Afterthoughts: what’s x-mas all about, anyways?

So, the post-boxing day (week) sales have all ended, brightly coloured lights no longer festoon every eaves trough and living room window, and I’m left in a contemplative mood.  Figured I’d throw down some thoughts about the Meaning of X-mas

       When it comes to the ‘holidays’ (aka christmas, winter solstice, boxing day, new year’s, etc. etc.), I think most everyone largely fall into one of three camps:

1) Those who shop;

2) Those who pray; and

3) Those who don’t really know what it’s all about (don’t like to shop; can’t be bothered to pray).

       When I was growing up, we’d often spend X-mas’s up in my Dad’s home town (predominantly Catholic; predominantly francophone), and I remember those as some of the best ones I ever experienced.   There  was a feeling of something special going on at that time of year – the carol singing, the snow, the glowing X-mas trees in every living room, the ubiquitous baked goods, the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins (who often only saw each other at X-mas, despite living in the same town of population 5000).  Then, there was midnight mass at the cathedral – all the town’s (good) Catholics in their X-mas best, sitting hushed in the dimly lit church as the priest and choir droned on incoherently (ie: French) – followed by Reveillon – a huge, hot meal served after everyone trudged home from church in the snow and dark.

       Now, I am not – nor have I ever been – a Catholic (good or otherwise); nevertheless, when you linked all those events together with a common theme, there was something special – I’d even go so far as to say magical – about the whole affair.  Did you notice that I didn’t even mention presents?  Well – they were there too.  After Reveillon, all the cousins, brothers and sisters (wired to the hilt on sugar and butter) would tear into the presents under the tree, as the adults found a chair somewhere and  fell into food-induced comas.  However, the presents are not what I remember about those times.  Christmas was more than that.

       I grew older, and we grew apart from my Dad’s extended family, as families do.  X-mas with my folks and my sister was still one of the most special times of the year, but it never seemed quite so magical, in comparison to the ones spent in franco-land.  I’m an atheist, as was my sister by default (this was back when she did anything her big brother did), and my parents were devout non-practitioners of their own parents’ faiths, so no element of religiosity ever entered our holiday season.  Once I began to earn my own money, I needed to spend it, of course: I vividly remember spending hours in the mall with my secret little list, buying hundreds of dollars of useless junk for each of my family members.  And as time went on, that’s what X-mas became for me: buying and receiving junk.

       (yes, Mother – it was also about spending time with each other, and enjoying a nice meal.  Now get out of my head.)

       Now, we come to the present (as in present tense, not presents from Santa).  Neither hubby nor I can stand shopping.  Yeah, I know – not terribly gay of us.  On top of this, we have both adopted a sort of non-materialistic philosophy where we’ve realized that possession of crap just ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.  He and I have been purging junk from our attic, garage, closets, etc. for years, and (before we got the boys) we’d reached a good balance in our house of more useful stuff than junk.  Yeah, and then came the boys.  Baby towels, baby cloths, baby bibs, baby socks, baby onesies, baby sleepers, baby blankets, baby crib sheets, baby powders, baby oils, baby lotions, baby soaps, baby ointments, baby seats, baby soothers, baby toys… then wait one year, replace most of the ‘baby‘s with ‘toddler‘s, and start over.  UGH.

       So we have a situation where 1) we don’t like to shop (aka: acquire junk); and 2) we don’t pray (and won’t, even for the sake of X-mas).  So that leaves us as category 3’ers: we don’t really know what X-mas should be all about (combine that with the fact that we’re still learning how to be a family with two dads, and you can imagine some of the conversations that hubby and I get into late at night).

       And finally, we get to our two boys – one of whom has reached the age where Santa and presents and snow make him squeal with toddler delight.  What kind of memories do we want our sons to have about X-mas, when they’re all grown up and writing their own blogs?  I desperately want X-mas to mean more than just acquisition of material goods crap, but I’m not interested in following the rituals of one religion or another, simply because they’ve decided that the season is theirs (hey – it’s originally pagan, folks, plus the likelihood of Jesus having been born on the 25th of Dec – much less in the year ‘0’ is next to nil… but who cares about details?).

       So what’s left, if you take away traditional rituals and presents?  (yes, Mom – a nice meal with family – I KNOW).  Ahem… You’re left with a nice meal with family.  Which is basically Thanksgiving 2.0.  Thanksgiving is nice, but X-mas should mean something… more.  Incidentally, Hubby and I have had a no-presents-X-mas (we forced it on his parents one year).  It sucked.  There was nothing jolly about that X-mas.

SOLUTION:  I think the key is in moderation, and variety ==>

1) Rituals and ceremonies add magic to the season, but they don’t have to be religious in nature:

  • celebrate the solstice;
  • make the Santa Claus parade a yearly event, followed by a nice meal with friends;
  • make a yearly ritual out of putting up a tree, some lights and starting to play X-mas music;
  • make sure to make a snowman, if it snows enough before X-mas day;
  • help out at a food bank over the holidays, or make a donation to a canned food-drive (do this each year);
  • establish a special routine for X-mas day – certain meals or events that only happen on that day; and, speaking of meals…
  • plan at least one nice meal* with extended family and/or friends (see, Mom – I do listen).
Everyone loves a good roast beast.

