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Monday, January 30, 2006

Toddler in Chief gets a lot of drugs--blood pressure medicine, blood thinner, antibiotics, diuretics, iron. And medicine-time happens twice a day, everyday. None of it is optional. Most of the time it's a non-issue, but when TIC is feeling an extra surge of terrible-twos, we have to hold him down and shove it in. It's traumatic for everyone to go down that road, but that's just another day in the life of a kid with a complex heart defect.

A lot of times I wonder what it would be like to have a normal kid who just gets to play and live without the daily reminders of where we've traveled. I wonder what it would be like to go out for dinner or to the Giants game without our refrigerated sack of medicinal goodies, complete with oral syringes and pill crushers. So I'm not against medication--it keeps our kid alive. But I don't offer it lightly. I don't even like giving TIC over-the-counter stuff, mostly because introducing something new into his regiment is a challenge of massive proportions--even if it's gooey, sweet, and grape-flavored. It's also a huge hassle because I have to make sure it's compatible with his current list of heart medications.

While kids TIC's age can be diagnosed with depression and ADHD, we haven't been down either of those roads. If we are eventually faced with either, we'd make sure that he had several professional opinions--in addition to consulting with his pediatrician and pediatric cardiologist--before adding any medication to his regular routine. I would just want assurance that it's the right thing for whatever he's diagnosed with. I imagine that's what every parent aims for.

Permalink | Giving Kids Drugs | Comments (0)

Based on my position on inoculations, readers might conclude that I have an axe to grind toward the medical community. And I do, but not because of medical science. The science itself is glorious, and we've availed ourselves of it a number of times. When TwoBert got the croup last fall, he was treated with a steroid injection and an epinephrine nebulizer, and he was home gumming the couch in a matter of hours.

And though I don't suffer from clinical depression, I have seen firsthand the wonders of big-name anti-depressants that stabilize serotonin levels and help people live their lives--especially during the postpartum period. But these people have been adults with (presumably) fully formed brains and the ability to make their own choices. If anyone diagnosed my sons with ADHD and wanted to give them Ritalin, I would need a whole lot of convincing.

Doctors will see the "tell-tale" symptoms--difficulty paying attention, impulsive talking and behavior, and hyperactivity that often manifests as excessive fidgeting and squirming--and prescribe Ritalin to three-year-olds. That type of behavior in a three-year-old doesn't concern me, unless that kid is hurting others and/or climbing the walls with his fingernails. Altering brain chemistry is a big deal, and I would move heaven and earth--and even consider pulling my son out of school--before I relented to Ritalin therapy. It's a quick-fix solution to an overstated problem, and even the idea that websites like this exist has to give you pause.

Permalink | Giving Kids Drugs | Comments (3)

Friday, January 27, 2006

"Off the hook"? I assure all assembled that there is most assuredly a hook in this relationship, and that I am hanging on it by the waistband of my underpants. Which makes for an apt simile, since parenthood sometimes feels to me like a mild wedgie: binding, but all in all quite tolerable.

I may be getting a little more sleep lately, but my wife is no shrinking violet. If she felt she was getting the short end of the stick she would tell me; as it is, we have what we both think is an amenable arrangement. MIC's laundry list of Dadly Duties is right on, but it's a mere subset of what dads can and should do. Meals, from procurement to cleanup, are huge. Laundry is an even bigger deal for us, because we are lowly renters who have to pump quarters into a machine around the corner to keep up with Appalachian foothills of dirty clothes. Bathing OneBert has become a three-ring circus. And the last time I checked the Sleep-In Scenario, my wife gets to sleep in twice a week, while I sleep in ... never.

Co-parenting has leapt forward exponentially over the generations, and my mom still drops her jaw (and sends accusatory stares at my dad) whenever she sees me change a diaper. My wife and kids are my life, and I eagerly work three jobs to keep them warm, fed, secure, and happy. And it's worth every calorie of energy I expend, even though the only perks are a little extra rest and the big piece of chicken.

