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I love a good rivalry: Ohio State vs. Michigan, Coke vs. Pepsi, People Who Procreate vs. People Who Don’t. Wait — what’s that, you say? You weren’t aware of that last one? Neither was I, but now that I have a kid it seems to be popping up everywhere. First, there was that study that compared the relative happiness of childless couples to couples who have kids (the former win in a landslide). Then, this week, the intertubes had approximately 712 articles about how being a Mommy makes you fat (if you eat too much). And, today, in Details, I read an article by Brian Frazer called “The No-Baby Boom,” which is as much a jab at parents as it is an apology for non-breeders.

What gave me that impression? Well, (a) Frazer divulges his own disinterest in having kids and wrecking his super hip lifestyle, (b) Frazer peppers his article with less-than-neutral prose like “Unless you’re among the less than 2 percent of Americans who farm for a living and might conceivably rely on offspring for free labor, children have gone from being an economic asset to an economic liability,” and (c) Frazer includes diagrams such as the following, explaining the benefits of being a Cool Uncle instead of an Uncool Dad:

Wait, I think I get it. Having kids is bad, right? And it says something negative about my personality, doesn’t it? Well, as luck would have it, Frazer has also found an expert to testify to exactly that:

According to Laura S. Scott, who surveyed 171 subjects for her book Two Is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice, that kind of attitude [not wanting to have kids] is linked to a specific personality component: “A lot of introverts, thinkers, judgers—these are people who think before they act,” she says. “They’re planners, and they’re not the kind of people who can be easily led into a conventional life just because everyone else is doing it.”

Ah, yes, the thinkers and judgers. I met a lot of them in the 35 years that I’ve impulsively waited to have a child. I met even more while I spontaneously accrued two different master’s degrees. I wish I could have been more like them. No, instead, I heard the call of the lame and domesticated and moved out to Hollywood, California, where jobs are easy to come by, and where I have been all-but-too-happy to settle into the time-honored conventional lifestyle of being a Stay at Home Dad, mostly because that’s what everyone else is doing too.

[silence]

Seriously, folks. You make your own choices. If you want to drink Pepsi, go ahead. If you want to root for Michigan, you can do that too. I won’t make fun of you for either. But if you want to passive-aggressively rip my decision to give another human being a chance to blow out birthday candles, or cry when his dog dies, or kiss a girl on the lips, I say poop on you.

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A few weeks ago we talked about how parents of boys get divorced less often and report more happiness than parents of girls. At long last I’ve figured out why. It’s because of crap like this:

That’s right, folks. Abercrombie & Fitch is now making a padded push-up bra for seven year olds. What’s that you say? “Seven year olds don’t have breasts to push up.” Well that’s what the padding is for, silly! Best of all, after you buy this top, all your little princess will need is some hooker pants (try Gap), and she’ll be ready for the sexual slave trade.

I hear Thailand is beautiful this time of year.

(Hat tip: Babble.)

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Word is the American Academy of Pediatrics is revising its car seat recommendations. I know your kid is Glo Worm cute and warms your frigid and uncaring heart every time you peek back at him, but he needs to be rear-facing until he’s 2 years old. Also, you should probably be watching the road.

From the article:

The AAP policy, published in the journal Pediatrics, was last updated in 2002, when it advised that baby should be at least 12 months old and 20 pounds before riding forward-facing. But research has shown it’s best to keep babies rear-facing as long as possible — certainly until they reach until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. A 2007 study in the journal Injury Prevention that found that children under age 2 are 75% less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash when in a rear-facing car seat.

Look at the bright side. You’ve got someone on the lookout for that ominous 1968 Dodge Charger R/T 440 Magnum that’s always following you around.*

*Warning: some allusions may be obscure.

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So far, I haven’t written much about s-e-x. But I hereby warn you that that’s about to change. Why? Because every time I spend a few hours wasting my life reading parenting forums, I see the same two questions: 1) Why doesn’t my baby sleep? and 2) What happened to our sex life? Then yesterday I stumbled upon a discussion of monogamy on the Daily Dish which included this heart-warming reader email:

I am someone in an 11-year marriage that has been non-monogamous (though, unfortunately, not yet in the open about it) for about seven years. It’s certainly not how I intended it to be. I had my fair share of short-term, recreational relationships prior to meeting my wife, and I reasoned that I had to give up my short-term term sexual behavior in order to have a successful, long-term marriage. What I hadn’t counted on, however, was that the quality of my long-term sex life would take such a dramatic turn for the worse.

During our dating period, our sex life was exciting, though it was exclusively one-on-one and short on experimentation. Because we were a bit older, once we got married sex became almost exclusively for making babies, which we both wanted right away.