               Everyone loves a good roast beast.

2)  Presents are fun and exciting (especially for kids), but quality should be the focus, rather than quantity:

  • one special present per kid, with a small stocking stuffer for each adult;
  • make present-buying one of the rituals of the holiday season – a time to go into town and enjoy the lights, music and mood of the season; and
  • make present-opening another, small ritual, placed between other rituals or events, so that it doesn’t dominate the mood of the day (a family walk with the dogs in the woods, followed by presents, followed by a nice family brunch, for example).

 *meals – your X-mas meal can become an elaborate ritual in itself, with multiple courses, courses that only appear on X-mas day, party favours and X-mas crackers, mini-games at the table, taking time to reflect on the year, as you eat, etc. etc.

       Anyways – X-mas is over, and nobody likes to dwell on X-mas after the fact, so I’ll stop there.  But if you’re so inclined, drop me your thoughts regarding the meaning of the holidays, and about how you might make your own Christmas more meaningful in future years.

       Oh… and Happy Belated New Years to you all!!!

2 Dads and 2 Sons ROCK!

Here’s why:

1)  We leave our toilet seat up.  Nobody complains.  We also use only a fraction of the toilet paper that those… other families use (you know – the ones with  two or more genders);

2) We have two sets of shoulders for two little boys.  Nobody has to wait for a free-ride;

3)  We all drink right out of the milk jug – without having to hide behind the fridge door when we do it;

4)  We only need two sets of clothes in our home – one set for hubby & me, and one set for the boys;

5)  No girls means we won’t ever have to send our kids into a change room without us, to the mercy of random strangers;

6)  We can all take a piss in the woods, and never have to worry about wiping with a poison ivy leaf;

7)  Everyone gets the same haircut (done by Daddy): #2 sides and back (we’re talking savings of $50-$100 per month here!);

8)  We’ll never lack (well, once the boys are a bit older) for extra sets of strong arms around the house (I’m talking lawn cutting, wood chopping, taking the garbage out,  bringing the groceries in ‘cuz I’m too lazy to do it myself, etc.);

9)  We don’t have – and will NEVER HAVE (notice my upper-case lettering, sons?) – a closet full of useless shoes; and…

…the final reason why 2 dads and 2 sons in a family rock:

10)  No periods, Period.

       See?  I told you so. 😉

4_penguins

Breastfeeding vs. Baby Formula

Yeah, so we’re two gay dudes; as such, breastfeeding is pretty much out.  Very briefly after they were born, both our boys’ biological mothers tried to breast feed.  Both women dried up pretty quickly however, for which I was quite thankful – both women were heavy smokers, and the one-and-only time that breast milk was sent home to us by our eldest son’s birth mother, I nearly gagged and had to pour it down the drain.  “Poured out breast milk?!  But think of the poor children,”  you poo-poo’ers out there are saying!  Well, please remember: I’m gay, and I find breasts and/or the fluids they leak mildly revolting.  Best interests of the child or not, there ain’t no way I’m handling a sticky, warm cup full of chunky orange slurpy from some random lady’s boob.  NO WAY.

(ugh, ok – clearing my cache of mental images and moving on…)

Breast milk is undeniably the first choice for a baby, since it is created by humans, for humans.  So, if it is available for your baby (and you can handle it without being physically ill), then by all means use breast milk.  The nice ladies at www.maternalinstinct.ca have thoughtfully come up with a top-10 list of  the benefits of breastfeeding, just to make those of us who don’t/can’t do it feel even more like bad parents:

10 Benefits of Breastfeeding
1. Boosts immune function and may prevent a variety of illnesses
2. May prevent allergies
3. May prevent SIDS
4. Is easier to digest
5. Is made specifically for your baby
6. Is always available, sterile and the correct temperature
7. Is free!
8. May prevent certain types of cancer in the mother
9. May prevent postpartum depression
10. Helps moms get more sleep!

(*Notice the number of may’s in that list [5 of them], as well as the (accidental, I’m sure) absence of the word dads in #10.)

 Health Canada reported that while about 87% of mothers try breastfeeding, only about 26% are still plugging away at it six months later.  The numbers for the United States are a bit different, but the general trend holds.  Everyone else?  Well, we’re mixing drinks like madmen, for our tubby little buggers => between six and eight times per day for the first 4-6 months or so.

I was bottle fed when I was a babe, as was my hubby.  Our three-year old was bottle-fed, and now our youngest is being too.  What harm did our mothers do to us by bottle feeding us, and what damage are we now doing to our sons?  Arguably, I would say none.  I have no allergies, no asthma, no ADHD, and I didn’t die of SIDS as a kid.  Ditto for hubby.  In fact, I would go so far as to say (in my non-medical opinion) that bottle feeding is superior to breast feeding, except for fact that we evolved to be fed on the stuff until we grew teeth (pshaw! minor details!).  And so, in recognition of all the dads, moms, or other parental units out there who bottle feed their children for whatever reason, here is MY top-1o list of the benefits of bottle feeding:

Top-10 Benefits of Bottle Feeding

10.  You don’t need to give your baby vitamin-D or iron supplements, like some breastfed babies (baby formula already has enough of both added in);

9.  Your baby should drink from a sterilized source for the first few months of life – I know my dishwasher’s ‘sanitize’ cycle cleans my bottles properly… but  who knows where that breast has been?!?

