Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Other Child

I was reminded this week that Vampbaby is not the only child my wife and I care for and love dearly. The other is our first child -- the one that came into our lives before we were married and has stayed with us ever since. I am referring, of course, to the family dog. Given that the average dog has the attention span of a 5 year-old, the comparison to parenting is certainly appropriate.

Our pup was a shelter dog; a lab/german shepherd mix that we connected with instantly upon meeting. Our pooch has always been treated like a child by us -- he goes everywhere that we do (as our families can attest, having included him on the guest list of many a holiday party) and he is doted on constantly. He also served as good practice for two young people planning one day to become parents to an actual human being.

Bringing a second child into the family was just as big for him as it was for us. We read what we could about bringing a new baby into a home with a dog, and followed the recommendations to the letter. The hat our newborn wore after he was born was brought home for the dog to "get to know". When Vampbaby arrived at home, we brought our beloved canine friend out to the car to meet him, rather than having the new bundle invade his space. While this process seemed to work, it has certainly been rough on our "top dog" to be relegated to number two in the "New World Order". He has, however, taken it in stride, and has been patient and kind with both us and the new addition. Of course, now that Vampbaby is walking and able to reach for him, he's not quite as amused, but he tolerates the fur-pulls with a certain heroic stoicism.

The comparison of having a dog to having a child is clear this week by looking at our wallets, which have gone empty upon news of a very expensive vet visit, and the need for subsequent surgery to address a broken tooth. For a dog of almost 11 years of age, ours has been the picture of health, but the broken tooth threatens to become infected and must be dealt with. This will set us back several dollars (to say the least), so once again we look to creative budgeting, ebay sales and work-related mileage reimbursement to get us through.

Of course, there's also the funds we've expended saving the lives of the fish in our fish tank, who fell ill after the city decided to mess with the chemical makeup of the town's water. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise -- caring costs.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

This Mortal Coil

I wrote earlier about the change one goes through in hearing about tragedies that befall kids when one becomes a parent. This week I was reminded again of this, by two parents who have gone through something terrible and are trying to use it to influence others.

Our hometown had a Town Hall meeting this week to address concerns around Underage Drinking in the community. I won't bore you with details, as addressing this and issues like it are part of my job, but needless to say we are a community where this is an issue (the bad new, of course, is all communities fall into this category).

Two parents attended the meeting that I had met recently, and once again they shared their experience which is still so fresh in their minds. I couldn't possibly put into words appropriately what their experience was like losing their son, but fortunately I don't have to: you can read (and see) about it -- just click on the title of this entry and it'll take you to the story.

What I will repeat is the quote that is at the end of their letter. Jason's father mentioned in his speach, and I find it resonates with me as a new parent who has been trying to articulate the love, care and concern that I feel for this little creature who just over a year ago was only an abstract concept.

“You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.” -Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Leave it to JK Rowling to put the right words together on that one.

(Apologies to those friends and fellow bloggers who saw the title and thought, 'finally -- Vampdaddy's gonna blog about his 4AD fetish!' Maybe next time...)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Infant Academia

Today was picture day at Vampbaby's school -- we dropped him off in his PJ's to prevent morning breakfast from staining his perfect outfit. We set what little hair he currently has in order, and made sure his seven teeth were sparkling clean. Soon we will have a new set of photos to compare with the last picture day, to awe and marvel at the changes that seem to be coming so quickly as he grows -- grows like the cutest little weed on the planet.

Some folks tend to raise an eyebrow when I refer to his daycare as "school". The reality is that, even in the infant room, there is a great deal of learning taking place -- those we entrust with our son for forty hours a week are certainly more than "babysitters", holding him at bay until we return from our adult universe.

Whatever you call it, hoewver, sending your new precious bundle into the arms of others for the majority of the week is never an emotionally easy decision to make, or live with. Granted, in many cases such as ours the decision to put him into school came from basic economics -- where, in today's world, both parents have to work to ensure that a family can live at least slightly above poverty. While we weren't that bad off, we are certainly close enough that having a stay-at-home parent was not in the cards. Although, I for one would love to be a stay-at-home dad, so hopefully that winning scratch ticket will arrive soon!

In talking to friends with kids, those that had put their children in daycare often said that, while it was agonizing to do so, it turned out to be the best thing for the little one, and them as a family. We weren't quire sure about that, and went through our first days and weeks feeling guilty as many parents do -- but in the end we are convinced that it was the best thing we could have done.

The advantage is seen in Vampbaby's incredible ability to socialize and interact with almost anyone. Granted, he'll need to embrace a balanced attitude about strangers, but he has currently no qualms about meeting new people or being in crowds -- particularly when there are other babies around. We have in our midst a little social butterfly, completely at ease with getting to know new faces.

Also, he's been sick pretty much non-stop since June of 2005. While that doesn't sound like an advantage (and trust me, it doesn't feel like one either), we are repeatedly promised by the pediatrician that he will be the healthiest first-grader in the playground. As his "raised at home" classmates fall to the ground crippled with bacteria and viruses they've never experienced, our little Titan will ride the wave of his immune system and forge ahead without so much as a sniffle.

Of course, you get what you pay for -- so, not wanting to scrimp on our son's first years of life, we have of course opted for the most expensive daycare in the area. While it's worth it in the end, this has resulted in the fascinating experience of returning to the "paycheck-to-paycheck" lifestyle we worked so hard to grow out of during the "early years". But we do it happily (at least until it's time to pay bills), knowing that he's in a place that is safe and well run - not to mention he has a place to go and babble about how weird his parents are.