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My nine year-old softball plpDSP1-14739929p275wayer of a daughter needs a fielding mask because it is required for pitchers and she is dying to take the mound, but I find that part of me resists. For two years I avoided buying a facemask as they were not required, and there were enough expenses to go around with the buying of bats and gloves and batting helmets. Finally it looks as if I’ll have to warm up to the idea of her wearing a mask and prowling the infield with a plastic cage strapped over her eyes, nose and mouth. Growing up I never wore a mask playing baseball, and when I glance at the boys playing on an adjacent field, I notice that not a one of them are wearing masks either.

I’m honestly not sure she really needs the mask but what bothers me more is the openly chauvinist practice playing out across baseball diamonds where girls are required to wear masks and boys are not. Whereas no one has suggested boys wear these masks, mass e-mails have been sent out by our local and national little league concerning girls’ safety and the risk of injury from softballs striking them in the face. Money was pooled to get masks at a cheaper rate. These masks are not helmets and do not protect the entire head from injury, only the face. Why not just have them trot out there in batting helmets if they truly want to protect them? But aren’t boys exposed to the same risks? My son plays baseball in the same league and it has never been suggested that he wear a mask for fielding. The curious silence regarding masks for boys highlights our different societal conceptions of male and female. While it is okay for boys to be exposed to the risks of facial injury, the faces of girls are evidently a more highly prized commodity. The message is that a girl’s future is more dependent on her looks than a boys and it is pretty obvious that society does value a woman’s looks more than a man’s. It is also generally thought that a girl’s appearance is more important to her than a boy’s appearance is for him, although my own experience tells me there is a wide range of vanity amongst men and women. I do know boys and men who have shown me their scars as emblems of battle or personal history, whereas only a few women I’ve ever known have flaunted their scars in the same way. It is also interesting to note that while a man with a scar on his face connotes toughness, a woman with a scar is just ugly. No one wants their daughter to be that woman, if at all avoidable. I don’t want to be the guy whose daughter gets her face smashed in because he refused to buy a facemask. Consequently, later today I’ll be at a cash register ponying up for a mask for my girl.

All things being equal, I should buy one for my son to protect his cute mug too. He’d be the first to wear one on his team, maybe he’d start a trend, or more likely he’d be cajoled into ditching it like everyone else and take his chances. He has a glove after all, I tell him, just catch the ball and you won’t get hit – I’ll still tell my daughter that too, it’s not like she’s going to toss the ball around the backyard with that thing strapped on her face – is she?

It is 10:23 AM and my 11 year-old son is sleeping upstairs, that good sleep, his mouth agog, his conscious mind resistant to any barging through the door, stomping through the room, opening the curtains to the world parent intrusions, his limbs growing by the minute as he restfully whiles away the summer morning hours in tweener dormancy.  It is summer and his camp does not begin until 12:30 so he has plenty of time, but the real issue is that he has trouble going to sleep at night, especially when he sleeps so late in the morning, he can go to 11 or 12 if I let him sometimes.  His serene slumbering pose is in direct contrast to the tossing, turning, and frustrated tears at 1 AM in the morning when he cannot get to sleep and he shows up at our bedroom door asking what he should do.   Last night he turned on his light an hour or so after laying down and read books until midnight when he turned off his reading lamp again.  I said goodnight to him at 1, and he seemed tired.  I know I am tired of staying up because I feel bad leaving him up by himself and now my lack of sleep is catching up to me as my day starts at 8.  7 hours last night is pretty good compared to most of this week, but then again he was still awake when I went to sleep which always leaves me a little unsettled.  Remembering this I regret that I did not wake him earlier, but when I went in the room he looked so peaceful that I could not get myself beyond some mild rousing that I knew would probably not work.  His doctor says he is a night person, that we shouldn’t worry about his lifelong problems going to sleep.  Or waking up problems, depending on how you look at it.  A boy needs his sleep, that much seems clear to me as I return downstairs and let him lie… but tonight I will probably regret it, any advice out there?   Would you wake him up?

What did your parents do?  I remember my own mom yelling at me from downstairs at regular loud intervals of maybe three or four minutes.  I hated her in those moments as I resisted re-entering the world at her prodding.

He woke up himself at 10:35, hooray! I am off the hook for today… 10:35, still a little late but his doctor would be happy as he always says the correct time a child should sleep is until they wake up on their own.  Fat chance during the schoolyear, but he got his beauty sleep on this July day!

