Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Circumcision: Update

Hey, remember a few weeks ago when I set the internet on fire by asking whether or not I should lop off the tip of my kid's wang? And by chop off my son's penis, I mean consent to minor cosmetic surgery to remove his foreskin, a tradition in Western culture that most likely would have little effect on my son's future development.  And by simple, elective procedure, I of course mean an invasive surgery akin only to genital mutilation and child abuse. Remember that blog? Yeah, me too. 

So do a lot of people. I still get all sorts of e-mails asking what decision we came to. Some of them are a bit aggressive, but most are very kind and concerned. So to ease inquiring minds, this week's blog is an update to my previous circumcision blog. (If you haven't read it, I suggest you start there.)

Instead of teasing it for 600 words, going to commercial, coming back, lowering the lights, opening an envelope and then going on for a few more minutes on how the votes were tallied, I'm just going to get right to it. We have decided to not circumcise our son.

Now to be fair, the first paragraph of this blog touched on the extremes of the conversation. Our decision was made with the help of the many comments from the center.  We also talked to our doctor and our family and friends. I even asked my two-year-old daughter. Her answer was something about wanting string cheese. To be honest, I probably publicized a personal decision too much.  I'm glad I did though, because with all of your help and love I know that we're making the best decision for us.

A few points I'd like to make

On the original blog and the comments:

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you to everyone who commented! The original blog highlighted one of my main goals with Ask Your Dad Blog, which is to have conversations about the parts of parenthood people don't usually talk about. I understood that circumcision is a sensitive topic, but it was wonderful hearing from folks on both sides.

Now… if you read the comments on the original post you know that they were weighted somewhat dramatically to one side. A bit of explanation is warranted.

The original circumcision blog was found and posted on an anti-circumcision message board hosted on Reddit.com. This brought in a lot of wonderful visitors that contributed helpful, kind and productive comments to the conversation.  They linked to great articles and sent me some very nice private e-mails that presented a rational argument against circumcision.

It also brought a few folks who were nearly militant with their beliefs and thought personally attacking people with differing opinions than theirs would help prove their point. While I left anything that made a point in the argument, any comment that was personally attacking another commenter was removed.  (These were the rare exception though.)

On our decision to not circumcision:

I do not think that those who choose to circumcise are cruel parents, less intelligent, or even less informed.  I have many friends who made the decision to circumcise their sons and not only do I consider them spectacular parents, but I also look up to them as role models of the type of parent I'd like to be in a few years.  

I do not think that circumcision is evil. Based off everything I learned, I don't think it is necessary. But it's not evil. Like I mentioned before, I'm circumcised and I like my penis just fine. I also feel no ill will towards my parent's decision. I did find it surprising that when I talked to my mom she mentioned that if she had the decision to make again she didn't know if she'd make the same one.  In fact, she said she probably wouldn't.


I support a parent's right to make the decision. Here's why I made mine:

One thing kept hitting home for us. If it's not a religious issue for us (it's not), and there's very little legitimate medical reasoning to do it… then why do it? I trust my communication skills enough to explain to my son someday why his little guy is wearing a turtleneck. Hell, I'll just show him this blog (which honestly, will probably damage him much more than the circumcision ever would have.) At the end of the day, there were more reasons not to circumcise than there were reasons to circumcise. And thus, our decision was made.

It was a personal decision and I am glad I (we) had the right to make it. It involved me in my unborn son's life in a way that made me feel closer to the little guy. Up until that point I had thought of him in fluffy generalizations like "ooh we'll play catch in the back yard someday" and "ooh I'll have to learn how to throw a baseball someday". Remembering that all decisions aren't simple made him seem more real than any silly day dream I've had. And while some decisions are going to need to be made on the fly, I'm glad we had nine months to make this one.

Thanks again!


