Friday, April 25, 2014

Answer to your homework assignment

I posted a homework assignment a few weeks ago asking youse to make some daily observances. I asked you to simply observe how men are portrayed versus their female counterparts in television commercials. Well, who did their homework? Show of hands… come on, don’t be shy. Did anyone complete their assignment? I’m going to assume not many, so I’ll go ahead and give you my take on things.

Short answer:  Dumb

Long answer: Men, as a collective whole, have allowed ourselves to become the butt of just about every joke running these days. Except for the investment commercials and the ones about “building a smarter planet”, we males look pretty stupid in the media. We can’t cook, handle new technology, correctly buy a car or bathe properly… and don’t even get me started on handling children (even our own). Any commercial that is intended to be light-hearted and funny typically involves making the male look like an idiot. In the eyes of marketing agencies across the country, we men are nothing more than Homer Simpson or Al Bundy (from the Married with Children sitcom, for you young kids) – a useless, balding, overweight buffoon bumbling through life only caring about junk food, TV and beer.

And it’s not isolated to college-age frat boys who are having trouble deciding what booze their going to swizzle all weekend. It can range from elementary school boys appearing dumb in class all the way to an AT&T commercial where the father can’t quite seem to wrap his mind around wireless internet. Men, in general, have it pretty bad in the overwhelming majority of these commercials… but fathers have it the worst.

Josh Levs, of CNN, wrote an excellent article on this very issue – it’s titled, “No more dumb old dad: Changing the bumbling father stereotype.” He references a Huggies ad that aired last year that put its diapers “to the toughest test imaginable: dads, alone with their babies, in one house, for five days.” What exactly made time with dad “the toughest test imaginable?” Are we, as fathers, more distracted with watching the double-overtime thriller so as to not change our child’s diaper?

I realize that it’s only natural for comedies and sitcoms to take on dads. After years of “Leave It to Beaver” and “The Donna Reed Show”, television had evolved (and I use that term loosely) into a different animal. Inversion became the key to comedy – taking people who are typically in authority and control and making them the butt of jokes. I also understand that the majority of these portrayals are in fictional situations. However, perception is reality – and I perceive that we dads are looking pretty dumb these days.

The main issue I have with this – is that young boys who don’t understand the sarcasm and fictional nature of these commercials are going to think this is what is expected of them… and they’re going to rise only to the low bar that’s been set for them. Furthermore, it could lead young girls to have low expectation for how their future husbands will handle fatherhood. It’s no wonder so many people are waiting longer and longer to have kids. For any young single woman out there who sees these commercials and thinks this is what we men are like in general, I can see where they might want to hold off on the baby-making for a while. Heck, I wouldn’t want to have kids with someone who acted like most dads do in these commercials either.

I was going to get on my soap box and rant for a little bit, but decided against it. After all, women have been oppressed for so long that a few tongue-in-cheek commercials can’t even hold a candle to what they’ve been through. And maybe, just maybe, some of this harsh criticism isn’t so undeserved. I can’t tell you how many kids’ birthday parties I’ve been to where the mom shows up with her child (or children, most of the time) and the dad is nowhere to be found. I can somewhat understand if said parents only have one child and dad is at home getting some yard work done, but many times I see the mom show up with multiple kids, and there isn’t a helping hand in sight. When you have three kids under the age of four, maybe you should help your poor wife out a bit, yeah?

It all boils down to priorities – what are your priorities as a man? As a parent? As a father? I think the comedy behind these commercials is derived from mocking our manly priorities… they’re a metaphor for how men have historically thought about certain things. It goes back to the Huggies commercial – are these fathers going to be too preoccupied with other activities that the diapers are going to have to hold up for hours on end? Are changing poopy diapers simply not that high on our “important things to do” list?

For many, the answer is yes – which is the reason these commercials can be made in the first place. For all you dual-career parents out there: wake up, men. It’s the 21st century. Women are showing their “tougher” side by getting their butts into the workplace (and many times running the joint,) so now it’s our turn to show our “softer” side and get to parenting. You don’t just get to show up for one night of fun and expect the woman to handle everything that comes afterward – unless you already have such an agreed-upon arrangement, in which case you can disregard this whole blog post. In most cases, gone are the days of the single-income family where dad goes to work and mom stays home with the kids. If your wife is busting her butt all week long with a full-time job just like you, guess what that means? It means she’s just as tired as you at the end of the week and could use a hand. Don’t expect her to taxi the kids around all weekend while you watch football and tinker around in the garage. What’s that you say? You’ll miss getting your hands dirty? Try changing a diaper after your kid ate a whole plate of refried beans and corn the night before. Trust me, your hands will be plenty dirty after that.

