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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McDonald's Still Just Missing the Point of Non-Gendered Toys

Categories: Parenting

Jef With One F
As I mentioned a little bit back when I was talking about my daughter playing with autistic children, I've spent a fair amount of time at McDonald's. It's cheap food, there's an air conditioned playground, the wi fi is free, and it allows my daughter to run around having fun with other kids in a secure environment while I work. The clown is good people in my book.

However, our lunch break always includes a Happy Meal, and Happy Meals come with toys. Even if the toy isn't that great, my daughter likes the present, but the gendering of toys is really starting to get on my nerves. Maybe she wants the race car more than the My Little Pony. It depends on her mood. I'm fine with McDonald's having options, but this divvying up of girls toys and boys toys is getting ever more ridiculous in this day and age.

That's why I was so happy when Happy Meal toys became all Spider-Man-based in honor of the new movie. In part it's because Peter Parker is my daughter's favorite superhero. She's watched three different animated series from beginning to end, and she was "Spider-Man as a Girl" for Halloween.

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5 Tips for Taking Young Children to a Graduation

Categories: Parenting

Annie Bulloch
This past weekend my wife graduated from nursing school, an accomplishment that is massive to someone like me whose employable skills involve overanalyzing Doctor Who and ranking video game farts. I couldn't be more proud of her, and of course I wanted to celebrate her victory over academia by attending her graduation ceremony.

Now, I have a four-year-old daughter, and like all four-year-olds, she lives in pathological fear that someone somewhere might be getting more attention than her. Still, it was important to my wife that she be present at both ceremonies. (Nurses have a special pinning ceremony in addition to a regular graduation.) That means that I had to basically corral the girl-child for around five hours all told through something even grown people feel gets pretty boring.

I did not do a very good job at this. If you've got a graduation coming up, here's a few pieces of advice I have for you.

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Mother's Day Wish List for New Moms

Categories: Parenting

I'll do anything if you stop crying! (Except take those hats off because I'm trying to get a good Facebook picture)
In my very short three months as a new mother, I have already come to realize that this is a thankless job. More thankless now, I assume, as my twin babies cannot speak. And while I don't normally condone what are really just Hallmark holidays, Mother's Day is a complete necessity if for no other reason than moms deserve to feel slightly appreciated one day out of the year. Plus, because it is Mother's Day, The Today Show gave this mom of 10 a car the other day, although I can't say if getting a free car is really worth having 10 children.

But since I'm a new mom, my level of "need for gratitude" is slightly different than someone who's been a mom for much longer. I don't "need" a night out on the town with my husband; I'd like one, but it hasn't been that long since we had one of those. I was way fatter and pregnant, but those times were some of our best dates because I actually ate. I don't "need" a bubble bath, I mean, I probably do because I smell like milk puke, but in terms of relaxing, soaking in a hot tub isn't going to do much for me when there are crying babies outside the bathroom.

This is not to say that new moms don't deserve to celebrate Mother's Day: Oh, we do. It's just that you can't buy us the things we really need at Zales or Edible Arrangements (although I would rock a fruit arrangement any day of the week). The things we need, don't exist in the real world; they are imaginary.

The Promise That Our Boobs Will Go Back To Normal
I have yet to meet a mom who said that after she stopped breastfeeding, her breasts went back to the way they were before. I don't know about celebrities, but I'll assume they've all had boob jobs. The only thing that I have heard from breastfeeding mothers is that post wean, their bosoms disappeared. Gone, evaporated, or perhaps deflated is a more accurate term. If there are any genetically blessed moms out there, please send me before and after pictures of your boobs if that's not too weird for you.

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"He's Autistic. Is It Okay if They Play Together?"

Categories: Parenting

Jef With One F
This weekend was the last weekend where I had to go find a place that was mostly free, had wifi, was air conditioned, and had something to keep my four-year-old occupied while I tried to get some writing done. My wife is finishing the final days of her nursing schooling, and the kid and I were once again banished from the house while she studied for finals. That means we went to McDonald's, where the play areas are pretty clean, we can get lunch for less than $10, Disney Jr. is on an HDTV, and there are usually plenty of little kids to make friends with.

It was also the last week of Autism Awareness Month, and apparently that brought a few more kids on the spectrum out to play than normal because my daughter met and frolicked with several of them. How do I know they were autistic? Because their parents told me. To be more accurate, they asked if their children being autistic was OK when they began playing with my own non-autistic daughter.

Took the savor out of my three McDoubles (Hold the pickles) I can tell you. Behind that question are more assholes than a toilet testing facility.

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