There is nothing better than Friday afternoon and we can watch TV or play computer games all we want when we get home from school. You would think one of my kids said this, but it could have just as well been me. The reason is the TV is an excellent baby sitter when I need or want time to myself in the house. On other days of the week and more family oriented weekends we don’t allow them to watch TV much at all so these spans of screen time freedom have become even more precious for me and my kids. A time when I can write an entry into the digital sphere, or put the laundry away, or just lay flat down on the ground on my back and listen to my spine going supine, cracking and releasing. My kids sit together quietly enraptured and needing nothing else from the world and most importantly, me.
TV is a very seducing crutch for us parents and I make sure I consciously avoid it as much as possible or at least keep track of whether I may be abusing it to avoid doing the job of raising my kids. I think most parents would be surprised how much screen time their kids are getting if they consciously monitored it and wrote down all the hours. I often have to catch myself from letting them watch too much. It’s a secret we keep from even ourselves. And I’m not even opposed to TV, but I see that it eliminates the possibility of other more enriching or socializing activities or interaction with me. There’s only so much time in a day and so many days to make a life. So, yes, when I turn off the TV It usually means that my life may be more of a pain in the ass, but that’s what I’m here to do, and the least I can do is ‘be there’ and not let the TV serve as a substitute. But today I can because it’s Friday, it’s afterschool, and we ain’t got nothing else to do…

Are we going to die from eating canned goods?  Though BPA free, are these cans any better?  There surely must be something wrong with them they will discover 20 years hence.  How come I’m not already dead from all the canned mix fruit my mother shoveled down my throat, complete with that awesomely zingy high fructose corn syrup sauce? For the most part now we avoid canned goods, but today I broke down and bought organic diced tomatoes.  I figured the organic would counter- balance the canned aspect in my wife’s eyes.  Let’s see… I hate buying expensive organic tomatoes at the grocery store and I also hate dicing, so there you go…  Who can feed my wife’s paranoia about the danger of canned goods?  What bad things do you know?  Or am I A-OK?… I’d rather die from something, rather than nothing anyway, right-o!

I’m going the practical route this time to write about some nuts and bolts of baby rearing, or in this case, nuts and butts.

Quickie on that one – when wiping the butts of boys, do not wipe toward the nuts – it’ a real pain to get the doodie out of those little folds, OK?  And for a girl, don’t wipe up into the place where she pees or you’re asking for infection.  Sorry to break it down like that, but a midwife told me that ten years ago in preparation for my first child and it was some of the best parenting advice I’ve ever gotten.

The reality is as a parent that you’re going to be wiping up a lot of shit the next couple years so you may as well get used to it.  As for me I was ecstatic when our youngest child grew out of the need for diapers and our diaper days were officially over.  Despite my desire to keep having babies and perpetuate my stay at home dad status, insuring the disappearance of diapers from our domestic sphere was enough for me to surrender myself to surgical impotency.  If nothing else I would never have to change a baby diaper again. I still leave open the possibility of having to change my wife’s adult diapers if it comes to that, but diapers are one aspect of my kids’ childhood that I doubt I will ever miss.  As I intend to forget everything about the dirty business of diapers as soon as possible, I thought I should preserve what knowledge I have of the subject for the sake of other parents who may be wondering what kind of diaper tact to take.  With three kids we got to try a lot of different diapering techniques and I wanted to share what I’ve learned.

I would encourage all fathers to jump right into the business of diapering as the rewards far outweigh the risks and it is just plain fair.  I say this only because I had a friend that got away with never changing his kids diapers.  He used the excuse that he had a girl and he wasn’t sure how to best maintain her cleanliness.  He also thought it was bordering on inappropriate for a man to be looking and touching around his daughter’s private parts.  He even resisted bathing his daughter for this reason!  Most of all, I was astounded his wife let him get away with this. I’m sorry, but if you have a baby, you need to be able to change their diaper.  And unless you are a pedophile it is ridiculous to think it is inappropriate for you to touch or look at your daughter’s body.  Fatherhood encompasses all these things, whether we are comfortable with them or not, and it is not fair to hang the burden of diaper changing onto one parent.  Diapering is not actually that difficult and once mastered it becomes a parlor trick for a man that can bring great rewards.  I’m not sure why in this day and age, but people are always impressed with a man that can efficiently change a diaper and they assume he must be the greatest dad in the history of the world.  Diapering is a pretty basic thing for a parent to do but why not milk it for all its worth and improve your standing amongst your partner’s girlfriends and female relatives by doing this simple task?

