Fatherly Advice: Flu Season Is Not Baby Kissing Season

Keep your baby and your partner close and consider holding your kid back from Kindergarten if you can.

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“Fatherly Advice” is a weekly parenting advice column by the experts at Fatherly. Need hard-won insights and scientific facts to resolve a parenting dilemma or family dispute? Email advice@fatherly.com. Need justifications for parenting decisions you’ve already made? Ask someone else. We’re far too busy for that nonsense.

 

Fatherly,

My wife and I have been home with our baby for about three-weeks and we started letting some friends come by to meet the newest addition to our family. I know that my baby is awesome, but I’ve been getting nervous because when people are holding him, they’ll kiss him on the forehead. It never fails. I’ve been reading a lot about how bad this flu season is. Should I be letting our friends kiss our baby?

Devin,
Cincinnati, Ohio

***

You’re correct in that this flu season has been bad, particularly for children. You’re also right to be a bit nervous about strangers kissing your baby. But let’s be clear about this: You have every reason to be nervous regardless of whether flu is going around or not. And kissing is only part of the problem.

When it comes to visitors kissing babies, there are other less obvious dangers. For instance, exposing your child to herpes. Please understand that this is not a judgment on anyone. Herpes simplex viruses have simply infected a massive portion of the human population. One strain, HHV-6B, is estimated to have infected almost 100 percent of the human population. That said, some herpes viruses are “worse” than others and most of them are terrible for newborns.

Between the years of 2005 to 2011, data shows that 25 babies contracted herpes from kisses. Infant deaths due to herpes infection occur every year, though they are rare. The CDC places the risk of a baby getting herpes from a kiss somewhere around 7 in 100,000. A relatively small risk, but a risk nonetheless.

But let’s go back to the flu for a moment. Flu viruses generally don’t spread through saliva only. They also require the presence of some kind of mucus. It’s probable that a stranger even touching your newborn after, say, rubbing or blowing their nose, would put your baby at risk of contracting the flu. Babies immune systems are pretty fragile up to about the first month. So it’s best to keep strangers at bay for the first four weeks if you can help it. But, you know, grandparents aren’t going to stand for that. The best solution, direct their affections toward the baby’s feet. It’s a bit weird, but the “she loves it when you nibble at her toes” gambit actually works.

If they protest, well, hit them with some flu or herpes statistics. This won’t endear you to anyone, but it might keep the kid healthy.

 

Yo,

Our daughter just turned one and I’m exhausted. I didn’t take that much leave because my company really doesn’t offer more than a week or so. I was pretty much right back to work, but I feel like even though I’m working 40 hours a week, my wife was expecting me to do all of this extra stuff when I got home. I know she’s tired too, but it feel like she gets to spend all of this fun time with the baby while I work. Love the wife. Love the kid. But I’m not happy. How can I change this?

Anonymous

***

Yo right back at you. It sounds like you’ve entered the dreaded “Cycle of Resentment“. It’s clear you’re feeling the resentment part. And, like it or not, your resentment is probably making you snippy and unpleasant, triggering resentment from your partner, which will in turn lead to more snippiness. You see where this goes.

How do you fix it? You communicate. But not before taking a long hard look at yourself. Figure out what sparked the resentment and what you want from your partner. It’s best not to tell your partner that you want “more” or “better.” Until you’re ready to provide specifics, you’re not really ready to have the conversation. And remember that the answer could be as simple as “more hugs.” It probably isn’t, but that would be fine. Either way,  your needs are the easy part. The harder part is figuring out how to help your partner help you and thereby end the cycle.

An important note: No one is to blame. Sometimes bad cycles happen in relationships. It’s an organic, common thing. Talking about your feelings — and, yes, you should use the dreaded “I feel…” — is the best way out. You should also recognize that it is extraordinarily common for the health of a marriage to suffer after the birth of a child and, more specifically, for men to struggle with depression or unhappiness. Change is really hard and you’re far from alone. Your situation, however, is no less serious for being common.

The fact is that the first year is full of amazing little moments and triumphs, but it’s very hard to raise a kid. And parenting can be a dirty, stinky slog. After your talk, make a real effort to act as a team. Come to a division of labor that you both feel comfortable with and stick to it. That will help. More sex might too, for what it’s worth.

 

Fatherly,

I think my kid is ready for Kindergarten but how can I really be sure?

Brett
Morgantown, West Virginia

***

Most school districts will be able to screen your kid for Kindergarten readiness. It’ll happen sometime around early registration time in the spring. Districts offer this service for free because it’s incredibly useful for them not to have unprepared kids in their classrooms. And what they’re looking for is fairly simple.

At a bare minimum, they will want to know your kid can print their first name, know their colors and shapes and be able to draw most of the latter. Your kid should be able to separate from you pretty easily, engage in parallel play and know their phone number (or at least one parent’s cell phone number if you’ve ditched a landline). Anything else they know, like how to recognize short words and print the alphabet, is all gravy.

That said, there are some things that you might want to consider, that will make your kid’s life easier. More than rote memorization of the alphabet song, experts suggest a kid should understand that words exist in context. Rarely are they widowed in the world. And they should also know about money and an exchange. The idea that things have an assigned value will help them function in a structured environment.

Your kid should be okay with rule following, listening and be able to understand the appropriate behaviors for various social contexts. This last one will be hugely beneficial for navigating a classroom environment. The last thing your kid needs is a bad rep right out of the gate.

Finally, if you have one of those summer-kids who’s right on the cusp. Consider what the norm for your area is. If parents push younger kids into kindergarten for whatever reason, you might want to just go with the flow. But if the trend is to keep them in preschool, then hang back. It’s better that they get a bit more socialization and learning time, than get held back in the first grade, which can really make them feel like crap.

 

 

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