What's up, Hugo Schwyzer and the Good Men Project?
Hugo Schwyzer resigned from the Good Men Project and posted why on his blog. It was a thing. I didn’t know about it. I heard about it from TheDaddyComplex, and after reading all the back and forth, I went ahead and wrote a response. Now that I’m here again after my winter break from the internet, I decided to post the response myself, since who knows where on the internet it ended up. Here it is:
When I was asked to write about “the end of gender,” I wrote about this about my daughter. Most of our household gets boiled down to baby. Maybe what I should have written about was men versus women. I didn’t know about Hugo’s resignation until over a week after it had happened. I have to say I’m kind of impressed by all sides. Maybe I’m going to wuss out here on making a public stand. But maybe I’ve just come to accept that things change every second. A baby will do that.
Still, disagreement seems a good thing to me, if we’re talking goodness. There are all sorts of ways to be good. Hugo’s piece deserves to be read, widely. It makes an important point. I think my point would be that a man who reads the Good Men Project doesn’t have to be the man described in Tom Matlack’s piece—which was probably mostly framed the wrong way, too focused on women when really what it meant to say was something about men—or the man Hugo is, standing up by resigning. I won’t tell anyone to do anything. That, it seems to me, is what feminism and many other isms are all about: not wanting someone else to determine who you are. When I edit the GMP fiction, I’m looking for the widest array of men/characters I can find.
I have my own opinions, but they won’t change anyone’s mind. And I’m never sure I’m right—though this has nothing to do with my wife. This insecurity or whatever you want to call it may be why I have such trouble writing a topical essay and end up only writing about myself. My insecurities are personal. (You can’t have them.) What I do is the same thing Lisa Hickey does in her response. I tell stories. Here’s one from today:
My wife and I took our daughter to Gymboree for baby class. We both wanted to run point, be the lord/lady of play. If my wife had said it was her job, as the mother, I would have let it go. If she’d said it was my job, as the father, I would have gladly taken it. But what we did instead was we laughed when our daughter laughed, we watched her, we focused on her. Because we didn’t care about anything else. I guess I still managed to make this about my daughter. Sorry.
I’ve joked a couple of times about how I’m not sure what The Good Men Project’s goals are. (I know a couple of contributors follow The Daddy Complex… or used to. No offense, guys.) Also, a number of the stories seem preoccupied with how to remain masculine. Looking at this development, in which Matlack make the age-old mistake of dismissing feminist arguments as ire, perhaps they’ll never figure it out.
We took our daughter to the mall yesterday to introduce her to that bearded watcher of children, Santa Claus. Anyone else notice how any description you can come up with makes Santa sound pretty creepy (always wears the same clothes, puts kids on lists, gives them toys if they’ve been good)?
Before you become a parent, you probably also didn’t realize that PHOTOS WITH SANTA COST OVER $20! Really, Santa? Not so magical when it comes to Capitalism.
Baby Grace looked up at Santa, made her decision about him, and cried. But at least the photographer couldn’t get a good picture, so we were saved the money.
Online, people are posting list after “best of” list. In our house, it has been the year of the rash. Our best of list is: Grace. Our worst of list is longer. Rashes are at the top. Before pregnancy, I never knewpeople could be allergic to the cold. I never knew the things a body inside a body could cause. It’s a good thing I didn’t, for procreation’s sake…READ MORE
I just tried some of my baby’s food. Apple and mushed-up rice. I didn’t want to, but my wife said she wanted to give me some since I never got the experience. I was in an orphanage until I was 2. Besides, she made the food from scratch. It was sweet, I love her, etc. At first she wanted me to eat with the same spotty spoon, but I vetoed that idea. She poured the mush into my mouth like a baby bird.
Hot damn, baby food is no good. Baby, I just want you to know, food gets better.
Whenever we lay alfie down flat, his instinct is to lift his head up. He can hold it there for a seemingly unending amount of time. It’s not all that surprising, considering he was holding his head up by Week 2 of his life.
That is, he was holding his head up like that until last night, when my wife held his legs down, and then watched in awe as he sat himself up from a flat position. Then: he kept doing it. Basically, he does way more crunches than anyone in this family.
"He’s going to be a football player!"
Please. Don’t ever say that again. I like my son’s head in its non-concussion state, thank you. Plus, he already loves books.