We have run the gamut of diapers in our house.  Many parents wonder about the cloth diaper route.  For our first two children we used disposable diapers and for our third child we used cloth diapers so I’ve had a chance to examine this issue from all sides, and especially from the bottom.

Using cloth diapers seemed like the right choice for the environment but after my experience I am not so sure.  I guess it depends on what part of the environment you are trying to save.  If you are interested in saving space at the landfill then cloth diapers will certainly help that cause.  But if you are interested in saving clean water than disposable diapers may be the choice for you.

Most of all, cloth diapering requires more time than disposable diapers because you have to clean them yourselves and this is where cloth diapers can be problematic.

The main hassle I experienced with using cloth diapers is what to do with them in the time that they are soiled until the time that you can clean them properly.  A baby’s day does not stop to give you time to clean them immediately and therefore you need somewhere to put them. After attempting many things I ended up storing them in a bucket in the hamper.  Luckily, baby poop doesn’t stink much so that wasn’t much of an issue.  I did discover that these soiled diapers cannot be stored for more than two or three days before being cleaned or else you are asking for trouble.  One of the most haunting images of my fatherhood was discovering what happened to soiled diapers that were stored for over a week.  Let’s put it this way… they were alive!

Another issue with cloth diapers is that they can be washed easily in the washing machine but I was always resistant to the idea of throwing them directly into my washing machine without rinsing as much shit off as I could beforehand.  Even though they weren’t in the same load, I still had to wash everyone’s clothes in that same machine and I wanted to minimize the long term effects of shitty rinse water.  I suppose if you had two washing machines this wouldn’t be as great of a concern, but who has two washing machines?  Of course a diaper service for those who have that option and the money to do it would be another easy solution.

Finding a place in the house to rinse out dirty diapers was a tricky issue because you are dealing with human feces and you don’t want to rinse them out in the bathroom sink where you brush your teeth, right?  After much trial and error and some sploshed doo-dee water, I found rinsing the diapers in a bucket inside the bathtub was the best solution.  I tried as best as I could to keep all the soiled water in the bucket and then I could dump that water directly into the toilet.  Then I would put the diapers in the washing machine and they would come out fresh and clean and ready to be soiled again.  While one will use more water than usual in cleaning the diapers, water is still a relatively cheap resource in this great country of ours.  For better or worse, we are not charged much for water so this doesn’t make much of a dent in the family budget.

Money is the one thing I am sure we did save on with cloth diapers.  Diapers are expensive!  Have the diaper companies colluded and set the price for diapers amongst themselves because they know parents have to fork over their cash no matter what the price is?  Or are the materials in disposable diapers really that expensive?  I’m not sure, but diapers have got to be the biggest expense of infancy when the baby is living off of free breast milk.  Just to mitigate this expense and stick it to the disposable diaper companies may be reason enough to choose cloth diapers for your next baby.  Luckily for me, I don’t have to make this choice as my diaper days are over.  Good riddance!

Grandparents are not expected to change diapers, are they?  I am already dreading it and my kids haven’t even hit puberty…

For most of my life I have had long hair and my two young sons did as well. My sons’ long hair owed partly to the fact that my mother-in-law said that in Ecuador no one cuts their kids’ hair before three years old so my wife insisted that we do the same out of deference to her heritage but also because she didn’t want anyone to cut her baby’s hair. My sons grew into little toddler hippies and everything was grand. Their mother loved it, of course, and other mothers were also very fond of running their fingers through my boys’ hair when given the opportunity to ‘ooh and aah’ their adoration. The other people who loved their long hair were liberal hippy types who identified in the hairstyle an avocation of bohemian ideals. Several times people came up to me and told me how cool they thought it was that my kids had long hair as if that epitomized my political philosophy. Not that I don’t believe in bohemian ways, but I’m not the type to wear things on my sleeve and it did make me a little uncomfortable to think people believe I’m forcing an ideology on my kids. Not that I won’t do this anyway on account of being their dad, but I just don’t believe in parents indoctrinating their kids into something they are not developmentally ready for like a hairstyle that is part of some political message. This was my own hang up, but as for everyone else, long hair never posed much of a problem until my boys got to grade school.

