Posts Tagged ‘family’

I am proud of my national identity. I am English by birth, and also American by citizenship. I experience the same moment of delirious elation as many others when England’s soccer team scores a goal, the same heartbreak when the team subsequently suffers the ignominy of being eliminated from the World Cup in a penalty shoot-out. I experience immense pride and satisfaction when it is an American who wins a Nobel or a Pulitzer Prize.

But do I believe that England or America is ‘better’ than another nation? Are we morally or culturally or intellectually superior to the Iranians, or the Japanese, or the Congolese?

My answer to this is a resounding “NO!”, for Humanity is not comprised of nations, or of religions. We are people, each and every one of us, none more ‘human’ than another. America can – and often does – make a case for superiority based on its military muscle or its financial strength, but that doesn’t make David Brennan from Little Rock any more an exemplar of the species than Hidetoshi Yamagata from Sapporo or Abdul ibn-Aziz al-Rashid from Riyadh.

I am also white, male and heterosexual. Does this mean that I am more deserving of any form of recognition or respect than someone who might be black, or female, or gay? Again, “NO!”. Not in the slightest. Each of us is a shining jewel to be treasured and cherished, equally able to contribute to the betterment of our species as a whole.

It seems unfathomable to me that any subset of Humanity is considered ‘lesser’ than another in this day and age. In America, women have made immense strides toward equality over the hundred years since being granted rights which men had long taken for granted, and yet are still often perceived as inferior by some. Similarly, black Americans have made significant progress over the last half century, but still feel the sting of the ethnic divide. The LGBT community is even now struggling for many of the same rights for which women and African-Americans fought for so long. How is it possible that in the twenty-first century we are still discriminating between members of our own species?

This is not to say, however, that these differences do not matter. They matter immensely. Your gender, you ethnic and religious identity, your national origin and your sexuality are all parts of the recipe which makes you uniquely you, worthy of being celebrated. These traits may afford you a degree of insight which the prevalent majority may lack. Coupled with your intelligence, your creativity and your education, these all put you in a unique position to contribute something of immeasurable value to all seven billion of us, and I for one will celebrate alongside you as you do it.

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Mother’s Day

While I know there are other moms who read this blog, today’s post is for an audience of one.

Calendar-wise, it must be right around thirty years since my Mum first discovered she was expecting me, and in that time there have been a few ups and downs, and I’m sure I’ve been the cause of a gray hair or two (there are still only two, right?), but on the whole it’s been a great time, and I feel very privileged by Nature’s choice to team us up.

Thank you, Mum. For thirty years of love and patience.

I love you.

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Just a few bits regarding some of my favorite posting topics:

Dollhouse: The season finale of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse last night was amazing, astounding, astonishing, and quite possibly a lot of other words beginning with A.

For those of you who are interested in the show, but haven’t yet caught last week’s episode or last night’s, I’m not going to give away the identity of the guest star, but his performances in those two episodes have had “Give this man an Emmy!” written all over them. Just incredible.

Citizenship: Thank you to everyone who tweeted and Facebooked and LiveJournaled and texted and in other ways passed along their congratulations; each helped to make an already special day a little more so.

I came home last night to find this:

handmade card

… which was amazingly sweet.

Gay marriage: So I got a little pocket-sized copy of the Constitution at the ceremony yesterday, and was reading through it when I noticed something.

“Article IV, Section 1: Full faith and credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records and judicial Proceedings of every other State;”

Doesn’t that mean that these supposed decisions taken by states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states are really just the states in question deciding to do what they were already constitutionally bound to do?

And by extension, if every state is required to recognize gay marriages performed in other states, doesn’t that make banning them a little pointless?

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For a long time, I’d been curious about learning American Sign Language; I enjoy learning spoken languages, and something like ASL represented a different dimension to that.

However, unlike living in Italy, working in France and Holland, visiting Japan and taking Spanish in high school, I had no real impetus to get the process into gear. As such, I’d learn a sign here or there, and most likely forget it again. So most of the signs I actually retained were the ones used for communicating with incompetent drivers with whom one is forced to share the road.

Along came L – a seemingly very bright miniature human. Learning to talk is a fairly slow process for the vast majority of miniature humans. However, he is in possession of increasingly fine motor skills. We learned that most babies can sign words before they can say them. And so there was a reason for the whole family to learn to sign together.

