Sunday, April 29, 2007

Infant Hygeine Tips

When my son takes a dump, or, "makes a poopie," there is a somewhat involved process to cure the situation.

First, I get his next diaper opened up. Second, his current diaper is opened up. I assess the situation. There are several levels of soiledness - from skid mark to bursting and everything in between. Let's say this is a 6 or a 7 out of 10 - filled the diaper, but no need to change the outfit or even worse, deposit directly into the tub. So the diaper is opened, but still under him. I grab his ankles with my left hand, lifting them over his head to get maximum exposure.

Then the wiping begins. The first wipe, maybe two wipes, remove the bulky stuff. Used wipes are dropped into the mess in the diaper for collective, condensed disposal. The next wipe cleans up his scrotum. The final wiping stage is making sure there is nothing remaining - the wipe comes up white, not yellow, green, etc. Remove the diaper from under his backside, roll it up, tape it, throw it in your diaper disposal receptacle. Put the next diaper under his butt.

Next is the drying stage. I still have a few soft paper cloths from the hospital, but I've heard that Viva paper towel is a good brand. We'll see in a month. Anyhow, blot, don't smear. It gets pretty raw down there and there's no need to give your kid's butt an Indian burn.

Finally, apply diaper-rash repellant. We use A & D. Get a nice gob of it and smear it all into his crack, anus, and just up to his cheeks. Finally, wrap the diaper. Good to go.

I don't do anything approaching this for myself. How did we go from this five-star, spa-quality treatment to toilet paper and done? I'm not saying that I've begun this multi-step process when I encounter my own not-so-fresh feeling, but why did it all stop? Don't you think you'd feel better having that all done?

Okay, I know that much of this is done because we don't know how long they're going to sit in their filth while we wait for the next commercial break or for halftime. But face it, after killing your co-workers with your gas all morning, you may want to consider that some of that stink left something behind. Yeah, you may get it with regular TP. But boy, wouldn't it be great just to pamper yourself once in a while?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Horror Stories for Infants and Other Common Reading Selections

When we started putting our son to bed in his own room, I wanted to read him to sleep. I took out some of his books, like "Goodnight Moon," and, "Tumble Bumble." For those of you unfamiliar, such children's books are extremely short and take less than five minutes to read. Maybe six if you go really slow and do a picture show. After reading these, he seemed to be content, though not sleeping yet. I settled into the glider and took my own book out, listening to his breathing as I read silently.

After about ten minutes, he sounded restless. I began reading my book to him. The sound of my voice quieted him, so I continued. It didn't matter what I was reading to him, but that he heard my voice. It didn't matter that it was, "The Code: Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL." Or did it?

"The Code" discusses why fighting is a part of hockey, including history and current events. Frankly, did that matter?

I have a theory about what to read to kids. There are three parts: reading some books over and over, reading new material, and reading for yourself.

Reading the same books over and over will allow the child to get used to some books and begin to memorize these books. That can facilitate learning to read. However, reading the same thing over and over will drive you, the parent, nuts.

Reading new material exposes the child to new adventures and diversifies the language used. If he or she memorizes a few simple books, then hears and sees some of the same words in new books, their reading vocabulary may increase. It also allows the parent to hear something new, keeping you enthusiastic about reading to you child.

That brings me back to, "The Code." That's a book for me. My son was not yet three months old. He doesn't know what I'm reading, but how I'm reading. He hears my voice and its inflections. Reading adult material (keep your mind out of the gutter) to your child will allow you to catch up on your own reading, while bringing more sophisticated content to your child.

Will I read that subject matter to him when he's able to understand? Probably not. Nor would I read horror stories to him now; no matter what age he is or what tone I use, I just don't think reading "It" or "The Shining" to my son is a good idea. If you had "The Da Vinci Code" or some James Patterson novel, it wouldn't hurt him and would keep you in your right mind. When he's older, biographies or longer fantasies like, "Gulliver's Travels." I know I'll be a saner person for it.

After reading a chapter to him, he was sound asleep. He slept through the night. Although I don't stay in his room reading anymore, we read the paper in the morning, a couple of his books during playtime, and occasionally some of my books at other times.

In a few years, I'll let you know how he turned out. Did he learn to read early? Did he memorize books? Did he learn how to properly antagonize his opponent into a fight in order to reap justice for a previous infraction? Or will he just be a normal kid?

Look what I found!

Bath time is a short process for my son and I. I turn the shower on to get the bathroom warm. Then I go back to him and get him naked. When we return, he lays across my lap while I turn the shower valve to the bath, get his soapy water basin filled, and put his bath chair into the tub.