Revision: he loves trying to eat books. I’m choosing to see this as symbolic.
I wanted to call this next installation of the column I write for my alma mater’s magazine “Baby Crack,” but given the connotations of what those words mean when you reverse them, I thought better of it. Still: I’m addicted to smelling my son’s head.
My wife is educating our 5-month-old baby. Each day I learn something new about learning. I have learned that simply holding a cup is education. I have learned to play “Hot Cross Buns” on a xylophone (with matching arm movements). I have learned that the high-pitched voice people use with babies is exactly what they best respond to. I have learned that babies want badly to learn and never need a break, except to sleep… READ MORE
“You’ll get your life back when the baby turns two.” Heard this recently. Is it true?
No. What you get is to experience your new life more than before. Your kid will be a little more self-sufficient, probably sleep longer, be more of a child than a little fleshy bag of need. That means you get to really explore your post-birth world, which will be nothing like before.
To answer the underlying question: It doesn’t necessarily get easier, as people often say, but it does get better. And much, much more fun.
Plus, there are Legos.
The Daddy Complex rules. I always thought growing up drooled. -ms
“i have a son. this is still weirding me out.”—bp, in a minor existential freakout after realizing that the breathing from the other room was coming from a sentient being who is currently in the process of learning how to be someone distinctly his own, and yet somehow shares things in common with me like eye color and complicated DNA strands.
On Friday night, my wife went out for the evening, and so it was the first test of how the boob-less parent could handle the job of sole caregiver (which makes me wonder how on earth single parents do it. They deserve their own…well, anything they want really. Whatever a single parent wants, they should get it immediately).
For the first part of the evening, I was running through lists of activities (guitar, play mat, sophie the giraffe, repeat) I could do to keep him from having a freakout. After a couple hours without incident—and in fact, found me on the floor cracking up over his ability to now puff his cheeks and say ‘ba-ba-ba’—I realized that I was doing the parental version of driving defensively. I was expecting everything to totally fail and end up with a starving (even though we had plenty of milk in the fridge), un-soothable (even though he’s almost always soothable) baby who quickly discovered how inept his father is.
Why do we assume the worst? There’s a difference between planning for a crash, and living every second like a massive car wreck is unavoidable.
So, around hour 4, when he really wanted to sleep but still had no mother, and was therefore in full wail mode, it didn’t actually bother me. He eventually fell asleep, and I was so afraid to put him down that I held him there for about an hour until his mother came home.
At which point I no longer had blood flowing in my hands, and my shoulders had stiffened.
I stand by my belief that, even though my wife sometimes goes days without leaving the house (we only have one car), she is clearly the hardest worker of the family.
So baby Grace has been doing this thing where she puts her lips to your skin and half-spits half-blows, making a sound like a mouth fart. It’s like blowing a very wet raspberry. Sometimes milk comes out.
We haven’t seen many other babies doing this, so we took it to the streets (by which I mean, my wife asked the other moms at her Korean church.) Rumor is that in Korea, when a baby spits like that, it means that it is going to rain.
The only problem with that theory is that she does this multiple times a day, every day. Unless this is God telling us to build an ark.
I guess some babies like cars. Some babies hate cars. Baby Grace hates that cars stop. This means my wife and I hate that cars stop. Sometimes it seems as if the government or road works or someone is seriously against us. I mean, why even have stop signs or street lights at all? Just to make babies cry?
It makes me wonder what would happen if the world just stopped spinning. I mean, other than all of us flying into space. That’s how centrifugal force works, right?
Why do I always feel like I’m missing something my baby seems to understand better.
When I was a kid, I loved the late-night car ride. Coming back from some forgettable dinner at some friend of the family’s place, it was the slow-mo, low-glo haze of the car at night that I remember. I’d dip in and out of consciousness, coming to long enough to realize I was having the best kind of sleep imaginable. I never wanted it to end, and so with my eyes closed, I’d start predicting where I thought we were—the big dips in Rollercoaster Road, the gradual bend off rte. 104, or waiting for the light to change and let us turn down Elm Street where we lived.