A friend of ours recommended the Baby Signing Time series of DVDs, and we picked up the first two. L now watches one of these each evening, and has amassed a healthy sign vocabulary. We just ordered the third and fourth DVDs, and I hope there will eventually be more in the series. Each DVD is a series of catchy songs written so as to teach a set of signs, and since we have been watching them so often, it is fortunate that the songs are sufficiently interesting and well-written as to not drive us crazy!

L’s most frequent signs are to ask for milk or food – very often ‘more food’ – but he also signs ‘all done’, ‘drink’, ‘sleep’, ‘please’, ‘hat’, ‘wash hands’, ‘brush teeth’, variously ‘signing’ or ‘time’ (when he wants to watch the DVDs) and a few others. He will often combine them in a logical fashion (the other night, when he was tired, he signed ‘please sleep’ at me). He has also signed ‘daddy’, ‘sorry’, ‘where’, ‘ouch’ and a few others, but only once, so it’s hard to say whether those were more than just coincidental… but he’s definitely able to express way more than he would be with speech alone by this point.

I’m immensely proud of my little boy, and I cannot recommend these DVDs highly enough. Hopefully I can keep up with him as he learns more and more signs!

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*This is for a very broad definition of ‘nearly’ and a purely theoretical definition of ‘eaten’, but the alligator part is all true.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we briefly escaped the ice and snow of Rochester for a week in Fort Myers, Florida. Although more than 3 hours’ drive from Disney World, the place still has a vaguely unreal aura, at least for those of us unaccustomed to bright blue skies and 81° weather in late January.


See the difference?

Getting to see family again was great – and L got to meet his new cousin for the first time!

Also, there was an alligator.


There will be more to write about this later.

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This is the start of a new temporary (maybe 9 days) feature wherein I make lists of stuff. So yeah. Reasons 2009 won’t suck.

1. New albums from Guster and Carbon Leaf

They’re not the only ones, of course, but two perennial favorites who will be releasing new material for the first time since 2006. Perhaps this will be as good a music year as that was.

2. Radical topiary

By which I of course mean the wholesale removal of the Bushes from the political landscape. I know that Obama has an extraordinarily difficult year ahead of him, and as such I am hesitant to expect a full reversal of the Bush policies I have disagreed with. However, I believe that he is likely to bring a change for the better, and I look forward to seeing it.

3. The return of Jermain Defoe

Tottenham have been woefully short on goals this season, largely due to the previous management’s boneheaded decision to sell off our three most prolific strikers in 2008 without lining up a proven replacement. As such, we were languishing at the foot of the league for a long time. Mercifully, said management has fallen under the proverbial axe, and due to the arrival of the new manager one of those strikers is now returning. Two other existing players are beginning to find their rhythm as well, and we have won more games than we have lost in the last 4-5 weeks. Here’s hoping this continues and we can climb the table again.

4. Going to Florida

On the 23rd, we will be escaping the cold and wet and dreary weather for a week in the sticky-out bit at the bottom right of America. More on that when it happens.

5. Getting our own place

2009 will in all likelihood see us moving into a house of our own, away from the mental depredations inflicted upon us throughout the years by noisy neighbors and flaky landlords. 

6. Baby steps

L is very close to taking his first steps, and will almost certainly do so either this month or next. It’s something that is second nature to any of us, but an extremely important milestone for him, and I can’t wait to be the proud daddy when he manages it.

7. Commemorative coinage

2009 sees the extension of the State Quarters program for one more year, four new Presidential dollar coins and four commemorative pennies. OK, so it’s only 14 coins and thus about 1.2% of my collection, but there are new coins coming out and I’m a coin nerd and that therefore makes me squee like a 7-year-old seeing the newest line of Hannah Montana merchandise.

8. More interesting work

Ever since I started at Xerox, I’ve been working on one big behemoth of a project, now mercifully complete. This means that I get to do a wider variety of things.

9. Steve Jobs is still not dead

Notwithstanding the rumours that keep screwing with Apple’s stock price, one of the computer industry’s titans is still alive and kicking, and thus there will be more pretty shiny toys released this year.

So yeah. Should be a good year.