8.  You can eat and drink what you like, or take any medications you need, and know that your baby is still getting  the nutrients and vitamins that she needs from her bottle;

7.  Bottles allow you to monitor how much your baby is drinking (short of weighing a mother to the exact ounce before and after breast feeding, there is very little way to keep track of what your little breast-drinking tyke is sucking in);

6.  Baby formula can be used as coffee whitener in a pinch – try asking any woman if she’d mind a pinch for some coffee cream!

5.  Anyone can feed the baby (your parents, your friends, Jehovah’s Witnesses who come to the door [that’ll be the last time they bug you, I can guarantee], etc.), which ultimately allows your baby to bond with other adults, other than just the boob-donor;

4.  When your baby starts to eat infant cereal that calls for breast milk or formula, it’s much easier to just add a scoop of formula than to… squirt in (?) some breast milk (honestly, I don’t even know how that would work!);

3.  When your baby has developed enough manual dexterity, he can drink all by himself (around 5-7 months, each of our boys were able to grasp and lift their bottle by themselves.  This allowed us to place them in their doughnut or their rocking chair somewhere close to us and let them do all the work by themselves while we chatted with them, but continued to do whatever we were doing);

2.  Bottle-fed babies typically eat less-frequently than their breast-fed buddies.  This means that they can go for longer stretches through the night, sooner than said buddies (ie: you get to sleep through the night MUCH SOONER than your breastfeeding friends!);

      and the top benefit to bottle feeding your baby:

1.  no breasts to deal with (Yay!).

       And with that, it’s time for me to get a good (FULL) night’s sleep!

Common Sense Daddy-ing vs. Maternal ‘Instinct’

Common Sense Daddy-ing

Rant!

 

**DISCLAIMER** this will be a bit of a rant.  One of several to come.

 

 

 

“Fathers are biological necessities, but social accidents.”  —  Margaret Mead

Ouch.  What are two gay dads to do, then?  Couple our ‘accidental’ status with our definitive lack of maternal instinct, and you might start to wonder what the Children’s Aid Society was thinking by giving us a couple kids to raise.  You might even conclude that it was tantamount to child abuse allowing not one, but two of us ham-fisted, moronic brutes to get our meaty caveman paws all over tender little baby flesh.

Well, somehow, we’ve managed.  Three years in, and we haven’t dropped them (excessively), sat on them (at least, not by accident), starved them, forgotten them at the mall (hell – we haven’t been to the mall in three years!) or otherwise neglected, abused or mistreated them in any way.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that both our boys have prospered under our masculine care because of the very thing that distinguishes us from the traditional primary caregiver… we are not shackled by any maternal ‘instinct’.

“When a woman becomes a mother she somehow taps into a psychic and connected power to understand the intricate details of another human.”  —  A Mother’s Instinct

Hmmm.  So it’s psychic ability that women have, eh?  And here I thought that maternal instinct was a combination of old wives tales, and what ‘experts’ told impressionable young mothers to do.  No wait – if I were the type of guy who likes to ruffle feathers (and I am), I might go so far to say that maternal instinct was nothing more than a cutsie, antiquated imaginary belief that women hold on to, to keep a degree of mystique around the task of mothering parenting.  I think that the abolishment of the term ‘maternal instinct’ is long overdue… and no – I won’t suggest replacing it with the politically acceptable  ‘parental instinct’, because we’ve already got a phrase that covers it: common sense.

Yes, you heard me right.  Without the benefit of that psychic ability, and not a woman to be found anywhere in our house, we both had to ‘man-up’ to the job that only mothers (apparently) could do, with nothing but the heads on our shoulders.

Hubby and I had an inkling early on that raising small humans wasn’t as much of a big deal as most people make out.  We’d been practicing for several years in fact: early on in our relationship, we bought plants…  and they lived (they’ve even had their own clone-babies).  Later, we got a dog, and then we even got a second dog!  Two dogs were no more difficult than one in fact; things got easier with the second dog, because they pretty much entertain one another.  So what about a human baby?  Well, babies share most of the same basic needs as plants and dogs (water, food, shelter, etc) – indeed, they share a good portion of their genome (about 50% with plants and 90% with dogs) as well.

