Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fatherhood: Father's Day

( #FathersDay )

Credit: Hallmark

Today is Father’s Day. It is the first one that I am celebrating as a father (and not just as a son). My son just passed the three month mark this week, so I thought it was just general good timing to sit down and collect my thoughts again about this whole parenting experience.

If you asked me to boil down the last three months, it has been an emotionally rewarding ride. But I am not saying that everything has been sweetness, new life means growing pains: for my son and for my wife and I. One of the skills we have had to develop is to have confidence in ourselves and put aside the advice of others.

I know that comes off as arrogant, but when it comes to children, everybody has an opinion. EVERYBODY. A couple of months ago, our doctor group (I say group, because our son has pretty much been seen a different doctor every time he goes in for a checkup) was concerned about weight, which in talking to many parents is fairly common. The doctors wanted to get the boy on formula. Of course I immediately ran out to buy some, but my wife wanted to explore other options. We read up on it and discussed the issue with certain friends and family (note that we reached out versus having advice shoved down our throats), the universal response was find a lactation consultant. We did. She resolved the issue in 5 minutes. Let me stop now and say that I don’t think there is anything wrong with formula, but I do believe that breastfeeding yields additional benefits.

I have a friend who is a nurse and he told me that most medical professionals only get a few paragraphs of training/information on breastfeeding when they are in school. This sent me into a rage because if they had more training (or had a lactation consultant on site), we would have resolved my son’s issues a few weeks earlier (and with less judgement). Since meeting with the consultant, our son has been consistently gaining the weight he needs (and the last few check-ups he exceeded the doctor’s expectations), but that didn’t stop me from asking the newest doctor why the practice was anti-breastfeeding.

She didn’t deny it. She basically said that breastfeeding is hard and when there is an issue they tell most mothers to switch to formula. That blew my mind. The takeaway lesson from this is: do your research, get several independent points of information, and obviously look at the child to see if they are: cranky, have bad skin, or have irregular bowel movements (especially urinating) to determine if you have a larger issue. Telling a doctor off is not high on my things-to-do list, but this lady needed a reality check and I hit her with hard facts, metrics (which we tracked religiously for weeks), and pointed out several flaws with their own process (complete lack of consistency). She just stammered and backed off.

That was a solid “Dad-moment” for me because my wife and I did what we believed was right and got the positive results we hoped for. We stood up against the experts because their advice was generic and the easiest possible answer to give. They used scare tactics to bully us into using their sole suggestion instead of discussing options and alternatives (or even attempting to determine what the issue was in the first place). I am not mad at the doctors because the process of finding an alternative made me more informed and thus a better parent, which has been my objective every damn second this kid has been breathing air.

On a related note, I recently read an article on CNN, that calls out the stereotype of the “idiot father”. Apparently Huggies aired a commercial that made it seem like fathers were morons and a few male bloggers took offense to it. While I think the bloggers overreacted to the commercial, I do want to comment on the changing times.

I change diapers, watch my son so my wife can go out and feel like a real human being, wash him (we still need to tag team on that - he is a slippery little bastard). I also do most of the cooking, clean the house, do the food shopping, and of course, go to work. I am not complaining; I want my son look at me and not see a stranger. I want to set a good example for him and not make him think it is okay to sit on his ass while somebody is doing work around him (and I want a little helper in the kitchen). I think there are plenty of guys out there doing the same.

I have a set of values that are not the same as my parent's, my family, or my friends (fortunately, my wife and I are on the same page). Those values have been hard earned through my mistakes and successes. I will pass these values on to my son (and any other children I have). He can choose to reject them if they don't work for him, but I will at least give him a framework so he can work this stuff out for himself and learn to be his own person - which should be the goal of any good father.

To all the Dads out there doing the best they can, Happy Father’s Day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book Review: Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire

( #OutOfOz, #BookReview )

I really liked "Wicked" when I read it several years ago. I thought flipping the whole "Wicked Witch of the West" concept over was a clever idea that resulted in a great story. The following books ("Son of a Witch" and "A Lion Among Men") were less satisfying with each page turn. "Out of Oz" follows the pattern of its predecessors, resulting in an unsatisfying conclusion.

The fourth volume focuses on Liir's daughter Rain. Maguire sets her up to be a blank slate in the beginning of the book and is the reader's point of view character up until the middle of the story. Rain's parents hide her in Glinda's estate until the tensions of the war blow over. Eventually (and obviously) Rain has to leave and spends the next quarter of the book walking around Oz with the Cowardly Lion not doing anything particularly interesting. Then the girl goes to school, echoing the Wicked Witch's (Elphaba) education in the first book. The reader needs to get through 50% of the book before really getting to know the lead.

The war between the Emerald City and Munchkinland forces Rain to leave the school with her almost-boyfriend. They find their way back to the assembled cast from the previous books and are then broken apart to wander around some more. All of this wasted page space results in a massive amount of story being told in the last few chapters. The war comes to a climax and several completely unnecessary plot twists are introduced. The characters mope around because of said twists and then the book ends with no clear resolution.

Fundamentally, my issue with the book is the literal lack of direction. The majority of the story finds the characters wandering around avoiding conflict (and thus interest). "Out of Oz" suffers from poor chronology, which Maguire admits/addresses during the whole "Trial of Dorothy Gale" section; he casually mentions that several years pass between each chapter, but the end of the book Rain is said to be between 12-15. Due to one of the twists, it would be comforting to have a clearer idea of the girl's age by the end of the book.

Maguire spends many words establishing the visuals and tone of Oz. He didn't need to, the last three books already did a fine job of painting that picture. "Out of Oz" could have been excellent with the help of strong editing and a clearer focus on the end game. There seems to be an opening for another book, but I think I am done with Greg Maguire's vision of Oz. If you haven't read any of the books start and stop with "Wicked" and thank me later.