My Amazing Husband & His Boys

IMG_3653

Snapped this photo when we went downtown to see my husband working our annual city party called, “FIESTA!!”

My husband is an incredible hero.

It’s not just because he wears the badge, although the courage and bravery there are not to be discounted.

It’s his strength, heart, and mind that make him go above and beyond in teaching our sons how to actually be men.

Real men.

The kind that fight for goodness and against evil in our society.

The kind that are God’s warriors and ministers – both at the same exact time.

Words can hardly even describe the intensity with which I love this man so much.

patrickboys

 

Advertisements

Who’s In Charge Here Anyway?

manwhisperer

The Man-whisperer

We were taking our cute puppy for a walk this morning through our neighborhood, and I thought I’d let my son try to walk him… again, it hasn’t worked out too well partly because he’s only 5, but also due to the fact that he’s been terrified of the puppy play-biting and for the past two weeks has had hit or miss confidence with the dog.  He’s allowed the puppy to think that he’s the boss of our son – and as a result, has refused to submit when our son is in command at all.  Our walk ended up with our son practically dragging him with short breaks of me taking the leash to show him how to confidently lead him until we were able to get back to the house.  He would walk perfectly for me, and then refuse to walk with our son.

Something I’ve noticed in the past two weeks we’ve had our puppy is that he is incredibly dominant.  He’s sweet, easy for my husband and I to train, can do simple tricks, wants to please in general… but even at the dog parks we’ve been to a few times, he tries to dominate older male or female dogs, push their limits like a puppy will do, play-biting them until they have to establish their own boundaries with him and he learns his canine social rank.  But suffice it to say, this walk left us all so frustrated (especially the puppy!)…   From my point of view, it was hard to control the dog, the leash, my son and his attitude towards the unsubmissive dog, along with trying to push the baby stroller at the same time.  It was a recipe for disaster and one exasperated mommy!

We came back inside to take a MUCH needed break, drink some cool water and I told my son he had to stay in the kitchen and be with the puppy for one hour without being afraid.

My husband takes control

My husband then came into the kitchen, I explained our walk and situation… he immediately took over control and began explaining to our son frame control, and having firm authority in establishing respect with the dog.

He took over and disciplined our son for acting fearful by making him stay with puppy, even forcing him to go outside with it. My husband stayed outside with our son, explaining to him what he needed to do in order to control his fear with the dog and show dominance.

It was so incredibly reassuring and relieving to feel the weight of control and discipline shift from my mommy-role shoulders, onto my capable husband’s.  A father’s unique masculinity and fortitude are so desperately needed as parenting is a million times easier with his strength and presence taking over to instruct or demonstrate.  I watched as he stayed outside a little longer with our son and the dog, teaching how to demonstrate dominant assertiveness, so thankful for his aptitude as a father and husband.  He then came inside saying that he wanted him to play with the dog outside alone for awhile.

Our son played for a good 15 minutes with the puppy, and then ran excitedly to the door and told us that he and his dog were having lots of fun together playing.  This was a dramatic difference from when he’d be outside alone with the dog before my husband had time to teach him confidence and authority.  Before, when he’d be outside letting the dog go potty, he would immediately run to the nearest chair or higher surface in order to escape any potential play-biting or jumping of the puppy.  Him being confident with the puppy and playing with him outside for a steady 15 minutes was a breakthrough!

When it was time to eat lunch, he came back inside and my husband had our son watch a few short videos of the Dog Whisperer explaining masculine dominance and calm authority in different scenarios with difficult dogs.  It led into an interesting discussion the two of them had where my husband explained leadership, and asked our son who is in charge of our family.  Our son undoubtedly answered that it was him.  And my husband asked him why he thought that was?  “Because you’re in charge.”  My husband then explained what it meant to “be in charge,” what that looked like in different situations or even environments with different kinds of people.  He explained why our son could sense that his father was in charge of our family.

Recently, my son stood up to a boy older than him that was subtlety trying to bully or otherwise exert dominance over him at a playground.  My husband reminded him of how he had dealt successfully with that situation, telling him that in order to stop that bully, he had employed strength and assertiveness.  He stood up for himself.  He actually punched the older (and taller by a foot) boy!