I’m certainly not here claiming to be the perfect father, because as I’ve said numerous times, there is no such thing. But, I try every single day to be the best one that I can be. Mommy B and I put in (almost) the same amount of hours at work each week, which means I damn sure put in the same amount of hours with the kids as she does. But it shouldn’t be just about the amount of time you spend with your kids, it should be about the quality of the time you spend with your kids. Dads should want to go to the birthday parties at this age while your kid will still let you… because soon they won’t, and you’ll be sorry you missed your chance. Remember, we’re only “cool” for a little while – and you better take advantage while you can.

Come on, guys… don’t be the dumb-old-dad who doesn’t know how to fold his daughter’s clothes, be the fun dad that tumbles around on the play mats at the little kid’s gym. Don’t sit and watch – get up and do. It’s time to buck the stereotype, and it starts with the little things we do every day. Some may think I’m crazy saying that we all have to be some super-dad that does everything. So be it.

I just call it being…
a dad.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Posted without comment

In case the video doesn't show up (which it should on Google Chrome), here is a link to it:
World's Toughest Job

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

We do it all for you, buddy

Frequent pursuers of This Space have read about Aiden’s sinus conditions for the past couple of months now. Well, Sunday night/Monday morning, they finally came to a head. Let me back things up a bit to paint the full picture of what the poor kid has been through recently.

About a month or so ago, Aiden started getting his usual snotty nose coupled with a raspy cough. He was also getting pretty congested at night which was making things hard for him to breathe. Naturally, when it’s hard to breathe at night, it becomes hard to sleep. When it’s hard to sleep, it keeps Mommy B and Dad-E awake. We took him to the doctor after a few rough nights and the diagnosis was springtime allergies. I always had bad sinuses and allergies as a kid, but not caused by the pollen like we have here in the south. In any case, the doctor said that not only did it appear Aiden was getting hit hard with allergies, but he also had pretty swollen tonsils and his adenoids were huge. I quickly flashed back to when I was about 4-5 years old getting Strep Throat every six weeks. It got so bad that I eventually had my tonsils and adenoids (T&A) removed around age six. In any case, they prescribed some allergy medicine that would help with his symptoms – Singulair in pill form and over-the-counter Zyrtec in liquid form. We started giving it to Aiden that night and after a few days he seemed to clear up quite a bit.

We thought we were on a roll as he was sleeping better and not looking quite as zombie-like during the day. No big circles under his eyes and almost no coughing. However, that was short-lived as two weeks ago he started to get really congested again. The doctor prescribed some Amoxicillin to break things up this time, and coupled with the allergy meds things started to slowly get better. Keep in mind that each time he has one of these “episodes”, his breathing at night sounds horrendous and it causes him to wake up and move around quite a bit. I totally get it, as I went through it as a kid too. You breathe through your nose while you sleep, and you can’t do that when it’s stuffed up. So, the only other way to go is through the mouth. Well, when your tonsils and adenoids are the size of golf balls, that makes things a little difficult. Put all those factors together, and you have a recipe for not sleeping – for anyone.

After 10 days of antibiotics, we thought we were once again in the clear. The spring allergens were dissipating and he was starting to get some halfway decent sleep (as were we). It was a Thursday, and I had just given him his very last dose of the pink stuff that morning, when his school called at 2:30pm. His teacher said that he felt warm when he woke up from his nap, so she took his temperature and it read 100.9. Needless to say, we needed to come pick him up and get him home. There had been a few cases of Pink Eye and various other illnesses in his class recently, so we weren’t all that surprised that he eventually had caught something. We started giving him some Motrin to help with the fever, but he still woke up once during the night. Luckily I was able to get some Tylenol in him and he went back to sleep.

Since you’re not allowed to bring a child back to school until they have been fever-free for 24 hours, it meant he was going to have to stay home with my mom (Tatsy) while I took Alli to school that Friday. He took an early nap that day, and even though he acted normal for the most part, he was still showing signs of a low-grade fever. Even during his naps his breathing sounded terrible… I just can’t imagine that he’s gotten any decent sleep lately. Friday night came around and again he only woke up once, but still required a visit from me and more medicine to keep him from burning up. He still “slept” pretty well the rest of the night, but it just sounded like torture to struggle that much just to breathe at night.

