Monday, October 27, 2008

Being Treated Like a Second-Class Parent

My son's preschool celebrated his birthday today, and both parents are supposed to come in for an hour, and bring fruit salad. So I dropped him off, bought fruit, made fruit salad, and brought it back; my wife had chaperoned a field trip for our daughter and couldn't get back on time. I explained this to the teacher and she said, "Oh, no; this is terrible! The father sometimes doesn't come, but never the mother! He would be the only one not to have his mother there." She said it sadly, not chidingly. Not interested in entertaining this sexist nonsense, I patiently explained that my son would be fine with that--now, where shall I put the fruit salad? The teacher said she would wait for my wife, or postpone it--I was not willing to have wasted my morning when I had other things to do, and discouraged this idea. Then she started calling my daughter's teacher to get my wife sent over, pronto; in the end, I called my wife and, hearing that she was on her way home anyway, asked her just to come over so that we could get on with it, even if it meant waiting another 20 minutes to start.

I've been treated as a second-class parent any number of ways in my nine years of parenting, but this time seemed less like a habitual assumption, as is usually the case, and more about the essence of mothers and fathers. The teacher told me the mother should be there for what she called the birth story--I assumed that meant the story of the labor, our home birth with midwives, all of which involved me, as far as I remember. But it turned out to be a dilute fairy tale about "before you were born" and sliding down rainbows to Earth--and into your mother's arms.

Part of why this makes me so mad is that, truth be told, it's not always easy for me to feel like I'm a good parent. I don't have a well-worn mold to fall into, and in the everyday chaos of parenting, I wonder at the end of every day how I could have done better. But I am certainly a very committed, fully engaged parent, and not some sort of back-up parent. After I showed up and brought the fruit salad, she made it clear that I was optional in the celebration of his birth, while his mother was essential. In the vaguely Christian feel of the celebration, I felt like Joseph--a benevolent figure who may have been there for the birth, but not exactly a parent like Mary.

Sure, I didn't carry my kids to term, and hardly envy my wife that. But my idea of myself as a father since then is that I have been as essential as my, er, contribution was to get the pregnancy started. As fathers, we're only less important if we choose to believe in myths like the one at the preschool, and give ourselves a smaller role in our children's lives. Like many dads today, I've chosen to have my children land in my arms, in my care as much as their mother's. If we can resist the myths and prejudices and make our own choices, the next generation will have a strong image of father's role, and maybe it won't be such an uphill battle.

Stranger Anxiety-Parents and Babies Both Get It

Some new parents don't want anyone to hold their baby. We understand this. It's a primal urge, perhaps, to want to protect your child from strangers and even the smell of someone else's cologne on your infant can raise hackles on the back of your neck. But other parents aren't uptight about the baby making the rounds and going from one admirer's arms to another, which is their prerogative as well, and which makes for easy family gatherings and a more relaxed mom and dad.

Once the baby gets bigger, he starts to have opinions about who's holding him. He starts to associate love and safety with mom and dad and gets anxious around strangers. Most experts agree that this is a sign of healthy attachment the baby has for his caregiver. So when your son starts to squawk when you hand him over to a fawning admirer, know it's because he feels safer with you than anyone else in the world (and don't force him to remain in someone else's arms, which will just make the anxiety worse).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

BEST AGAVE-SWEETENED, WHOLE WHEAT LEMON CAKE EVER – a healthier version of more traditional recipes

This cake is a great hit at parties with grown-ups and kids alike. You can make it a bit lighter by substituting some white flour for the whole wheat flour, or make it healthier (for babies and toddlers) by adding a tablespoon of brewer’s yeast, a tablespoon of wheat germ, and a tablespoon of kelp before measuring out the flour. The lemon and butter add such strong flavor that the cake can also accommodate other kinds of flour—experiment with using a few tablespoons of oat flour, garbanzo bean flour, or barley flour to keep things interesting and to mix up the grains a bit.

If you've never cooked with whole wheat flour and agave and are unsure, try using 1/2 the "weird stuff" the recipe calls for and the rest your normal flour/sugar as a way to convert your baking over to healthier alternatives. Ditto for the xylitol in the glaze.

