How Quickly We Forget – The Halo Effect and Dad’s with PTSD

Becca was telling me the other day about how she has been starting to feel a little… different.

“Different?”, I asked, “what do you mean?”

She went on to say that theres a certain amount of structure in our lives now, that she feels more prepared and in control of how things are. Yet at the same time, that preparedness is more in line with being prepared to be surprised… it’s such a paradox.

I’ve said it as advice and it may have taken some time for that advice to hit home, but its so true – you’ve gotta expect the unexpected.

We took a second to really reflect back on how much we’ve been through and what it took to get here. It’s ironic, but had I not been updating my blog as frequently as I do, a lot of our experiences and the details surrounding them would be quickly forgotten.

And with that, I bring to you my ‘topic du jour’ … forgetting.

shocked baby

A few of my friends have been going through various stages of pregnancy and parenthood within the last several years. From my vantage point, it’s been instrumental in helping prepare me for my own parenting experience and what I could expect with Becca, including what she would be going through in her pregnancy and motherhood journey.

One thing that’s always proved interesting, and of course, kind of comical is the good old “mummy brain”.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term or experienced it yourself or with your partner, but the symptoms are something along the lines of when you walk into a room… stop… and have no memory of why you were heading there in the first place. Entertaining as it is, a colleague mentioned to me that there is actually a scientific basis around it and why it happens to pregnant women.

The assumption is that the hormonal change allows women to more easily forget the pain, discomfort, and overall physical stress that comes along with pregnancy and childbirth.

It’s an interesting premise that we, as human beings, have a natural mechanism that kicks in during a time of extreme physical change and strain.

It reminds me about so many of the other natural wonders that you come across with childbirth, such as the number of things breastmilk is good for. Aside from the obvious power pack of nutrients and sustenance, it also helps clear up baby acne and even helps clean out your baby’s stuffy nose (yes, we tried it – a few eyedrops of it did the trick!).

You figure we’ve been having children for millions of years and modern day medicine only really stepped up it’s game recently. It makes sense that so many natural and almost instinctual reactions happen in the human body to help keep us functioning, especially during and after a physically and mentally strenuous life experience such as birth!

By the by, I’m not by any means insinuating that mummy brain makes childbirth an easy thing for mums!

I mean, my god, I witnessed Becca go through it, including the recovery from major surgery, 4 days in the NICU with Charlee, and then trying to raise an infant as first time parents…. and as far as I hear from other folks experiences, we got off mostly easy!!

But on that note, what about us dads?

We don’t get the hormonal imbalance.

No ‘daddy brain’.

Ironically, science has shown that we get similar symptoms to some things mum’s go through, like post pardum depression… well lucky us!

I’ve actually read stories about new dad’s who actually get post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from truly extreme birth experiences. It’s not really that surprising if you think about it. There are some seriously intense labour stories out there, and dad’s play a role in support but are not at all the focus of the event. There is an expected, yet overlooked imbalance when it comes to postnatal care for new parents as the focus is primarily on mum.

Again, I’m not selling short what mums go through. You just pushed a person out of you – you deserve all the attention in the world!

All I’m saying is that I think we need to be aware of the fact, that as caring and involved husbands and partners, the amount of energy, focus, concern, and love we emote, translates into an incredibly stressful situation for us too.

I’ve attended a few of Becca’s mummy groups, and also had the pleasure of reading a number of blogs from new mums and dads alike. The most surreal commonality, it would seem, is that for the most part, nobody has had an easy labor. I swear… the odds have gotta be something like 1 in 8 or maybe even 1 in 10 birth stories where the outcome was a normal, natural birth. Otherwise, there always seem to be complications.

From premie babies, to haemorrhaging spouses, to gestational diabetes, to emergency C-sections. Let alone stories of infertility and couples struggling for months, years, and beyond to try and conceive. My parents went nearly a decade without being able to conceive. They then went through the process of adopting my brother.

11 months later, yours truly made an appearance… via C-section…

Whomever painted the picture of birth as it’s ‘supposed to be’ has a serious lack of regard for reality.

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The funny thing is that we do make it through the labour stage, albeit some of us in better condition than others.

We then make it into the newborn stage and deal with the sleep deprivation and the helplessness of this new little person who is wholly under your care now.

Then into infancy and trying to teach this little bundle of joy what a good night’s sleep is. You muscle through sleep regression and sleep training and you’ve already forgotten about the helpless newborn baby who used to fall asleep wherever and whenever she wanted.

I’m guessing at a certain point you’ve moved on to the toddler in your life, who explores the house and won’t sit still. This little child is starting daycare, making friends, learning and developing and demonstrating all the different traits that really make them your child, and before you know it, you’ve forgotten about how they used to wake up every 3 hours overnight and kvetch about nothing and everything all at once.

This, I’ve read, is referred to as “The Halo Effect”.

Aw shucks... how can I stay mad at you?
Aw shucks… how can I stay mad at you?

You can think of it as the happiness and the reward make us remember the pain… differently.

Usually the term is linked to a marketing ploy, but I think the idea that we innately have this tendency and subconsciously utilize it with our children is awe-inspiring. We reimagine the past based on how happy we are with what we now have; with what our mini-me’s have turned into.

And the beauty part is that to dad’s benefit, it affects us all equally and we too can relish in the act of forgetting.

Isn’t Mother Nature grand?

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Top 4 Things Parenting a 4 Month Old Has Taught Me

Sure its a bit of a ‘bait and click’ approach, but hey, who doesn’t like a good top something list?!

In order to celebrate 4 months of Charlee, I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight 4 of the more crucial takeaways I have at this point in my fatherhood journey. I could easily have written a top 44 list, but I’m opting to stay away from the generic “my god how can such a tiny thing produce so much poop” approach, and lean more towards the “I assumed I had read everything about parenting, but I never knew about that” lesson in life.

So without further ado, here are the Hello, My Name Is Dad, Top 4 Things Parenting a 4 Month Old Has Taught Me:

1. Going back to work sucks, but there is always a silver lining

This past week was my first back at the office after my extended parental leave. Including the time I took off to help Becca with her moxibustion and inversion stretches, it was nearing the 6 month mark, the longest I have ever been ‘not working’ since I was 14 years old.

I don’t think there is ever a good time to return to work, but compound the fact that Charlee had just received her 4 month vaccination, was ill because of it and had a cold on top of that which she then infected Becca with, and of course was still on the tail end of the dreaded sleep regression I had mentioned in an earlier post, the timing was awful; the perfect storm, you may say.

The first day of my return to work… yes, literally Day 1, we were so concerned that morning that I almost skipped work to take Charlee to the walk in clinic. In fact, 3 days later, we did take her in and she was prescribed a puffer to help alleviate some mild inflammation in her lungs (just want to paint the picture of the severity of her cold). Charlee’s congestion led to difficulty in feeding and sleeping, let alone the several-times-a-day-choking-on-her-boogers-and-puking-up-her-feedings… it was quite the scene at the Goldberg household.

Becca on the flip-side, had the adult version of this cold, yet could not take anything other than mild throat lozenges and buckets of hot water with lemon and honey, as she’s still breastfeeding (and doing an amazing job at it, I might add).

Amongst all this, we were still adamant that the best way to parent our little boogery angel, was to stick with consistency, and therefore needed to introduce to her the new regiment also known as, “Daddy’s return to work routine”.

This would turn out to be the silver lining on an otherwise tissue laden, nose frida dependent, salinex fest of a week.