As they got older the biggest problem the boys faced was the constant question amongst children whether they were a boy or a girl. It seemed slightly crazy to my wife and I how many people thought they were girls just because of their hair but when I though about it objectively I could see why people made that mistake. The truth of the matter is that in addition to the long hair my boys are pretty with their sweet dimples and easy smiles. While they were younger this gender confusion bothered my wife and I more than it bothered my kids but as they got older it started to bother them more and more.

Once my oldest son was on the ball field riding his bike and a few older kids rode up around him and started asking him if he was a boy or a girl. When he said he was a boy they said they didn’t believe him and they asked why he had long hair and he told them it was just how he liked it. I was proud of him for keeping his cool and talking to them rationally while at the same time my anger was growing and I was ready to get them away from my son who was six at the time. One of the boys kept needling him and telling him he looked like a girl and that he would have to prove it to them if he really wanted them to believe he was not a girl. Considering the only way to do that and the increasing tenor of fright that was overtaking my son’s face I couldn’t hold back any longer and I walked up with a lot of bluster and told those kids to stay away from my kid and stop acting stupid and thinking anyone with long hair had to be a girl – I pointed to my own long hair as testament to that fact and waited for anyone of the nine year olds to challenge my manhood. Even after this incident and many lesser gender confusions, Aurelio still wanted to keep his long hair. He has always had a contrarian streak in him and I have to admit I am proud of that trait.

Another problem that got worse over time as my boys got bigger and their hair grew thicker and longer was the fact that they did not take good care of it. Like most boys, they do not get great satisfaction out of brushing their hair to a lustrous sheen. Aurelio, my oldest, liked the way his hair looked best when it was knotty and tangled and puffy and nearly impossible to get a comb through. Aurelio petitioned us to allow him to grow dreads more than once but my wife was steadfastly against that idea and I was also not willing to let things go to that extreme. I kept thinking of what smells might emanate from that head of his if he swore off washing his hair. The times when we did need to get a comb through his scalp became a half an hour ordeal full of tears. My youngest son had hair as fine as silk but somehow a nasty knot would develop overnight on the back of his head and he dreaded me having to comb it out in the morning so that it didn’t appear as if a nest was being built there. Despite all the pain of putting a comb through their head my boys still did not want to cut their hair but I was starting to think that would be the best thing for everyone involved as I was tired of getting grief for trying to take care of them.

Over the last year I really started encouraging Aurelio to cut his hair and make his life easier but he refused, often emotionally. His most common answer to my asking him was that he would cut his hair when I cut mine. Who could argue with that? I really had no standing to tell him to cut his hair when I had long hair myself. I tried to explain to him that I was old and I was afraid my hair was going to turn gray or just fall out any day now and that I was going to wait for that to happen before I cut my hair. I do not plan on going two-tone with brown hair and gray roots. He pointed out that I already have gray hairs and our conversations usually ended with him promising to take care of his hair better and me telling him I’ll try to lay off telling him to cut his hair.

Finally, this summer, things came to a ‘head.’ I had to get the old clippers out and gave both my boys a buzz. Now I’m the only long haired freak left in the family!

My kids look totally conventional now, did I really ask for this? Well, they can always grow it back.

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Many fathers in their late thirties like me (I’m not 40 yet!) are thinking about getting vasectomies.  Many already have.  This information is exchanged in traditionally subtle, gruff acknowledgement between two men and goes something like this,

“You guys havin’ any more kids?”

“No, definitely not.  Not going to happen,” he replies with a quick glance downward and perhaps an infinitesimal jab of his finger toward the nether regions.

“Oh, yeah?  Me, too.  No more kids here, either.”

Sometimes, if given ample space and time and a level of comfort with old friends, men ask questions about the procedure like, does it hurt?  Does it have any affect on your sex life?  Does anything look different?

Let’s go through the pros and cons of this biological decision, and just to come clean, this author is definitely not having any more kids.

There are many reasons men resist getting a vasectomy and the idea of pain in our reproductive organ is probably the number one reason on the list.  It is extremely difficult for a man to go out and seek pain in this area of his body, our whole lives have been spent trying to protect it.  Men are more willing to hurt, maim and even kill another man in myriad ways rather than give him a stiff kick to the balls.  It is an unwritten yet inviolable code among men across cultures and societies that we shall not harm one another’s sex organs.  Now in the case of a vasectomy, the medical community, and our wives, are asking us to willingly strap ourselves down and invite a stranger in doctor’s garb to make an incision into our scrotum.  No wonder men have a hard time with this decision.