2 cups whole wheat flour (see note above)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups agave
3 eggs
Grated zest of 1 large organic lemon
1 cup plain yogurt (more traditional recipes call for sour cream)

Lemon Glaze:
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from the lemon you grated for the zest)
1 cup xylitol or powdered turbinado sugar (put raw cane sugar in the blender to make it into a healthier version of confectioners sugar) or a combination of both

Preheat oven to 325°. Generously butter and flour a cake pan.

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl or large measuring cup and set aside.

Cream the butter, and slowly pour in the agave. Then beat in the eggs and add the lemon zest.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients alternately with yogurt.

Bake at 325 for 55 to 65 minutes. The cake is done when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

To make the glaze: combine all the ingredients in a bowl, blending until smooth and drizzle the glaze onto the cake.

Monday, October 20, 2008

At Home Dad Barred From Play Group

Triplets Dad posted about this article in the Surrey Now newspaper. A part-time stay-at-home dad in Surrey, British Columbia, and his part-time stay-at-home wife joined a play group. When he finally had time to attend an event, the door was closed in his face and he was told he was not welcomed because he was a dad. Here's the original article:
Moms club to Surrey dad: we 'hate to discriminate, but...'
Father and son get boot

Ted Colley
Surrey Now

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sorry, no dads.

That's the message a Clayton Hills father got when he tried to join the activities of the Cloverdale Mommy & Me Meetup group.

Rick Kaselj is a registered kinesiologist and father of Cole, his infant son. A relative newcomer to Surrey, Kaselj was looking for opportunities to meet people in his neighbourhood when he discovered the group online.

"My wife and I just had our first child. She works days and I work evenings, so I'm a part-time stay-at-home dad. I found this group online two or three months ago and signed up."

Since then, Kaselj said, he's been getting the emails sent out to group members announcing events the organizers have put together for members and their children.

Other commitments meant he didn't have time to attend any events until recently, but when he expressed interest in joining in on the fun, the door was slammed shut.

"I received an email this morning or last night saying I'm not welcome," Kaselj said.

"I was hoping to participate with them, but I'm not welcome because I'm a dad."

The email, signed Cloverdale Mothers Group, apologetically informed Kaselj that more than half of the members want the group to be for mothers only.

"I hate to discriminate," the author went on, "but hope you can understand when it comes to the security of our children and especially since you have not been able to attend a meetup."

Kaselj wonders why something wasn't said earlier when he first joined online and is really puzzled about the reference to the security of the other members' children.

"I'm not sure what that means," he said.

"All that time I'm getting their emails, then all of a sudden, it's a problem."

Email requests for comment sent to Fiona, the group's organizer remained unanswered as the Now went to press Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Saying Thank You

Recently my friend Kris Bordessa (author of a great book for parents and educators called "Team Challenges") posted a comment on Facebook that she felt like people underuse the two small words "thank you." That got me thinking about saying thank you. Full disclosure: I am not a big fan of thank you notes-- I grumpily think they waste trees and are sort of an insincere formality most of the time--but I do think feeling, acting, and expressing appreciation is really important.

So yesterday after my daughter's friend's mom sent her home from a nice playdate with a loaf of zucchini bread that we all enjoyed, we sat at the table together and wrote her a thank you note. The act of writing it collectively--and talking about kindness and gratitude--brought our family together and the girls both wrote nice notes of their own on the card.

Here's what Kris had to say when I emailed her to thank *HER* for inspiring us to say thank you:
I think it's a really good lesson for kids - and adults - to be appreciative, even of the little things. I get very grouchy when people ask me for favors and then can't even bother with a quick thank you. So, my FB comment was spurred by negative feelings, but it is something that I've taken to heart. I've even started sending thank you notes to businesses who have great employees. It's way too easy to simply complain when there's a problem, but I think it's nice to say the good stuff, too! With this economy, and all of the negativity in the world right now, I think a little good juju goes a long way.
Thank you for reading this post.