My mornings would start at 6 AM when my alarm would go off, and begrudgingly (at first), I would go to wake Charlee up. We were following the recommendation that you should have a morning and evening routine for your little one, and ours fell under the Dr. Karp proposed 6-6:30 window for a child her age.

My cutie pie would always do the most adorable stretches, as I sing a little good morning jaunt and undo her swaddle. We do some stretches in the crib, until she smiles up at me and we’re ready to get the day going.

I reach down and lift Charlee up to me, where she goes straight into a bear hug. The most sublime, soul smiling bear hug you could ever get. Then off to the change table to get her diaper changed, before I let Charlee have a bit of ‘air drying’ time back in the crib while I go draw a bath.

I give her a bath while singing songs and chatting about our day and what it will entail. She smiles and coos and chats up a storm, all the while I can’t help but have the feeling like we are the only two people awake in the whole world, and this time is only ours.

We finish up and I scoop her out of the bath and wrap her up in a towel. We head back to her room and she gets a coconut oil baby massage.

We pick an outfit of the day and get her dressed before heading downstairs to let the dog out together. We turn on the radio and play in the basement on her mat with Princess Crackle and Daisy the Cow.

Usually its about an hour that goes by before she starts to yawn, so I bring her back up and wake Becca for a feeding while I then go and get ready for my work day.

When I’m all washed, dressed, and prepped for work, I get a chance to give Charlee a quick kiss before her morning nap, another kiss for Becca, and I’m out the door.

I tell you that what otherwise I would have expected to be a draining experience, is actually the highlight of my day and something I look forward to in my sleep.

2. That smile has already won me over… I’m destined to be a push over

Her smile is the first thing I see when I wake her up, and the last thing I see before she goes down for the night. She’s the background on my phone and the screen saver on my laptop.

I’ve told myself that I’d like to be an authoritative parent, but at the same time, I’d love it if Charlee were a daddy’s girl.

All I know is that the other night, I was reading her a copy of Jimmy Fallon’s book Your Baby’s First Word Will Be DADA” and I put on a voice that got her giggling. That pretty much sealed the deal – I don’t stand a chance against this cutie:

3. There is no right answer to sleep training… pick a path and commit to it

I’m going to preface this next one with the fact that whatever path we’re going down, it hasn’t worked yet. I have faith that with consistency and a committed approach, we’ll figure out Charlee and get her into a sleep groove.

First off, this is where we are right now:

Charlee wakes at 6… and sometimes we wake her at 6. From time to time she’s right on the dot at 6, other times she pushes the 5-5:30 window, while still other times, I’m the one waking her up.

She usually back down around 7:30-8 for anywhere from 2-3 hours. Sounds like a lot, yes, and we’re thinking that this window is there cause it’s compensating for a sub par overnight sleep. However, for those of you counting along, mark down 2 hours on your notepad.

Next she’s up for another 2 hour window, usually lasting until noon or 12:30, then back down for what usually ends up to be 60-90 minutes. This nap fluctuates a bit, especially Monday’s when we try to prep her for a walk to one of Becca’s mummy group sessions at 11:15. (Total time is 3.5 hours so far… on a good day).

She’s then up for another 2 hours or so and then down for another 90 minutes, but truthfully more like 60 on a good day. Charlee then does the long haul until around 7-7:30 when we start her night time ramp down, and ideally she’s off to sleep around 8-8:30.

Over night, she’s up usually twice – once at 11:30, and then again around 3. Admittedly, the overnight varies quite a bit, but on average I would say she sleep for 8 of the 10 hours.

So how’d the math go? 8 overnight and at least 4.5 during the day… 12.5 hours at an age where she should ideally be getting 12-15 (so it’s said).

I look at that and think, HOT DAMN! we’re doing a great job. Becca is looking for improvement.

Depending on what you read and by whom, you’ll see that some kids at this age are getting 8-10 hours straight overnight. I envy those parents and also would like nothing more than to punch them in the face and call bullshit. But that’s just jealousy rearing it’s ugly head…

I know we’ll have to struggle through weaning Charlee off the swaddle, and maybe making more of a conscious effort to put her down more awake and let her learn how to fall asleep, but I say all in good time.

For now, I’ll relish in our 12.5 hours and call that a new-parent victory!

4. It is the most unbelievable emotional rollercoaster

As I rewrite this section for the fifth time, I’m going to try again and stress just how extreme your emotions can be during your first few months of fatherhood.

With regards to your little bundle of joy, it is most definitely true what they say. When you first connect with your baby, you know that you would do anything and everything in your power to ensure no harm comes to this little miracle.

The extreme highs you feel engaging with this little person that you played a role creating, are inexplicable.

She’s perfection.

She’s the cutest, the funniest, the loveliest, the friendliest, the sweetest, the everything-est everything that ever has been and ever will be!

You feel so proud of how much she’s grown. How quickly she is passing milestones. How her little characteristics are already shining through.

One of those characteristics is her energy and her passion… or as Dr. Karp calls it, how “spirited” she is.

It’s wonderful to have such a little ball of passion and you know that it’s because of this enthusiasm that her sleep is a little wonky. Sure she’ll do a long stretch here and there, but you chalk it up to her growth spurts and ever changing skillset and development.

After all, she’s still getting over a cold, which was emotionally draining enough; watching her sneeze and cough, and get plugged up with phlegm and boogers. No wonder she can’t sleep.

But now she’s on the up and up and you get to watch her continue to develop and hone skills.

You figure that at this point, 3 hour windows of sleep are fine, and soon she’ll catch up to “normal” sleep, whatever that means.

After 2 days of it though, you start to question your approach, but you and the wife tell each other to stay strong and things will work out.

Sure the lack of sleep is starting to get to you, but you try to rise above and muscle through, knowing theres a light at the end of the tunnel.

1 week in, and the lack of sleep is starting to make you turn against each other, and you are noticeably more snappy and irritable. You often find yourselves catching each other and apologizing, then getting back and level setting, agreeing again about your approach.

The days are fun. Time spent in awe, watching her grow and advance, learning new abilities and growing stronger and bigger right before your eyes. At night, you muscle through the wakings and feedings, straining to get up the next morning and coach yourself through learning the new routine.

You make your way through the work day, always eying the clock anticipating the moment you get to race back home and hug your family.

Gradually that light at the end of the tunnel gets closer, and your baby starts to show the signs of maturing; she’s sleeping longer stretches, and she’s starting to understand what you ask of her and learns how to fall asleep on her own.

You love your baby through the highs and the lows.

You love your partner, cause you have never needed each other more.

You are beginning to realize the change in your life.

You are turning into something, or rather someone.

Hello.

Your name is Dad.

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His and Her’s Nervous Breakdowns – How Not to Sleep Train a Baby

brace yourself

Here’s a term for you: “Sleep Regression”

Ever heard of it?

Neither had we, yet they happen at 4 months, 9 months, 12 months, 18 months, and apparently straight through to 2 years’ of age.

Now you’ll have to pardon my french, but how the fuck was that not something that we would have read about at this point? I truly had considered ourselves well versed on many things baby… not everything, but I thought it was fair to say we were a tad smarter than the average bear.

A quick google search will find you a ton of pages highlighting the “pleasures” of sleep regression and the methods to go about dealing with it.

Let’s begin with what exactly it is, as described by www.babysleepsite.com:

A sleep regression describes a period of time (anywhere from 1 – 4 weeks) when a baby or toddler who has been sleeping well suddenly starts waking at night, and/or skipping naps (or waking early from naps) for no apparent reason. Parents often describe being caught totally off guard: you think your have conquered all your little one’s sleep challenges, when suddenly, out of nowhere, you’re back to constant night wakings and nonexistent naps.

