When Parents Say, "How Can You Have a Meaningful Life Without Kids?"

Categories: Parenting

Photos by Jef With One F
If you've reached a stable adulthood but have not yet had any children, you've probably had people who have ask you when the hell you're going to get off your bottom and shoot your own half-clone into the world. This goes double if you're married. And depending on the tact of the people asking, you might get asked fairly rudely.

"One person even told me that I would wake up sad and alone, hating my life, if I decide not to have kids," said a friend of mine on an informal Facebook poll.

"I've been told it's unnatural for a woman to not want kids and that I should 'get help' for it," said another. "I've been told I'm selfish. I've been guilt-tripped for not giving my dad grandkids before he died."

"No matter what reason I give, people always lecture me about having babies," added a third. "I wish that it was not so socially acceptable to be so intrusive in the lives and decisions of others."

The consensus I get is that a lot of parents simply don't understand how a person's life can have any meaning without reproduction. Well, this weekend I had something of an epiphany on the subject.

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Teaching Your Kid to Read the Final Fantasy X Way

Categories: Gaming, Parenting

Jef With One F
I recently came home from my first Student Curriculum Meeting at my daughter's elementary school where she's started kindergarten. I'm totally one of those parents that goes to every meeting and follows all the online updates and reads every single progress reports. Partly it's because I want to be that kind of dad, but it's also because I work from home as a writer and that makes you starved for human interactions in Meat World.

Part of the curriculum that they're starting is obviously reading. They do letter sounds, sure, and that's important, but they are also focused on key words.

So each week my daughter comes home with a little mini book that focuses on those words. Last week it was eight pages of things like "I see the apple" and "I see the octopus". The subjects are illustrated so most of the end of the sentences are context clues, but it oesn't take her long to recognize the three easy words.

Which is good because "the" is a really important word and trying to explain it phonetically to a five-year-old is murder.

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5 Questions a Father Is Tired of Being Asked About Having a Daughter

Categories: Parenting

Photos by Lynda Rouner
In House With One F, EVERY DAY is Halloween Cookie Day.
As a full-time writer who works from home, I am the parent who is tasked with most of the errands, and because I have a five-year-old girl, she's usually out and about with me on those errands. Partly because I enjoy the company and partly because I'm pretty sure if I left her alone, she'd discover several new species of explosions.

The problem is that I'm a dude, and dudes aren't supposed to be good with kids. Especially not little girls. This often leads to ill-informed, baffled questions. Today I'd like to lay out the ones that really need to be stuffed back into the mouths of ijits and sealed with duct tape.

Where's Your Wife?
This isn't friends I may meet who might legitimately wonder where my wife is. Most of my friends live in the computer anyway and would be baffled by seeing me larger than a Facebook profile pic.

No, this question is always accompanied by two things. The first is a rather dramatic look 'round that implies I've wandered away from the main caregiver and might need leading gently back before I accidentally buy a colander instead of shoes for the kid. The second is a tone of concern, as if the only explanation for me having a little girl on my own is that her poor mother took ill with a fever and sadly passed from the world. For maximum return, pretend this takes place in the Antebellum South.

The answer is that my wife is wherever she happens to be. Probably either saving babies in the NICU or resting from that labor.

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Thank God My Daughter's Class Isn't Just Full of White People

Categories: Parenting

Photos by Lynda Rouner
As my daughter and I were walking to her third day of kindergarten I had a really proud moment as a parent. Amid the endless monologue being constantly recited came this exchange.

"Saanvi* and I are really different, but that's OK," she said.

"How are you different?" I asked, expecting the answer to revolve around her tablemate's Indian heritage.

"She doesn't have an electric toothbrush," replied the kid with the utmost sincerity.

That's the sort of thing that makes you really glad you live in a city as diverse as Houston is, and the benefits of exposing a child to people outside their own race as often as possible. My daughter's class has the widest ethnic range I've ever seen. Pretty much the entire list of options on the census card are represented.

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Leaving a Good Daycare Is Like Losing a Third Parent

Categories: Parenting

Jef With One F
My daughter starts kindergarten on Monday, and while I was pretty adequately prepared for marching my baby girl off into the jaws of the public school system armed with a Frozen backpack, a sandwich, and Star Wars shoes that make lightsaber noises, I wasn't quite as ready to deal with the fact that our family kind of lost a member when she left her daycare.

In many ways, it was like breaking up with someone.

We knew we were going to have to use daycare from the moment we got pregnant. America still languishes behind the rest of the developed world in allowing women much paid time off for early childhood, and paternity leave? Don't make me laugh. That was how I used my "vacation" days the year my daughter was born (The previous year I got to use them while evacuated from Hurricane Ike, so yes, this is my pissy dig at capitalism).

So we went on the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website and started looking through the licensed providers in various settings. That's how we met Pily, the woman who would for all intents and purposes be the third parent in our family from the time The Kid With One F was eight weeks old to just after she turned five.

That's a lot of time to spend every day with any kid.

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Is Marriage Still Important or Does It Just Make You Miserable?

