Fatherly Advice: Skipping the Second Birthday Party and Resolving Fights in Front of Kids

Keep SIDS worries in check, go ahead and argue in front of your kid, and remember baby birthday parties are for the adults.

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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.

 

Hey, Fatherly

My wife and I had our first kid about a month ago. He’s an amazing little guy and crazy healthy. The problem is that every time I put him down at night, I get super anxious about SIDS. We keep his bed clear and put him down on his back, but I’m still worried. What should I do?

Mateo
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

***

It sounds like you’re doing everything right, except for the worrying, Mateo. Importantly, you’re hitting the biggest points of the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for reducing the risk of Sudden Infant death Syndrome. That would be keeping the crib clear from extraneous bedding and stuffed animals, and putting your baby to sleep on their back.

But, clearly, you need more assurance. Here goes: The risk of SIDS decreases every day of your kid’s life starting at birth. By the time he hits around three-months-old and can roll over on his own, the risk plummets to nearly zero. That said, there are a few things you can do in the meantime that can reduce the risk even further.

The AAP has suggested, for instance, that having a fan in the baby’s room can decrease the risk of SIDS as well. The exact mechanism of why this is the case isn’t really understood, but the thought is that it can help keep a baby from rebreathing their own exhaled carbon dioxide. Studies also show SIDS risk can be reduced further when parents are in the same room as the baby while they sleep (while not sharing the bed with the baby). Again, the mechanism for this is unknown, but is likely related to parental response time should a sign of trouble occur.

It’s important to note that you probably don’t want your worry to be reduced to zero. Parents without concerns sometimes become complacent parents who overlook potential problems. It’s good to be on your toes — clearly, you are — but maybe now you can take it down a notch. There’s a limit to what you can do and there are a lot of dangers in this big bad world.

 

Fatherly,

My wife and I love each other, but we also argue a lot. Go figure. She’s Italian and I’m Irish. It can get loud sometimes and I worry that our 5-year-old daughter Cindy is going to be scarred for life because we are so passionate about stuff. Is she going to be scarred for life?

Patrick
Bangor, Maine

***

I dated an Italian woman once and I could not hang with her “passion.” I would need a few drinks in me to tell that story, so let’s talk about your kid instead. Is little Cindy going to be scarred? Probably not. In fact, seeing you argue could be a good thing — provided that you and your wife can be loving even while vehemently disagreeing with each other.

I’m going to assume you’ve been married for awhile. That’s great news because it’s clear that no matter how passionate you get, you’re ultimately able to resolve the issue. Seeing actual conflict resolution will likely have a foundational effect on Cindy. By seeing her parents argue and then come to a peaceful resolution, she will learn that just because two people disagree, it does not mean they stop loving each other. That’s a super good thing to know considering her life will hopefully someday be filled with similar disagreements.

But there are caveats: Witnessing an argument become damaging when parents become physically or verbally abusive. That’s the kind of stuff that can cause trauma and scarring. So, while it’s healthy to disagree, the arguments need to stay civil, even if they are heated. And it’s important that you and your wife understand that your daughter may not have high emotional intelligence. She’s young. Don’t assume she can tell when you’re kidding or being comically over the top.

And remember that Cindy could be adversely affected by your arguing increases the more constant it is. So maybe don’t make it a habit.

It’s also critical that Cindy also has to witness the reconciliation. Parents forget this and make up after kids go to bed. If all she sees are the arguments, that’s not helping her. She needs to see her parents coming to an agreement and doing what it takes to repair the relationship. She needs to literally see you two kiss and make up (she’ll find out about make-up sex on her own time).

 

Dear Fatherly,

My kid is turning two years old and my wife wants to throw a birthday party for him. Frankly, I think it’s a waste of time because it’s not like he knows what a birthday is or really gives a shit. Am I right?

Derek
Minneapolis, Minnesota

***

Well, Derek, you are not wrong. But, like everything in parenting, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Your son is not going to remember his second birthday and skipping a grand two annum fete will not turn him into a sociopath. However, there are a couple of things that you need to consider. First of all, at that age, the party isn’t for him as much as it’s for everyone that loves him. Those first two years are a pain in the ass and it’s possible that your wife just wants to pin a rose on the fact that you’ve made it through intact. That kind of celebration can be particularly helpful, offering a bit of solace and happiness in one bright balloon-filled afternoon.

Also, if your in-laws or family are close, you need to know they probably want to come wish your kid well on their second trip around the sun. It’ll be fun for them and it allows for some good family bond that is often sorely missed in our crazy, fast-paced world.

Now, does this mean you should spend hundreds of dollars on Pinterest worthy decorations and invite a billion screaming toddlers into your home? Hell. No. That’s ridiculous. All of the feel-good stuff for the adults can be accomplished simply and affordably. In fact, all you need is a little tradition to mark the occasion. In our family, I make ridiculous cakes every year for my boys. They are silly looking, come from a box, typically infringe on intellectual property, and are often structurally questionable, but they taste good and we all end up enjoying ourselves and that’s enough.

In the end, you don’t want to be the jerk who kept your wife from enjoying a milestone, right? So get on board (within reason) and no matter what happens, make sure you take a picture to prove to your kid that you did, in fact, celebrate his second birthday in some fashion. Otherwise, you’ll be giving him something to hold over you in the future. And that’s really the most important thing.

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