Each regression has a different rationale. The 4 month one makes sense, especially if you tie in what we had read about in Dr. Karp’s book, with regards to the fourth trimester. Charlee at this point is ‘graduating’ from infancy into becoming a baby. I guess within three and a half short months, we’ve seen Charlee evolve from newborn to infant and now finally to baby, and with this title comes new challenges and behavioural nuances. These include ditching her infant-like sleeping patterns, which were a bloody godsend, and now frequently  waking and fussing with shortened naps much like a newborn, hence the ‘regression’.

This is a child who just 3 weeks ago was sleeping 7-8 hour stretches, napping when she felt so inclined, and rarely, if ever, fussing about anything. She spoke a language that we could comprehend, and did not have the capability to manipulate with crocodile tears.

Let me preface whatever else I’m going to write here, with the fact that we absolutely love our daughter with all our heart and we recognize that there are going to be many moments in her life that lead us to frustration and test our limits.

Fair?

Ok – carrying on.

Charlee has always been ‘advanced’ for her age. She’s in the top 85th percentile for weight and height, is strong like a bull, communicates impressively well, and we feel that all in all, she is progressing extremely well for a 3.5 month old.

We were so convinced of this, that upon the first sign of her beginning to fuss during the days, we read and determined that she was either teething (around 1-3 months early), or had matured to the point where she needed a much more rigid sleep structure.

In hindsight, it may be a case of how you search for things that determines what you find, so the fact that we searched and read up on sleep training (i.e. what to do in order to sleep train your child) versus ‘is it normal that my 3 month old is beginning to fuss’ (i.e. how to handle a normal baby like a normal person would), probably fed a good portion of our issues for the last 3 weeks.

Upon reading a slew of different articles and soliciting feedback from family and friends, we opted to put together a schedule for Charlee that would ensure she slept for 10-12 hours at night and another 3-5 during the day while at once making sure she didn’t have awake stretches longer than an hour and a half.

We read articles and books about the ‘cry it out’ technique.

We then read articles and books against the ‘cry it out’ technique and how it will scar your baby for life.

We read articles and books about props and crutches such as pacifiers and swaddles, and how to eliminate those from your child’s sleep dependencies as it will cause your child to grow up with elevated levels of anxiety.

We then read articles and books on how those specific ‘props’ can be integral in ensuring a good sleep even into the 3, 4, and 5 month periods and helps impart feelings of safety, security, and calmness.

Ironically, we read about consistency being key, yet continuously altered our approach based on feedback and guidance, and what seemed like whichever was the flavour of the day or week.

Seemingly overnight, we went from having a calm, cool, stress free household, to one that revolved around our daughters rigid yet ever changing schedule. Constantly jotting down notes in her sleep diary that we created while at once watching the seconds tick by as we stared blankly at the baby monitor, praying she wouldn’t budge. We continually would hear ‘phantom cries’ and would barely get more than 1-2 hours sleep at a time.

All this and poor Charlee was fidgety, upset, overtired, and cranky for most of the day.

It's like deja vu all over again
It’s like deja vu all over again

We were a mirror image of that.

Poor sleep breeds other poor habits, most notably poor eating. Poor eating and lack of sleep have a direct effect on one’s behaviour, emotions, and ability to function.

I was the first to snap.

Ironically, vocalizing it all was somewhat therapeutic, but it was not pretty and I felt horrible that Becca was on the receiving end.

I spent that night in front of the computer at around 2 AM typing a letter to Becca apologizing and really opening up in greater detail about everything. 4 hours and 7 pages later, I sent it to Becca’s email and returned to bed in time to get back to our awakened baby.

We had a very good chat about things and continue to every day. We’ll figure things out, and as one of my favourite quotes goes, “yard by yard, life is hard, but inch by inch is a cinch”.

Becca’s turn came a few days later… what’s good for the goose, eh?

While we’ve both been waking up every hour on the hour, I’m the guy that can change a diaper, while Becca is the only one who can provide food.

Did I mention that this sleep regression can be brought on by a growth spurt? Yes… ANOTHER growth spurt! And with great growth spurts come great yearning for nourishment and Becca can’t even keep up with a pumping schedule to have bottles ready for the ‘in case of emergency’ feeding, or for daddy to step in.

I underestimated the toll this takes on Becca and with the two of us in such a sleep deprived, stress elevated, boob deflated, and angry state, negativity bred negativity and Becca needed an outlet.

The saving grace for all of this is that it gave us a chance to really ‘rebaseline’ expectations. To sit back and go… whoa… what just happened?… how did we get here?… how do we fix this?

And fix this we shall, care of our good old friend Dr. Harvey Karp.

I liken this to any personal experience someone would have with any professional. If that professional is engaged and solicited for advice that proves useful and effective once put into practice, why would you not come back to that same professional for future advice?

Dr. Karp’s book, The Happiest Baby on the Block, was intrinsic in our successes leading up to Charlee’s birth, and for the first 3 months of her life. As we’re entering the next stage in her life, we have now started reading “The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep: Simple Solutions for Kids from Birth to 5 Years” and it is fundamentally helping us get back to the ‘good old days’ where Charlee was a good sleeper and functioned so much better.

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Suffice it to say that I will do a full book review in the near future – probably after the next 2-3 months of fully implementing his recommendations. But until then, I can look back and realize exactly where we went wrong.

Remember how I mentioned that we’ve always seen Charlee as a mature over-achiever? Well that was our first downfall.

Yes, she’s large for her age.

Yes, she’s fantastically bright and capable.

Yes, she’s strong and excelling in her abilities.

But at the end of the day, she is still a 3 month old baby who does not need to be rushed through her development just to float our egos.

Charlee did not need to be weaned off of a pacifier and swaddle. Charlee does not need to adhere by rules and timelines devised by some random internet doula.

We are taking away a number of lessons from this whole experience:

  1. We love each other and need each other and are here to support one another and be the most dynamic, effective, loving, passionate, engaged, and informed parents we can be
  2. Charlee is a wonderful baby and we genuinely want what’s best for her, but need to have some patience
  3. We have resolved to read up on everything BEFORE it happens and come to consensus on how we are going to parent her as a team, rather than reactively having to dig up information and test it out with trial and error
  4. Lastly, parental instinct is a profound thing – sometimes you really do need to go with your gut, because you truly have a better sense of what’s good for your baby

In less than 2 weeks Charlee will be 4 months old and we’ll be celebrating her 100 Day birthday with friends and family.

We all plan to be very well rested for a lovely, stress free event.

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100 Days of Charlee

It has been far too long since I’ve posted a written entry – I’ll blame the holidays for that one! With that being said, we’ve had a great holiday season with Charlee! Here she is doing her best festive pose:

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December 26, also known as boxing day, came  and went and technically marked Charlee’s 100 days. In several Asian cultures, celebrating 100 days is an event for family and close friends. 100 days carries some symbolism such as the mom having recovered from birth, baby finally getting the eating/sleeping routine down and being able to socialize for some time and mingle with family who may not have met her as yet. 100 days is symbolic of the baby being ‘out of the weeds’, so to speak, and healthy enough to be brought out into public more freely. The food that is served is a customary meal, with each dish bearing different meaning and symbolism.

We knew we were going to have a 100 day celebration with family and friends, but we also knew that the date was way too close to the holidays, so we’ve moved the actual event into January.

It also gives me a chance to reflect on my first 100 days with Charlee, so without further ado, I thought I’d put myself on the spot for a quick little interview:

You win this round, Charlee...
You win this round, Charlee…

Q: So… fatherhood… everything you expected it to be?

