The Parent Ren, Part X: It’s Harder Than It Looks

Almost the minute I became a father, I understood my own father a whole lot more. The fear and axiety of becoming a dad hit me like a ton of bricks. While I was elated and very happy to see my baby — my progeny, my contribution to the world — I was also scared sh*tless. My world was going to change. Things would never be the same. Although I have adapted to constant change in my life — immigrating from Mexico, moving to Pennsylvania, having different jobs doing different things — I had also become somewhat comfortable with where I was in life. That comfort was traded in for added responsibilities with serious consequences if those responsibilities were ignored or forgotten. Sleepless nights would be a thing.

I swear… That child wanted fed every two hours!

So I didn’t blame my dad much anymore for walking away when he did. When offered a choice, humans will take the path of least resistance. We will do the bare minimum to get by, especially if there are other things in our heads that seem more important… Or more attractive. Mom probably assured him that he would still be my father if he wanted to, and that he would get to see me on vacation and holidays when I’d also get to see his side of the family. In a way, he got the best of both worlds. He got to influence my upbringing and imprint himself onto my way of being and to be free of most of those serious responsibilities.

Even when I went to visit him, the people actually doing the feeding and grooming of me were my aunts, older cousins and grandmothers. Such is the culture in the part of Mexico where the families come from. All he really had to do was walk around with me and show everyone how I was reading at age two, memorizing the names of all his tools at age 3, solving puzzles at age four and winning academic awards in kindergarten. Never mind that he didn’t teach me how to read… Though he did teach me a lot about machines, physics and some other sciences.

Being a father is hard, man. It’s certainly not easier than being a mother, from what I’ve seen and heard from my wife. (She did, after all, take the brunt of the physical and mental impact of the pregnancy.) If I get something wrong right now, the little one will be impacted for the rest of their lives. Things that I like to do must often take a back seat to things that need to get done for the child’s sake. It’s hard to accept that I am not the center of my universe anymore.

Then again, I was never the center of my own universe, at least not in my mind. I have always worked serving others, so I kind of see my “job” of being a dad as serving my child become a well-adjusted, happy and productive member of society. To do this, I can forgo some stuff. I don’t have to be up until late playing videogames. (Not that I really want to, given that I usually have to work the following morning.) There also isn’t much time to go “hang out” with friends, either, because the toddler goes to be at around 7pm each night. That, and it’s hard to ask my in-laws for babysitting late into the evening.

With all of this in mind, if anyone tells you that they have their stuff together when it comes to being a father, they are probably lying to you. Or maybe they are super-human… Or have tons of disposable cash to hire all sorts of assistants. Because, let me tell you, the toddler is unpredictable, and she can and will bring about some very interesting challenges at the most inopportune times. (Let’s just say that I’ve had to run into the house and grab a shirt at the last minute because someone spewed their milk, and that said shirt has been very, very wrinkled.)

So you take it one day at a time. Sometimes, you have to take it one hour at a time. You plan as best as you can. You pack all the supplies into the “go bag,” and you hope and pray that there are no unexpected surprises. And, if there are unexpected surprises, you take them in stride and try to understand that these things can and will happen, and that there is no blame to go around. It’s not your fault you forgot the extra diapers, and it’s definitely not the child’s fault that they had to poop.

Everybody poops.

In the end, I like to believe, it will all be worth it. You’ll end up with a bright young man or young woman who knows how to take on the world. They’ll learn from your patience and planning and how you respond to adversity that the world is a complicated place full of unknown and random variables. And, if you complete the hard job of being a parent — a father, in my case — in a way that is half-decent… You’ll become more than a man in their lives. You’ll become an idea they carry around until they themselves become intangible… Until they themselves become a legend.

“A legend, Mr. Wayne.”

How Do Anti-Vaccine Advocates React to a Vaccine Bill in New Jersey? Hint: Not Very Well

I won’t bore you with the details because the video is quite good on its own. Basically, NJ legislators in a committee voted to advance a bill for a vote. The bill would require parents seeking a vaccine exemption for attending school to do one of several things. They can get a physician to write a letter that required vaccines are not medically advisable for a child, as is the case for many children who truly do have an allergy to a vaccine component. Or they can show proof that their religion doesn’t allow vaccines (none of the major religions prohibit vaccines, by the way) and sign a notarized attestation to that effect. That’s it.

No one is being forced to be vaccinated. No one is being forced to not practice their religion. The only thing the bill does is keep people from lying about vaccines just because they have some ill-founded fear of vaccines. If anything, I would think that anti-vaccine activists would welcome this bill because it would eliminate people lying about their beliefs and give the world to see the true number of “true believers.” If I were them, which I’m not, and I won’t, but if I were… If I were them, I would put out a press release that would read something like:

“We welcome this bill in the NJ Legislature as it will shine a light on the true size and strength of our anti-vaccine community. This bill eliminates from our ranks those who are simply too lazy to go get their children vaccinated and documents in writing and via notarization those of us who truly stand against science.”

It’s just a draft. Feel free to alter it. 😉

Anyway, that vote didn’t go over well with the anti-vaccine crowd. They kind of didn’t like it:


Did you catch that child flipping the double birds at 1 minute 4 seconds? He’s the real victim in all this. Note that he is crying by the end of the video. Sad.

Featured Photo by GôDiNô on / CC BY-NC-ND

The Parent Ren, Part V: Baby in the City

I traveled with my wife to New York City for a conference she was attending. While she was at the conference, the baby and I walked downstairs at the hotel to get some food. Well, she immediately started crying, and I don’t blame her. There were a lot of people, a lot of noisy people, and the lights were very bright. It must have been quite the shock to her senses.

