Friday, February 20, 2009

I Wanna Be a Mean Parent

When I was a child, my parents were mean. Horribly mean. And, I hope that I will be just as mean as they were.

My parents weren't physically, emotionally, verbally, or psychologically abusive. That's not the kind of "mean" that I'm talking about.

When other kids had Oreos and ice cream for breakfast, we had to have eggs, toast, or cereal. When other kids had Pepsi and chips for lunch, we had sandwiches and carrots. While other kids had pizza and cake for dinner every night, my mean parents gave us healthy meats, potatoes, vegetables, and fruits. My parents were mean when it came to food.

We were required to be clean and wear clean clothes; other kids could wear the same clothes for days. We had to have normal, appropriate haircuts; other kids were allowed to be rebellious with their hair. We had to look “presentable.” Since I'm the oldest of their three children, I didn't have to wear hand-me-down clothes, but my mean parents made my brother and sister wear my old-but-still-good clothes, just to save money for other things like college. Can you imagine?

Our mean parents gave us bedtimes. And we had to stick to them! While other kids got to sleep until noon on the weekends and have no responsibilities, my parents completely disregarded child labor laws and gave us chores to do before we could play. We had to help with the dishes, set the table for meals, and keep our toys picked up. It was like they dreamed up chores for us to do in their sleep! Where did they come with these unreasonable expectations?!

Once we were in school, things got even worse. We had to walk to the bus stop, about a block away, for junior high and high school. Even in the rain and when it was cold. Other kids got to sit in their parents’ fancy car, even on nice days, avoiding the unrestricted socialization with the kids besides us with mean parents.

My brother, sister and I weren't allowed to be "sick" like our friends and miss school. Some other kids could stay home by themselves when they had a headache, hangnail or other critical ailment. Not us. In fact, I can distinctly remember my mother saying "You're not sick, you just have a cold. Get up and go to school." We never got pulled from school to go on vacations. "That's what summers are for," we were told.

They were mean about our grades, too. While other kids celebrated Cs and Ds and just passing classes, my parents accepted nothing less than As and Bs. Somehow they knew that if we got anything less, we weren't really trying. They had us figured out. They were actually involved in our education. They kept tabs on major projects, annoyed us about completing our homework, and constantly asked if we needed help. We were expected to speak properly, and write even better. It was horrible. Come graduation time, none of us were allowed to drop out and we were expected to go to college. Just awful.

Our mean parents made us go to church every week. We couldn't skip and stay home like some other kids. We weren't allowed to wear jeans or shorts and we had to look presentable. We had to pray, participate, and pay attention in our Sunday School classes and during the service. Unlike some of the other kids, we weren't allowed to climb on the pews, make noise, or fall asleep. It was completely unfair.

When we were older, my mean parents insisted on knowing where we were at all times. They had to know where we were going, when we were getting back, and who we were going with. If plans changed, we were required to call. If we were late, we had some explaining to do.

They set rules and boundaries for the three of us. They knew how to say "no" and weren't afraid to do so. Their "no"s were uncompromising and there was no negotiating the standards of behavior that were expected. Even if they didn't totally agree with everything, they worked as an unwavering team to set the bar high and expect the best from us, always.

Somehow, their mean-ness worked. All three of us grew up to be well-adjusted, polite and well-spoken. None of us have been arrested or talk like Valley Girls. We all hold college degrees (one of us, multiple!) and are now successful on our own. They taught us to be tough, smart, and strong. None of us are entitlement-minded or dependent on anyone or anything. We grew up to be honest, God-fearing, and self-motivated. And, we owe it all to our horrendously mean parents.

Now, with a child of my own, I hope to set the same mean standards and expectations. I can only hope to be as mean a parent as they were. I can’t wait to use one of my favorite phrases, “You’re not sick, you just have a cold,” and I can guarantee you that I will be filled with pride when my child finally calls me "mean."

So, if you're reading Mom and Dad, thanks for being so darn mean.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cool Things I Learned About Childbirth

If you've got a thing about blood, poop, or medical stuff, you may want to skip this post. Seriously.