A: Yes and no….  For the most part, I think that I had a good idea about what to expect. You read enough and see enough of your family and friends raising their kids, and you can safely assume that for the most part, you know what’s about to happen. However, there are a few variables that you could never expect.

First off, how you react to stress and pressure does not reflect how you’re going to react to the stresses and pressures brought on by your little one. I think for me personally, it’s brought on a different level of patience, where before I would have a much shorter fuse, now I can push through, reminding myself that this just comes with the territory. How can you get angry at such a little innocent thing anyway… granted that little innocent thing has just had a ‘blow out’ and won’t stop kvetching regardless of your pleas and attempts at being rational with her… but I digress.

Next, you may assume, but you never really know how your partner is going to parent, let alone how the two of you are going to parent together! Becca and I are doing great as a team, but that doesn’t mean it comes easy. Communication and setting expectations is key – also sharing reading material so that you’re on the same page with your approach; remember, consistency is key. If anything, I think this has been the most pleasant surprise to see how wonderful a mum Becca is, and how I’m so grateful that Charlee gets to be raised by her and I.

And on that note, the last variable being Charlee. She is the biggest littlest variable of them all. I like to think we’re playing a strong role in her amazing demeanour, but I also get the sense that some babies out there just aren’t as cooperative. I’ve said it before, Charlee is an ‘easy’ baby. We pride ourselves on the fact that we’ve been able to keep her as de-stressed as possible, and I think that’s led to our continued successes (this being written as we’re going through a “sleep regression” cycle, which I will write about soon).

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Q: Do you feel like a dad yet?

A: That’s a tough one… would you believe the answer is no?

I’m still getting used to saying, “my daughter” and yet I love chatting with Charlee and trying to get her to say ‘dadda’.

Becca and I talked about this the other day, whether we feel like parents yet. She had her moment the other day when Charlee started to recognize her and noticeably felt comfort when she would reach for and be embraced by Becca. I have had this happen too, yet the feeling of being a father is not there yet.

I truly believe that this connection will happen later when Charlee is more verbal and can actually say the things I want her to and to actually connect with me. I can’t wait!

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Q: What’s the best advice you’ve received and what’s the worst advice?

A: Let’s start with the worst, the caveat being that everything recommended has been done with the best of interest and in all sincerity. I would chalk up the worst advice to more of a frame of mind regarding parenting. That would be the ‘old school’ methodology and how some people have a tendency of saying, well, this is how it was done in my day and my kids turned out just fine.

While they liken that advice to ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ – I’m more inclined to compare this to the mentality of why bother improving on something. When you think of it that way, you realize how silly it is.

Just because something’s always been done a certain way, doesn’t mean that it can’t change or improve, or be optimized, and that includes raising children.

The books that I’ve read with Becca are demonstrating scientific fact and new findings that can revolutionize how we raise our kids and help open up possibilities that never before had been determined or addressed.

With potential like that, who wouldn’t want to try and do things differently!?!

On the flip side, the best advice I’ve heard, aside from some of the readings I mention above and in prior posts, is the ironically named “mother’s instinct”. If I may be so bold, I would like to extend that to be “parent’s instinct”.

It’s taken some time, but Becca and I are truly in tune with Charlee’s needs. We’ve come to understand that no one book will tell you the “right” way to raise your child, but rather a slew of tried and true approaches. The fact of the matter is that only you as parents have a true sense of your child’s needs, what their cries mean, when they need food, attention, cuddles, love, and everything under the sun that they can’t verbalize, but can still somehow communicate to you.

Q: What’s your biggest pet peave about parenting?

A: My first 100 days with Charlee have been tremendous. It’s been incredible to see how much I’ve learned about myself, about Becca, and about how influential we are in the upbringing of another human being. The job is formidable, and I know that too many people on this planet take to it with too simplistic an approach, just assuming that anyone can do it. Suffice it to say, just because anyone can do it, doesn’t mean everyone should, and better yet, doesn’t mean everyone can do it right.

But who am I to say what ‘right’ is… this in itself is where my issue lays.

I’ve read things on how people should not judge other parents or compare their kid to someone else’s. Yet I’m pretty sure every parent will tell you that their child is the best, and anyone who goes about raising their child differently is in the wrong. Parenting can sometimes be a pissing contest, and it’s very tiresome to feel like you’re always in competition.

At the same time, I’ve read articles where some people say that you shouldn’t judge other’s parenting, because pretty much if you’re keeping your baby happy and healthy and “alive” (as one article actually said), then who are we to judge.

Tough call people… I would be hesitant to give out participation awards to parents though – we should really strive for more… I’ll leave it at that 🙂

#adorbs
#adorbs

Q: In your first 100 days, what’s been your favourite memory?

A: As my little Charlee starts developing a personality more and more, her true essence comes out and let me tell you, she’s a riot! Some days more than others she is extremely chatty.

Becca was on the ball and caught the following on camera:

Everyday with Charlee something new and wonderful happens, giving us new memories to cherish (and more blog posts for me write!).

I’ve loved the last 100 days and look forward to the next 100 days, weeks, months, and more!

My Name is Dad, and I Survived a Trip with My Newborn

babytravel

With Becca and I both off work (Becca for another nine months and me for another two), we thought it would be a great opportunity to take a trip with Charlee and get some of those first travels in while she’s still tiny and manageable.

Sounds so easy when you say that out loud… ‘tiny and manageable’… sure.

Well, suffice it to say, I have learned a lot and figured what a great opportunity to regale you all with the tale of our trip, and also highlight some of my recommendations based on our experience.


Where To Go?

Travel-banner

Deciding on a location was pretty easy for us. We didn’t want to go through the whole rigamarole of getting Charlee a passport, let alone the turnaround time necessary for us to wait. Admittedly, we could have gone through an express request process to speed it up, but regardless it would probably have meant a trip down to the States, and with the Canadian dollar sitting at around 75 cents U.S., it could be a pretty expensive excursion.

We also knew we wanted to opt for a drive rather than flying as we knew that Charlee was a real champ in the car and would probably sleep the whole ride away.

Montreal seemed like a great place to visit, and we thought we’d kill two birds with one stone and visit a friend of Becca’s on the way in Ottawa.

With some research we found that there was a Christmas Market or two up and running, as well as the great walks through Old Montreal, Chinatown, St Catherine’s street, food markets, and all the other awesome sights throughout the city.

I’ve personally been a dozen times. With the exception of this year, I’ve been heading to Montreal for the Formula 1 race every since 2009. Becca had been before too, but wanted to have a new experience there with Charlee and I, and we couldn’t agree more.

After getting an oil change and service done on the car, and getting the winter tires put on too, I charted out a path that would have us stopping every two hours; first at a rest stop off the highway, then at our friend Kate’s place, and finally our final stop in Montreal.

Accommodations

Airbnb

For the third time, we opted to use AirBnB for our accommodations this trip for many reasons. First and foremost, the cost was much cheaper than any hotel we could find. For us to stay in Old Montreal on the 17th floor of a high-rise condo, we ended up paying $100 a night including parking. Hotels would have been double that.

The fact that we had a one bedroom apartment was also a plus. This meant a full kitchen and washer/dryer – two things that would prove to be very important.

While here, we went for a quick grocery shop and for the $50 we spent, we had most breakfasts, dinners, and a lot of snacks taken care of for the 4 nights we were staying. I figure we probably saved about $100 in food with this one grocery shop, so having a kitchen at our disposal was a huge perk and cost saving measure.