The first thing to go in my marriage was blow jobs. She didn’t much like giving them in the first place and they pretty much disappeared after we got married. Our first child came after two years, at which time my wife’s breasts became “food, not for sexual pleasure.” Not only was I not allowed to fondle, kiss, or otherwise enjoy her beautiful breasts, I could barely comment on them anymore without a “tut tut” from my wife.

After our second child was born, however, things dramatically deteriorated. Sex became almost nonexistent; I think we had sex less than 10 times in that first year. By the time our younger child had reached the age of three, I’d already had sex with two different prostitutes while out of town on business and found another one locally. At home, sex was excruciatingly bland and too infrequent. The boundaries around what we could and could not do had grown so narrow that I was not enjoying it anymore.

On top of that, I’d been laid off, money was tight, and our younger child was showing serious signs of ADHD and was a complete handful. There was so much stress in our house that sex seemed completely out of the question.

And then, one night, my wife announced that she didn’t care if she ever had sex again. Like a good husband, I didn’t fly off the handle, but asked her what she’d like me to do with that information. After a brief discussion, SHE suggested I get a “girlfriend” for sex. But, like everything else sexual, there were some pretty ridiculous rules of engagement, and I wasn’t in favor of her arrangement, so she withdrew her suggestion.

But, in secret, after I found a new job and had an income, I was able to hook up with several women before I found one with whom I’d had a relationship for nearly two years. I can get blow jobs, enjoy their breasts, and experiment in every way. I’m so happy to be able to do this, and I find that my extra-marital activity enhances the way I show up in my marriage. Chiefly, it’s because I no longer have to resent the fact that my wife is just not that sexual. I didn’t marry her because she was great in bed, but at the same time, I didn’t expect to be in a virtually sexless marriage either. So, while it’s OK for me if she wants these tight little boundaries around our sex life, I’m not going to live like that and be happy. So I get what I need elsewhere, and then go home happy, attentive, and loving.

There are 28 sentences in this email and I would like to avoid approximately 35 of them. (Some of the sentences I would like to avoid twice.) If that means having an embarrassing conversation every now and again, I say let’s do it.

But maybe don’t read those posts aloud to the kids.

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You know how I was having a blast raising Nate? Like how after he was born I was suddenly full of hope and sunshine and had a reason to get up in the morning? Well it turns out there’s an explanation. I’m delusional:

Kid Crazy: Why We Exaggerate the Joys of Parenthood

A new paper shows that parents fool themselves into believing that having kids is more rewarding than it actually is. It turns out parents are in the grip of a giant illusion.

The paper, which appears in the journal Psychological Science, presents the results of two studies conducted by Richard Eibach and Steven Mock, psychologists at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. The studies tested the hypothesis that “idealizing the emotional rewards of parenting helps parents to rationalize the financial costs of raising children.”

Their hypothesis comes out of cognitive-dissonance theory, which suggests that people are highly motivated to justify, deny or rationalize to reduce the cognitive discomfort of holding conflicting ideas. Here’s how cognitive-dissonance theory works when applied to parenting: having kids is an economic and emotional drain. It should make those who have kids feel worse. Instead, parents glorify their lives. They believe that the financial and emotional benefits of having children are significantly higher than they really are.

To “test” this theory researchers took two groups of parents. To the first they showed statistics about how much it costs to raise a child (about $200,000 to age 18 – gulp!). To the second, they showed these same statistics, plus several more about the financial benefits that parents enjoy over non-parents (like having kids who take care of you when you’re Kirk-Douglas-old). They then had both groups answer questions about how emotionally rewarding parenting is. The results? Parents who saw only the financial cost statistics rated parenting as more emotionally rewarding than parents who saw both the financial cost and the financial benefit figures.

So what does that mean? That parents are delusional? That 2 + 2 = 7? That pro wrestling is real? Maybe all of the above. Look, I’m not going to argue that people don’t search for ways to rationalize what they’re doing or that they don’t sometimes switch to a second rationale when their first doesn’t work out (see: George Bush, Iraq). But what’s with the anti-parenting bent of this piece? Take a look at the closing paragraph:

Does this mean you shouldn’t have kids? Yes — but you won’t. Our national fantasy about the joys of parenting permeates the culture. Never mind that it wasn’t always like this. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we thought nothing of requiring kids to get jobs even before they hit puberty. Few thought of it as abuse. Reformers helped change the system — and rightly so — so that children could be educated. But this created a conundrum. As Eibach and Mock write, “As children’s economic value plummeted, their perceived emotional value rose, creating a new cultural model of childhood that [one researcher] aptly dubbed ‘the economically worthless but emotionally priceless child.’” Or, as the writer Jennifer Senior put it in a New York magazine article last summer, “Kids, in short, went from being our staffs to being our bosses.”