I was never right. But the woozy exercise of trying to direct myself with my eyes closed in a perfect state of rest is something that I’ve never found the adult version of. If I wanted to get metaphorical (meaning: I do), I’d say that this blind movement is what I try to recreate in my writing—not only is it “not the destination” but it’s the hope that you can hold back the destination as long as possible, and almost will it into non-existence.
My son’s take on car rides is maybe not so much like this.
In fact: it’s easily his least favorite activity in the world. Every time he’s in his car seat, he’s screaming, or about to scream. The older he’s gotten (5 months now!), the less able he is to fall asleep in the car. In fact, I’ve noticed that he sometimes stops screaming when we break at a light. So much for that “rhythmic tire-spin” that so many parents claim is their magic pacifying trick.
I really hope that this is just a phase. I need him to be a good traveler. My wife and I are not very good at sitting on our couch all the time. We need to go places.
For now: I think we’re putting a ban on all trips that exceed 20 minutes.
1:People had told me that it's tough when your kid gets his first cold, but I had no idea I'd feel this terrible/helpless. We sit there trying to use that nose-probe thing while he flails, and I swear he creates double the amount of bodily fluid than the inconsequential amount of mucus that is suctioned out.
2:Sneezes, which once were just unbearably cute (he laughs every time he sneezes), are now Blessed Bringers of Snot, and I've wondered if there's a safe way to actually get your baby to sneeze more.
3:The hardest part is that he actually tries to keep having fun, but his wet face keeps contorting after the normally pleasing hoof-in-mouth of Sophie the Giraffe fails to clear up his Walter Matthau-like snorts.
4:Oh, and CVS? Thanks so much for only carrying baby tylenol products that contain fake, chemically-derived fruit flavors. News Flash: Babies haven't eaten Skittles yet. They don't know what a grape tastes like, let alone the Grimace-y purple hue you claim tastes like the same thing wine is made from.
5:As the non-nursing parent, I can't do much more than what I normally do, which is already not much, given the small window of non-work/commuting time I have. My biggest success was, as alfie got more and more upset at his clogged pipes, I bounced him until I unwittingly burped in his face. He was stunned into a state of calm curiosity that lasted at least 10 seconds. Burps, FTW.
6:And to top it off, my wife thinks it best that I stay on the futon tonight, as my rolling around might disturb the sleep that is even harder to come by when you can't breathe through your nose. (She also wants me to get more sleep, so I, you know, don't fall asleep at the wheel on the way to work). This may be the first instance of a husband being couch-sentenced out of loving deference.
Matt gave Grace rice water, and we’ve decided to include bananas in our next shopping trip. This is no small miracle b/c 1. our baby is taking an interest in food and 2. I’ve pretty much had an active banana-banish in order since, well, I was born (they’re gross! you might as well be eating chapstick!).
It all started last week when we noticed that Alfie got exceptionally lunge-y during dinner (yes, he lunges. We’re already at that phase where we’re in danger of saying things like “we only turned our backs for a second and…[some kind of tragedy]). Dr. Sears mentions that if babies seem interested only in the utensils, then they’re interested in toys, not food. Not the case over here. Only food will stop his aerobics. When he grabbed a fistful of lentils the other night, my first instinct was to shove his whole arm in my mouth and try and suck every last bit of lentil broth off his hand. I…don’t know what I was afraid of.
A friend of mine lived in Spain for 3 years, and had both of her children in that time span. When do Spanish babies start eating? 4 months. Capers, olives, fish (soon after)—they’re not nearly as leary as Americans are with babies and solids. They give their kids chorizo before cow’s milk. So, my friend followed suit, and now her toddler requests her own special bowl of capers whenever they have it in their food. I can only pray that our son has such a discerning and ecstatic palate.
The point is, I think, to reward babies when they show an interest in something positive and life-giving. Meaning, we’ll start mashing bananas and giving him a pinky-full here and there, just to see. And, in a move that will make me a shoe-in for father-of-the-year, I will pretend to like bananas.
Baby Grace goes to urgent care in my latest Good Men Project column. Here’s an excerpt:
Babies train you. For nine months, you are subject to your baby’s cravings. You learn to respect the belly. You make room for the belly in your lives, see how life revolves around it, allow strangers to approach it as if it somehow belongs to everyone. The belly dictates, leaves marks and itches and makes you cry and still is achingly beautiful. The mother accepts the baby as part of her, and then it is born resembling its father, so the father’s instincts kick in. At first, the baby does its business odorlessly; by the time the diapers stink, you’re used to the concept of diapers. The baby teaches you its cues, and when you learn those, teaches you new cues.