The washer and dryer combo was invaluable from day one when Charlee decided to test the structural integrity of her diapers… and she won… impressively! Without the laundry facilities, we would have had to either pay for a service, wash them in a sink, or plastic bag them and take them home to deal with… 4 days later!

Packing

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At a certain point, this seemed like the most logical approach to packing

Admittedly, Becca was in charge of the packing. When I’m in charge, I easily overpack. I just seem to assume the worst and somehow justify twelve pairs of underwear for four days. She must think I have a bowel or bladder problem!

Seeing as this trip with a two month old was a first for both us, I will say that Becca did a fantastic job, even packing random things like pee pads and our buckwheat pillow, both of which came in very handy.

At the end of the day, we packed the following:

  • Clothing – mine, Becca’s, and outfits and pj’s for Charlee with backups, wash cloths, bibs, facecloths, hats, and snow suits
  • Diapers – in total, probably 50 to be on the safe side
  • Adult toiletries – buzzer, razor, shampoo, soap, towels
  • Baby toiletries – bum balm, vitamin D drops, probiotics, hand sanitizer, soap, sponge, nose frida
  • Food – snacks for the car including vegetable slices, granola bars, vitamins (always important for healthy dads and breastfeeding mums)
  • Car seat
  • Bassinet for Charlee to sleep in
  • The Snuggle Pillow which we’ve kind of converted into a little papasan chair for Charlee and she adores it
  • The white noise machine

What we missed and needed to buy:

  • Adult toiletries -Shampoo, shaving cream, bar soap, laundry detergent (organic/baby friendly stuff), spot stain remover (organic/baby friendly stuff)
  • Baby toiletries – more pee pads – these are good for creating a makeshift changing station in the apartment
  • Food – still needed to do a grocery shop for some food for the week
  • It doesn’t really count, because it was the plan all along to buy in Montreal, but we did pick up a Mei Tai wrap for Charlee from the wonderful people at Melons and Clementines. If you’re in the city, visit!

What I would change next time:

  • Having this Mei Tai next time will help out so much. The stroller was a burden, though helped when we needed to shlep gifts and groceries. In general, Montreal is not a very stroller friendly city (at least the downtown core isn’t), so next time we would be less dependant on it at the least.
  • Bringing everything needed to setup a change table/station at the home base, in this case the apartment. Assuming that we would use the portable change pad was unrealistic considering how emulating our home setup was the most comfortable approach.
  • Having the courage to try eating in restaurants more. Charlee is exceptional, but we erred on the side of wanting home advantage, especially into the later hours where she would be due to get into her sleep schedule.

There are a ton of takeaways, I think, so more on that as I break down the trip for you.


How the Trip Unfolded:

Monday

We had everything packed and ready to go; the dog was boarded, the house was clean, and we figured we wouldn’t rush anything, but rather have Charlee sleep through her normal routine.

Lately she had been doing a phenomenal 7 hour stretch from 8:30 to around 3:30 AM, then back to sleep until around 7:30. That seemed like the perfect time to have her awake, fed, bathed and dressed for the road.

Just as we had hoped, Charlee slept like a champ and I took the opportunity to get up a half hour before her to prep a few things (including myself) for the car ride to follow.

Once awake, we got all the wheels in motion and headed out the door to fill up the car with gas and grab a coffee and a muffin for the road.

The highway was beautifully clear, and we made great time and distance for the first leg, stopping at one of the provincial ‘on route’ stops on the highway. Once there, Charlee capitalized on the opportunity to poop twice and allow us to feed her and get her ready for the next stretch of drive. She was doing fantastically well, and slept the entire drive.

We got to Ottawa by around 1 in the afternoon, perfect timing to have a quick lunch with Kate and catch up while she got to meet with Charlee and we got to see her and her gigantic boxer/lab, Benji. Kate, Benji, and Kate’s boyfriend Casey live on her sister’s gorgeous property and it was great to see her and check out her new digs.

After a couple hours of visiting we made our way back out to the highway and within a couple hours were finally getting into Montreal, just in time for the sun to be setting (thank you daylight savings) and rush hour to be peaking.

As the GPS guided us along, we found the building but could not figure out the parking. I pulled over and called the property management company overseeing the rental unit, and they advised that I hadn’t booked the parking… sigh…

A few stressed out moments later, we sorted things out, and over the speakerphone, they guided us to the parking all the while Charlee was howling in discontent, having been woken up by my stress induced tirade.

This would be one thing I would like to change for next time, but I think stressing out once on vacation is kinda my thing. Just ask Becca about our layover in LAX on our return flight from Melbourne.

Finally we were settled in and a tad hungry, so I went out and picked up some Chinese food, brought it back to the apartment, and settled in for the night.

Looking at the weather, it wasn’t going to be the best, but we weren’t going to let that dampen our spirits, pun intended.

Tuesday

The next morning, Charlee again slept like an angel, and we were immediately into our home wake up routine. We decided to treat ourselves to a nice breakfast, and went to a place called Universel Déjeuners et Grillades, on Rue Peel. It was a really pretty place, and though Charlee slept on the walk, she woke up when we got there and ‘smell-ate’ our meal with us, not putting up a fuss at all.

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We followed up breakfast with a walk along St Catherines Street, stopping at the Simon’s and the Eaton Centre to get some shopping done.

While there, Becca fed Charlee and I attempted to change her. Low and behold, there are no change tables in the men’s washroom there, only in the women’s. Suffice it to say, the mall has been tweeted at quite passionately.

It’s odd, but like I mentioned above, not only is Montreal not very current about fatherhood needs, but they are also horribly stroller unfriendly. The number of times we had to lift the stroller up and down stairs, manoeuvre it through stores, or straight up wait outside while the other person shopped as the stroller would simply not fit, was staggering. I would hate to think how folks in wheelchairs get by there.

Regardless, we trucked on, walking through the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal, and through the bakeries and shops of China Town. We did about 10 km that day, and it was great.

We finished off the day with a quick grocery shop for some of the fundamentals we had forgotten to pack, and some food to cover a few meals and capitalize on having a kitchen in our apartment. We came to realize that it would have been nice if the apartment had ketchup, oil, salt, and other condiments, but that wasn’t the case. We made do just fine though.

One thing we had trouble finding and would have packed differently for next time, was detergent and stain remover. We are adamant about not exposing Charlee to too much of the toxicity and chemicals out there with many of the generic brand cleaners, so we opt for organic, natural cleansers. This is something that at home we know where to buy, but in Montreal it was a bit more of a hunt.

Of course, we hadn’t expected to be using the laundry as much as we did, but we also hadn’t expected Charlee to poop through her diaper, pants, onesie, and sweater.

When that kid goes, she really goes!

I made us some dinner with our fresh groceries, and tucked Charlee in for the night.

Wednesday

After making some breakfast, we packed up and headed out in the car, looking to travel to some of the further destinations while the weather was really rainy.

We started off at a maternity store that we had read much about, but didn’t know what to expect.

Melons and Clementines, is listed as Montreal’s boutique offering services for all your breastfeeding needs.

Personally, my breast feeding needs are few and far between, but Becca had a field day! Aside from being able to find some bras and nursing tanks that she otherwise was going to have to buy online, we saved a ton of money thanks to their reasonable prices.

We also found and bought a new carrier for Charlee, thanks in full to the supremely knowledgeable and courteous staff.

We bought a Mei Tai by a company called Moa Po and it is what I would consider the most comfortable, least bulky, most usable (good up to a 40 lb. toddler), nicest designed, least confusing, and most economical carrier we’ve found. We also got the jacket extenders and ordered the zipper sets for both of our coats so we could wear Charlee in the cold winter months.