Thumbnail image for married.JPG
Photo: Prashant Gupta, FX
In FX's "Married" all Nat Faxon wants is his wife and all she wants is to be left alone.
Because of the onslaught of positive reviews, I recently felt compelled to check out FX's summer sitcom Married. The plot, a married couple with children, is something I can most certainly relate to at this point in my life. Both of the show's leads, Nat Faxon and Judy Greer, are fabulous comic actors and deserve their individual days in the sun. Plus, Jenny Slate plays Faxon's wacky gal pal and I would marry/adopt her if she was willing. So I tried it, and it's pretty funny. Enough.

I don't often find sitcoms worth watching past their pilots, but I've already watched a few episodes of this show. As mentioned, the acting is good, the writing is fine, but there's something I don't like about it and it was hard to put my finger on at first. This married couple don't really seem to like each other all that much. They love each other in a Roseanne and Dan Connor kind of way - foibles and all - but unlike that real-feeling married couple, Faxon and Greer don't like each other. I don't understand why they are still married.

As a television sitcom whose focus is dysfunctional married life, FX has tapped into some new territory. But for a married woman with children, this has got me worried. Is this the obligatory path of the married couple; husband always wants sex, wife always has headache, kids are obnoxious, we can't afford the luxuries we really want. Can marriage be chalked up to just those things, and if so, why is anyone still getting married?

There are about a million research studies about the state of marriage and coupledom, many contradictory to another. Marriage makes you live longer, makes you miserable, married women are happier than single, married women are less happy than single, married men with hot wives are happier, the key to a happy marriage to for the wife to be thinner than her husband (weird), and the list goes on and on.

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Free Stuff to Do With Your Baby This Houston Summer

Categories: Parenting

Two little yoginis... sort of having fun.
Oh the joys of new mommy-hood! Waking up at an ungodly hour, feeding, praying the baby goes back to sleep long enough to pour yourself a cup of coffee and then after, perhaps, another round of feeding, then a little playtime - maybe you have one of those mat things where stuffed animals dangle in your baby's face, which they attempt to swat away because, yeah, get that freaking monkey out of my grill - and then what?

It's only 9 a.m. and you have eight more hours until it's socially acceptable to have a glass of wine, maybe seven hours. You have ten more hours until you can put the baby back to bed! What are you going to do all day?

I feel you, new moms and dads. And as a new mom of two tykes, I'm not only frantic to find ways to entertain the bros, I also have no interest in double-spending on said entertainment. I've made it my summer mission to take advantage of every free (or really cheap) baby thing possible and I will now share these with you.

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3 Horrible Truths Pro-Vaccination People Have to Admit

Categories: Parenting

Jonas Salk
First off, let me be absolutely clear here. I am extremely pro-vaccination because they work and work well. Contrary to the links you'll find in comments at the end of this story there is no scientific debate on that subject. Widespread vaccination is the best way to combat some of the most contagious and dangerous diseases that used to make living into a healthy adulthood much less likely in any given community. My daughter is fully vaccinated.

That said, there's something that I need to get off my chest, and that is that yes, the anti-vaccination crowd is indeed right about a few things. Not many things, and even the things that they are right about are often overblown because humans are very bad with statistics. Still, there are some hard, uncomfortable facts that need to be admitted if people on the side of vaccinations are not going to be labeled as hypocrites.

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Is Texas Too Red for Raising Daughters?

Categories: Parenting

I write a fair amount of articles for the Houston Press that deal with having a progressive attitude when raising a daughter. Know what the comment I see the most often under those stories is...

"Wow, hard to believe this guy is from Texas."

Some mean that as a compliment, some mean it as an insult, and others are just baffled because Texas has become home of the whoppers. While Texas has been mostly republican-controlled since the 1960s, and conservative since we dragged her kicking and screaming from the hands of Santa Anna, the landscape is becoming danger-red because that conservative powerhouse has become almost entirely dominated by Tea Party and radical right-wing candidates.

It's a not a group of people who has historically had the best interest of women at heart, at least as far as giving them freedom and aid. As the father of a four-year-old girl about to enter Texas' public school system, I honestly wonder if it's time to pack up the Kid With One F and leave my ancestral home.

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My Babies Watched TV. Am I a Bad Mother?

Fisher Price has a baby iPad seat. Hmmm....
A few years ago my husband and I had lunch with some friends and their children. Their youngest son spent the entirety of our meal watching a Nickelodeon show that neither one of us could pronounce on his mother's iPhone. At one point he dropped the phone on the floor and wailed loudly that he was momentarily without entertainment. He was two.

When this incredibly long lunch was over, my husband and I walked away with our noses pointed high in the sky. "When we have kids, they will NOT be addicted to the TV. Our kids won't even be allowed to know what a television is before the age of ten!"

Oh, how easy it is to judge the things that you know nothing about.

When we found out I was pregnant, television again became a part of our conversation about the future. It doesn't take following me on this blog for very long to know that I love television and I watch a good lot of it. I would like to think I only watch quality programming, but then Beverly Hills 90210 is my favorite show of all time. My husband is an avid sports fan and so that is also often on in the background. But both of us agree that when our twin babies became old enough to be aware of its presence, the idiot box gets powered down.

There are boatloads of studies done on the effects of television on children, babies in particular. By and large, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages parents from allowing their infants to watch television before the age of two. Despite this fact, there are endless amounts of infant-targeted programming that is supposed to encourage early word learning, stimulation and development. Baby Einstein, Brainy Baby and Baby Genius are a few titles I have come across, but there are surely more. The baby market is a hot one.

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