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While it is no surprise to me that the lyrics to many kiddie songs are both insipid and inane, I had not given a great deal of thought to very much of the content. Some of the sentiments and concepts expressed are extremely odd, and some are just plain scary to contemplate.

As such, I present a kiddie hit parade of sorts – the songs I refer to will doubtless be known to you all.

1. Your father is bribing you to shut up by buying you all kinds of stuff. Much of it appears to be livestock.

2. Some lunatic decided to put your cradle in a tree and I am now trying to convince you to sleep in it, presumably with the idea that when high winds hit, you’ll get a surprise. And this is good. Really.

3. Field mice are evil, the resolution of which lies in cranial trauma administered by a rabbit.

4. Speaking of cranial trauma, the protagonist of our next ditty not only suffered the injury and indignity of falling down a hill, but also the painful cauterization of the resulting wound with whatever substance was convenient and acidic, in this case vinegar.

5. Living in footwear is apparently not conducive to birth control, nor to the ability to feed your kids, though it does give you quite the background for child abuse.

6. When your true love drowns in the sea and you are unable to save her, you still have her sister as a backup option once you have made it through the obligatory four verses of grieving.

7. Spiders have nothing better to do than climb up spouts, and are too stupid to find somewhere else to go in bad weather. And we are supposed to believe this of a species that also engages in the laudable practice of helping young women get off their tuffets and get some exercise.

8. Egg-shaped people should avoid sitting on masonry, for they are too fragile to survive loss of balance. They are also rather less subject to re-assembly than, say, an IKEA bookshelf.

I’m sure I could come up with many more, but that’s all I can think of for the moment. If you feel inclined to comment with others, I look forward to reading them.

Also – though of a less traumatic bent – does anyone know the escape velocity required to counteract the gravitational pull of mulberry bushes?

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What about Dad?

Laughable though this may sound, this blog is by a married, heterosexual white male, and I’m pushing for some equality around here.

I am blessed with a three-month-old son, in whose life I am extremely involved. I love every moment of being his Daddy – notwithstanding the occasional screaming, the loss of sleep and the sometimes very icky diaper changes. As such, it has become very bothersome to me that so many businesses out there are catering to mothers with babies. Parenting magazines advertise their contents as being the things Mom needs to know, cafés have facilities for diaper changing in the ladies’ room only, books and DVDs and baby-care advertisers all target Mom as the primary decision-maker and nurturing influence in baby’s life.

What about DAD?

There are single fathers out there doing the best they can in a world which barely admits their existence. There are couples out there including loving dads like myself who genuinely want to do their share in raising their children. There are moms who need a break sometimes and need Dad to be able to take over. Maybe it’s time to reward the people who support the role a father can play, if only he is allowed to do so.

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I’m a dad!

It is a widely-held opinion that few places in the world are as depressing as hospitals. Like the sick-houses of centuries past, these largely unlovely buildings are a refuge for the infirm, a reminder of one’s own susceptibility to any of a million accidents and ailments. And yet, it was in the depths of a local hospital that I experienced one of the most profoundly joyous events of my life, an event the memory of which never fails to fill me with love and hope.

Let’s rewind a bit.

It wasn’t long until Christmas. Night had fallen just a few hours prior, signaling the end of Hanukkah. A season of celebration was in full swing, and so it was that D and I were visiting with dear friends. At this point, D was nine months and four days pregnant, in defiance of over three weeks’ worth of “any day now” pronouncements by the doctors. Games were played, good food was enjoyed, and the air was filled with music and laughter.

It was in the midst of this, at around 8:30, that D took up pencil and paper and developed an intense interest in the clock. What she was feeling now was in sharp contrast to the Braxton-Hicks false alarms of the past few weeks. This was more pronounced, more acute. Smiles flitted from face to face as it became obvious what exactly she was timing. Could this be it?

Nevertheless, the soiree drew to a close with no particular regularity in the times yet. The drive home yielded a few more numbers for the pencil to mark, and the preparations for going to bed did likewise.

I had been sleeping in the next room, such that my oft-lamented propensity for snoring would not deprive D of much-needed sleep. And so it was that I slept as D shuffled down the hallway to the bathroom, confirming the news to which I would awake minutes later: her water had broken.