Speaking of whom, Charlee also stepped up to the plate during our visit, and made two glorious poops which I got to change in the more than amply setup change room at the store. Oh the things you celebrate as a parent!

I will say that Becca and I were chatting about how niche this store’s setup is, and maybe one day we should open up something like it in Toronto… time will tell! Their focus was less on “everything” baby, but more about mum – breastfeeding, including classes and lactation consultation, foods and organic supplies, clothing for the pregnant mum to be, and the nursing mum with babe. Very cool stuff, and an obviously huge fan club of followers.

After a couple enjoyable hours at the store, we left to go checkout one of Montreal’s public markets, the Atwater Market, where we bought some pastries and foodie gifts.

We were anxious to try out the new Mei Tai, so we headed back the apartment right after, popped Charlee in the carrier, and walked across the street to the Montreal Convention Centre to checkout the Nutcracker Christmas Market, otherwise known as the Marché Casse-Noisette at the Palais des congrès de Montréal… easier typed than said.

 

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Charlee slept all throughout the walk, and we had a great time buying some gifts for friends and family back home.

We finished up and headed back to the apartment, made some dinner, fed and changed the baby, and off to sleep we went.

Thursday

Another magical night from Charlee, and we got our day started with some breakfast in the apartment.

The weather was calling for just a bit of a drizzle, more like a spritz, so we decided that today would be a great day for a long walk through the Quartier des Spectacles (an entertainment district located in the eastern section of Downtown Montreal) finishing off with a stop to one of my favourite destinations, Schwartz’s.

We made our way up and around the neighbourhood, stopping in at La Vieille Europe for some tasty foodie gifts, and finally into Schwartz’s. The guys there are such mensch’s and made space for Charlee’s carseat and stroller, in an otherwise packed restaurant.

I got to eat a smoked meat sandwich, medium, with dill pickle and a can of Cott’s black cherry soda. Becca got a poutine and a ginger ale and we chowed down!

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Now that’s a balanced diet
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Rookie couldn’t even stay awake after the meal

Full to the brim, we shuffled out the door and down the street, pit-stopping at a Starbucks for a diaper change. Finally we made it back to the apartment, just as the sky started opening up with some more drizzling.

After feeding Charlee, we hopped in the car and drove out to pick up some clothes from Joe Fresh and the zippers for the jacket inserts that had been ordered from Melons and Clementines.

After getting tangled up in some rush hour traffic, we finally made it home and picked up some Chinese takeout again…. hey come on, i’m on vacation!

Friday

Having loaded most of the luggage in the night before, cleaning up and leaving was a breeze, and we were out of the apartment nice and early .

We started our trek with a trip to one of the other markets, called Marche Jean Talon. This one is my favourite as it is packed with beautiful produce, meats, cheeses, desserts and delicacies.

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We bought some custard tarts and some Montreal specialty beers for some adult stocking stuffers. Spent a good chunk of change, but all well worth it.

I wanted to make sure we picked up some Montreal bagels, so we finished our trip with an early lunch at the St. Viateur Cafe and bakery. We both had a delicious smoked salmon on a bagel, and bought another 2 dozen bagels for the road.

After a quick feeding and change for Charlee, we were on the road and headed back home to Toronto.


Final Thoughts

Traveling with Charlee was much of what I expected, with a bunch of what I didn’t expect.

I was confident she would be a great travel buddy – she sleeps well, eats well, loves parties and noises, and quite frankly, is pretty predictable.

With that being said, I wasn’t sure if the change of scenery would affect her scheduling, but it appeared that the onus was on us as her parents to try our best and ensure the least amount of disruption as possible.

At the end of the day, she kept with her routine, if not perfected it, during our stay!

I think we prepared as best as possible, and with the exception of a few ‘blowout’ diapers, and some poor scheduling in terms of dinners, we had a pretty successful and awesomely enjoyable trip.

Becca and I enjoyed not just Charlee, but each other’s company, which is a huge thing that you need to factor into a family getaway.

We’re already talking about our next trip… I think it will be a flight… but where?!

Time will tell, but we know we’ll have a great time.

Tip of the Week – Probiotics

Tip Of The Week

Week 7 is upon us and we are constantly learning about new techniques and tricks of the trade in helping bring up our lovely Charlee.

We are truly blessed with the fact that Charlee is an absolute angel, or what would be considered an ‘easy’ baby. I would say that any reference to how a baby’s demeanour is, varies by individual; what’s difficult for us could be easy for someone else, and vice versa.

One thing that Charlee is not, thank god, is colicky. Sure she may have her bouts of tears or wailing for food, but they are short lived and easily remedied. She eats like a champ, and thanks to the Dunstan Baby Language, we know when she’s hungry, sleepy, gassy, or tired, and can address her needs ASAP.

#PooFace
#PooFace

We had been noticing, however, that when she needed to poop, she was really working hard. Not quite to the point of being outright constipated, but she would struggle and sometimes there would be a speck of blood in her stool. This can be normal as there are times when a baby pushes too hard that they cause little anal fissures to occur, and a little blood could be found.

Becca did some research and found that some people had success in helping their babies out with probiotics.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that aside from some Activia commercials, I was unaware of probiotics, let alone their usage for constipated babies. It turns out, that this is not only a viable solution, but a recommended additive in C-section babies’ diets!

Parents.com gives a great little writeup in their article, Probiotics: The Friendly Bacteria.

Trillions of bacteria already live in your child’s (and your own) gastrointestinal system, many of which are considered to be good because they help keep her healthy. They’ve been there since birth, when your baby’s GI tract became colonized with good, bad, and benign bacteria (known as flora) as she passed through the birth canal and picked up some of your microbes. Because babies delivered by C-section miss out on this, they initially end up with a different collection of flora.

If you nurse, you help your baby build up more good bacteria, because breast milk contains substances known as prebiotics that promote the growth of healthy bugs. They supply nutrients to the living bacteria and enhance their ability to survive and thrive in your child’s gut. “By shaping the content of an infant’s gastrointestinal tract, breast milk also helps ‘educate’ the developing immune system,” says David Mills, Ph.D., a University of California, Davis microbiologist. Once your child weans and starts on solid foods, her gut microflora will change, and then remain pretty much constant throughout her lifetime.

Some research has shown that consuming probiotics through foods or supplements can positively affect your child’s balance of bacteria, and consequently, her health.

I went to our local dispensary called The Big Carrot, and was advised to purchase HMF Natogen Probiotic by Genestra, specially formulated for Breastfed Newborns aged 0 to 12 months.

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That night we gave Charlee a ‘pinky dip’ of the probiotic powder and for the last week have truly been basking in its glory.

Charlee noticeably strains less, has healthy, hearty poops, and in general is more comfortable throughout the day.

My underlying statement is that I am no medical professional, but if your child is going through any of the symptoms of being backed up, or right off the bat if your child was a C-section, give probiotics a thought, and run the idea by your paediatrician or healthcare professional.

I Moustache You a Question… and I Can’t Shave it For Later!

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My Movember Story:  Back in 2009, I was concerned about the fact that I was peeing over 10 times a day, and the urgency was high and frequent. After months of not having it checked out, I finally decided to make an appointment and ask my doctor. She said it would be rare at 29 years of age if anything were wrong with my prostate, but recommended we give it a check. She did, and noticed inflammation and referred me to a proctologist.

Over the course of the next few months, I went in for several sessions where they did numerous tests, including probes and ultrasounds and were ‘concerned’ with their findings.

After waiting a further 2 weeks for results, I was finally advised that it was fortunately only a case of prostatitis and nothing more serious, and I was subsequently prescribed antibiotics.