Saturday rolled around and Mommy B decided to take Alli and make a mini road trip to Charlotte for a friend’s kid’s birthday party. That was fine with me – it would get the girls out of the house for a bit and leave Aiden and I to deal with his illness, all the while Mommy B and Alli could get some quality friend time. Might help them recharge the batteries a little bit and score some brownie points for me – a win-win, right? Well, it was – for the most part. Aiden was great all day, but was still burning a fever. To make matters worse, he was starting to show signs of congestion by that evening. I gave him a bath and he started shaking while in the tub, so I pulled him out to get him dried off. He shivered the entire time I dried him off, so I knew his fever was still getting to him. I took him back into the bathroom, gave him some medicine, and took him into his room to get him settled down. He fell asleep on my shoulder before I had even turned the light off. So, I just walked him around for a few minutes and put him down in bed.

Even though he fell asleep early, his breathing had gotten even worse. I went into his room a couple hours later and put my phone right next to his mouth to record the horrendous sounds he was making. He literally sounded like a 60-year-old overweight man with sleep apnea. The worst part? There was nothing I could do about it. I had already elevated his mattress to give him a little incline and possibly help with the drainage, but it wasn’t helping much. While it was heart-breaking to listen to, at least he was sleeping… as well as he could have been. Again, he only woke up once and I was able to get him back to sleep with some medicine and a few swigs of milk. His fever was still present, but the drugs seemed to be helping stave it off a bit.

He woke up Sunday morning sounding so congested that he was coughing constantly. He was still running a low-grade fever, and now had snot pouring out his nose. I had had enough, it was time something be done about this, once and for all. I called the doctor’s office and said he needed to be seen that day. Mommy B came home from her road trip with Alli and we decided since she was the nurse, she would take Aiden to the doctor and demand more intense treatment as well as an ENT consult. As much as I wanted to go with the poor kid to vent my frustrations that I had built up over the past few weeks, I decided to not let my emotions get too involved and stay home with Alli to keep her away from other sick kids. Mommy B returned home that afternoon with a prescription for a different antibiotic and a breathing treatment. We tried the breathing treatment that afternoon without much success. How many almost-two-year olds enjoy wearing a mask with stuff coming out of it over their face? I basically had to pin Aiden to my chest while Mommy B held the mask in place. It didn’t go very well, obviously. The day rolled on and even though he wasn’t really eating much, he was still chugging milk and other liquids like a champ. Since he was still running a low-grade fever, he couldn’t go to school in the morning – so once again my mom was on duty to come over before I took Alli to school. We were able to get his first dose of the new medicine and some more Motrin in him before bed, and he fell asleep around his usual time. Mommy B and I got things settled around the house and ready for the week – finally getting ourselves in bed around 10pm or so.

Around 11:30pm that night, he woke up moaning like he typically does when he’s uncomfortable. Since I was barely asleep by then anyway, I headed upstairs to get him settled. Little did I know that’s when the real fun would begin.

I picked him up and at first his temperature felt great, so I just rested him on my shoulder and walked him around for a bit. However, after a couple of minutes, he started shivering again like he had the night before. I covered him up to try and get him to feel warm again, but I also noticed that his body temperature was rising by the minute. I instantly flashed back to when I was younger – this was his fever breaking! Even though you’re shaking and “feel” cold, it’s your body’s way of getting rid of the excess heat caused by the virus. I remembered this process, and as much as it sucked to go through, it meant the end to the suffering was near. Or so I thought.

Mommy B and I took turns walking him around, trying to calm him down as I’m sure this was a new and scary experience for him. We even tried giving him something to drink in hopes that would help cool him down. He promptly threw it back up on his pajamas and Mommy B’s shirt. My turn to take over while Mommy B changed. I tried peeling his clothes off so get rid of the vomit but to also let his body cool, but no dice… he wasn’t having it. I put my hand on his back and it felt like I could literally fry an egg on it. Although with as much as he was shaking it would have probably turned out
scrambled. Mommy B called her work and told them she wouldn’t be coming in that morning so she could stay home with him. I then called my mom and told her she was off duty in the morning. We walked him around a little while longer, but things weren’t improving at all. Mommy B decided we should take his temperature to see what he was up to. She told me to put the high-tech thermometer she had under his armpit, and add a degree to whatever the readout said – this would be closer to his internal temperature. The thermometer read 103.5F, which meant his internal temperature was actually closer to 104.5F.

Holy crap.