My husband explained how even without violence or force you can establish yourself as a leader in any given situation.  He described how he is assertive in our family – he simply employs a feeling of authority in his manner, body language, and voice.  He used the example of how he has managed to show our extremely stubborn and at times rebellious cats, who’s in charge.  They obey him simply by his commanding voice – and its no small feat to get a cat to listen to you and obey you.  He doesn’t use violence or brute force, however, his voice alone has the strength and authority that makes them feel like they have to obey.

Later that day,

I needed to take the boys and the dog out again to check the mail, and this time, the walking went a lot easier.  When the puppy would refuse to submit and walk with my son, he stopped, assumed a more masculine body language and frame of mind, talked calmly to the dog, and the dog would resume walking.  It was the perfect combination of strength and gentleness… and it was like some kind of miracle watching it work for the dog to follow.

***

The whole thing got me thinking about leadership, dominance, and willingness to submit or follow.  Even though humans are drastically more complex than what can be simply related to canine behavior, the basics of dominance, authority, confidence, or submission are all entities used everyday in human relations.  In fact, you could say that it is extremely important in order to survive in society to understand these underlying dynamics of relationships.  Confidence, assertiveness, or knowing and understanding when to back down all apply within marriage, with family members, friends, neighbors, and even with maintaining a good relationship with your boss.

When our son was allowing the dog to control him, to be in the dog’s frame, he showed the dog that it was the one in charge of the situation.  Even worse, when our son displayed fear or running away, the puppy’s experience of being the dominant one was reinforced and encouraged.  He had to learn how to establish trust and respect with the dog in order for it to follow him or think of him as a good leader.

The entire situation depended on how our son approached the situation.

The kicker is that he was always able to get the dog to behave the way he wanted to, but in order to use this power, he had to mentally shift into a confident, assertive and dominant frame of mind in order to achieve the results he wanted.  He had to go into the situation with the right emotional mindset and authority.  There was no way the dog would submit to someone he sensed was afraid or out of control – someone he didn’t think would make be a good leader.  Dogs only follow the leader of the pack.  He’d rather be dragged on a leash for 1/2 a mile than submit to less than his idea of canine rank.

It was a difficult and exasperating lesson for a five year old, but enlightening for this grateful mommy.  Learning to approach any situation in our lives with confidence and calm assertiveness in our ability to succeed is crucial to a life of success.  We may fail miserably, but we cannot allow that to control our mindset so that we undoubtedly set ourselves up for future failure.

We have more control in any given situation than we may feel or realize, and by simply shifting our mindset, shifting the way we view our problems, we can find an alternative solution akin to a miracle.

Reflections on this Father’s Day

IMG_7440

It’s hard to find words to express all the feelings I feel this coming father’s day weekend.  I’m so grateful.  Grateful to have a husband who is a wonderful father, who is so good with our boys, demonstrating his love for them so beautifully.  He shows them what a man should look and be like, he gives them an example of what a strong husband who deeply loves (and always teases) his wife looks like.  And our oldest son loves watching his example!  I couldn’t be more elated with this man I chose, Father’s Day for me means honoring him and all he does for us, honoring the man and father I’ve watched him become throughout the years we’ve been married.

IMG_7336

I feel grateful that I had an amazing dad growing up who is still here to offer me help and guidance as he watches me being a mom to my kids.  He reminds me of what’s really important in life (not always cleaning), is always there to talk about anything on my mind, and constantly lets my older son feel like a hero at their house (and not eat any vegetables!).

But I also feel deep sadness for our society, because I understand that for many people – both men and women – father’s day is becoming increasingly painful or even meaningless.

We are in the midst of what I’d call a Fatherhood Crisis.  You see it everywhere when you see children in school with learning disabilities or with deep emotional wounds stemming from divorce, or men who are emotionally shattered because they aren’t allowed to see or have a relationship with their kids because of a vindictive ex-wife.  We see it when we hear of men who lose that critical role of father because they aren’t in the house anymore, they still see their kids and have a relationship but their impact has been significantly reduced as their role has been replaced when their ex-wife picked a “new dad” to impact his kids in ways he may not like or agree with.  We see it when we realize just how many kids are growing up without a father in the home at all, and the astronomical tie to future drug use, alcohol, sex, and involvement in crime that accompanies that fatherlessness.