Permalink | Overnight Duties | Comments (1)

We've always been big proponents of setting up a nighttime routine that doesn't involve sending Toddler in Chief into Slumberville with a nipple in his mouth, a bottle in his hands, or one of us lying down next to him until falls asleep. I have a friend who still must lie down with her nearly three-year-old in order for him to fall asleep at naptime or bedtime. No thanks.

But if that's the routine that you've established, and it's not working anymore, all the more reason to share the duties and subsequent exhaustion. TwoBert's nighttime rodeo seems like another reason to not have baby in bed with you. If your kid was in his own space, he could buck around his crib to his heart's content without forcing the parents to be alert spectators or constantly-moving, edge-of-the-bed barriers.

And regardless of what kind of job you have--whether it's checking copy and proofing numbers or just standing behind the counter making change or lattes--everyone deserves some sleep at night. Helping out with the baby-related overnight responsibilities is not something you do only "if it gets really bad." It's part of being a parent, and part of being a decent spouse.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sounds like MIC and FIC found the system that worked best for them. We are far more stupid. Getting both our kids to sleep is such a Herculean endeavor lately, and we are so possessive of our unfettered time, that we stay up way too late reading, working on freelance projects, watching movies, canoodling, etc. Not something we can possibly sustain.

Naturally, when it comes to night-time tending, co-sleeping definitely cuts down on the travel time. Until now, all TwoBert needed was a nighttime nipple and he'd fall asleep in no time. It's only now that he's so enamored with autonomous movement that he wakes up and bucks like a rodeo bull until all hours. My wife usually handles the brunt of this, although if it gets really bad I too will get up so we can tag-team the little bronco until he passes out. Also, she gets to nap with TwoBert while OneBert is at school, whereas I am still looking for the ideal situation for napping on the job.

The nature of said job is also a big issue. My last full-time gig, as a financial editor, required a gimlet eye for correcting grammar, cross-checking scads of numbers, and perusing for compliance issues for which I was ultimately responsible. It didn't involve volatile uranium isotopes or eyeball surgery, but I couldn't have done it without enough rest each night. My wife was great about letting me sleep when I really needed it, and on most days I made it through without 1) getting the company sued or 2) face-planting on my keyboard, both of which look bad on a performance review.

Permalink | Overnight Duties | Comments (1)

Being woken up out of deep sleep several times a night for several months by a seemingly indecipherable baby is almost torture. And for the nursing mom, having that baby refuse a bottle, like Laid-Off Dad's TwoBert, is brutal--especially at night. As if the endless physical draining of nursing isn't exhausting enough, there's limited help that the spouse can provide during the especially daunting nighttime routine. But that does not mean that the dad is off the hook.

There is plenty of stuff Laid-Off Dad can do that doesn't involve flexing his ability to "sleep through the crying." So he can't actually feed the baby. But he can burp the baby, change the baby, and try to snuggle that baby back to sleep. If the baby isn't co-sleeping, go get the baby and bring baby to mom. If the baby won't sleep, take the crying baby to another room so that mom can get a tiny bit of much-deserved shut-eye. You can't assume that the baby will nap regularly enough to give mom a daytime break. Plus, if there is an older, nap-free sibling--forgetaboutit.

Sure the at-home parent doesn't have to get dressed in the morning and head out into rush hour, but we deserve some sleep too--and not just on the weekends.

Permalink | Overnight Duties | Comments (3)

Monday, January 23, 2006

With a nearly three year old, the overnight duties are a breeze. Maybe once a week, Toddler in Chief wakes up because he is thirsty. One of us goes to his room, fills his cup, pulls up the covers. It takes all of 90 seconds. Then back to bed and sleep.

But a new baby--especially a first baby--is a totally different beast. Every middle-of-the-night event can last an hour or two. Feed the baby, burp the baby, change the spit-up soaked baby, diaper the baby (sometimes twice), soothe the baby, exit. It is no small feat. And in the beginning it happens a lot. The sleep deprivation is physically challenging; the difficulty of finding a groove is emotionally challenging; the frequency and non-existent endpoint is mentally challenging.