Considering the URL of this article – “Why Having Kids Is Foolish” – I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. What bothers me, however, is that this piece never really addresses its thesis. Even if parents inflate the emotional rewards of parenting, does it necessarily follow that the decision to have a child is “foolish” and that parents are “delusional”? If so, the syllogistic legwork has not been shown in the margin.

I’ll tell you why I think it wasn’t. Because having a child isn’t economically foolish. It costs you money, yes, but economics is about more than just money; it’s about value. To prove that parents are foolish and delusional for having children, you’d have to show that the transaction – “I’ll have a kid for $200,000, please!” – is a net loss. Maybe you could do that, but I’m curious: what dollar figure are you using for the value of an 18-year-old child? $100,000? $150,000? Also, not to get too evo-psych on everyone, but this whole divide between non-parents who have money and parents who don’t seems pretty ironic considering that money is nothing really but a proxy for reproductive success. Why the heck do you think anyone tries to get rich? Because men who do end up with more wives and more biological children. If you think that’s merely an opinion, have a peek at this study. Or consider the lives of Rush Limbaugh, Larry King, and Newt Gingrich who between them have several billion dollars and, ahem, 16 wives (could be more by the time I press publish).

I don’t mean to drive a wedge between the “happy” non-parents who have cushy bank accounts and the “unhappy” parents who don’t. But I can’t help but remember this one time I went to Chuck E Cheese’s when I was eight years old. I spent the entire afternoon playing skeeball, skeeball, and more skeeball, and when I was through I had upwards of 500 skeeball coupons. I was the happiest kid in the joint. But I couldn’t decide what I wanted from the prize booth. Flavored candy canes? Tootsie rolls? A plastic dinosaur? And before I ever made that call my Mom showed up to take me home. So I stuffed the 500 skeeball coupons under my mattress and vowed to use them the next time I went to Chuck E Cheese’s. And then eight-year-old Scott forgot about them. I found them a year later and, with some urgency, rushed back to Chuck E Cheese’s but by that time they had changed coupon vendors and were no longer accepting the old kind. So instead of a plastic spider ring, a candy necklace, and thirty pieces of Bazooka Joe bubble gum, I had 500 skeeball coupons.

You know what I ended up doing with them?

Nothing. I threw them away.

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Say you’re like me. Say you love ice cream. And say by chance you also love breasts. Well, then, dummy head, why hadn’t you already thought of this?

London shop to make breast milk ice cream

A specialist ice cream parlour plans to serve up breast milk ice cream and says people should think of it as an organic, free-range treat.

The breast milk concoction, called the “Baby Gaga”, will be available from Friday at the Icecreamists restaurant in London’s Covent Garden.

Icecreamists founder Matt O’Connor was confident his take on the “miracle of motherhood” and priced at a hefty 14 pounds ($23) a serving will go down a treat with the paying public.

Truth be told, this story kind of gives me the jeebs. It’s not the part about “drinking breast milk” that bothers me. It’s the part about “drinking breast milk from some random lady.” In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve tasted Leigh Ann’s breast milk before and it’s actually quite sweet. But that’s what marriage is, right? Two people in love, willing to give each other’s bodily fluids the benefit of the doubt. Outside of that, I’ll stick with vanilla.

UPDATE: Party’s over, people. As I write this, the U.K. is shutting Icecreamists down. Something about a public health hazard. Yawn.

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According to a study from the University of Texas, a father’s diet directly affects his offspring:

A father’s poor eating habits could make his future children sick, suggests new research on mice involving the University of Texas.

The study, recently published in the journal Cell, found that male mice who ate a low-protein diet passed on to their offspring cellular changes in their livers that affect fat and cholesterol metabolism.

This passing on of traits linked to an environmental factor such as diet, using sperm as the vehicle, is one of the theories championed by researchers in the relatively new field of epigenetics.

So there. My crappy cholesterol has nothing to do with all the Ben & Jerry’s I’ve consumed, or the Reese’s peanut butter hearts/eggs/trees, or the Cadbury Creame Eggs. It has to do with the fact that my father starved himself from ages 14-18 in order to make weight for the wrestling team. Nice work, Pa! Sure, you made the state finals. But did you ever stop for a second to think what you were doing to me?

But, seriously, if you’ve never heard of epigenetics, here you’re chance to Google something besides “PETA Veggie Love commercial.” This article from last month’s Time is a decent place to start. Or, if you don’t like reading paragraphs with more than 3 sentences, or sentences with more than 3 words, check out the NOVA series called “The Ghost in Your Genes”:

You know how we laugh at the medical information our parents took as fact?

Well, our kids our going to repay us in kind.