We see it when we wonder what to do about Hook-Up culture, when we realize just how depraved our youth and singles are becoming.  We see it when we see mentally ill mass shooters in the news, many of whom had no positive male role model in their lives to show them real masculinity.  We see it when we see the degradation of a society who has never been taught to respect authority, or who believe rioting and looting is an acceptable means of venting black youth’s anger, a race that has long had a massive fatherhood crisis.

Fathers are immensely important to society, and the wounds that are left when they are violent or absent simply do not heal if left to fester on their own.  My own dad was great growing up, but he was never perfect.  He often had moments of wonderful strength, wisdom or guidance to give me – and there was never any doubt he believed in me and thought I was beautiful, but he still made typical mistakes as any human parent does.  It’s tragic to me, however, that not everyone grew up with a loving, strong, gentle, encouraging dad.  The places where my dad failed were very minor, however, they still left wounds that needed to be healed by my Father in order for me to become the woman I am today.

Only God is the perfect father.  Only He can heal the wounds we receive in our lifetime, and only He can make you whole.

I was reading an article in Women’s Health magazine a few weeks ago that was about the wounds a daughter feels when her father is missing in her life.  The article gave 4 different types of dad-wounds with a solution at the end of “How to Heal.”  It covered the emotionally distant dad, being abandoned by your dad, having a dad that was a sperm donor, and having a dad who died.  The most interesting thing about this article was reading the effects of having these kinds of fathers left on their daughters, deep wounds that impacted them well into adulthood.  Here are some interesting quotes to reflect on this Father’s Day,

Fathers who are emotionally distant (or not there for other reasons such as divorce, estrangement, etc.):

“Per a 2012 study, daughters of detached dads reported lower self-esteem than women who grew up with engaged and accessible males.”

Fathers who abandon their families or who aren’t there for their daughters for other reasons:

“Plenty of research shows that girls whose fathers leave the family are more likely to lose their virginity earlier (as young as 15, according to one study) than those with a pops who’s present.  Those daughters are often not emotionally mature enough for the act, and they can find it harder to trust men, explains Linda Nielsen, Ph.D., a professor of educational and adolescent psychology at Wake Forrest University and aughter of Between Fathers and Daughters.”

The effects of having a Sperm Donor for a father:

“It’s telling that she broke down when her donor father called her beautiful,” … “That’s what a woman wants to hear from her dad – that she’s special, beloved, praised.”  Jennifer clearly lacked paternal love and affection during her childhood, and she also had no role model for manhood. “That makes it hard to distinguish between different kinds of men and recognize a nurturing partner.”

“A study in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility found that three-quarters of donor-sperm children want to meet or develop a connection with their donor father, but the majority would not consider having children of their own using donor sperm.  They’re well aware of what their own kids could be missing out on.”

Positive Effects of a Father in a Woman’s Life:

“BODY IMAGE: A January 2015 study found that daughters who had caring and friendly relationships with their fathers frequently had healthier views about food and better body confidence – making them less likely to suffer from eating disorders – than those who had less kind and more overbearing dads.

SOCIAL LIFE: Girls who enjoyed positive and “warm” interactions with their papas during playtime as kids were more apt to develop strong interpersonal skills, according to a study in the journal Fathering.  This may be because dads who regulate their child’s excitement levels in a sensitive (as opposed to harsh) way are teaching their children empathy and reciprocity.

INTELLIGENCE: Doing mentally stimulating activities with daddy during childhood – reading, going to museums, playing games – is linked to having a higher IQ at age 11, and still at age 42, per research published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.  During these brain-building moments, dads can share what they know with their kids, making them smarter in the long run.”

Adventure Inside a Cave

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Today was the perfect day to venture inside a cave… it was raining cats and dogs, gloomy, a little cool, and perfect for our family field trip