Yes, yes – I can hear you all thinking “is this guy out of his mind?  A plant and a friggin’ baby!!?!?!?!”  Well just chill: I’m joking.  For the most part.  The part of me which is serious is telling me to remind you that we’re simply animals, just like dogs, cats, horses, dolphins, chimpanzees and rabbits.  We did not evolve to wear diapers, or to sleep only on our backs, or to require sterilized bottles for drinking out of, or to be paraded around in prams wearing frilly little bonnets and booties.  Those are all affectations thrust upon us by our mothers, who had them thrust upon them by their mothers and/or savvy marketing firms.  So where does that leave hubby and I?  Like I said – we just applied some common sense to each situation we came across.  Lemme give you a prime example:

We both know a young woman who had a baby about the same time that we adopted our first son.  We met up with her one week (around the time that our little guy was 11mths old, and had stopped wearing diapers during the day).  She was looking pretty haggard, as she lugged her guy around in her arms (our guy was walking as of that month) and she mentioned that her little guy was having a particularly bad week.  When we asked why, she said that he was suffering from a really bad bum rash, and that he was currently on medication for it, as well as on a trio of prescription anti-bacterial & anti-fungal creams and ointments.  Now we were no strangers to a bit of diaper rash.  Our second son had an inflamed red ring of hellfire around his poor little anus when he was less than one week old.  But did we rush to some emergency room so that some intern could offer us a host of chemicals that would abate the symptoms, but do nothing to address the cause, or offer a cure?  Nope.  First thing we did was whip that nasty diaper off his tender little toosh, then lay him on his front, legs tucked up under his belly and aired that nasty ring of fire out.  Took 24 hours to dry out and for the swelling & colour to return to a more normal state, but it was well on its way to being 100% better.

Now let’s turn back to our young mother acquaintance.  Primed with her psychic motherly instinct, she was dutifully packing those chemicals onto that rash, and sealing it all in tightly with yet another diaper.  I was imagining that poor boy’s infected skin, just cooking inside that wet, airless diaper of his, marinading in that cocktail of pore-clogging spreads all day long.  No wonder he was cranky.  No wonder his young mother was worried sick.  No wonder we don’t hang out with her anymore.  In my books, a lack of common sense is next to criminal neglect.

Quick review: diaper rash comes from where?  That’s right!  DIAPERS.  If your baby has diaper rash TAKE OFF THE FRIGGIN DIAPER.

 Here’s another excerpt from that brilliant article at professorhouse.com:

A mother’s instinct is not saved for times of strife or illness either. There comes a point in most woman’s life when they naturally gravitate to the warm and soft cuddly infants they see in public. For many, this love of nurturing life starts with a kitten or puppy and grows into the undisputable urge and need to have children. The instinct allows a mother to know without asking or researching what to do to take care of a fever or to get a fussy baby to sleep. While dads look on baffled about which way the diaper goes on – women seem to automatically and naturally know these things from the very beginning.

Yeah.  I think it was this paragraph that spurred me to write this post.  Isn’t it wonderful, all my readers of the female persuasion, how you seem to automatically and naturally know how to put a diaper on the right way?  Awwww.  Isn’t that sweet.  I bet you all instinctively know how to keep a lovely home too, while your man is out working all day.  Isn’t the evolution of the housewife a magical and wonderful thing? 

I sincerely hope you are catching onto my sarcasm here.  I  even hope that at least some of you are seething with righteous fury at the antiquated stereotypes being promulgated here.  The thing is, articles like this are still being written to this day.  Everywhere you turn, mothers are pegged as the natural experts when it comes to parenting.  Sure – traditionally, women have done the majority of parenting, but doing something often doesn’t always make you better.  If I started to play golf 24/7, I’d still never ever be as good as Tiger Woods.  Of course, I’ll also never cheat on my wife like Tiger Woods, but that’s a different topic altogether.  Where was I?  Oh, maternal instinct.  Doesn’t it seem that society is setting women up unfairly, by making them think that they should have some sort of innate psychic ability when they give birth?  Because how many mothers do you know, who panicked and fretted and sweated and freaked out when they had their first child, and (not) surprisingly had no idea what to do?  I remember going to a party a few years back, and a woman I knew brought her newborn with her.  The poor thing cried the entire time he was there, and I can still picture that woman gawking at her baby, uttering in an anguished whisper “why are you crying???”

Guess what folks?  THERE IS NO INSTINCT.

It’s just common sense.

(Ok, Mom – and a bit of help to get us started)

ps: exceptions to the rule:

Yes, there ARE some men out there who make a bad name for the rest of us.  I’m ashamed to share a gender with them.

…and as for lack of common sense?  Yeah – there’s a few folks out there like that:

Time to go shoppin’, boys! (part 1)

Ok, so I think I’d like to back up a bit from the time frame of my last post, where I recounted how we two gay dudes had just brought our first newborn home.  See, there’s a bit of prep work that went into getting our home set up as a baby-friendly zone.  In doing this ourselves, we discovered the mysterious inverse relationship between the age of an infant, and the volume of ‘stuff ‘ needed to support said small human.

I’ll use this post as a way to flesh out exactly what I mean by ‘stuff ‘.  And yes, this has been done before in many other blogs/sites.  But do you know what?  Each and every other ‘list of stuff you need for your newborn’ that I’ve come across has been written from a woman’s perspective.  So, this will (hopefully) be a bit of a fresh look at “The List”.

“ahem”

What You Need for a Brand New Baby (ie: younger that say, three months old)

I’ve broken this list down into categories sorta based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  I’ll talk about needs, wants, not-yets, and the useless ‘stuff’, and then order each item within the categories according to importance or relevance.  Yes, I’m anal when it comes to lists.  I find lists comforting (please just nod like you appreciate where I’m coming from and read on, ok?).