Let me jump out of the story for a moment; I would like to mention to any readers currently childless that there are very few pieces of news which can bring one from “deep slumber” to “fully alert and on one’s feet” quite as fast as hearing that one’s child is announcing his imminent arrival.

The news which so set me afire was delivered at 4:12 on the morning of December 13th, 2007. And like a motion picture cliche, the flurry of activity that followed took us through the collection of our necessary belongings and across town to the hospital, where we arrived at 4:58. Forty-six minutes. I may never have moved so fast, and may never again.

In the Triage room came the fluid check (sure enough, that’s amniotic fluid, your water has broken!); the cervix check (you’re at 5 centimeters, coming along nicely); and we again heard the little heartbeat on the monitor, heard the little feet kick at the sensors with uncanny accuracy. The contractions were not yet regular, but since the water had broken, D was admitted.

And so, here we were. It was time. Calls were made to our nearest and dearest. D’s Mom set out from Ithaca to Rochester, and our local friends likewise converged upon us.

The birth team being present two hours later, little had changed. After the initial race, the pace had backed off and we settled in, waiting to see when it would happen. To help move things along, D took showers, walked laps with us around the birth center, and any other suggestion provided by the ever-helpful staff. Ten o’clock came and went, as did eleven. At this point, D’s OB/GYN paid us a visit and performed another check. Six centimeters. I would say as slow as molasses, but even the most sluggardly molasses on a cold day can cover a centimeter in six hours.

Options were discussed. Doing this with as little chemical assistance as possible had been our plan, and as such when the dreaded P-word was first mentioned, the idea was rejected. If this could happen without a Pitocin drip, then we wanted to let it. So it was decided that we would wait a while longer for there to be progress. We could not wait too long after the water breaking, but we could give it a little while. So we waited.

And we waited.

At around 2:30, we decided with some regret and trepidation that perhaps the Pitocin would be a good idea after all. Of course, this meant being hooked up to an IV drip, so no further walking around the birth center. None of this being what we had imagined and hoped for. Nevertheless, while this development muted it to an extent, my excitement was still building.

The Pitocin was given at the lowest dose first, with tiny increases every 15 minutes. It took some time, to be sure, but it seemed to be getting the job done. The contractions grew closer, and more regular. Each so often – though infrequently enough to minimize any risk – there would be another examination, and the numbers grew – this far dilated, that far effaced. The hours crept on.

It was getting late in the day, and the contractions were starting to hurt more. To take the edge off the pain and allow D to get some sleep, the nurses put some Nubain in the IV. And so there was sleep.

At 9:30, perhaps a little later, D told me, “I have to push now.” As had been described in our birthing class, this was an urge both imperious and imperative, a compulsion which could not and would not be gainsaid. At that point, she was at nine centimeters, so close and yet so far. The last centimeter came soon, though, and I stepped out to the nurses’ station and told them simply, “It’s time.” In they rushed for one last check – yep, most definitely time.

The doctor joined us to see D through the culmination of nine months of preparation. Pushing began, and I had my first glimpses of my little boy’s head.

From here on, much of the experience was simply so wondrous as to defy verbal description, even by an author far greater than myself. I will, however, do my best. Knowing that we could see something seemed to help D bear down and give her renewed strength for the pushing. She asked if the baby had hair, a question we could now answer with an emphatic yes. I think, over the course of her pushing, she asked this question several times – perhaps also for the same inspiration.

For 45 minutes she pushed. Only briefly did she surrender to the difficulty and say “I can’t do this”, and with the reassurance of her team and the onset of the next contraction, she continued pushing.

At this point, one of the nurses handed me a pair of latex gloves so that I could catch the baby. My hands covered, I made ready to do just that, and then held D’s foot briefly to help her stay in position. So, of course, out came a second set of gloves and a rather sheepish expression on my face. This time, I relinquished foot-holding duty and focused solely on being ready to catch the baby.

At last his head was out, and it was time for the final push. With a noise I could not possibly describe – but “splorch” comes fairly close – out he came into my waiting hands, greeted by a sea of beaming smiles and no small number of tears. Next came the cutting of the cord. I viewed this with a great deal of trepidation – for nine months, this cord had given my baby life and sustenance, and now I was being asked to sever it, for ever. Nonetheless, I comforted myself with the thought that there are almost seven billion people out there who have been detached from their mothers in just such a fashion, and they seem to be doing pretty well. So. Snip. 10:46, just over 26 hours after D had started timing.

