Infertility: Not for Women Only

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I have been trying to have a baby for two years. Both of us have undergone lots of testing but the doctors still don’t know what the problem is. Throughout all of this, dozens of people—mostly friends and family, but also doctors, nurses, lab techs, and others—have come up to me and either offered some kind of advice, asked how my wife is doing, or told me what I need to do to support her. This whole process has been extremely stressful, and both my wife and I are emotionally devastated, but not a single person has asked how I’m doing. I’m getting really angry about being ignored and I’m trying to keep from biting someone’s head off. How should I respond?
A: Just a few decades ago, infertility was considered to be the woman’s “fault.” But today, experts know that it’s more evenly split. About 40% of the time, the cause can be traced to the woman; 40% of the time it’s traced to the man; and the remaining 20% is “unexplained.” Still, because the pregnancy would happen inside the woman’s body, society assumes that women are the only ones affected by infertility. The fact that men experience stress or grief or might be “emotionally devastated” by the shattering of their hopes and dreams rarely occurs to anyone.
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Watch Out, Baby!

Dear Mr. Dad: My husband and I both work and we have our 2-year old daughter in a lovely home daycare. We really like the provider—she makes organic food for all the kids she takes care of, and does a lot of fun activities with them. But we recently found out that she also has the kids in front of the TV or playing video games for several hours every day. It’s so hard to find good-quality, affordable childcare these days, plus our baby really loves her caregiver. How bad is it for toddlers to watch a little TV?

A: Unfortunately, the whole issue of babies and TV is far from being black and white. The official position of the American Academy of Pediatrics is that kids under two should have as close to zero time in front of screens as possible, and kids older than two should limit screen entertainment to an hour or two per day (not including time on computers that are being used for homework, of course). The point is that children should spend a lot more of their time interacting with other people than with electronics.

In an ideal world—where most of us don’t happen to live—that’s definitely the right approach. But we all have situations that call for a little rule bending, and an hour of TV while you’re taking a shower or making a phone call probably won’t cause any long-term damage. And neither will the parental magic trick most of us perform when trying to tame loud or restless kids: pulling out the tablet or smartphone and putting it gently into those little hands.
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Exploring the Culinary Arts

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m not a whiz in the kitchen but I learned enough as a kid to make it through college without having to subsist solely on peanut butter sandwiches and Ramen noodles. My wife and I both cook meals but we can’t seem to get our son (age 11) remotely interested in cooking. How do we get him interested in learning how to cook for himself?

A: You’re absolutely right—everyone should be able to cook enough to feed themselves. Most of us will never become great chefs, but it is possible to get your son to join you in the “not-a-whiz-in-the-kitchen” category. At the very least, knowing how to cook a few things will improve your son’s diet–kids who can cook are less likely to rely on fast food and more likely to eat healthier foods. There are a number of other advantages, which I’ll get to in a minute. But your first step should be to try to figure out what your son has against getting in front of the stove.
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When Tempers Flare

Dear Mr. Dad: My son is six, and he’s still having temper tantrums. Call me crazy, but I thought they would have petered out long ago. Most of the other parents we know say their kids stopped having tantrums when they were two or three. But my son is giving no indication that he’s going to relent anytime soon. What should we do? How long do we have to wait for him to stop?

A: Since you asked for it, I’ll tell you: You’re crazy. If you think you can just sit around and wait for your son to grow out of throwing tantrums, you’re going to be very, very disappointed and frustrated. In fact, given how long this has lasted, there’s a good chance that you and your spouse are the reason your son is still having tantrums in the first place. The only way to bring his reign of terror to an end is for you to step in and start doing something about it. Now.
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But, Dad, Everyone Else Has One…

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I have been debating this for some time but have yet to agree: When should we let our 10-year old daughter have a cell phone? She says all of her friends have one and, as far as I can tell, she’s right. I don’t feel that she needs one, nor do I think she’s old enough for a $400 piece of equipment. My wife disagrees and says our daughter needs a phone for safety. I’ve been holding my ground, but the pressure from wife and daughter is getting unbearable. What do we do?

A: Let’s start with a reality check. I’m betting that, despite what you’ve seen, not all of your daughter’s friends actually do have a phone. According to a recent study by the National Consumers League, only 56% of 8-12-year olds (“only” is a relative term).That said, as the dad of a 10-year old daughter, I feel you. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all, black-and-white solution. Cost definitely figures in somewhere, but it’s mostly about maturity. Some 9-year olds might be able to handle the responsibilities of having a phone while some 14-year olds might not be.
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You Forgot to Do Your Chores? Again? Really?

Dear Mr. Dad, My wife and I are extremely frustrated that we are always seem to be reminding our children, ages 10 and 14, to do their chores. They know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, but they’re constantly “forgetting”—even if it’s something they’ve done three times a week for the last six months. We’ve discussed this with some of our friends who have kids about the same age, and they all have the same problem. Is there some way to get kids to do their chores without having to nag them over and over?

A: Kids have been “forgetting” to do their chores since the beginning of time—and parents have been nagging just as long. I’m sure Ma and Pa Cro-Magnon got sick and tired of reminding their cubs to put their spears away or take the sabertooth out for a walk. No question, kids sometimes “forget” their chores as a way of getting out of doing them (an approach that’s often successful). But sometimes they really do forget—even after being reminded 174 times. Unfortunately, there’s no sure-fire cure for this kind of selective memory loss, but there are a few strategies that may help.
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