1)  Things You Really Need to Get

Infant Carseat: this is number one on my list, because if you don’t have this, you ain’t takin’ your little guy home!  Hospitals won’t let you leave unless you arrive with one in hand.  Any brand or model you find will (well, should!) meet the safety standards of your country or region, so really, it comes down to personal choice.  Some carseats are designed to combine with a stroller (they usually are sold together), so if you think you’ll use a stroller, this variety might be for you (it wasn’t for us; we rarely used a stroller).

Bottles: even if you guys are bringing home an older infant (upwards of 18mths), you’ll still need some of these.  They come in different sizes (most commonly small (4oz) and large (8oz)); the small ones are more useful at first, but quickly become useless once your voracious drinker wants a full bottle.  We bought a mix of sizes for son #1, but have exclusively used the 8oz size for son #2.

       *glass vs. plastic?  New plastic bottles are supposed to be BPA free (there was a scare a few years ago about plastic bottles); however, we use glass because all the hype about plastic bottles still has us wary of them, plus I really just like the feel of glass.

Formula: start with some ready-serve formula for the first day or so, until you see how your routine is establishing itself, then switch to the powdered version of the SAME brand, and start mixing!  There’s an old wives’ tale about how babies reject the first type of formula they try, so you should buy your second choice first.  We did not have that problem with either of our two boys (strangely enough, we didn’t have problems with ANY of the old wives’ tales we were told…).  I won’t endorse any particular brand here (cuz I ain’t gettin’ paid to do so), and they are all supposed to be nutritionally equal… but hey – you get what you pay for, right?

If they are all out of fillet mignon-flavour, this should be an adequate substitute.

Somewhere for Baby to Sleep: babies can and will sleep almost anywhere.  That being said, if you are doing a public adoption (like hubby and I did), your social workers will want to see that you have a bed set up exclusively for your new small human.  Our local public health agency does not support ‘family beds’ (where you, your significant other and baby all sleep together); nor do I.  I have a hard enough time sleeping with hubby rolling all over the place all night long, without having to worry about another body getting in the way of my beauty sleep.  So what are your other options?  Bassinet (he’ll outgrow this quickly!), or crib.  We chose the latter for our first son, buying something called a convertible crib.  No, it doesn’t have a retractable roof – it converted into a big-boy-bed when he got old enough to want to get out of bed himself, and can convert into a double bed when he’s outgrown this stage.  If you go for a crib, don’t forget to pick up a baby mattress, along with some fitted baby mattress sheets, and a plastic sheet to go between them and the mattress.

Diapers:

  • Disposable or Re-useable: you know what?  Just make your life easy – start with disposable diapers.  After a few months, when you can think rationally again, look into re-useable ones.  Son #1 uses a re-useable diaper for his afternoon nap, and a disposable diaper at night (we found having a re-usable diaper on all-night-long is too hard on his skin).
  • What Size to Buy: if you guys are bringing home a newborn, you probably want to get one (ONE) regular pack of ‘newborn’ sized diapers (usually marked with an ‘n’ on the box).  Your little dude is likely to grow quickly – he might even be ready for size ‘1’ by the time you finish the newborn pack.  At that stage, you are probably ok to buy a bigger box (which saves a bit of cash, and the odd trip to the store).
  • What Brand to Use: pick one and see if your little squirter does well in them (by ‘well’, I mean does he break out in pussy rashes and angry pimples one hour after you put the diaper on?).  We’ve only ever tried Pampers, with 100% success.  Like formula, I’m not sure that diapers are something you want to skimp on…  I suggest you be wary of no-name or store brands.

Onesies: The workdress of an infant.  Comes in two styles: short-sleeved-short-legged, and long-sleeved-long-legged. Half a dozen of each should do (why so few?  Because you’ll likely be getting a whole bunch more as gifts from friends and family).  Oh, and hey: the fewer buttons the better. Some crazy little outfits come with flaps and double breasts with snaps here, buttons there and ties for good measure.  Just go for simple one-row button-ups or (better yet) zippers; when it’s 2-am, you’re all thumbs, and you’re trying to get him back into his clothes after a particularly messy diaper change… well, you’ll thank me.

Short onesie & long onesie

Socks & Hats:  You only need a couple of each of these.  There will be mornings that are too warm for a long onesie, but a bit too chilly for bare baby feet.  And when you’re headed outside for a walk on a cloudy, windy day, a hat will keep his little bald head warm.

*The rule of thumb for dressing your little tyke: consider how much you are wearing, and add one layer for him.  No more.  Over-dressing an infant may have a link to sids.

Diaper Rash Cream: every baby gets diaper rash.  Some worse than others.  I’ve got a whole rant coming in another post about diaper rash…  In short, I believe the best way to treat diaper rash is to REMOVE THE DIAPER !  Failing that, it’s not bad to have some of this cream around, because – yeah – I know: there are times when a non-diapered baby is a non-option.

Blankies (adult spelling = blankets): you need a few knitted or fleece blankets for when your little dude is in the car seat, or to cover him and you when you are both a little sleepy after a feeding in your comfy chair (aaahhh!  cuddle time with your satiated baby = daddy bliss).