And with that, it was done – he was washed clean and measured and weighed, and I got to see him again. All of the names we had considered for him flew through my head at this point, and one settled upon him, seeming just right. He will henceforth be referred to in this blog as L.

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On impending arrivals

Baby. This has, unsurprisingly, been very much at the forefront of my consciousness of late. Not necessarily anything specific, just Baby.

All things considered, I’ve been dealing with the impending changes pretty well, making sure that things are in good shape ahead of time. I have occasional moments of Eep, particularly when there are new developments – sharper contractions and the like. And I know that at this point, most events are going to be in the ‘new developments’ category. So there will probably be a little more Eep to come.

I can’t say I’m completely unconcerned – I sometimes wonder about the what-ifs. What if there are complications during childbirth and something happens to either D or to the baby. I can comfort myself with statistics showing how unlikely it is that any given thing will happen, and with the knowledge that so far there’s been no indication of anything negative, but such questions do still flit across my mind. I want to be prepared for absolutely everything, and not all of it can realistically fit in my head – or anyone’s.

The idea of being a parent is also a little daunting at times. I wouldn’t go so far as to say scary, but definitely daunting. There’s a lot that I don’t know – indeed, that I can’t know – and a lot of situations to come wherein I will have to make on-the-spot decisions about what’s OK and what’s not, things where I won’t have time to Google things and do a bunch of research. Sometimes I worry about missing ‘firsts’. First steps, first tooth, first words… so many things that I feel duty-bound to be there for, and I worry that it’ll happen when I’m not there – even if I’m just taking a shower or something. I can handle things like feedings and diaper changes and so on, but missing a ‘first’ would make me feel terrible.

I don’t have as much as I would like in the way of a frame of reference for fatherhood. My Dad is a wonderful guy, but in order to make sure the family could have everything they needed, he worked long hours and traveled a lot. There were school events that he missed, there were times when I’d have liked to have him there and he wasn’t. The gift of a new toy at the end of his being away for three weeks in Japan was a neat thing at the time, but in the long run it didn’t make up for him not being there. Nowadays, I understand why he worked the long hours, and I have nothing but respect for his dedication to keeping food on the table and allowing us the luxuries we enjoyed, but I don’t want to short my son on Dad-time to do the same. I want to know that I can be there for everything, and still not neglect other responsibilities like working. If he plays in a Little League game, I want to be sitting in the bleachers cheering him on with all the passion of being at an England soccer game at Wembley Stadium, and yet with that much more because That’s My Kid Out There. If he’s in a school play or playing kiddie songs in a piano recital, I want to be there enjoying it like the greatest Broadway show, and yet that much more because That’s My Kid Up There.

I want to be able to guide him through the traps and pitfalls of growing up, and find a balance whereby I’m not overbearing and making him resent that I’m not letting him do things for himself. I want to keep him safe from injury, but not deny him the right to go out and climb a tree with his friends if he so wishes. I want to show him that I’m proud of him without embarrassing him by making too big a deal of things. I want to allow him to push his limits and be experimental, and yet watch like a hawk for anything that might be bad for him. I want him to succeed, but I don’t want to push him so hard that he ends up hating me for it.

Ultimately, what this amounts to is that I feel like I’m walking a tightrope, but he’s the one who’s going to fall off if I lose my footing. And logically I know I can’t do everything, that there will be some mistakes and missed opportunities, some things I’ll say or do that I wish I could take back, some times when there’s a right thing I could say or do and I don’t. Every parent has moments like those, and it’s not realistic to expect that I won’t. But I still want everything to be perfect, because That’s My Kid In There, and this is not something I can get a do-over on.

Basically… I want to be a great Dad. Not just an OK Dad, or even just a good Dad, but a great Dad. And I fully believe I have it in me to be that, but I worry about goofing it up. I also want to continue to be as good a husband, friend and employee as I can be, as applicable, without that taking away from Dadness.

Those of you reading this who are parents are probably chuckling at this point, and have probably all felt this way and wanted everything to be perfect. And each and every one of you seems to be a great parent. I just want to be sure I can be a part of that too.

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