Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Judy - Leaving Babyhood and Involving Fathers #11

Believe it or not, when babies pass their first birthday, they become even cuter and more delightful. Watching the antics of toddlers is like having a private viewing of a hilarious comedy act. And it goes on non-stop!

Sometimes, however, you might wish life during these years were a little less, um, exhilarating. At these times remember my basic motherhood motto: don’t sweat the small stuff. I knew one couple who were so worried about their baby girl getting germs that they boiled everything long after it was necessary--all her toys, eating utensils, everything. If they could have boiled her mother’s breasts before breastfeeding, they would have. Then one night the father came home and saw his fragile one-year-old daughter eating mud off his boots. When she didn’t die, or even sicken, they were able to relax and enjoy her more.

Having said that, I have to tell you about my friend, Mary. One day she was carrying her bundled baby around a store and trying to keep track of several other rambunctious children. While waiting in line at the checkout, someone asked to see her baby. She unwrapped him and discovered his feet were up and his head was down. She said ruefully, “I guess it is possible to be too casual with your children.

After you have a child, the husband/wife dynamic will naturally change, and it’s important to realize that it’s going to happen. For some people this change will be small, whereas for others it will be enormous. According to Lloyd, this change will be hardest on the husband. He says after we were such a close couple for two years, the sudden introduction of a third member, even a long-awaited and beloved third member, created a “three’s a crowd” feeling. He felt like the odd man out. As much as he loved our little daughter, he was jealous of all the time I needed to spend with her. Then he felt guilty for feeling jealous.

The best way to prepare for this is to realize it may happen and talk about it beforehand. Discuss what to do about it, and both of you try to understand how the other feels. In our case, I could have been more sensitive if I’d known how he felt, but I didn’t know until he told me years later. Also, decide together how to share caregiving activities as much as possible. Even if you breastfeed, there’s still a lot a father can do. I’ve read that often the problem is the mother doesn’t think the father can do anything as well as she can, so she doesn’t let him try, or show him how. She just nudges him out of the way and takes over. On the other hand, I’ve watched with approval as my daughters who are now mothers work together with their husbands as they both take care of their children.

Perhaps there is something Dad can do on a regular basis so he becomes part of the routine. As our first baby got older, Lloyd started taking her out for long, early-morning walks so I could sleep in a little. Talk about a win-win situation!

According to the web site, Researchers have shown that having dad around and involved in both positive parenting and play with todders makes a massive difference in their childhood.

An active, present, and positive father has been shown to:

  • Reduce behavioural problems in boys
  • Reduce psychological problems in girls
  • Reduce later criminal behaviour in children
  • Enhance intelligence, curiosity, reasoning, and language development
  • Decrease the incidence of children smoking (as teens)
  • Have better friendships and social skills
  • Even have better marriages (at age 33) if their relationship with Dad was good at age 16.
This is only a brief snapshot of a handful of the positive behavioural aspects when dad is involved in parenting, rather than absent or merely a spectator. Kids are happier and they function better when they have their dad involved in their lives. The earlier the involvement begins, and the more constant the involvement remains, the better the children's outcomes.”

In fact, it is often during the toddler years that the father comes into his own in the parenting department. They not only respond differently than mothers do, they also play differently and the child is the beneficiary. We used to have a psychiatrist friend who always said, “The best thing for a child is to have less mother and more father in the early years; then less father and more mother in the teen years.” Something to consider.

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