Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Nasal Geology

Before children learn to deal with them, boogers attain stalactite proportions. Cold season becomes a regular age of discovery. Fortunately, this phase ends. Children discover nose-picking. Believe it or not, this is an improvement.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Panda Claus: How the Chinese Changed Childhood

When I was a kid (late 1970s) I remember going to the toy store with $5 and being able to buy a decent toy - say small box of Legos. Now for a mere $10 I can buy my children something really neat. Consequently, my son is virtually drowning in toys. I am not cantankerously complaining about how things were tougher in the old days. I did not have a deprived childhood at all. But I am jealous.

This is due in great part to the inexpensive Chinese manufactured goods that have flooded the United States over the past two decades. If only Kennedy or LBJ had gone to China, then maybe I could have benefited.

Because electronics are much less expensive, many, many more of these toys make noise. They usually contain sophisticated sensors and long-lasting built-in power sources. The upshot is that random times throughout the day and night in response to wind, changes in air pressure, plate tectonic activity, changes in the earth's rotation, and solar flares we are serenaded by "Turkey in the Straw," elephants trumpeting, "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes," and of course the dreaded Barney song.

You get used to it - although it would be nice if the noises or correlated to specific phenomena (say "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star referred to solar flares or "Eensy Weensy Spider" warned us of incoming rain.) A side benefit is that burglaries and late night refrigerator raids are near impossible. Not even a wall-crawling Ninja could make it past the gauntlet of noisy toys.

Holy Handoff

I took a little walk yesterday evening. Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath) was coming to an end. This time is a seam between the secular and the holy and has an odd, sweet feel to it. On Shabbat there are many activities from which I refrain - TV, driving, computers. When it is over, those noises suddenly flood back in (not unwelcomely.)

But yesterday was unique. As I walked around my neighborhood, people were gathering or making last minute preparations for Christmas. It looked just like Friday evening preparations for Shabbat (well except for the wreathes and trees etc.)

Now, as Shabbat ended, the quiet continued as many of my neighbors prepared for the holy day. The seam was still there, but differently.

The handoff continues tonight, when, at sundown, Jews around the world light candles for the beginning of Hanukah. Hanukah remembers the unfortunate collision and conflict between the Jews and the Greeks - two of the most sophisticated ancient civilizations and the pillars of our own civilization. In Christianity, the two combined civilizations melded (with tensions of course) to become something new.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Tales of Candy and Desire

I accompanied my son to one of his friend's birthday parties yesterday. The party featured goody bags full of candy. I was telling another parent about the Seinfeld bit where he explains that as children, before people know about sex - candy is the ultimate pleasure. I know realize that Seinfeld understates the awesome power of candy to the pre-pubescent set.

The children arrived at the party sedate, even a bit groggy (it was late afternoon.) But after a few Tootsie rolls, everyone was dancing and laughing maniacally. It was as though we had been serving margaritas.

That is the power of candy. It is sex and alcohol (and possibly drugs) all rolled into one.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Breastfeeding FAQs for Men

Men have always been fascinated by breastfeeding - probably because it involves breasts.

But the things men really want to know about it are rarely addressed, here is a modest attempt to rectify this failing.

Sometimes when I hold the baby, it snuggles up against my chest. So what would it be like if I let the baby latch on?

I avoided this temptation myself, but my friend Milton says it hurts like hell. As it happens Milton is virtually hairless. Many of the rest of us would face the additional excruciating pain of having a hair caught in the mini-shop vac that is a feeding infant. This could be why our creator did not give us the ability to breastfeed. This could also be bad for the baby. You know how much you hate to find a hair in your food - imagine the psychological damage done to a baby that encounters this unpleasantness so early in life.)

What does breast milk taste like?

This is a legitimate question. Mothers and infants are very stingy about sharing so dads rarely get a chance to try. Anyway, Milton tells me that it is kind of watery and tasteless. Hardly worth the effort. (Although Milton may have had another agenda.)

Your friend Milton sounds like an odd guy?

Actually it is two different Miltons.

Are all guys named Milton weird?

Based on my survey (sample size 2) - yes.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Three Things A Dad Needs

There are three things a father should have.

First, a minivan. Yes, they are dorky. Yes, they are a concession to the end of your youth and a sad acceptance of the inevitability of change, age, and ultimately death. They are also super convenient. First, you can haul stuff in them. They have high ceilings so that strapping kids into and taking them out of car seats is much easier. This is more important than you might think, car seats will annoy you, but any attempt to transport your children without them will land you in a federal penitentiary. But, finally, a minivan, unlike a car, is a good emergency playground. Kids will love climbing around on the chairs and running around in the back. Can't imagine you will ever be so desperate to try this - trust me, you will.

Minivan a little pricey. Here are two inexpensive, but essential items.

Laser pointer - you know how the cat will chase the red spot made by a laser pointer. So will kids, the difference is the cat gets bored after 10-15 minutes. Also, if you take the kids outside at night you can flash the laser pointer and tell the kids that they are seeing the extremely rare red firefly.

Nerf ball - you and your kid will, inevitably, want to play catch. For the first several years of your child's life they will not be remotely competent to play catch. However, the kid will get a kick out of chasing the ball around. With a nerf ball you can throw the ball directly at your child's head. You will find this very satisfying. This does not make you a bad person.

Welcome New Dads - Here is what you will really need to know

Before the birth of my first child my wife came home with a pamphlet from our healthcare provider entitled, "For Fathers Only."

The cover featured a muscled, masculine arm cradling an infant. Inside were answers to questions frequently asked by new fathers. Questions like:
"Can my wife still have sex when she's pregnant?"

"What about after the child is born?"

"So why won't she?"

"Any ideas about what might, you know, facilitate..."

"Any ideas besides cooking, doing the dishes and laundry, and taking care of all of the night time feedings until the kids are in their teens?"
As important as these issues are, I thought new fathers could use a bit more guidance. So with that in mind I am starting this blog to tell fathers what they really need to know.