Ok, time for more drastic measures – we needed to take this poor kid to the Emergency Room and get him looked at. I quickly called my mom and she rushed over to the house so Alli could stay asleep while we took Aiden in. We tossed some more clothes in a bag (in case he threw up on us again, which he did) and got in the car. Even though it was illegal as hell, I reclined the front seat and held Aiden to my chest while Mommy B drove. I was as scared as a parent could be the entire drive – what if they find out something is seriously wrong with him? What if it’s some crazy virus they’ve never seen before? What was causing all these symptoms? What if it was nothing and they sent us home with some Tylenol and a huge bill for an ER visit? Well, at that point I didn’t care – I just wanted
someone to help my poor child. He’s not even two for crying out loud. There it was, 12:30am on a Monday morning and we were taking Aiden in for his first Emergency Room visit.

By the time we had gotten downtown to Mommy B’s work, he had stopped shaking from the fever. The nurse at the front desk took us back and checked the little man out – his temperature was down to 100.5F, which was a good sign. However, he was still coughing quite a bit and you could still hear his labored breathing. We were finally taken back to see the doctor and they checked a few more things out. Good news was that after they dug some earwax out (which, news to me, apparently hurts like hell) and examined him a bit more, they didn’t see any serious signs of infection. They had given him some more Motrin when we first checked in, so that was also helping with his temperature. The doctor felt that a couple things were at play which were making him so miserable – chances are he was getting over some type of virus which had caused his fever and since he’s so prone to sinus congestion that we was likely just clogged up again. He said he wouldn’t bother doing a viral test because honestly it wouldn’t matter in his course of treatment. He explained a couple other things to us and I must say it was quite a refreshing experience. He was very candid and transparent, just gave us the facts and was clear with his directions. I can understand glossing over things so you don’t scare a child, but I’m a grown man with children of my own, you don’t need to sugar-coat things for me. Just to make sure we left no option unexplored, I let the doctor listen to the recording of Aiden sleeping the night before. I almost had to pick his jaw up off the floor… he literally could not believe that he was hearing a small child making those noises while sleeping. He said, “Uh yeah, I’m calling the ENT doctor you have your consult with right now and labeling this case as URGENT. Oh, and one other thing, we can treat his stuffy nose with Afrin for a little relief. You can buy it at Walmart on the way home.”

Say what?
Afrin? The same stuff I used as a kid? You can use that stuff on a two-year-old? How come nobody told me this earlier? Sweet mother of Abraham Lincoln*, I would have been stock-piling that stuff months ago! They happen to have some there, so they shot it up his nose and within minutes he was already breathing better. By the time they processed our paperwork and we were able to leave (2:30am), he was like a new man. His fever had gone down a ton, and he was actually able to breathe like a normal person again – hot damn. He even was signing along to the radio in the car on the way home, so I knew he felt better already. It was strange holding him and not hearing him mouth-breathe like a Neanderthal.

*Sorry, Toy Story 2 (Aiden’s favorite) reference.

So we probably really didn’t need to make an ER visit to get Aiden feeling better, but it did accomplish two things we might not have otherwise: 1) We were informed that not only could we start giving him a higher dose of Motrin/Tylenol because he weighs more, but we could also give him Afrin if he was
really stuffed up. And, 2) we were able to get bumped to the top of the ENT consult list thanks to the ER doc’s phone call. In fact, we meet with the best ENT that MUSC has on Wednesday to get Aiden checked out. As much as any parent wants to avoid surgery, I know how much better my life was after they removed my tonsils and adenoids. I’m not saying it will be a magic bullet for a two-year old, but I think every little bit will help at this point.

There it was, 3am Monday morning and we had made it back to the house with a (mostly) bouncing baby boy who didn’t really act like he wanted to go back to bed. Luckily, Mommy B took him up to his room and he promptly fell asleep on her shoulder. She put him in bed and he slept for over 5 more hours – and it was probably the
best sleep he’s had in weeks. I relieved Tatsy of her duties so she could go home and get some sleep, even though Alli had slept through the whole ordeal not even aware that we had been gone. I finally closed my eyes around 3:30am, just in time for my alarm to go off at 6. I figured since Mommy B was already staying home with Aiden, there was no point in me burning my time off too. I rolled out of bed and dragged my exhausted butt to work by about 7:30am. And just to make sure I was good and tired, I did what I do every Monday… I ran 4 miles during my lunch break.

I’m not nuts – I’m
dedicated. I try to keep myself in peak shape to take on whatever challenges these little ones throw at me. We do it all for you, kiddos.