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The Father Factor


The Spider-Man Sleep Solution

spider-manMy son has been sleeping in his own bed every night, all night since a new room “opened for business” in our house. Yes – he has his very own Spider-Man room, and it is the greatest solution to toddler sleep issues ever invented by a father, humbly speaking.

He is 3 now. From when he was an infant until about a year ago, he slept in his crib pretty much every night, but he never wanted to fall asleep in his crib. He would have to fall asleep on the couch with mommy and daddy nearby, or in our bed. Then when he fell asleep, we’d whisk him away to his crib. For the last several months, matters had been worse. Not only would he not fall asleep in his own bed, but when we would place him there, he would inevitably wake up in the middle of the night and come to our room, seeking a comfy spot right in the middle of mommy and daddy’s bed.

We didn't want this to continue. And I realized he not only didn't sleep in his room, but he never spent any time in there at all. He just didn’t like his room. We assembled it for an infant, with a soft yellow color and a nice Beatrix Potter mural on the wall. While relaxing for an infant, it just wasn't exciting to a three-year-old whose tastes have shifted to superheroes and Disney Pixar movies.

By far, his biggest fanboy obsession has become Spider-Man. Everything from the movies to the Disney XD cartoon, to books, to clothes, to toys, this kid loves Spider-Man. As a somewhat handy dad, I decided that I was going to convert our boring guest bedroom into our son’s very own Spider-Man bedroom.

I envisioned what I wanted the color scheme to be and that there would be a big Spider-Man Fathead® on the wall. It would be a regular Spider-Man bonanza and, in theory, he would actually enjoy spending time in his room, and thus, sleeping there.

spider-man roomBoy, was I right. This picture of his new Spider-Man room should capture the essence of what it is like. Hyper Blue and Real Red paint from Sherwin-Williams. Spider-Man Fathead® from Spider-Man curtains and bedding ordered from various websites, etc. And, for old times' sake, my own bedroom furniture from when I was growing up – solid oak furniture that looks practically new at 25+ years old (my parents kept it well preserved).

Now, for the first time ever, Vinny actually asks to go to his Spider-Man room. He loves it there. The other day he said to me, “Look at my Spider-Man room, daddy. It’s so cool!” I was teeming with pride. Shows you what a little daddy ingenuity can get you...

Not only does he sleep in his own bed every night, he actually falls asleep in it. No more waiting for him to fall asleep somewhere else and then sneaking him into his room. And even when he wakes up in the middle of the night (which happens often, as we have to check his blood sugar due to his Type 1 Diabetes – another blog post on that soon), he seems so comfortable in his own Spider-Man bed that he stays there. No more wandering into mommy and daddy’s room at night seeking refuge. He has his very own superhero watching over him to keep him where he is.

These heroes really are pretty super.

What worked/didn't work in getting your child to sleep in his or her own bed?

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photo credit: dogwelder (comic cover)

The Night My Son Came Home With Diabetes

Last Thursday night at around 7:30, my wife and I took our two-and-a-half year old son, Vinny, for a walk. It was a beautiful night, warm with a cool breeze. The sun was just starting to set.

We approached the neighborhood playground and Vinny asked to get out of his stroller so he could go play. His chubby little legs carried him over to the slide, which he promptly climbed and slid down.  He was having a blast.

As twilight progressed, the evening took on a magical quality. The air had a golden glow, the fireflies were coming out, and a few stars began appearing in the sky.

I stood next to one of those spiral slides as my son started to climb it. As he came around the bend, he saw me standing there and a big smile came over his face. He said, “Daddy? Daddy?” I answered, “What is it, baby?” He sat down right next to me and looked me in the eyes, still smiling. He just wanted “Daddy,” not something from Daddy.

Under normal circumstances, this would have been a great moment for me as a dad. But that night, it became a “remember-forever” moment that almost made me break down in tears. Because just an hour earlier, my wife and I had left the hospital after a three-day stay in which my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Let’s rewind back to last Tuesday. It had been at least a week during which my son was barely eating, was always thirsty, was constipated, and was wetting his diapers like never before. He was usually in a bad mood. It had really hit me that something was wrong when he was lying down on the changing table and I could see his ribs protruding.

So, I took him to the doctor that morning to see what was going on. They began doing a series of routine tests to see what was wrong. One of those “routine” tests was a blood sugar test that returned a result of 565.

vinny dbThis was when I heard “the word” for the first time. Diabetes. You know, that disease that your Aunt Bertha takes pills for because she’s eaten a few too many of her own apple pies. But in a healthy two-year-old?

At that point, our doctor told me that I should take Vinny to the emergency room so they could do some tests to confirm whether or not it was diabetes. I called my wife, and we met at the hospital 20 minutes later.

After a very short period of time, he was admitted and the diagnosis was confirmed – Type 1 Diabetes. The kind of diabetes that you just “get” and does not go away. The kind where you have to do blood sugar tests and insulin shots every day for the rest of your life.

My wife and I were in shock. It sounds cliché, but we really did not know how to react.

But the doctors were amazing. They immediately began preparing us for the new routine we would have to establish every day with our precious son. We learned carb counting, blood testing, and how to administer insulin shots.