Burp cloths: Ok – so you don’t NEED these, provided you have an equal number of shirts to the number of feedings you do per week (roughly 40, for the first while).  Otherwise, get a dozen of these.  Little secret => get a pack or two of Gerber ‘cloth diapers’, which are just large squares of extra absorbent cloth; fold one in half and throw over your shoulder = perfect burp cloth.  They also come in handy for swaddling (ah, swaddling!  I’m going to dedicate another post to the wonder and joy of the swaddle).

Baby Carrier: aka baby sling or baby wrap.  Essentially, a device to fasten your baby to your chest.  We used this in place of a stroller almost without exception.  The type we used was a Snugli carrier; I’m not specifically endorsing this brand; it was simply the first and only one we tried.  With complete success 😉 .

Better bonding opportunities than with a stroller!

Baby 1st Aid / Toiletry Kit: Some of this stuff can be found in your home already (see next category below), but a few things are exclusive to little humans, such as: baby nail clippers, baby pain killer, baby thermometer, baby turkey baster (yeah… we never actually used this, but it’s supposed to suck boogies out of your little squirmer’s nose…)

and the final thing you guys will need

Quick Meals for the Two of You: for at least one week.  Because the last thing either of you want to think about is cooking a meal from scratch, or even go out for take-out.  Think frozen pizzas, frozen meat pies, frozen lasagnas, fresh pasta, frozen heat-and-serve fish meals, etc., etc.  Or hey – got a caterer friend?  Get them to drop a bunch of fresh meals off at your place.  Or invite one of your mothers to stay with you for a bit. <=nah.  Not worth it, in the long run.  Trust me 😦

2) Things You Can Cobble Together from Stuff You Already Have

Not everything has to be shiny and new for your little guy – he won’t notice if a thing or two looks recycled, and you’ll save yourselves a bit of cash.  Root around in that medicine cabinet for stuff that’s been there for eight years (Vaseline doesn’t go bad).  Feel good about re-using something that was just sitting in the garage, collecting mice feces dust.  Discover a use for something that was destined for the curb.

Diaper Bag: an essential piece of baby-kit, though not essential to be a designer model.  Pretty much any ol’ bag will do (a knap sack, a small suitcase, etc.)  We use a medium-sized gym bag with end pockets, and a few internal pockets.  It doesn’t have to get fancier than that.  Oh wait – you’re asking “what’s a diaper bag?!”  Good question.  Scroll to the bottom of part 2 of this post for the Diaper Bag Primer.

It’s up to you, dads. YOU’RE the ones who have to carry it.

Diaper Pail: if you intend to use re-useable diapers (we use a mix of re-useable and disposable), you’ll need somewhere other than your normal laundry hamper to drop these puppies.  We use a big ice cream tub beside the toilet in our bathroom (the tub comes from a local ice cream parlour, that sells them for a dollar a piece).

Corn Starch: I used an awful lot of talcum powder on our first son – it was a great way to keep his bum dry, and cut down on the development of diaper rash.  However, there is some thought that inhaling talcum powder can be harmful, and even carcinogenic (some people likening it to asbestos!).  Well, corn starch – which everybody has in their kitchen – works just as well, if not better, and I’ve started using it on our #2 boy.  Just don’t apply as much as you would talc – it can clump up a bit in the folds of his skin. 

making your life – at night – easier

Night Lights: Guess what?  You’re gonna find yourself stumbling around your home at all hours of the night with baby-in-hand.  Why fumble for light switches (and wake him up in the process), when you can just plug-in a handful of these strategically throughout your place, making night-travel a cinch?

Other: petroleum jelly, rubbing alcohol, cotton balls; basically, anything you’d find in a baby first aid kit.  The items in a store-bought baby kit will be packaged smaller, and come in nice-smelling varieties, but your stuff – obviously – will work just as well.

Ok – let’s take a breather here.  When you come back, “The List” will continue in Part 2.

Move aside ladies – the Men are here…

…When I say ‘ladies’, of course, I mean my Mom and Mom-in-law.  And when I say ‘move aside’, I mean ‘uhm, just change his diaper the first few times for us, so that we can watch and learn… from over here’.

Back from the hospital

Honey, I’m home…

Hubby and I were very fortunate to have had both our sets of parents present when we brought our first adoptive son home from the hospital.  Despite the bravado and coolness I was attempting to display on the outside, I did not have one sweet clue as to what to do with this new little human.  When the social workers had ‘passed’ him over to us at the hospital, he was already fastened in his car seat; I had yet to even hold him in my arms.

So, yes – if you are about to bring home a baby for the first time, do your best to surround yourself with as many experienced hands as you can – friends, family, neighbours or whom so ever you can find (within reason, of course).  Our Moms ever so gently took charge for the first few hours, while our Dads sat around talking about sports (ugh, yes, I know – how disgustingly stereotypical – it’s a wonder hubby and I managed to turn out as gay and well-adjusted as we did, despite the hotbeds of heterosexism and outdated gender roles that we were exposed to in our youth).  In any case, for the first few hours after son #1 came home, we were witness to the subtle art of ‘managing a baby’.  Oh, and the not-so-subtle art of ‘Mom & Mom-in-Law one upmanship’.  Or is that one upwomanship?