Suffice it to say, it scared me to the core.

Ever since I’ve been spreading the word to friends and family to get tested and make sure you visit your doctor for regular physicals, as I do on an annual basis. Since joining the Movember campaign, I’ve been further speaking out about the cause, and ensuring us guys are aware of some of the diseases that are common for men.

Now as a new father, this charity hits home that much more.

As dads we have the duty not only to ourselves, but also our new additions. The duty for us to stay healthy, active, and aware in order to be around for our partners and children for many years to come.

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About the Movember Campaign: From its beginnings in Australia in 2003, the Movember movement has grown to be a truly global one, inspiring support from over 5 million Mo Bros and Mo Sistas around the world.

Movember’s success can largely be attributed to the strength of the global community. Regardless of the city in which we live, we’re part of something bigger, united by a commitment to help change the face of men’s health.

The Movember website highlights the cause:

The state of men’s health is in a crisis. Simply put, men are dying too young.

Gender is one of the strongest and most consistent predictors of health and life expectancy. For men, this is not good news. On average, across the world, men die 6 years earlier than women.

Moreover, poor mental health affects men more than women: three quarters of suicides are by men. The World Health Organization estimates that 510,000 men die from suicide globally each year. That’s one every minute.

The impact of prostate and testicular cancer on lives is substantial, with prostate cancer being the second most common cancer in men worldwide and the number of cases expected to almost double to 1.7 million cases by 2030.

Yet this gender-based inequality in health has received little national, regional or global acknowledgement or attention from health policy-makers or healthcare providers. This is exactly why the Movember Foundation focuses on men’s health. This is why Mo Bros and Mo Sistas from across the globe become a united voice every Movember, bringing vital funding and attention to the hidden men’s health crisis.

This is not just an issue for men. In order to tackle the problem and work towards a world where future generations of men are not faced with the same issues as today, we need to take action at both an individual and community level. This means engaging men and women, businesses, sporting groups, community organizations, governments, health policy makers and healthcare providers in the efforts to reduce the current gender inequality in health outcomes.

New for 2015 is the MOVE challenge. MOVE is the Movember Foundation’s 30-day fitness challenge to get active and raise funds and awareness for men’s health. Whether it’s a morning work out, a quick jog at lunchtime or an hour at the ping-pong table, no MOVE is too big or small.

 

The Movember Foundation is a global charity raising funds and awareness for men’s health. These funds deliver breakthrough research and support services to allow men to live happier, healthier, longer lives. Since 2003, millions have joined the men’s health movement, raising more than $676 million and funding over 1,000 projects through impact investments, focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health and physical inactivity.

The Foundation runs awareness and fundraising activities year-round, with the annual Movember campaign in November being globally recognized for its fun and innovative approach to raising money and getting men to take action for their health. During Movember, men are challenged to grow a moustache or to make a commitment to get active and MOVE, both of which are about real action for health and are done to spark conversation and raise vital funds and awareness.

Please help me with my fundraising goals, or better yet, sign up, grow a mo, raise funds and awareness, and help change the face of men’s health!!

http://mobro.co/hellomynameisdad

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Celebrating 6 Weeks of Charlee

Another fun week is in the books with little miss Charlee, and my, was it ever action packed!

Charlee’s bubbie celebrated her birthday, we paid a visit to my office, Charlee passed the 6 week mark, and got ready to celebrate her first halloween.


 

My mum’s birthday was actually last week on the 22nd, but she’s quite the busy body and with a combination of concerts, dinners, and her day job(s) inundating her, we only had the chance to have her and the fam over for dinner on Sunday.

It was a blast! We made some delicious pastrami knishes from scratch and picked up a tiramisu cake from a local bakery. Everything went off without a hitch and the family got to spend time playing with Charlee and my nephew, Ethan.

Everyone loves Auntie Ariel
Everyone loves Auntie Ariel

Mum and I had a very good talk about my last blog entry wherein I discussed some of the different parenting methods out there. I had concluded that I would take the “all of the above” approach and aim for, what I had coined the Compassionate FAITH parenting style.

My mum likes to quote the poem by Robert Burns To a Mouse, where he famously says “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. In other words, she’s a big fan of best intentions, but in her experience she can attest to the fact that plans do change.

I believe the last time she mentioned these words of wisdom was right after I had sent out our birth plan to the family… two days later we found out Charlee was breeched.

Touché mum!

Later in the week, we took Charlee to my office and surprised my colleagues with an impromptu visit. Charlee was perfect; she didn’t put up a fuss at all and was wide awake and engaged with everyone.

It was great to see the team. I have been off for over 2 months now, so it was nice to see so many of the people that I used to see on a daily. The reality that I have another 3 months off is very surreal.

I tell you though, I could get used to this whole ‘not working’ thing pretty easily.

Not that staying at home with Charlee is not work. Parenting is absolutely work, but it’s much more rewarding than anything in the world.

It’s timely that mum and musician, Adele was interviewed this week about her three year old son, and eloquently stated her thoughts:

“It’s fucking hard.

I thought it would be easy. ‘Everyone fucking does it, how hard can it be?’ Ohhhhh … I had no idea. It is hard but it’s phenomenal. It’s the greatest thing I ever did. He makes me be a dickhead, and he makes me feel young and there’s nothing more grounding than a kid kicking off and refusing to do what you’re asking of them. It used to be that my own world revolved around me, but now it has to revolve around him.”

I have so much to look forward to 🙂

I would say one of the things I’m really learning about is patience, and I’m finding out that I’m crap at it. If we weren’t blessed with a little angel like Charlee, I don’t know what I’d do.

I’ve read about colicky babies, crying for hours, days, and weeks on end. I genuinely don’t think I could handle that. Even Charlee’s rare, little spurts, push the limits of my patience and make me have to take a moment and collect myself, remembering that this is something that comes with the territory so get used to it and figure out how to handle it properly.

I’ll tell you who has the patience of a saint, and that’s Becca. She was made to be a mum; you can just see by her demeanour and the way she handles Charlee. I love seeing how naturally it comes to her – every element of it. She connects with Charlee on levels that inspire me, and I’m so grateful to be in this parenting partnership with her.

Becca also has the keen eye that picked this beauty out for Charlee’s first halloween:

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I think you’d have to agree that the cute factor is off the charts!

I’ve been instagramming so many adorable baby pictures in their halloween outfits. Everyone from baby Hulk, to babies in pumpkins, to baby Red from Orange is the New Black. It’s hilarious what parents do with their kids for halloween.

From my experience dressing up Charlee, I’m still going to assume that for every one adorable pic that finds its way online, there are a dozen pics like this that happened along the way:

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Lastly, this week would not be complete without me beaming with pride about my little overachiever. At just 6 weeks of age, we witnessed, on camera, the following feat:

 

Some call it a fluke, I call it Charlee at her finest.

Happy Halloween!

It’s apparent, I’m a parent… but what type of parent am I?

parenting

With so much recently being written and discussed about parenting styles, I thought it would be interesting to summarize what I’ve read and get a sense of what my own personal style has been and get an inkling of what my style may become. On top of that, since this is a Dad blog, I’m looking at the fatherhood angle in particular, because I find that the role of Dad can have its own nuances that differ from the token ‘parenting’ style.

It’s been said that there are four primary styles of parenting all based off of what’s referred to as Baumrind’s Parenting Typology: Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive (Indulgent), and Uninvolved (Neglectful). Even our ‘new generation’ of parenting styles, still relies on these as the fundamental principles.


Authoritarian

Because I Said So!
“Because I Said So!”

