Monday, September 28, 2009

Didn't know winter babies had a plight

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal describes new studies on the plight of the winter babies. Apparently children born in winter have a greater chance of learning difficulties, health issues and less advancement in education and economic livelihood. I had never heard of this and having my own birthday in January and a new son with a birthday in January it peaked my interest. The article states the problem as such:
"Children born in the winter months already have a few strikes against them. Study after study has shown that they test poorly, don't get as far in school, earn less, are less healthy, and don't live as long as children born at other times of year. Researchers have spent years documenting the effect and trying to understand it."
The new study (.pdf link) looks at the problem in a new way. Look at the mothers and not the babies.

It is surprising that no one thought to look at the family background and specifically the mothers of the children in the studies. It turns out that winter babies tend to be born to mothers that are unmarried, teenage and less educated. Thus, given the many studies that show that the outcome for a child is strongly correlated with parental education, socio-economic status, marital status, and parental age, it is not surprising that winter babies have a tougher time of it.

In Linus' case (and my own) his mother is married, not teenage and has a college degree, so the "plight" may not apply (never mind the danger of applying statistics to individual outcomes). I suppose that given the statistics we are discussing that makes him ever so slightly unusual compared to the rest of his January birthday cohort.

The next step in the study will be to determine why mothers of babies born in winter have these characteristics. The study suggests a decrease in fertility related to hot months for usually poor families without air conditioning and increased fertility in the cooler spring results in a disproportionate number of winter babies to women with fewer means. Commentors on the article point out that babies born in January are conceived in Spring which is spring break and prom time for teenagers. Just remember that plausible explanations are not always the correct explanations.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Linus loves his playroom

We have a room on the first floor that we have been using as an "office" though the correct term would be room of junk, since a computer, some bookshelves, and the pile of bills do not make an office. We had always intended to make this room a playroom for Linus, because it was on the first floor and near everything especially the kitchen, which would make keeping an ear and occasionally eye on him easier, and we could safe the room more than others so that he could be in there without us watching him every minute for a little while.

The playroom idea was strongly suggested to us by friends with kids and tons of toys but no separate space to put them in. Thus their whole house is the playroom. I have also seen other examples of playrooms with the lucky child user unable to put his feet down without stepping on a beloved toy, but safely floored with a cushy mat for more intense play. That's a playroom that is a necessity.

After Linus' sudden increase in mobility we realized that we needed that room stat. There were hints that Linus was going to start crawling soon on vacation so when we arrived home for the home and chores part of the vacation we started the final clearing of the room. We went and found a soft carpet with extra cushion for crawling on. We blocked all the outlets and we have one safety gate and are waiting for some consignment sales to cover the other door. Now more rooms are junk rooms but Linus' seems to like his playroom.

Linus loves his playroom.

The full playroom, enhanced by Linus' presence.

The pictures above also show Linus' enhanced mobility because he crawled to those toys to play with them and he sits up more and will hold himself up with his hands to play om his stomach.

Of course, he likes it best when we are in there with him, which defeats the goal of giving him a safe place to play by himself, but we made it comfortable enough for us to lie down there on the floor and play with him.

Linus is crawling

Linus' adventures on vacation must have stimulated him to achieve new milestones in babyhood because the Saturday (8-29-2009) two days after we arrived home he suddenly decided to crawl across the living room floor. This was an unusual Daddy first and not a Mommy first, and I was glad to see it. The first thing he crawled toward was my Science magazine that I was reading (sometimes to him). He's going to be so smart. We captured a fourth attempt on poorly lit video, a "run" after the remote control.

The parental panic caused by this sudden increase in mobility forced the immediate completion of Linus' playroom. That day we went and got the carpet.

Mostly Linus' crawling is not the official crawling on all fours. he gets up on all fours, revs up by rocking back and forth, and then... drops his back legs and kind of army crawls with his arms across the floor. I have thought about putting barbed wire across the living room in a grid about 2ft off of the floor to complete the simulation. I have high hopes that he will crawl on all fours the regular way soon, perhaps in the week when he abandons it all together and starts trying to stand and walk.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What color are his eyes?

While Lynn and I did not do this on our first date, when we were planning to have Linus I did play around with Punnett Squares because I was hoping whoever we had would have green eyes, though any healthy baby is a blessing. The squares showed good odds, and it turns out Linus' eyes are (a complicated) green, or as I like to say, "the color of a stormy sea".

(via xkcd)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Several parenting books that might be worth looking at.

One thing that we learned when we found out we were going to be parents is that advice is cheap and mostly wrong. It is like the island of Laputa in Gulliver's Travels, where they have a device, the Engine, that records permutations of every sentence possible and then claim they have the sum total of human knowledge. Problem is that they don't know which of the statements are true and which are false. So it is with parenting books.

Much of the advice seems to follow fashion, and what was right a few years ago is wrong now, thus you can find books that contradict each other. We tend to follow a common-sensical approach (Wrong, I know.) The books we liked so far are:

New Parent (a year or two now) Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing and authorial fame has recommended a few good books along our parenting style. His latest recommendation is If Your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still Be Okay. I haven't gone to get it yet, so caveat emptor.

I myself like the The Baby Owner's Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year Maintenance. It is a no nonsense, almost engineer;s approach to knowing all of the things you need to know if you are not familiar with taking care of babies and children, which as a youngest child who never babysat, describes me. It also has some gentle humor describing your "model", baby, and good diagrams.

Another book we liked is Free Range Kids, by the author of the Free Range Kids blog. They subscribe to the general "don't freak out" parenting philosophy that lets kids explore and learn. It is a good antidote to the wrap Linus in foam panic that sometimes threatens to overwhelm my good sense and knowledge of statistics.

I also liked, My Mother Wears Combat Boots: A Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us, which is more of a counter culture approach to raising children and is the interesting story and experience of a woman who was trying to go against the ingrained culture and establishment of child bearing and rearing to bring a little creativity and openness to the process. Ironically she seems a little close-minded to the good parts of the mainstream, which sometimes generates its own problems, bu the view point is welcome and she has good advice to offer and good experiences to learn from.

I am still reading, Future Generation: The Zine-Book for Subculture Parents, Kids, Friends and Others, a collection of parenting advice and stories from the one punk zine subculture.

I like to read the counter-culture books on child rearing because the culture books and view point is pretty well covered in the media and by books that were gifts or hand me downs from friends. I am either developing a balanced view of child rearing or a split personality one.

It is like I often advise people, "After this sentence, my advice is to take no advice from me."