A deeper psychological reason men have against vasectomies is that they believe it somehow robs them of their masculinity.  In the sense of virility this is most certainly the case and it is clearly the point of the operation.  The thinking goes that if we cannot impregnate women anymore that makes us less of a man.  I beg to differ.  I would argue that having more and more kids makes us less manly and more domesticated as our parental responsibilities increase exponentially with each new addition to the brood.  How manly is it to be at the grocery store with five kids hanging off your grocery cart?  Abandoning all your children like an overpaid football star is the other alternative but what kind of a real man does that?  I am pretty comfortable in the fact that my manhood does not rest on my ability to spew out egg seeking sperm.

Another reason men I’ve talked to resist vasectomies is they wonder what would happen if their wife died? (God forbid, they always say, looking around to see if their wife is within earshot)  What if they get remarried and their new super model wife, who is otherwise beyond reproach, wants to have their child?  I suppose this is a valid concern as we cannot predict the future but the truth is that just because one’s wife dies doesn’t mean the responsibility of the kids passes on to someone else.  Now the widowed father has to raise his kids all on his own and is a single parent – isn’t this all the more reason to prevent any more kids from stepping forth?  The point is that you are not getting a vasectomy to placate your wife, you are getting it because you don’t want any more kids.  You will still have the same amount of kids you had even if your wife dies.  In fact it may be the best excuse available to turn down your new wife’s request to have another kid.  Who wants another kid?  We’ve already determined that you’ve had enough.

Thinking rationally, there are many good reasons to go through with a vasectomy.  The number one good reason is an obvious one – you won’t have any more kids!  Kids are annoying, expensive and take up way too much of our time.  Once you have one kid you quickly realize this.  Even hanging out with small kids that aren’t yours can be very instructive in this lesson.  A number of my single friends have cited babysitting my kids as an excellent means of reinforcing their ideas about contraception.  But let’s assume you already have one kid, maybe you have another kid to keep the first one company or maybe you and your wife just slipped up and she’s knocked up again.  Now that’s two.  You have officially replaced you and your wife on this Earth, your biological job of reproduction is over, you’ve done well.  Now if you slip up again, you are officially adding to the already over populated Earth.  Yes, every parent thinks that the world should have more of their offspring to set things right for the future but the truth of the matter is that there are already too many people here on Earth and soon we’re going to run out of resources.  Now it’s time to think about stopping it up.  If not for your sanity at being a parent to more than two or three children, then do it for the Earth.

Many men just leave it their wives to take care of the birth control but we really need to think about giving them a break.  Besides the fact of female contraceptives being much more dangerous than a vasectomy, it’s about time we did our part.  If you think about it, most women have been taking care of our contraceptive needs since college or before.  Birth control is something that most women have thought about a lot longer than most men for the simple fact that they are the ones getting pregnant and getting stuck with the babies.  A man can always up and leave during a pregnancy and sadly many men do just that.  Women then bear the burden of the pregnancy and the birth alone and this is why women have taken their own forms of birth control or insisted on condoms for us since we became sexually active.  Maybe it’s time that men did a bit of the work now that we have approached middle age and take it upon ourselves to practice birth control.  Your woman will love you for it, isn’t that reason enough?

One great and indisputable benefit of having a vasectomy is that you will never be asked to wear a condom again.  Need I say more?  I recall a comic saying that having sex with a condom is like eating ice cream with a balloon stretched over your tongue and I do not disagree.  I repeat, no more condoms!

Another ancillary benefit to a vasectomy is that you can get a few days off from the family.  This is not guilt ridden time that you stopped off for on the way home from work or the kind of time to yourself and your buddies that you’ll have to make up for a thousand fold to your wife at a future date.  Your wife and/or girlfriend will be happy to give you your space alone.  Statistics show that most vasectomies take place during March when college basketball offers men a chance to sit around for days and nights in front of the boob tube watching sports.  We’ve learned!  Wives will wait on their husbands and adjust their pillows and make fancy drinks when one has voluntarily taken one for the team and gotten snipped.  Maybe you don’t like basketball, then you can plan your vasectomy for some other multi-day sports event you’d like to watch uninterrupted and without any guilt to be laid at your feet.  Or perhaps there is some annual event at the in-laws house that you detest?  Well, it just so happens that the only appointment available for your vasectomy just happens to be the same weekend as that dreaded event… voila!  Now you don’t have to go.

For all these reasons and more I would recommend all fathers with more than one child should think about having a vasectomy.   I’ve already made my decision, so if you’ve come looking for answers, by all means, snip away!