Authoritarian parents are very strict and controlling – picture the old school Don Draper circa 1960’s parent who has the need for obedience. They’re big believers in clearly stated rules and if their kids don’t step in line and act as directed, they will be punished.

 

Permissive

The grow up so fast...
They grow up so fast…

Permissive parents, while often warm and accepting, make few demands on their children. They very much take a back seat and let the child’s creativity and sense of self blossom by ensuring that they don’t interfere. The permissive parent is the one who tries to be more friend than parent, avoids confrontation, and is generally more nurturing and communicative.

Uninvolved

Hang on boy... I'm debating swiping right
“Hang on boy… I’m debating swiping right”

The uninvolved parent asks for nothing and gives almost nothing in return, except near-absolute freedom. This style is practically non-responsiveness, and is even referred to as neglect.

Authoritative

Understand what I'm telling you
“Understand what I’m telling you”

While keeping authority and control, these parents are warmer and more communicative than Authoritarian parents. Authoritative parents look for a balance between their children’s need for autonomy and the parents’ desire to be respected and listened to. These parents walk the line of being demanding and responsive. For children who fail to meet the authoritative parent’s expectations, the parent is more nurturing, forgiving and responsive. Their idea of discipline is to be assertive but not restrictive, to support rather than punish.


Tough call eh?… I think we all know what we ought to be striving for.

Not that you’d doubt it, but it’s even documented proof that children of Authoritative parents typically do well in school, develop good social skills, and avoid problem behaviours.

So there you have it. Problem solved. You would think that this list more than satisfies the spectrum of parenting styles and immediately demonstrates how new parents need to adopt the Authoritative style with their children, as there is no other way….

But wait! Of course, modern day parenting would not be what it is, without a strong need to rebrand and relabel.

And with that, I bring you the New Generation Styles:


Instinctive parenting

Raising my kids like my pappy raised me, and like his pappy raised him, and like...
Raising my kids like my pappy raised me, and like his pappy raised him, and like…

This can be called the old school method of parenting, wherein an instinctive parent teaches what they know and parents the way they were parented, whether brought up by their mother and father, siblings or another caregiver. It might be the old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, or as Paul Simon put it,  ‘I know what I know.’

Attachment parenting

A family that sleeps together....well...
A family that sleeps together….well…

In attachment parenting, the parent and the child form a strong emotional bond and respond to their child’s needs while being sensitive and emotionally available for their child at all times. This is a super strong attachment, and this type of parenting is usually aligned with folks who often believe in natural childbirth, a family bed, avoidance of corporal punishment, homeschooling and may even be part of the anti-vaccination movement.

Helicopter parenting

helicopter-parents

This is the one that’s been making headlines, as science continues to find faults in helicopter parenting and the long term affects on children. Helicopter parents constantly interact with and often interfere with their children’s lives, hovering like a helicopter. It’s an action that totally makes sense when you’re trying to ensure the safety and security of babies and very young children, but in later years, smothering your child in every aspect of their life can ultimately backfire.  Helicopter parents rarely let their children out of their sight, but unlike attachment parenting, it isn’t to form a strong bond with their child, it’s an attempt to prevent any challenges or obstacles in their child’s life that they can foresee, therefore “preserving” their childhood. Stories of mums calling their child’s employers or college professors, are perfect examples of helicopter parenting gone awry.

Free-Range Parenting

It's more humane, and frankly, they taste better
It’s more humane, and frankly, they taste better

Free-range parenting is the exact opposite of helicopter parenting where parents want to allow kids to have some freedom without constantly worrying something bad will happen. Free-range parents let their children walk to school alone and ride their bikes outside without supervision. In extreme cases, some parents have even reported allowing their very young children to grocery shop and ride public transportation alone. This is how kids used to be raised, but mind you, it was in a very different world.

Tiger Parenting

AGAIN!!... bah bah bah... bah bah bah...
AGAIN!!… bah bah bah… bah bah bah…

This parenting term was coined in the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by self-proclaimed tiger mum Amy Chua. Tiger parents are strict, expect their children to follow rigid rules, and demand excellence in academics. The term stems from the idea that tigers are a symbol of strength and power, and generally inspire fear and respect. It’s reminiscent of authoritarian parenting, but perhaps with a more regimented purpose.


Still know which parenting style you want to adopt?

Perhaps you’re a fan of letting your kid be independent, but not until he’s at least 15. Before then, you’re going to hound him to be committed at school and get perfect A’s to ensure his entry into the best of colleges after high school. And of course, you will be super attentive and hover over your son from infancy until at least age 10…

So what are you? A free range tiger in a helicopter??

What exactly has this modern day interpretation done then? Expanding our labeling abilities, or confused a generation of new parents with silos and one-size-does-not-fit-all parenting models.

I watched a video by Dr. Stephan Poulter the other day, and he put into perspective another key finding that really encouraged me to write this blog entry. Dr. Poulter is a licensed clinical family psychologist based out of Los Angeles with nearly 30 years under his belt. He’s studied and written about the five most common fathering styles (super achiever, time bomb, passive, absent, and compassionate/mentor) and the impact fathers have on their child’s future relationships and career development.

Now we’re talking – here’s how he explains these styles:


Super Achiever

success_man

The super achiever is someone who for the most part, probably did not get enough love from their own father. This dad has a biting, competitive edge; he is constantly critical and hostile to his son, implying that one’s value is all about what you do and how well you do it, not about who you are. 

Time Bomb

images (1)

The time bomb dad really rules the family by fear; the fear of not knowing whats going to set him off, or when. Poulter calls it “parenting by volume – not by connection”.

Passive

"Daddy never told me he love me"
“Daddy never told me he love me”

The passive dad shows his love through actions, not through words. There is often a missing feeling of connection based on the fact that feelings were always assumed, but never stated.

Absent – Fatherless

Missing-Father-600x220

The absent style can be literal but more often is psychological. Sons of absent dads find it difficult to form trusting relationships and it creates rage within them. Daughters can have a tendency of feeling desperation because of it. Sixty percent of dads fall into the absent or passive categories and most kids who abuse alcohol or drugs are most often children of this type of father.

Compassionate/Mentor

mentorship

Lastly, the compassionate mentor style, wherein these dads provide an emotionally safe upbringing yet encourage their kids to think for themselves. There is a capacity to tolerate difference, and these dad’s help you see your life for what it is and where it can go. 


So there we have it. Parenting styles and all their glories, with a side of fatherhood specificity.

So what does that make me? What would I call myself in terms of my own personal approach?

First and foremost, I think that there are elements of my own upbringing that have been instrumental in my becoming a decent, upstanding person. My parents did a lot of things right with the way they raised me, and I will ensure I echo that methodology with Charlee.

I know that I will also push to form a strong emotional bond with Charlee, to ensure that she knows that she is loved and is safe.

For now, I’m very involved in everything Charlee does, and I want to ensure that she is happy, healthy, and nothing will interfere with that.

I want to also give her the foundation to become self sufficient and explore this world, taking in all of it and learning independently.

Once she finds her passion, I want her to be an expert at it and not treat something with that degree of importance inadequately.

And lastly, I will undoubtedly strive to be a compassionate, mentoring father, hoping to instil all the positivity in the world to Charlee, while at once encouraging her to become an independent, contributing, and active member of society.

So in the spirit of artistic freedom, let’s coin it, shall we?

I’ve come up with “Compassionate FAITH Parenting”, standing for:

Compassionate, Free range, Attachment, Instinctive, Tiger, Helicopter Parenting

That’s pretty catchy, eh? I’m sure it’ll stick!