My Mom got to take him out of the car seat and hold him first; hubby’s Mom changed his first diaper; my Mom fed him for a few minutes, then they switched, etc, etc.

And that’s it.

Yep – that’s what you do with babies for the first little bit: hold them, feed them, change them, and repeat.

And then guess what?  My Dad held him… and then hubby’s Dad – and the baby was still fine; no dropping, no shrieking, no disaster.

I might say that I had an epiphany at that moment, but honestly, I already knew it – men can hold a baby without the sky falling.  Womankind is not a magical species, specifically designed to raise babykind.  Humankind is all alike, differentiated largely by social norms shoved down our throats from infancy (thou shalt wear blue; thou shalt play with trucks, thou shalt only play with barbies if your intent is to rip off their heads to piss off your sister, etc., etc.).

In any case, both hubby and I are capable of holding eight pounds gently in our arms.  We both have at least as much dexterity and hand-eye coordination as our Moms do.  Between us, we have 13 years of post-secondary education, and aren’t so old that we can’t pick up new tricks.  “So,” we asked ourselves, after having observed the process for a few hours, “…can we do it?”  We shared a collective intake of breath, then chanted: “Yes! We! Can!”  (ok, so maybe it didn’t go exactly like that, but after you start watching hours and hours of Bob-the-Builder, you’ll be quoting him too).

I graciously thanked my Mom and Dad for sharing the afternoon with us and with their new grandson, then sent them on their way.  They live 1/2 hour away, which is nice.  Not too far, but not too close, either.  My in-laws are a different matter.  I graciously thanked them as well, but they just stood there, having nowhere to go but our guest bedroom.  There are benefits and drawbacks to having your in-laws live many hours away.

Ok – so you’ve both watched the women in your lives do the heavy lifting with your newborn and silently catalogued all their moves and tricks.  You’ve watched the men in your lives sit on their asses, letting the womanfolk do the heavy lifting, and silently chided them while acknowledging their dated worldview.  Now it’s time for YOU to get your hands (literally) dirty.

Dive in!  You have to.  Either you’ve sent everybody home, and there is nobody left to save you, or you have to show those who remain that you’re capable, so that they’ll eventually LEAVE, comforted knowing that the newest member of your household is in safe hands.

Sit down beside that little human and pick him up.  Cradle him in one arm, then the other – figure out which side is more comfortable for you… and him.  Yeah yeah yeah, and ‘watch his head’ (that’s my Mom’s favourite warning for my Dad whenever he picks up a tiny human).  Put him back down.  Pick him up again.  Kiss him gently.  Look at his funny little fingers, at his tiny toes.  Look at yourself in the mirror with him.  Pass him to your significant-other.  Take their picture.  Actually, take 10, cuz the first nine will not flatter either of them.

Warm up his little bottle (get a pack or two of the instant-serve formula bottles, as well as some disposable nipples – that’ll make your life a bit easier before you have to start making your own formula).  Get him set up in your arms, with whatever arrangement of blankets and towels that those lady-folk used while you were watching from the sidelines (eventually, you’ll come up with your own routine; I’ve actually mastered the art of no-handed infant feeding… what do you think I’m doing right now? 😉 ).  Now stick that nipple into his little mouth and watch him suck.  Both our boys drank anywhere from 15mL – 30mL per feeding during their first 24 hours at home.  Don’t worry: he will let you know when he’s done (he’ll either fall asleep in your arms, or fidget and spit the nipple out).  For the first little bit (I hesitate to use ‘days’ or ‘week’, because each baby will be different), your joy-bundle will be feeding every two hours.  In fact, your whole life will be reset to a two-hour cycle.  An endless two-hour cycle.

Oh, and don’t forget to burp him while feeding, or he’ll be puking all over you in one minute from now.    Burp him often the first few times you feed him.  You’ll eventually establish a routine with burping too – it’ll be obvious (puking-ly obvious) how much formula you should let him drink between burps.  Oh, and hey: the more burps you do early on, the more practice you’ll get transferring him from a feeding position to a burping position!  I started burping my first boy on my shoulder, but found that it caused him to bring up all his formula rather than just the gas in his belly, so I switched to sitting-up-burps, where he sits on one of your legs, facing the other.  You support him by cupping his chin and cheeks with one hand (yes, it looks like you’re choking him; no, you’re not), and tap/rub his back with the other.  Since you’ll need to master burping right away, I’ve embedded this video (thank you Howcast!).  Take what you need from it and disregard the rest (I cringed when I saw the on-his-belly burp method):

So everybody’s gone home, he’s done feeding (and burping) for now, and you’re both sitting there wondering: what next?  Yep.  Unfortunately, it’s that time.  You must now Change His Diaper.

Again, do yourself a favour and DIVE IN (yuck, yep – literally).  Hopefully you’ve set up a changing station somewhere.  Either you’ve succumbed to the consumer urge and bought a frighteningly stylish change table complete with side cabinets and hutch, five shelves, five drawers, detailed beveled edges, curved side & inset panels, exclusive finishes and optional wood swatches. Or you’ve just put a towel down on your bed.  We do the latter, and it works just fine.  End result = diaper changed.