On this particular day, he was lying across my lap. I turned to shut the bath water off. When I turned back, his right hand had found his penis. He didn't make a big deal of it - no cooing, no pulling. It was as if it were a rattle or anything else he finds coming into contact with his hand. Pretty funny sight.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

What To Do When There's No One Else To Hold Him

When my wife was at home during her maternity leave, I thought having her go back to work would be a good thing. She could go back to winning our bread, while I would be able to take care of two people instead of three. I could manage my days in terms of me, not us. It turns out, I was barely right and oh-so-wrong.

When I talked to other guys about being an at-home Dad, while my wife was pregnant, they usually gave me the, "You're so lucky!" attitude. No job to go to, no clock to punch, no bad days at the office. I was going to do the guys version of sitting on the couch, eating bon-bons. I'm lucky to have the unique experience of being the primary caretaker of my child, but not lucky in the ways that they admired. No Peggy Bundy here.

I would joke with them, "If I can fit a car seat on a golf cart, I'll be all set." I was joking, but part of me actually thought about it to some serious degree. I actually had to rationalize its impracticality. For starters, you can't have a crying baby on the course. Then, would a foursome want to wait for me as I changed a poopy diaper? Oh, yeah, there's the errant "Fore!" from the impatient group behind me. That would make my wife happy, for her to come home to a child with a big bruise on his head (or anywhere else on his body.) He wouldn't be the only one bruised that day, that's for certain.

When my wife was home, we sometimes had to do what she wanted to do. I'm occasionally selfish. I'll admit it. I want to do what I want to do, have lunch where I want, go to the gym when I want, watch the TV shows that I want. With her gone, I'd have it all in line.

Planning our days is up to me, for the most part. Our son is easy going, so he's able to be taken pretty much anywhere it's practical to take an infant. We belong to a health club that has daycare, so I go to the gym a few times a week. There are friends and family who want to see him regularly. We have lots of shopping to do. All of these things keep us busy. He naps in the car. I developed the parenting skill of holding him with one hand, eating with the other.

Then there are the times when we're at home for an extended period of time. In two weeks, it's only happened once where we were home together all day without going out. We played on his playmat for a while, I read a couple of books to him, some other activities. That took an hour or so, then what? He wasn't tired. I tried to make myself some breakfast, but he got cranky. I held him for a while, and he fell asleep. I tried to put him down for a nap. Not happening - he got up just as I put him down. Then I remembered having my wife at home during her leave.

One of the reasons I'm at home instead of her is that I'm more domestic. I have more experience cooking and taking care of kids. I'm more organized with respect to household chores (though my former roommates might disagree.) I pay bills on time. I'm easy-going when our son gets cranky.

When she was home, though, there was another person. There was someone to hold him or play with him while I cleaned up after a meal, changed laundry loads, or audited our credit card statement. Not anymore. It's all me. Actually, it's all him - everything revolves around him.

Getting "me" time is a challenge. I'm not a schedule guy. My son has his needs, but is not too demanding. One thing he doesn't like is being ignored (he's selfish, too.) If he's not sleeping, he wants attention, which usually involves cuddling. Again, it's all me. No one to pass him off on. I have even had to learn how to put him down and just let him cry while I do such selfish things as preparing his bottle or take tonight's meat out of the freezer. Just some of the things your deal with when there's no one else to hold him. At least I get to go to the gym.

Back to the Grind, A New Reality

My wife just went back to work. We had been together for the previous thirteen weeks. Twelve of those were, of course, her maternity leave, the previous one week was her finally not being able to go into the office. With a baby growing inside, with her back hurting, with her feet swollen, she went to work for several weeks. She has a tremendous work ethic and is among the most driven people I have ever met.

The twelve weeks she was on maternity leave included six weeks recovering from her c-section and six weeks catching up on all of the physical activity she'd missed. Twelve weeks learning every nuance of this new being. His temperament, his appetite, his sleep, his breathing, his learning curve, his growing curve, and the infinite list of firsts that seem to occur without warning and without stopping.

Then, one day, it's all over. And there's one thing that is hard to grasp:

How hard it was to let go of her new life and go back to her old life.

The thing I've been able to do is be there, and to be here.

I'm at home with our son. We are fortunate like all parents in having this miracle to look at and have the opportunity to continue the species. We have the luxury of having a mild-tempered child, one who has been sleeping through the night since at least two months. He is not colicky, has no allergies that we know of, has never had severe diaper rash, and is perfectly happy to have others hold him.

As she goes back to her old job, I begin a new one. I'm a new species.

I'm a SAHD. A Stay-At-Home-Dad.

I don't like the acronym. I'm perfectly happy, thank you very much. However, contrary to what many men have alluded to, I neither took the easy way out nor did my wife get the short straw. Being at home is no walk in the park.

It's a challenge I'm up to, though. Preparation has been done, both mentally and physically. I am writing this blog as both a journal for myself as well as an aspiration to higher creative ventures. If there are readers, I hope you enjoy. Some entries will be serious, some will be funny, some happy, some sad. For sure, they will be real.