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was raining constantly, but the baby stayed dry under a blanket, and tucked into my Bjorn (like a Snugglie) carrier… venturing down into a cave wearing a baby was a little difficult at times (extra weight on a decline then incline anyone?), but it added a whole new element of excitement to our family adventure.  I loved holding him close and at the same time getting to hike inside a cave!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We headed down into the cave with a tour guide and our group, the total descent was about 18 stories down.  Water was rushing down the walkway into the cave… and we imagined what it’d be like to get flooded in!  We’ve clearly watched too many Magic School Bus episodes, but I thought it’d be great to spend the night in a cave!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was dark and majestic inside… our oldest had never been inside a cave before, so learning it through real life experience awed him.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This was the view directly above us (photo below)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The discovery crawlway, found in 1960, was just so awesome… everywhere we turned, every new room we entered was just breathtakingly majestic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There was a beautiful pool of green-blue water, so ethereal….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We were already incredibly deep, but you can see the crevices where the cave just keeps going and going, further and further into darkness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And then we started the long ascent…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And finally, made it to the surface, with it’s oval shaped ceiling at the very top

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We spent about 3 hours there, their ropes course and zip-lining were closed because of the rain, but their maze was open.  My husband and our oldest did the maze – and it was my husband’s favorite part because of how much fun it was with our son.  Next time we’ll have to do the ropes course together for a date!

The beautiful rain and hill country

The beautiful rain and hill country

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Life & Loss

We’ve had a somewhat difficult week or so, I haven’t posted about it because I’m naturally a very optimistic, cheerful person, and I knew a post like this would be anything but positive really.

Our sweet neighbors brought a very small, young puppy home with them from Mexico, their niece, who is a vet down there, was taking care of it, but gave it to them since it was sick and needed more hands-on care.  My son and I were over at their house and fell in love with the sweet puppy, it was a poodle – chihuahua mix, and had the sweetest temperament.  Our neighbor who was doing the caretaking for this little puppy, the mother of the family, is getting older, and didn’t really have the time to devote to round the clock feedings, etc. so I offered to take care of it for a month until it was old enough to adopt out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was so fun taking care of it, bottle-feeding it puppy formula, keeping it in my purse everywhere we’d go – my son and I both fell in love with it.  My husband even gave us the green light to keep it, he was even becoming enamored with it’s sweetness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We had it 3 days… and on that third day, we came back home from my son’s soccer game that his team had won, he was full of joy and felt like a champ – having made 2 goals for his team that day.  I told him once we got in the house to go check on his puppy, it was the first time we’d gone out without him tagging along in my purse.  He went to go see his pup, and laughed saying he was sleeping really weird, “Mommy you’ve got to see this!”  When I came into the bathroom and saw him, I knew immediately something was horribly wrong – his little body looked twisted, and when I picked him up to check on him, I could tell the Rigor Mortis had already set in.

My son handled it ok, he was devastated that evening, but we explained that the puppy was sick and more than likely was in pain. I had thought the puppy was getting better, but in reality he had still been vomiting and unable to really keep very much down.  When death comes, the suffering of this life stops.  He wasn’t in pain or sick anymore, but this was still not a lesson I wanted my son to have to learn at such a young age.

That feeling of loss… of devastation is simply part of life, as natural as the highs we feel when a new baby is born, or when we’re surrounded with family and loved ones.

This past week, my father was admitted to the hospital for a few days as they tried to figure out what was wrong – he was dealing with severe symptoms from a bad reaction to a new medication he had just been put on, and ended up staying for a few nights.  He’s always been so rational, so logical, but under the influence of the drugs and their reaction in his body, I witnessed him reduced to a man talking nonsensical, and irrational… someone I didn’t even recognize.  I faced for the first time, the fear of wondering what on earth I would do without him in my life anymore.  I feel so young to lose my dad – he’s almost 70, but both his parents lived well into their 90’s almost reaching 100.  I can’t imagine not having him and his witty humor, his wonderful nature, around for the next 20-30 years as I raise my children.  I can’t imagine them not knowing him.

Even the feeling of imagining him gone leaves me feeling dead inside.  Empty.  And I have to consciously remind myself that it would not be the end.  That when God takes him, it will be his time.

He’s back home now, and slowly recovering, but the incident has brought home to me, the severity that everything can change in an instant.  The only thing constant in life is that there will always be death, there will always be loss.  At least in death, there is no more suffering, and we can look forward to eternal life.  We have a hope that those who don’t have faith never will understand.   When we grieve, it is different… we don’t grieve as those who have no hope, we grieve with the encouragement that we will someday be with our loved ones forever, in a place where there is no more pain, no more growing old, no more tears, and no more death.

Death, where is your sting? Oh Hell, where is your victory?