So, set the small human down on the towel/whatever and unbutton his onesie.  Up until the point where we brought our first son home, ‘onesie’ for me meant the oddly attractive one-piece triathlon suits that hubby wears to his races.

Evolution of the Onesie

The evolution of the meaning of ‘onesie’ in our household

Anyways, moving on.  You’ve got the little guy laying on a flat surface.  Next, you unbutton the onesie, slide it off and/or push it up, undo the diaper tabs, pull the diaper front down and…

                    …OH MY GOD – What. Is. That?!?!?!

No – you don’t need to call in a favour from Sigourney Weaver; it’s just the umbilical cord.  And don’t worry – I won’t post an actual picture of it.  Sufficed to say, you’re going to have this little bit of vileness coming along for the ride for roughly a week, before it gets bored and drops off of its own accord.  In the meantime, whenever you change your little guy, make sure his diaper doesn’t overlap the cord (you can fold the top of the diaper down).  Also, keep an eye on his belly button – take note of what it looked like the first time you saw it – if it starts to get (more) red and puffy looking, you could be dealing with an infection, which needs to be dealt with ASAP (ie: by a medical professional).

So, you’re both cool with how the umbilical cord looks (well, after getting over the initial shock).  Next, grab your little tyke’s ankles with one hand, lift up his bum and slide that diaper out from underneath him…

         … ARGH!!!!!  WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS THAT!?!?!?!?

Yeah, you’re in for shock number two.  What you guys are probably looking at is a diaper full of what can only be described as syrupy crude oil.  Amazingly, this is completely normal.  It’s called meconium, which means ‘fecal discharge from a newborn infant’, or, alternatively ‘poppy juice’.  Don’t get any ideas.

Babies first poo

Are babies a source of crude oil?!

So anyways, just clean it up – it’s a bit sticky, but has no odour that I can remember, and only lasts for a few poops, before you move onto poo-phase-two (chunky yellow-green purée).  Cleaning can be accomplished in any number of ways.  Disposable wet wipes are quick and convenient and mean that you are a SWORN ENEMY TO THE ENVIRONMENT.  Alternatively, just wet one of the myriad little baby face cloths* that everybody and their dog will be giving you as soon as they hear that ‘you two wonderful boys are bringing home a little one’ (*Be warned – you will get told off by the little guy in one of two ways if the cloth is too cold: 1) shrieking; or 2) pissing all over you).  Later on, once the umbilical cord has fallen off, you can do a proper job of cleaning him over the sink.  I much prefer this method, rather than just spreading feces around his crotch until you can’t see it anymore, then putting another diaper on him.  No wonder so many babies get diaper rashes all the time.  But I digress.

He’s all clean?  Good.  Now slip a new diaper on, fasten it.  Put the onesie back on and presto.  Just like that.  Easy, eh?  Yeah, of course it’s not.  The good news, is that practice makes perfect and that’s something that you guys are going to have (heh heh ) lots of.  Lots of.  LOTS OF. 

  • Got the diaper on backwards?  Well, one of you will figure it out and (gently) chide the other. 
  • Diaper not fastened quite snuggly enough?  Well, leaking poo is a strong motivator. 
  • Little legs flailing about ceaselessly, while his penis is squirting you purely out of spite?  You’ll develop methods of single-hand multi-tasking like you never thought possible.

Ok!  Well, you’ve done it.  You both got your mini human being home in one piece, got a glimpse of how the basics are accomplished, and had a hand in trying them all yourselves.  Your little sleeping angel is well-fed, has a nice clean diaper on, and is snuggling contentedly in your arms as your significant-other looks over your shoulder lovingly.  All three of you have survived the first few hours at home together.

       Whew! (wiping brow).

Now, go and have a nice long, hot shower and jump into bed for a deep and peaceful sleep.

Ha.  Suckers.

Gay Dads do it Better

Hello,

Welcome to my blog “2 Dads are better than 1”; thank you for checking it out.  My name is Gary, and I live in Eastern Ontario with my husband, our two sons and our two dogs.  I’ve begun this blog in response to the overwhelmingly heterosexist and misandrist (man-hating) attitude that this planet has towards parenting.  My goal is to dispel the notion that child-rearing is purely the bailiwick of (straight) women, and to demonstrate that two guys are just as good at raising kids (if not better, in my not-so-humble opinion) than any other parental combination.

*Disclaimer* – I am not a doctor, nor a psychologist, nor a counsellor, nor any other type of professional in the field of child-rearing.  I am merely a father of two, and anything I may post from here on in is my opinion or my best guess, garnered from experiences my husband and I had with our two boys.  I may also re-post items from other sources.  Nothing you read in here should be considered gospel with respect to child-rearing.  First off, there is no such thing as gospel with respect to child-rearing.  Second, you should always take anything you read online with a grain of salt.  There.  Consider yourselves forewarned.

Ok!  We’ve got the intro out of the way, now it’s time to find out why – when it comes to parenting – gay dads do it better!