Washington Monument With A Bow
This picture makes more sense if you read the last circumcision blog. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The 5 Dumbest Things I Did in My First Two Years as a Father

My little girl turns two next week. I write that sentence, and yet it still feels unreal - from both directions. I can't believe two years have disappeared and, at the same time, I feel like she's been a part of our lives for much, much longer than that.  I have my theories on how this paradox occurs. One is, that while a baby is crying, time slows to a crawl (pun intended) and a minute is an hour. If that theory proves to be true, I aged about two years just during bedtime last night.

Anyway, my wife suggested that I write a blog looking back at the last two years with our daughter. Unfortunately, such a blog would be the length of a novel. So instead, I'm going to dig into my bag of lazy blogger tricks and make a list.

The 5 Dumbest Things I Did in My First Two Years as a Father

1. I worried for the entire 9 months before she got here.

I slept less before the baby came than I did when she got here. Seriously. Miscarriage, Down's Syndrome, Mental Retardation, Cleft Palate, Still Born, Maternal Death, Blood Sucking Spider Baby (that one was actually a nightmare from when I did fall asleep). I worked myself up about every possibility (and impossibility). I wouldn't just worry about those things. I obsessed about them. I'd imagine how I'd react if they happened. I had conversations in my head. I bathed in my worry. It was horrible. It was a giant waste of time.

What I've learned:

It wasn't a giant waste of time because those aren't serious things. It wasn't even a giant waste of time because those things are statistically unlikely to happen. (Don't worry. I Googled the numbers in the midst of my madness. They didn't help). It was a waste of time because my worrying had zero effect on the outcome, nor did it prepare me for something to happen if it did. If our daughter had arrived with a birth defect, illness, malady, arachnid like features I would have loved her. And we would have figured out the next steps. And we would have loved her. And our lives would have been made better by her existence. I know this with every inch of everything I am. It comforts me. And now, with our son less than three months from getting here, I sleep well.

2. I compared our daughter to other kids.

Our close friends' little boy, born about a week after our girl, walked first. They posted a video of it on Facebook and I went a little crazy inside. Why isn't our child walking? Are we doing something wrong? Are they doing something we're not? Did they post that video just to spite me! Did they work extra hard to teach their child to walk just to prove they're better parents? I'll show them! Child, put on those ridiculously small roller blades that I ordered from unrealparentalexpectations.com. We're making a movie!!!!

What I've learned:

One year olds cannot rollerblade. That, and I had unreasonably high expectations for my child's first two years of life. Aside from how to keep a kid alive, you know what I've learned in the last year? No? Neither do I. You know what my kid learned? She's learned more words of a language than I learned in all of high-school and college combined. She's learned colors, shapes, animal noises and names, puzzles, spatial relations, object permanence, how to get what she wants through a combination of looks, tears, and sometimes poop... AND how to walk. And I would look at her and think "WHY AREN'T YOUR TEETH GROWING FASTER!?"

Kids dictate their own development schedule, not my anxiety. And parents post videos of their kids because they're proud of them, not because they want to show off what their kid can do. (Who am I kidding, we all show off. I'm the worst offender I know.)

3. I was carrying my daughter into her room and smacked her head against the door frame.

When my wife asked why she was crying I shrugged and said that I had no idea.

What I've learned:

Spatial relations. I'm a little behind the curve. Sorry honey!

4. I gave advice to other parents.

You're a first year parent? Tell me again how to get my toddler to go to bed.

I was like the freshman senator who thinks he can fix the entire system with moxy, and gumption, and sleeping on a cot in his office! Your kid isn't sleeping? Let me tell you how I get mine to sleep. Get this… I lay her in her bed. I think the secret is the "I lay her in her bed" part. You're welcome.