Breathe… Even When Your Children Paint Themselves with Chocolate

This time of having a sweet, adorable, can’t hold long enough little baby has just been so wonderful.  He’s already 3 weeks old, and I’m wondering how he’s gotten this far already without it seeming to have taken that long!

With all the new changes that come with adding a new little family member to your mix, one of the hardest things for me is finding balance between nurturing the two of our sons.  I was worried about this beforehand – how would I spend enough alone time with my oldest, how would he respond to having me less – having to share his mommy that he’s had all for himself for the past 4 1/2 years?

I found a surprising answer to my worries one day soon after we’d brought our baby home.

It was time for my husband to go back to work, I was calm and peaceful – I could handle this!  My husband usually leaves after lunch with us and we watch him leave outside as my son races his dad to the end of the block.  He comes back to our cozy house like a little warrior and it’s nap time.

This time though, he really didn’t want to take a nap… and after days of us letting him forgo naptime, I decided maybe he was old enough to play on his own while the baby and I settled down in the bedroom.

I popped in a movie, snuggled up close to our baby – smelling his heaven-like scent – and we drifted off into a deep, much-needed sleep.

Maybe an hour or so later, I was woken up by the sound of water rushing & my son screaming for my help.  In a serious daze and confusion, I stumbled into his restroom down the hall expecting some kind of emergency and found the sink, the floor, and my SON all covered in dark brown…

CHOCOLATE???!!!

Seriously?!?!

He was standing there at the sink, furiously scrubbing away at his dark-brown colored arms and legs, with a look of terror, crying and shouting at me that it wouldn’t come off!  Still in confusion and bleary-eyed from sleep, I shouted over his crying “What on earth did you do?  What IS that???”

“CHOCOLATE!!!!  It won’t come off!!!!!

Why… OH WHY did you paint yourself with chocolate, Baby???”

I thought it’d make you laugh” (he said to me crying).

At this point, it was so hard not to laugh, and yet I was upset that he would do something so crazy while it was naptime & I was so exhausted caring for a newborn.  I wanted to be mad at him, but it was so hilarious!  I took the washcloth from him and started scrubbing his arms – it really WAS hard to get off… this boy had really, REALLY rubbed the chocolate into his skin!  I worked at scrubbing him inch by inch until we finally got him cleaned up… the chocolate disaster bathroom would have to wait for later – when I had more energy to scrub again.

We had a talk about it – a “you know what you did wrong, right?  You won’t do this again, right?” kind of talk, and decided we would forget about the incident.  I think him enduring the shock and horror of thinking he might be chocolate-covered for his lifetime was punishment enough!  😀

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And now I’m in a Bible study to learn how to Breathe…  how to find freedom.

To not let things consume me – like worrying or stressing over my time with each child or being addicted to the glow of social media.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is a journey of finding freedom.

Freedom to write with more purpose.

Freedom to choose my words more wisely…  instead of feeling enslaved to keep on arguing.

Freedom to choose to be respectful, even toward someone who’s been really disrespectful towards me (that’s a difficult one).

Freedom from being enslaved, worked up, stressed out… freedom to breathe.

(Bible study is Breathe by Priscilla Shirer 2014)

Importance of Fathers – Sinister Feminist Article on “Deconstructing the Essential Father” vs. Scientific Evidence that Fathers Are in Fact Needed

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou’d think it’s obvious how important the role of a father is to his children, God designed us male and female on purpose, and equipped us beautifully for complementary and distinctive tasks.  This is not to say that men or women are individually better at parenting than their opposite sex – often times a mother needs to take over a typical “father-role” when he’s absent for long periods, and likewise fathers may have to take over the more traditional “mothering-role” if they become widowed, divorced, etc.  Those situations are not ideal, however, and most that have had to fill those roles (single parents especially) feel the burden and weight of missing their intended partner in parenting.  The two-parent system is in place, not just because of it being easier, but in my personal beliefs, because it’s as God intended it to be.

In 1999, there was an article in American Psychologist (a scholarly journal) titled, Deconstructing the Essential Father, of which the point was to attempt to discredit the belief that fathers are actually needed by their children in the role of parenting.  It’s mind-boggling to me that such a disturbing article was taken seriously enough to be included in an academic journal, however, with the rise of the wildly liberal feminist movement of the 70’s, lesbian/gay propaganda like this was actually very common, and has in part, led to the societal demise we endure today.