The people grabbing their breakfast weren’t having any of it. They didn’t say anything to me — and God help them if they did — but they seemed very annoyed that I was in the way with the stroller and a crying baby. They had to work their way around me as I filled up a plate with a couple of sausage links, an English muffin, and grabbed an orange juice. That was about all I could get because the crowd was so big.

Once I got back to the room and settled down the baby, I got to wondering (yet again) how single parents do this. My wife had fed and changed the baby right before she left for the conference. There were bottles of breastmilk in the fridge. Although I was going to be alone with the baby for the morning, my wife would be back by noon. Then we’d be alone for the afternoon, but she would be back at four and we’d all go out for dinner. She wasn’t going to be gone for weeks or months, or forever.

My own mother was a single parent in definition but not so much in practice. There were always aunts and grandmothers at the ready to look after me if she needed it. Or I would be dropped off with the neighbor lady who stayed home raising her own kids. Or one of my teenaged cousins would watch over me. When I was off visiting my father, it was the same. Most of my needs were tended to by women who were not my mom. A village raised me.

With this little one, we have the blessing of having my wife’s parents only an hour away, and her sister-in-law and friends are all willing to help out. We are also very lucky to have the funds to pay for daycare, which the baby will begin at the end of the month and will allow us to return to a more “normal” schedule where my wife can go to work and I can go to the school to continue working on my dissertation. Still, even with all this help and all of these blessings, we feel a little bit of pressure.

We feel some pressure because this is a child for whom we — and only we — are responsible. If she turns out to be a bad person who hurts others, that’s on us. That’s not going to be on anyone who takes care of her. So the pressure is on. Add to that the fact that neither of us has ever been a parent (except for watching our parents raise our younger siblings and taking care of four-legged creatures), and we’re kind of just winging it.


It’s kind of stressful.

Other parents (online and offline) have said, quite correctly, that becoming a parent for the first time is a traumatic experience by definition. (Frankly, it was more traumatic for my wife since she actually had to go through some rough body changes.) Like with other trauma, there comes a period of time in which we adjust to the new normal. Before the baby, we would travel without too much of a care about what to bring along. “We’ll get it there if we need it” was our rule about things like soap or toothbrushes. Now, we really have to take inventory of all the things we need because they may not be easy to come by, even in a big city like New York. (Though Amazon Prime delivery has not failed me yet.)

The baby’s sleeping is still not quite there yet. Like New Yorkers, she’s decided that she’s going to run on her own schedule and keep us up at night. This sounds okay on paper as my wife is on leave and I’m not beholden to any kind of regular hours in which to work on my dissertation, but it’s still kind of bad because we don’t want to be completely off kilter once it’s time to rejoin the workforce. (Did I mention that being able to take time and not work during these first weeks is a huge blessing?)

So we continue to plug along on this adventure of trying to save the world while trying to raise a child while trying to get some sleep while trying to not lose our minds. If you have any good tips, please leave them in the comments.

How Korea sees unwed mothers

This is an interesting and eye-opening video. It deals with how women in Korea are treated when they become pregnant out of wedlock. You think the United States is “conservative” about marriage… Just wait until you listen to this:


It is a very sobering video from an otherwise funny and informative couple of Canadians who live in Seoul. It really showed me how different cultures can be really different while we here in America must look really weird to them. The statistics on abortion really rattled me. Yes, it’s a woman’s choice, but is it a choice at all when all the odds are against you like that?

What’s up with this Enterovirus virus?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reporting today on the Enterovirus D68 outbreak in the Missouri and Illinois. It appears that the outbreak was detected by astute clinicians who noticed that there was something going on:

“On August 19, 2014, CDC was notified by Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, of an increase (relative to the same period in previous years) in patients examined and hospitalized with severe respiratory illness, including some admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit. An increase also was noted in detections of rhinovirus/enterovirus by a multiplex polymerase chain reaction assay in nasopharyngeal specimens obtained during August 5–19. On August 23, CDC was notified by the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital in Illinois of an increase in patients similar to those seen in Kansas City.”

This highlights the need for infection prevention specialists at hospitals to be in constant communication with their laboratory colleagues and with the healthcare providers in their organization. Communicating on what is going on, what each provider is seeing, allows for the early detection of outbreaks. When these lines of communication are not adequate, it may be later rather than sooner before these types of things are detected.

So CDC was notified and an investigation was launched:

“To further characterize these two geographically distinct observations, nasopharyngeal specimens from most of the patients with recent onset of severe symptoms from both facilities were sequenced by the CDC Picornavirus Laboratory. Enterovirus D68* (EV-D68) was identified in 19 of 22 specimens from Kansas City and in 11 of 14 specimens from Chicago. Since these initial reports, admissions for severe respiratory illness have continued at both facilities at rates higher than expected for this time of year. Investigations into suspected clusters in other jurisdictions are ongoing.”

I can tell you from my experience at the state health department that most of the work is being done by local epidemiologists and public health nurses. A case definition has probably been determined and cases falling within the “confirmed, probable, or suspect” case definitions are being interviewed by the local health department staff. Specimens are being collected and probably processed initially at local laboratories and then sent off to CDC for further characterization.

Here is the interesting part:

“Enterovirus infections, including EV-D68, are not reportable, but laboratory detections of enterovirus and parechovirus types are reported voluntarily to the National Enterovirus Surveillance System, which is managed by CDC. Participating laboratories are encouraged to report monthly summaries of virus type, specimen type, and collection date.”

By “not reportable,” CDC is telling us that there is no requirement for these infections to be reported to public health by healthcare providers. However, as you can see, reporting clusters and increased rates of cases is not a bad idea, especially in light of the sheer numbers of sick kids and the strain that this situation is likely to put on the pediatric healthcare system. Opening those lines of communication with the local and federal public health agencies allows for shared information and for the best situational awareness.

We’ll see how this progresses.