By Thursday night, our new endocrinologist was comfortable enough with where we were in our knowledge and where Vinny’s blood sugar was to let us go home.

I can’t remember ever being so nervous in my life.

We were leaving the security of the hospital and left on our own. What if his blood sugar dropped and he passed out? What if his blood sugar spiked and something terrible happened? My wife and I never paid so much attention to our son’s mood, facial expressions, complexion, and demeanor in our parenting lives… But that is where the magic came from…

One of the best pieces of advice the nurse gave us as we left the hospital was to handle everything in a matter of fact way so that our son wouldn’t get upset. So, to ease our nerves, we went for that walk to the playground where he, in his own little 2-year-old way, showed his affection and appreciation for daddy.

I believe children are wired to crave connection with their parents – God makes them that way. My wife and I both work full time. We spend a lot of time with our son, but never three straight days, 24/7, in the same small room, playing with him, feeding him, reading to him, watching Disney movies together. While our stomachs were churning about his new disease, he was delighting in the fact that mommy and daddy were spending so much time with him.

So when we went for the walk, he was as happy as can be. He didn’t know that mommy and I were bundles of nerves. He just knew we were there, and he loved us for it.

The next few months are going to be tough. We are going to continue adjusting to the reality that our son has an incurable disease that needs constant management. But the silver lining – which I learned about on the playground that night – is that I will become closer than ever to my little boy. And every time he smiles at me, I will thank God that I have been given the opportunity to be the daddy to this wonderful boy, diabetes and all.

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Is Your Child a Match or a Torch?

match 0009 resized 600My son was sitting in his car seat as we drove home from day care at the end of a long day. He was holding his lunch bag in his hand. He always has to have something in this hand… Then, something about the lunch bag suddenly annoyed him, so he frantically threw it down, it landed on his legs, and he kicked vigorously to make sure it ended up on the floor of the car. Then he was quiet. We listened to music in silence for the rest of the 15-minute drive home.

This happens a lot with Little Vinny. He is a bundle of emotions, needing only the slightest prompt for him to erupt into an emotional – happy, sad, angry, annoyed – storm for the next… 5 seconds.

Yes, it is true. My son has the shortest emotional outbursts I have ever seen in a human being. He is a “match.” Doesn’t take much to light it, it burns bright and hot for a few seconds, and then it is out, with little sign that anything ever happened.

I have only had one two-year-old son in my life, and I have never spent more than a few minutes with any other two-year-old, so I am certainly not an expert on toddler temperaments. But my guess is that there are lots of two-year-olds like mine.

But I have also heard stories of two-year-olds who are not matches, but “torches.” They are not set off too easily, but when they are, they burn for a long time. They stew and fuss and are moody and unbearable for minutes or hours.

I am not sure what is “better,” a match or a torch. The good thing about my son is that he rarely is in a bad mood for more than a few minutes. But he can go from being in a good mood to a bad mood so quickly and for the silliest reasons. On the other hand, he can go from bad mood to good mood quickly, too.6910flaming torch

A torch on the other hand would be “easier” in that his or her moods would be more stable. No emotional roller coasters from minute to minute. “Oh, Johnny is in a good mood today. Great.” At our house, it’s, “Vinny is in a good mood right now. Great.” But with torches, I would imagine it could be stressful to know that your child is in “one of his moods” that may last for hours. We never have that problem with Vinny.

What is your child – a match or a torch? What do you think is easier to handle for parents?

The Father Factor Blog

The Hunger Games... Or, Trying to Get a Two-Year-Old to Eat

I have a two-year-old. Which means I spend most of the day worried that he is suffering from malnutrition as a result of eating nothing but ketchup for the last two days.

Apparently, two-year-olds are notoriously picky eaters. According to this article, "being a picky eater is part of what it means to be a toddler." That makes me feel a little bit better about my son's desire to eat pancake syrup, but not pancakes.

In all seriousness (too late!), it is a challenge and a stressor for my wife and I to make sure our son is getting the nutrition he needs. We have tried several of the tips in the above article, and some of them have worked. However, some have created comical results.

For example, the notion of using "dips" to hide "undesirable" foods like vegetables usually results in Little Vinny dipping his vegatables in ketchup and then licking the ketchup off the vegetables. At least tomatoes are good for you...

We have also tried to place his food on "fun," colorful plates with things like pictures of Elmo on them. The only result this often achieves is that when he angrily tosses his plate to the floor, it looks nicer as it soars through the air than if we had used a boring plate.

But not all hope is lost. He is certainly not losing weight, nor does he lack energy or brain power. He likes carrots, rice, and some chicken. And when desperate, we can always get him to eat corn chips, peanuts, or Nutella on wheat bread (maybe we should try Nutella on corn chips). And he has no problem drinking milk, water, and fruit/veggie juice. I guess I would just like to see him sitting at the dinner table with an elegant napkin tucked into his shirt eating a chicken cutlet and a mixed greens salad with fancy silver cutlery. He would also be wearing a tuxedo.

Then I remember he is just a toddler, and there is more to his life than eating. There is pooing and sleeping, which are two things he is also terrible at. I guess I will have to blog about those next week...

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