What I've learned:

Being a parent does not make you "every parent." I wish I could take back every piece of advice I gave friends with kids older than mine. I was a cocky novice with a superiority complex. Most of the things I thought I was doing right were merely gifts from the gods: easily given, easily taken away. That easy bedtime I bragged about causing with my made up bedtime skills? 2 hours now. That clean nursery we claimed anyone could do if they just put in the time and effort? It's simple when your baby is a paperweight. I'm sorry. Build me a time machine and I'll go back and slap myself. And kill Hitler.

5. I didn't say thank you enough.

This is the big one. My mother in law watches our kid four days a week. My sister and her husband will babysit at a moment's notice. My father-in-law and his wonderful wife have been there on numerous occasions to lend a hand, as well as my best friend and my sister-in-law. My mom, my dad, cousins and grandparents are a phone call away all day, every day.

What I've learned:

We didn't do this alone. Our family and friends have formed a support structure for us that is so integral to our lives that it leaves me choking back tears as I write this. I am endlessly grateful for all of the love that is in our life, and I know how lucky (my religious friends would say blessed) we are to have it. So I promise to say thank you more. Starting now.

Thank you. All of you.


I want to know: What are your things that you would have done differently? Leave comments! Comments make me very happy!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dancing With My Daughter

I am the best dancer my daughter knows. In fact, as far as she is concerned, I am the greatest dancer in the whole world. I know all the dances. I know "fast feet" (that's the one where you move your feet really fast). I know "clap your hands" (that’s the one where you clap your hands). I know the "daddy may have left a large portion of his pinky toe on the ottoman and is currently trying not to cry while simultaneously trying not to teach his word-sponge of a daughter easily pronounceable, single-syllable words that rhyme with 'truck' and 'punt'" dance... (That's her favorite one, by the way. She laughs and laughs and laughs…. Because it's SOOOOOOO FREAKING FUNNY).

It started when I was talking to my grandma the other day. My grandmother is THE matriarch of the family. She is tough as nails, resilient as a rubber band, and able to say more in a sentence than most say in a life time. When I got my first job she wrote me a letter telling me how important honesty was to an employer and how I should never steal, no matter what the temptation - even if I knew I would never get caught. I was a rebellious little shit at the time, and to be honest I probably would have filled my pockets had it not been for that letter. But I knew the grave consequences that awaited me if I did. My grandma would be disappointed in me. That's it. She wouldn't have smacked me upside the head, or called the police. She just would have been sad. She is just that lovable… and remarkably powerful.

She's always got good advice like that, which is what I was expecting when I talked to her the other day. Keep your kids off drugs. Teach them to read before kindergarten. Always know where you are financially and always make a budget. Instead she said "Johnny, (she still calls me Johnny) you be sure to dance with that little girl. You dance with her as much as you can. Kids love dancing with their parents." And so I did. I started dancing with my daughter whenever possible.

And by God, she was right. My kid loves dancing with me. And I love dancing with my kid. I don't care if I look like a bearded hippo trying to relocate his shoulder like Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon, she laughs and then tries to do it too. The way we communicate while dancing is, in some ways, better than talking. It's more immediate. I put my hands up, and she puts her hand up. I pat my belly. She pats her belly. I clench my foot in my hand, scream, fall to the ground and roll around mumbling obscenities… and she laughs. The little shit laughs. Still, I get back up and dance some more. It's just that much fun.

I'm still going to teach her to read and make a budget. I'm still going to teach her to be kind and loving and to never steal from her future employer. I'm pretty sure my grandma knew I had already planned to teach my kids those things. Never in a million years did I think I'd teach my daughter to dance. And that my friends, is why she told me to do it. My grandma is a very smart woman. I hope my daughter inherited some of her genes. Thanks Grandma.

Dancing like no one is watching (dear God please don't let anyone be watching), 


Dancing With My Daughter

P.S. I can't post about dancing without showing off my nephew's sick dancing skills. I can only hope to someday be as truly awesome as he is.

Monday, July 2, 2012

You've Got (Hate) Mail!

