I realized he was born on Friday the 13th.

Unluckiest of unlucky days in Western culture, Friday the 13th is a triskaidekaphobics worst nightmare. It rarely comes about, but when it does, it’s usually wielding a machete and wearing a hockey goalie mask.

But not this month. On June 13, Casa de Dude celebrates! We kick up our heels and dance and sing (although not as much these days for reasons that should become apparent in only a few moments) and just generally enjoy life because June 13, this year falling on a Friday, is the day our family became complete.

Friday the 13th of June is Hyper Lad’s birthday. This is the year he’s turning 15, which means he’s already got his grubby little paws held out and ready to take the car keys and go for a little spin. The fact that he has no learner’s permit because his driver education teacher still hasn’t gotten around to him yet. . . Well, that means little.

He’s fifteen. He’s ready to drive. At least in his mind.

I say our family became complete because Hyper Lad is the youngest of our three young dudes. He’s six years younger than our oldest and five years younger than our middle son. In fact, we weren’t supposed to have Hyper Lad at all.

My wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Getting Her Way, and I thought we were finished procreating (although not practicing) after Zippy the Travelin’ Boy. Eventually, though, she began to yearn for another female in the house. Once she said that, it became apparent that I really needed a daughter as well since I look darn good on the dance floor wearing a tux at a wedding.

Instead, we got lucky and didn’t get our wish. Instead of a girl, we got a Hyper Lad and we couldn’t be happier.

Our oldest son, Sarcasmo, had to suffer through first-child paranoia as his mom and I freaked out about anything and everything related to our darling. Our middle son, Zippy the Travelin’ Boy, stayed sheltered in the harbor of our good graces and had vigilant parents every on guard. Relaxed, but on guard.

By the time Hyper Lad came along, we were pretty much okay with him doing just about anything short of juggling the razor-sharp blades we kept in the open, unlocked drawers in the kitchen. And even that, provided he had a good reason for it.

Having older brothers, Hyper Lad has benefited from being around (slightly) more mature age cohorts for most of his life. He’s probably more emotionally mature at 15 than his brothers were when they were his age.

Since he was smaller than everyone around whom he wanted to hang, he had to develop a quick left and an even quicker wit to survive. And he has.

His teachers see the same things that we do: one of the sharpest minds, with one of the most wicked senses of humor to have come around in a long while. He’ll frequently make an offhand joke about current affairs we happen to be discussing that’s amazingly quick, amazingly on-target and blisteringly funny.

His mom and I will just turn and look at each other — once the laughter finally dies down — and trade astonished gazes.

While Hyper Lad lives up to his name (and his blog name here), he’s not constantly rushing around and ignoring everyone else. The young dude is consistently polite (to non-dad people) in almost every situation and looks for ways to help everyone he can.

Not to say he’s perfect, of course. I mean, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve come thiiiiiiisssssss close to popping an aneurysm in my brain from the crap he will drop — literally drop — wherever it is he happens to be done with it. If that means he’s finished with a band-aid wrapper six inches from a trashcan. . . Then he drops the wrapper to the floor six inches from the trashcan.

And, being a teenager, he’s now discovered the joys of sleeping in until the sun warms up. . . say, sometime around 3 pm.

So, yeah, he’s got a lot of things to work on. But, here’s the deal about that: We’re just so glad we get a chance to watch as he does. It’s going to be an interesting experience.

Here’s to you, Hyper Lad! Have a happy birthday and know we love you. And we dearly want to live through you learning to drive, so please work on that.

 

We also take a moment to remember Hyper Lad’s Great Grandmother, my Grandmother, Irene Jones. A wonderful woman, my grandmother died three years ago. She and Hyper Lad were both born on June 13 and called each other Birthday Buddies. So here’s to you as well, Mama. You’re missed and loved.

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Dad’s Role In The Family

Dads matter.

That seems like a no-brainer these days, but for much of the 20th century, the role of the father in family life, especially the rearing of children, was assumed to be minimal.

Note that word there — assumed. There really wasn’t much in the way of research done on the effect a dad has on his children’s growth and development. After all, Freud Himself enshrined the role of the mother as vastly important to the personality of the child so who were they to argue?

More recently, researchers have been turning their gimlet eye to dadsdads_best_1 and finding out what I’ve known all along: Dads matter.

Did you know that a healthy father can ease the impact of a mother’s depression on the children, while a depressed father is a risk factor for excessive crying in infants? That fathers can suffer from hormonal postpartum depression?

Or that fathers’ early involvement with their daughters leads to “a reduced risk of early puberty, early initiation of sex and teen pregnancy”? We’re not sure exactly why, but Bruce J. Ellis, of the University of Arizona, has noted that exposure to fathers’ pheromones can slow down pubertal development.

In a review of Paul Raeburn’s “Do Fathers Matter?” in the New York Times, Mark Oppenheimer reports that numerous researchers are finding that fathers have some surprising effects on their children.

Older fathers are more deeply involved with their children’s schools, more likely to attend ballet classes or know their children’s friends. On the other hand, the children of older fathers seem to have stronger genetic predispositions toschizophrenia and autism — so much so that older dads should get genetic counseling, Mr. Raeburn argues, just as older moms hear about the risk of Down syndrome.

On yet another hand, the children of older dads are taller and slimmer. So there’s that. (Nobody knows why.)

That nobody knows why there at the end is a familiar refrain in a lot of sociological research of this type. We’re able to find the effects, but because the initiating incidents are so intertwined with multifarious actions by multiple actors, it’s difficult to sort out which cause is the, well, cause.

For instance, research shows that dads are the dudes who have a bigger effect on their children’s vocabulary than do moms. One prevailing theory for this has to do with vicious stereotyping. Because, the theory goes, the mothers are around the little dudes and dudettes more (because women stay home and men work outside the house of course), they tend to tailor their vocabulary to words the kid already knows. Fathers, however, because they’re absent for more time, don’t know their kids as well and so introduce words that are novel to the child.

Does it surprise anyone to think I might disagree with this theory. I know the reason my young dudes have great vocabularies (and they do. No question.) is because I actively worked at it. I wouldn’t use baby talk with them and didn’t dumb down my vocabulary when I talked to them.

I did explain a lot of words, but I made sure to expose them to the variety of vocabulary victuals I liked to serve up on the plate of life. Even when the metaphor is horrifically strained because of atrocious alliteration.

Dads matter. We’ve always known it, but now it’s up to science to start letting us know how and why. And it’s up to dads like us to make sure we matter because of our presence, rather than our absence.

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