The problem is apparent when you look at it through the lens of equality.  No one – absolutely no one – would dare question the role of a mother to her children.  An article attempting to discredit the belief that mothers are needed would have world-wide criticism as being sexist and ridiculous (which it is).  It would even go against the very science and nature of biology.  However, anything can be written to attack fathers… if a feminist writes it.

Karla Mantilla, feminist author, has been quoted saying,

I am highly suspicious of the upsurge of praises of fatherhood and the necessity of kids to have a male role model.  I come by this suspicion after much experience with my own two kids and their male role model, their father … The propaganda that children, especially boys, need fathers I think, has contributed incalculably to the misery of children all over the world.  Contrary to all the pro-father rhetoric of late, to the extent that we value fathers precisely for their ‘discipline’ and ‘toughening up’ qualities, we create children (especially boys) who are less empathetic and caring.  If we want kinder, gentler (and less violent) adults, we need to focus on kinder gentler parenting.”

Ah yes, the all men are violent beasts kind of thinking.  Wouldn’t she be interested to know that the family set-up that produces the most criminals are, in fact, families where the father is absent (single mother families).

The Deconstructing Fathers article goes on to claim that divorce doesn’t irretrievably harm the majority of children – and that a child who has never known his father would not be the worse for it.
The general consensus of the article is that fathers are not needed – and they may actually make a family worse due to their maleness and the resources they consume.

In my undergrad I majored in biology with a heavy chemistry course-load, I learned and reviewed studies on brain development and behavior between the sexes.  One of the most fascinating things I studied was the researched biological affects of when a father is present or absent at the crucial time frame of an infant’s brain development.  Many studies had already been conducted to prove the importance of maternity leave and infant brain development, however, these were done to show that fathers (and paternity leave) were important as well.

When a father was present, it was found that the brain of the infant developed differently – in areas that remained stagnant when the father was absent.  Something about the male interaction and bonding with their infant stimulated connections that the mother being present didn’t.

An article in Scientific American (2010), which was looking at this particular phenomenon states, “Research shows that the father-child bond is crucial to a kid’s future success. If a father leaves his offspring to be raised solely by their mother, the children are more likely to suffer emotional troubles, be aggressive, experience addiction issues, or have run-ins with the law…. 

A recent wave of studies are starting to bear fruit: We are now learning that in the first few days after birth, changes occur in the brains of both the dad and the baby, depending on whether the father is around or not.

While it appears the seed of the father-child bond is planted by supplemental neurons in a new dad, it seems a child, on the other hand, may be born with a brain that expects this bond to form in the first place. 

To prove this, a few recent studies turned to a rodent that employs a remarkably familiar nest structure. Degu rats are biparental animals, which means parenting duties are split between the mothers and father. Degu fathers behave just like human fathers. They spend the early days of their pups’ lives helping with basic care, like warming and grooming. And as the pups get older, the degu fathers begin actively playing with their toddler offspring. 

Researchers reasoned that absent fathers in the degu nests would create a true social and emotional void for the offspring, just as a missing dad would impact the dynamic of a human family. They found that if a rodent father remained in the nest with his pups – presumably due to the newfound bond with his offspring – his babies’ brains developed normally. But if the father was removed from the nest shortly after the birth of his pups, his newborns’ brains started to break down at the level of synapses, which are short chemical junctions in the brain that allow brain cells to communicate with each other.

Specifically, the degu pups raised without fathers had fewer synapses in both the orbitofrontal cortex and the somatosensory cortex. Having fewer synapses can alter the way information is processed in the young animals, and would make these brain areas perform abnormally. 

The orbitofrontal cortex is a part of the prefrontal cortex that regulates decision-making, reward, and emotion. Extrapolating from the degu rat experiments, faulty synapses and processing problems in this locale may ultimately explain why we see some kids who grow up without a father in their life wrestle with (sometimes very serious) behavior problems.

These rat studies square with what we already know about the role of touch in neurological development. Having spent the prior weeks with the senses deprived while afloat in amniotic fluid, a newborn animal’s somatosensory cortex is ripe for change. But instead of flourishing in the early postnatal days, the synapses of the somatosensory cortex wither away when degus are raised without a father. As a consequence, the newborns may not process touch as well as they should, which could lead to a number of other developmental problems, like metabolism issues or irregularhormone production.