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Over at PopMatters, Timothy Gabriele explores the similarities between ambient music and what babies hear in the womb. Of particular interest are his thoughts on the auditory development of his 6-month-old daughter:

. . . parents and caregivers responsible for the sound development of the infant have a big responsibility, even if they don’t know they’re taking on this task. The human’s first audio memories are stored in the limbic system, responsible for generating emotional responses, located adjacent to the auditory cortex in the temporal lobe. Any remembered sound therefore should automatically trigger an emotional response, however small, meaning that the parent’s provided sonic environment also has an impact on emotional development in the child (it’s thought that this is why music from adolescence, when emotion is at its most vibrant, generally triggers the strongest emotional response from its listeners).

I played Nate most of the songs referenced in Gabriele’s article and here are his two favorites:

The second one (Arp’s Pastoral Symphony) especially amazes him. When the bass kicks in around the 25 second mark, Nate’s eyes get real big, like something incredible is about to happen, and he studies my face for what that something might be. It would not be an exaggeration to say that music is becoming my version of breastfeeding. When Nate’s fussy or wants a change of pace, I usually pick up the ukulele or the guitar or the keyboard or some random percussive instrument (he’s got shakers, tambourines, bongos, etc.) and play Nate a tune. It’s like giving him Prozac in the key of C.

To the outside observer, it may appear that I am pulling an Earl Woods and that I desperately want my son to grow up to be a musician.

Could be. But I’ll settle for him just growing up to feel.

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Nate got his first round of vaccinations today. So he should be autistic by morning. But, seriously, getting him vaccinated was a no-brainer. I’ve read through Generation Rescue’s website — and although Jenny McCarthy is an attractive woman who may or may not have inspired me, as a teenager, to touch myself — I find their case lacking.

If so many kids are contracting autism from today’s vaccines, where is the study showing a relationship? Oh, wait. I just found it:

Journal: Study linking vaccine to autism was fraud

January 5th, 2011

LONDON (AP) — The first study to link a childhood vaccine to autism was based on doctored information about the children involved, according to a new report on the widely discredited research.

The conclusions of the 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues was renounced by 10 of its 13 authors and later retracted by the medical journal Lancet, where it was published. Still, the suggestion the MMR shot was connected to autism spooked parents worldwide and immunization rates for measles, mumps and rubella have never fully recovered.

A new examination found, by comparing the reported diagnoses in the paper to hospital records, that Wakefield and colleagues altered facts about patients in their study.

So much for that dude’s career.

As for Nate, he was a trooper today. He didn’t cry when his pediatrician (who I’ll call Dr. K) stuck an otoscope in his ear, or looked in his mouth, or checked out his nether regions. Nate even grabbed Dr. K’s finger and gave him a smile. It’s a funny thing when a baby decides to smile at you. It’s like a row of clouds has parted above and you, just you, have been chosen to receive this particular band of divine sunlight. Cue the celestial choir. Release the stardust.

But then Dr. K got the needles out.

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Last week I doubted that daughters cause divorce. “Having a boy” and “being happy” appeared to be correlated, yes, but I wasn’t convinced that one caused the other. Well, Steven Landsburg is:

But in this case, correlation does imply causation, and here’s why: If you take 3 million people, have them all flip coins, and divide them into two groups according to whether their coins came up heads or tails, then the two groups are going to look statistically identical in every way—same average income, same average intelligence, same average height. That’s called the law of large numbers, and it works for two reasons—first, the sample size is huge, and second, coin flips are random. Now do the same thing, dividing your 3 million people according to the gender of their last-born child. The same thing happens—parents of boys are going to be statistically identical in every way to parents of girls, because you’ve still got a huge sample size and because the sex of a child is as random as a coin flip. Since everything else is equal, the only thing that can be causing the difference in divorce rates is the gender of the children.

Still, I’d like to see the cross tabs. If you adjust for all the factors that tend to make people happy (and therefore less likely to divorce) – stuff like income, education, marital status, health, etc. – is the effect still present? In other words, do married women with $100,000 jobs, and Master’s degrees, and husbands, and clean bills of health, and daughters still get divorced more often than women with $100,000 jobs, and Master’s degrees, and husbands, and clean bills of health, and sons?

If so, then I will quietly begin to weep.

One tangent before I change a diaper: a number of studies suggest that boy fetuses are more likely to miscarry under times of stress. Natural and social catastrophes (like 9/11), unemployment, extremely hot climates, and poor diets have all been show to lower the boy to girl birth ratio. Call women “the weaker sex” all you want, but exactly the opposite is true in the womb. Boy fetuses need more support and are less likely to survive without it. Might this tie back into the notion that parents of boys are happier on average than parents of girls? If they’re less likely to live in high stress environments or have experienced any of the above calamities, then it would make sense.

Now, on to yellow-green poop.

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