The Rewards of Fatherhood, Fitness and Frugality
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Save Her Brain

Me, Thing One, Maria and Coach Bill$

Me, Thing One, Maria and Coach Bill$

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal called This Is Your Brain Without Dad. Scientists studied rodents called degus whose brains react similarly to humans’ brains to environmental stimuli. These scientists attempted to observe what happens when fathers are taken out of the picture. And the verdict was:

  1. When deprived of their father, the degu pups exhibit both short- and long-term changes in nerve-cell growth in different regions of the brain.
  2. Their preliminary analysis indicates that fatherless degu pups exhibit more aggressive and impulsive behavior than pups raised by two parents.

In other words when degus where deprived of their fathers care (licking, preening, snuggling) the degus suffered brain damage. The study also showed short absences of fathers away from pups was less damaging than long or permanent absences. The study also goes on to say that the pups continued this brain damaged state into adulthood. I will let you read the article to get the explanation as to the science-y reasons any of this happens.

It got me to thinking, am I causing my kids brain damage? I’ve tried my best to form my schedule where I can spend as much time with the babies as possible. To a degree, I’m successful but not without a lot of sacrafice in other areas of my life. But even with that effort my non-parenting obligations simply don’t neatly conform to a court ordered 50/50 custody schedule.

Inevitably, I’m spending guilt-filled time away from the babies. Although the babies are much better off than most children of split marriages/relationships in that they see both of their parents consistently and frequently, it’s still not ideal. The article was a swift reminder I need to be diligent in carving out time with the girls, both quality and quantity. There are a few things I try to do and would suggest for any parent, especially parents who do not live with the children 100% of the time:

Choose your companion well.  Eddie Murphy once joked the secret to relationship happiness is finding someone as f’d up as you and settling down. There’s certainly a lot of truth there. Opposites may attract in physics (it’s physics right?) but not necessarily in relationships. If he likes coffee she should probably like coffee too. If she likes dining out at a new restaurant every third Friday of the month, it’s probably good if he likes to as well.

What does this have to do with the subject matter at hand? Well, as a single parent, I’ve realized your dating relationship has to be in harmony with your parenting. Having coffee in common or liking to work out together is an indicator that someone will have a deeper understanding of you and your situation. If you plan on spending a lot of time with your children, and you should, having an understanding companion is essential. It’s likely you’ll find yourself having child-related schedule conflicts with date night. Trust me, you want a companion who will roll with those punches and sometimes invite the extra company. What you don’t want is someone telling you he or she is not fond of your kids or acting like it. A companion on the same page as you will undoubtedly allow you to spend more time with your children.

Treat everyday as bring your daughter (or son) to work (or play) day. Some of my most fond memories of my childhood involved hanging out with my father at the local bar. Now if he had taken me there in this day and age someone would definitely be calling child services. But I have to say it was some of the better times I had with him. Hey, it was the ’70s. I got to drink ginger ale with a little umbrella in the glass, eat all the chips and peanuts I wanted and I played billiards to my heart’s content. And I got to see my father pal around and be jovial. It was a cool experience.

I try to do the same with my girls, only I’ve replaced Starbucks for the local pub. C-Thunda has even gotten to the point where she asks daily if we can go “coffee shoppin’ “. I bring the girls on errands, to work and to the gym when I can. Mostly I want them to see me in my daily element. And I don’t want to miss stuff they might say or do when they’d otherwise be with a baby sitter.  Some of that stuff is priceless. And this goes both ways. Sometimes I let them choose the activity. Typically it’s the bookstore or the park, and I’m cool with either.

Communicate often. Vary the method. If you want to stay bonded with your kids, you need to consider both the quality, as well as the quantity, of your communications with them. Again my parenting situation separates the babies and me a few days at a time. Since I’m only seeing them every couple of days (for some kids and parents maybe it’s every couple of weeks or months) I want to make sure we have the volume of connections we need to maintain the ideal relationship. The only way to do that is to use technology.

T-One has had her own cell phone since she was 6-years-old. Although she/we rarely use it, it has put in the babies’ minds they always have access to their parents even if we are not under the same roof. We often send text messages back and forth, with C-Thunda reciting and T-One manipulating the keys. We have a blog where we write and basically keep a scrap book of our daily adventures together. Sometimes T-One writes on it when she’s at their mom’s. Pictures and videos go without saying. I’m not sure what I would do without a camera on my cell phone.

Savor breakfasts and backseats. Most of our talking is done in the car and at breakfast. When I discovered this I instituted two rules. No TV at breakfast and no iPod in the car except on weekends. I find my girls hate silence, so they can’t help but spill the beans about their day or what they’re thinking. It’s a great time to connect.

As I started writing this post (I know it’s long as hell) so many other things came to mind. One in particular I will call “Remove Barriers to Entry“, I’ll write about soon. It’s a subject unto itself.

T-One just texted me. Later.

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1 Web { 11.24.09 at 2:09 am }

Nice, Ben…nice. I am making progress, man.


2 Ben { 11.24.09 at 9:54 am }

Web, that’s great. Seems you and Lindsey have a lot going on. I’m finding myself in a similar time-constrained boat. Nice post at by the way.

3 DivaMom { 11.28.09 at 1:21 pm }

You are so right about choosing your companion well. Someone who can roll with the punches indeed! BTW , enjoy your time away from the girls and stop feeling guilty.

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