As I stated in the previous post, I was heavily involved in the birth of our son about two weeks ago. I asked lots of questions, got as close as they'd allow, and kept involved as much as possible. I learned a tremendous amount, and had a great time on my little science-y field trip to the labor and delivery room with my wife. Here's just some highlights:

  • Contractions are surprisingly consistent and predictable, both in frequency and magnitude. I loved the live data that the monitors were able to acquire regarding heart rate, blood pressure, and the contractions.
  • Internal heart rate monitors (for the baby in utero) are actually screwed into his scalp when it's visible through the vagina. Like a tiny fishhook.
  • The baby's first poop is actually meconium and is from swallowing amniotic fluid and such.
  • Babies can have their first poop in utero. This can cause some problems immediately after birth, so the uterus is flushed out with clean fluid during delivery.
  • Once the baby's head is out, things move pretty quickly. No, I take that back. Darn near instantly.
  • Babies are sometimes born with splotches of vernix on them, which is a waxy, protective gunk. It kind of looks like soft, white cheese.
  • Umbilical cords are much thicker than I thought and when you cut it, it feels like you're cutting rubber tubing.
  • After the rest of the umbilical cord and placenta are delivered, you have to inspect the placenta to ensure that all of it made the trip out. Small pieces left inside are dangerous.
  • The placenta and umbilical cord pulsate a bit after they're out. Yes, it's as creepy as it sounds.
  • If the doctor decides that an episiotomy is needed, they're quick and precise with the scissors. If you blink, you miss it.
  • There are different levels of tearing, one to four. Level two isn't bad.
  • They put antibacterial gel on the baby's eyes shortly after birth to prevent infection.
  • Babies sometimes come out with fine hair on their back and shoulders called lanugo. It falls out after a little while.
  • There's a slick little tool that's used to perform the circumcision of newborns. It makes it darn near impossible to mess up. It even comes in different sizes. :)

All in all, it was a very educational trip.


My Really Good Reason

It’s been a while since I posted, and I have a really good reason, I promise.

On Monday, February 9th, my lovely wife gave birth to our perfect baby boy. As a first-time father, I can tell you that it was absolutely unbelievable on so many levels.

First, I thought I was prepared mentally and thought that I understood what it would feel like to be a father. I wasn’t. Not even close.

As soon as he was born, I cried. When I held him for the first time, I cried. When I changed his first diaper and held his little hand, I cried. Even now, over a week later, I look into his tiny eyes as I hold him and just cry tears of joy. I was completely unprepared and I don’t think I could have ever fully understood before it happened.

Second, I learned that my wife is probably the strongest woman I have ever met. I had no idea that she had it in her. She was absolutely incredible. To see the anguish and effort that she went through was absolutely amazing. She was a trooper. She was WonderWoman. I will never forget her toughness she showed through 18 hours of labor and over two hours of pushing. She was completely inspiring and now carries an ever greater air of self-confidence and strength. I love what this baby has done to her.

With the touch-feely, decidedly un-manly stuff out of the way, I have to say that from a nerdy point of view, the birth and subsequent few days was awesome. I’m not one to shy away from questions or interactions, so it was like a big science-y, medical vacation for me. I learned about epidurals, meconium, and contractions. I learned how the contraction monitors work, how internal heart rate monitors work, and the whys and hows of the birth of a child. I got to see the first glimpse of my son’s head, and hear his first cries. I got to cut his umbilical cord and help with APGAR scoring. Not being one to turn down a science-y opportunity to learn hands-on, I learned about the afterbirth and the delivery of the placenta (much to my wife’s chagrin).

On the day after my son was born, I asked many questions to the pediatrician, and even got to help with circumcision. While it sounds a little disturbing, it was awesome.

I was lucky that the doctors and nurses we had were so friendly and open to questions. I’m sure they don’t get too many people like me, so I’m glad they were so willing to share their knowledge and allow me to get a little closer than most probably dare.

After being involved every step of the way, I can assuredly say that the birth of a child truly is nothing short of a miracle.


(Isn't he cute?)