But when you lose pace with your baby, what do you do then?… READ MORE
Really. I could say something funny about my son grabbing a fistful of my lentil dinner tonight, but instead, things should really be about the face-slapping awesomeness of Matt’s book, The Last Repatriate (Nouvella 2011) being released this week. So, really, it should be all about him:
When I’m not being a father/husband, this is what I’m doing. My novella, The Last Repatriate, has just gone to launch and is available for one week, ending Nov 1. James Franco says of it: “Salesses’ examination of the troubled mind of a Korean War POW returning home is pensive and brooding. A subtly painful psychological journey.”Get it, pretty please? I wrote about the real soldier the novella is based on over at theGood Men Project, a man who said he wouldn’t return to America, then changed his mind, was welcomed back a hero, got married, and in the end was court-martialed and jailed. You can try an excerpt here. Limited edition copies of the book will be gone by the end of the week, or sooner. -ms
I talk a lot about how hard it is to take care of her, but now that baby Grace is almost four months and sleeping through the night, she’s pretty fun. Everything is new to her, so she’s always looking around, learning, playing. As she discovers things, it’s like we’re discovering them, too. She’s old enough to be aware of the world but still with that cute baby face and too young to talk back or demand much more than to lift her up or feed her.
As Matt pointed out, the term “sleeping like a baby” is one of the most horrendous misnomers of all time. “Let sleeping babies lie” is, however, pretty dang accurate. Or is it “let sleeping dogs lie”? Well, it should be babies, believe me.
One of the ongoing surprises about parenting is that I had no idea I led such a noisy life. We’re lucky our new apartment has more carpeting, as our days in the aesthetically-pleasing, but creaky wood floor apartment threatened to cut short naps that were already being shortened by our heartburned, flailing-arm son.
After a great walk to the farmer’s market in this area, we got home and Alfie went down for his nap (on his mother, as seems to be the only way things last more than 10mins). I wanted to make coffee and got as far as the grinder when I came to another noisy realization.
What did i do? I turned the bathroom fan on, plugged the grinder into an outlet in the bedroom (mom and alfie were in the living room), and crouched over it like I was trying to smother an explosion.
The result: I have coffee, and he is still sleeping. Day of Rest, FTW.
From the New York Times: “How do you parent without a future, knowing that you will lose your child, bit by bit?” It is written by the mother of a terminally-ill child. “The only task here,” she says, “is to love.”
My latest column in the Good Men Project is about my wife’s postpartum pain (arthritis?!), 100 days, zombies (kind of), and baby Grace’s gift to us: sleep.
When the in-laws leave, they leave us with both more and less time. We play host only to baby Grace, which means also that we have no one to take over when we screw up. We tell ourselves that couples raise babies on their own all the time (and holy crap, single parents!). How do we go about it? In the seminar I organize at Harvard, the speaker talks about how wealth is a huge indicator of school success. Cathreen believes being Korean is a huge indicator of school success… READ MORE
How many ounces should a baby eat in one day (at 15 weeks)?
We’re worried she hasn’t been eating enough the past couple of days. Maybe 23 ounces in a 24-hour period. Formula. My wife says she should be eating more like 33 ounces, according to the internet. Of course, I come to the internet for a second opinion.
Baby Grace has been sleeping a lot again lately (and eating less), like she’s gone back in time a month or so. She’s 3 months old now. She has a cycle of about 4 hours: play, sleep, eat. She eats 4-5 oz at a time. The sleep part of that cycle has been a little long lately—I just woke up from a nap with her :)—and the play is more perceptive. We think the extra sleep means she’s going through a growth spurt, and anyway, what can we do, wake her up? Sometimes you count your blessings. She’s sleeping all night and then with stops and starts until noonish.
confession:sometimes we let Alfie fall asleep while we're sitting on the couch so that we have time to watch an episode of Louie. This might have something to do with the whole he-sleeps-like-a-tiger-with-dysentery problem.
question:How do so many parents stay sane long enough to keep a "night routine"? Music, nightly baths (we're lucky if we hit biweekly), singing (my voice wouldn't soothe a narcoleptic sloth), etc. I clearly still need to work on my parental staying power.