Ladies and gentleman, I have arrived. I received my first piece of hate-mail this weekend. As hate mail goes, it's actually rather tame, but I was excited to get it none the less. I stumbled across an anti-gay parenting blog the other day (I'm not going to link to it because they don't deserve the traffic.) They had written a blog about how gay parents are ruining the world and gay people should just "keep it in the bedroom." I left this comment:

Turns out that someone followed my profile back to Ask Your Dad, read my blog, and sent me my very first HATE MAIL!!

I promise I won't make a habit of sharing every piece of useless hate-vomit I receive in my inbox, but in honor of my very first one I thought I'd share the original and an annotated version.

Original, unedited e-mail

"Are you a feminist? I saw your comment supporting LGBTs as a "straight father". The only "straight fathers" I know who do that are feminists. Children need both a father and a mother. Both men and women. Feminist men are sickening and are contributing to the downfall of the West. Instead of having the picture of that man in black and white do the following: post a picture of Barack Obama and Sandra Fluke. Thank goodness that feminist women don't reproduce. Your working "wife/mother" is probably one of the older generations. Young feminist girls don't have children anymore thanks to contraception and abortion. It's a good girl and there will be less of them around."

- Young Anti-Feminist Millennial Girl

OK, let's break it down:

Are you a feminist? (I don't have a picture of Gloria Steinem in my wallet, and I try to avoid labels where possible, but if you're asking if I support women's rights, then yes I do.)

I saw your comment supporting LGBTs as a "straight father" (I like the quotation marks she puts around straight father. I can almost picture her making them with her hands.)

The only "straight fathers" (More ironic quotation marks) I know who do that are feminists. (These "straight" "feminist" "LGBT loving" "fathers" you "know" must just "LOVE" you. I bet you're just the "life" of the party.)  

Children need both a father and a mother. Both men and women. (Those two sentences are a bit redundant, but ok. Arguing the importance of the nuclear family is a conversation worth having. I disagree with you to some degree. But I'm definitely willing to have a calm, rational discussion… ) Feminist men are sickening and are contributing to the downfall of the West. (And… you've lost me. You know, if you hate us women-loving Westies so much I know a couple countries where you'd just have a wonderful time!)  

Instead of having the picture of that man in black and white do the following: post a picture of Barack Obama and Sandra Fluke. (In the banner? Now you're just being silly. But OK.)

Thank goodness that feminist women don't reproduce. (Science) Your working "wife/mother" is probably one of the older generations. Young feminist girls don't have children anymore thanks to contraception and abortion. (More Science. You can't argue with that.) It's a good girl and there will be less of them around. (I'm not sure what happened with this last sentence. My guess is that the author shoved her head so far up her own ass that the voice-to-text software she uses to compose angry e-mails whilst inserting her head into her rectum was unable to fully translate it. If I were to take a guess at its meaning, it would be that last sentence is saying that it's a good thing that I have a daughter who I will, no doubt, imbue with my LGBT loving, feminist qualities - in turn socially sterilizing her with a contraception ridden, abortion filled life… and this is a good thing to the author because that will be the end of Feminism. You're welcome.)

- Young Anti-Feminist Millennial Girl (Well, with a name like that her parents really picked her path for her. I suppose I should have named my daughter Young Pro-Women's Rights Future Abortion Factory Contraception Consumption Mcgee. That was on our list, but my wife said no.)


So there you have it. I'd like to thank Young for taking the time to send me the e-mail. It felt good to laugh this weekend. I sincerely hope that she passes along her love and tolerance to the dozens of children I'm sure she is in the process of conceiving.


P.S. One more exciting note. Aside from the joy that was receiving my first hate mail, Ask Your Dad Blog hit two semi-major milestones last week. The Facebook Fan Page hit 100 followers and the blog itself surpassed 10,000 views in the two months it has been up! Thank you all for your support and please keep reading. I'm having a blast and hope you are too!

Hopefully this isn't just my mom hitting the refresh button to make me feel better.