Sleep is important for both parents, regardless of their job description. The parent who works away from the house needs to be alert and coherent. The primary caretaker of that tiny creature must be alert and coherent. Our solution was this: TIC and I went to bed early. Father in Chief was in charge of the first night-time event. He fed TIC a bottle of expressed breastmilk, cleaned him up, settled him down. After that, I was in charge. But by then, I had a good six hours of solid sleep time. And FIC got a good chunk of sleep too--after he pulled his parental weight.

Having a baby is hard on both parents, and the mandatory exhaustion is an equal-opportunity burden.

Permalink | Overnight Duties | Comments (3)

This is another topic with serendipitous timing, because my wife and I are struggling through the 8-month sleep regression of our second son, TwoBert, who wakes up with anguished yelps several times per night. He's just learned to crawl, and he seems to think that time asleep is time that could be spent training for the Olympic Baby-Luge next month in Turin.

My wife is usually up first, basically because 1) TwoBert never took to a bottle, so nursing is usually the only thing that can calm him down, and 2) I can sleep through the crying, and she can't. If it's a particularly gruesome spectacle, I'll wake up--either from the crying or a well-placed blow to the back--and take the boy for a quick walkaround to see if a change of surroundings will alter his mood. Most of the time, though, I get far more sleep than my wife does on weeknights. I get to make it up to her on days off and weekends, when I take the boys out for breakfast or supervise their wrestlemania while she sleeps in.

We divvied things up pretty well when I was laid off, but now that I'm back out there, I think the breadwinner needs to be at his/her best so that those paychecks keep on comin'. If our roles were reversed and I was the SAHD, I would bend over backwards to make sure my wife got all the sleep she could. It would be especially important to her, because if you're a mom in the workplace and you exhibit a baby-based drop in productivity, odds are employers will use it to their advantage.

Permalink | Overnight Duties | Comments (2)

Friday, January 20, 2006

It would be hard to argue that homeschooling is not a huge undertaking. Sure there are resources online, and homeschooled kids in many states (but not all) have access to public schools programs (thanks to Holly for the info). But I think LOD summed it up nicely: homeschooling would "completely uproot our lifestyle."

It some ways, it sounds freeing. PHAT Mommy wrote: "My to expose my children to as much as possible. When they find something that lights their fire, I help them figure out ways to learn more about it." Teaching my kid though "real life" experience seven days a week--no strict schedules, bells, or hall passes needed--sounds tempting. On the other hand, I'm paralyzed with fear thinking about reliving subjects like calculus. What if my dislike or lack of confidence in certain subjects negatively influences my kid's interest and ability in those subjects?

Regardless of how we end up educating our kid, we'll be actively involved. If he ends up in public school--as he likely will--I'll communicate with teachers and school officials and stay on top of what he's learning. That will be a big job too.

Permalink | Home Schooling | Comments (1)

What defines a "healthy" public school system? The local taxpayers are rolling in cash? Every student gets a Sony VAIO and personal massage therapist? Based on the research I've done and the e-mails I've received, it seems that people who homeschool don't believe there is such a thing as a healthy public school. The flaws in the public school format are systemic, whether or not the paint is peeling off the walls.

Their argument is compelling, because the main talent of most public schools is for pulling kids to the middle. It's a one-size-fits-all, assembly-line education that can't cater to special needs or talents.

It's telling that homeschooling's biggest critics are large entities with "National" and "Education" in their titles, who clearly see the homeschooling movement as a threat. Luckily, the world is a lot smaller now, and people who are considering homeschooling can use the Web to debunk the myths and mine the many resources that are available.

Having had some experience with teaching, I know how much work is required outside of the 8-3 school day. I guess that if I ever chose to homeschool, I'd have to dislodge a lot of preconceived notions about "Schooling" that have set up camp in my brain. But it's also comforting to know that I'd have a lot of company.

Permalink | Home Schooling | Comments (2)