Before Alfie was born, I had some sleep issues. They were minor, but they were enough to inspire the major thread of my book-in-progress, Wake, Sleeper. Natalie was always out with the lights, and I stayed there trying to keep my eyes closed and not remembering when/how they opened again.
These roles reversed when Alfie came along, and now I can barely stay awake when I crawl in. But, even if things had remained the same for me, I would still feel like I’m the Rip Van Winkle of the house.
Case in point: Natalie hasn’t slept in any increment longer than 3 hours since June 1 (save one night away for a wedding she was the photographer for, but she still had to wake up to “pump”). Coincidentally, Alfie had one of his best nights of sleep that same night we were away.
So, we war with our son over sleep. He acts like a normal baby on the pre-sleep stuff (see Matt’s previous post to get an idea of what it’s like for us, save the pacifier—he mostly hates every brand we’ve tried). But, that whole staying asleep for more than a half-hour thing? Not so much.
We also war, if in a passive way, with every other parent we know. I dread the announcement “S/He slept through the night!” Every time it makes me/us feel like we can’t create or sustain any sleep routines. This announcement generally gives these parents license to stare at us seriously and tell us “exactly what you should do.” Then we say, “We do that. It doesn’t work.” Then, they repeat the same thing, with the same stare.
Sleep, it seems, is the currency of parenthood. The more you get, the more you feel entitled to wax advisory. The less you get, the more you feel like everyone else’s bad child.
So, while I had a similar sinking “we’re-still-not-so-good-at-this” moment when I read that baby Grace is sleeping through the night, I’m at least glad to know that Matt has been self-deprecating long enough that I know we’re on the same side of the sleep war, even if he is pulling rank.
Baby Grace turns 100 days today. In Korea, the 100-day mark is a big celebration, so we had a party on Sunday with family and copious amounts of food. Grace wasn’t the happiest girl, though, with so many strange faces. She’s in this staring phase where she will look you in the eyes for hours, literally. But she did mark the milestone in her own way—she slept through the night Saturday, midnight to 7:30 AM! And then again Sunday! And last night, 2-8:30. The wife and I, needless to say, are pleased. I know Bryan and his wife have been having trouble getting Alfie to sleep. We’ll be doing a short series of posts talking about babies and sleep (or lack thereof).
Here’s what we do to get Grace to sleep for this long:
1. Make sure she eats at around 11:30, so she can sleep at midnight (after a half-hour burping session—she still has some digestive problems). If she doesn’t go to sleep at midnight, she’s up until 2ish, who knows why.
2. Walk her around while patting her back. She hates to stop moving, especially when she’s sleepy. She gets fussy when she wants to sleep and isn’t—like all of us, I suppose. She sucks on a pacifier at this time, as well. And often we’re singing to her.
3. Play music. We play one of two CDs designed to help babies sleep. We think she has gotten used to these songs and associates them with sleeping. She seems to recognize these CDs as different from her play music.
4. Once she’s asleep, she wants to be near her mom. We put her down close to Mom and if she starts to fuss, her mom pats her back while she sleeps on her side. We also have a cute little baby pillow, though she usually rolls away from it.
5. At night, she sometimes comes close to waking up and spits out the pacifier. If we put it back in her mouth right away, she’ll suck herself back to sleep. There’s about a minute window, so whoever’s next to her has to sleep ears open.
My latest “Love, Recorded” column in The Good Men Project is more an essay on gender and babies. If I say there are cute baby pics of my daughter looking like a boy versus a girl, can I get you to read it? I’m also publicly admitting my fear of dolls.
Now that the nephews are 3, they insist themselves on wearing blue or, if pressed, green, on playing exclusively with dinosaurs and cars and sharks. They both have girlfriends. On his birthday, the younger one leaned in and kissed his girlfriend on the mouth in front of his entire class. I remember an incident about a year ago, where the older one, slightly autistic, was overseeing an argument between his cousin and his friend. Boys in Korea are always hitting each other, but our older nephew is the weaker one, never much for violence. This time, though, he wobbled in and punched his friend in the head. This was secretly celebrated as loyalty to blood… READ MORE