These animal studies show that a father’s brain is significantly and beautifully intertwined with his offspring’s. For whatever reasons, be they biological, evolutional, or societal, the onus of human parenthood has traditionally fallen on the mother. But the evidence is showing that a father has direct influence on his child’s neurodevelopment – and indeed, his brain can benefit as well.

What a beautiful article from Scientific American, and that ending is almost spiritual.  Juxtapose that next to what feminist Karla Mantilla said above, and you find that her claims (especially the claims that present fathers might make children (not just children… it’s always boys) more violent) are shown to be bull-shit.  These findings are proving the exact opposite, that present fathers contribute to gentler, kinder, more compassionate men for our society.  The noble men, and fearlessly strong in character leaders that our society truly needs.

More recent amazing findings are that the father’s brain changes also, it was seen that fathers gain a expansion of grey matter in areas that are associated with bonding and caring for their infant.  This separate study’s conclusion was,

‘These early father-infant interactions and emotional bonding become the basis of the father-infant attachment, The findings may thus lead to the identification of specific brain regions of potential importance for early father-infant attachment.’

With our oldest son.   Masculine strength & tenderness... so beautiful.

With our oldest son. Masculine strength & tenderness… so beautiful.

What Makes a Good Mother?

motherhood

With my pregnancy with boy #2 well on its way at 20 weeks this weekend, and my husband’s and my anniversary being today, 7 years of learning and growing together ❤ , motherhood has been on my mind a lot lately.  My husband is working a difficult schedule from afternoon into late at night; he’s gone right after lunch, and comes home long after our son’s been asleep.  This means that our adorable son only gets to see his dad in the morning, and loves to push the limits with me in the afternoons and evenings – often driving me insane. 🙂  This also means that I appreciate my husband all the more for how much he really contributes to child-rearing, and helping me with household chores!

The frustration has made me realize the importance of really being a good mother – a consistent, patient, loving, and caring mother – even when you are pregnant, tired, moody, and your little son is realizing he can get away with more when dad’s not around!  I have to constantly remind myself that the pregnancy is why I feel exhausted and extremely low energy, and that my son still needs me to be the best mom I can possibly be right now, regardless.  I’m glad I have my own models of motherhood to look up to – my own mother, and various other women who were so supportive and unselfish for the only sake of the children under their care or around them.

Its a beautiful and challenging model of motherhood for me, and of trying to be better at all of it, for his well-being.

 

Here are some character traits I was thinking about early this morning, things I want to focus on more and develop my inner being’s muscles in:

 

To be truly attune to my son – interested in him and everything he is doing and telling me.  To really listen to him and his concerns, his adorable thoughts, and most importantly, his questions.  He asks the most interesting and deep questions about life for a child who just turned 4 years old this summer.  He’s so intelligent and understands things beyond I’m sure, what I understood at that age.

To make bedtime like it used to be – before I was lacking energy, moody, and pregnant.  I’ve always thought that bedtime was the best time to have one last impact on your child’s day – to get last words in of counsel, or assurance, and a last attempt at praying and leaving them with spiritual guidance.  Even reading to them (which has always been part of our bedtime routine) simply shows them how much you VALUE them as people in their own right.  Without my husband being there for support and literal “back-up,” bedtime has been rushed and stressful at best, and tumultuous at worst!  I’m amending this… bedtime is supposed to be peaceful, reassuring, and that last push for connection and love that can last a lifetime of remembrance for my son.

To be kind, even when tantrums are at their peak and I’m thoroughly exhausted from what seems like endless confrontations. 🙂  He is the most assertive little one I know – whereas my husband and I are both extremely easy going people, our son (at this age at least) is definitely more head strong, and takes more energy to constantly explain and discipline.  Even though he may be harder in this one way, I wouldn’t have him any different, he is so wonderful and is such a complex mixture of tender-hearted sweetness.

There are so many other wonderful traits to mention, to be caring, honest with him, supportive, affectionate, lovingselfless, being strong (having strength to endure times like my husband’s schedule), having great humor, creativity to ease stress, ingenuity, and stability no matter our circumstances or my cocktail of pregnancy hormones.  🙂