I Know You Love Me, But I Need to Hear The Words

Dear Mr. Dad: My dad is an engineer and has always looked at the world in a very logical, no-feelings-allowed, Mr. Spock kind of way. I guess that’s just his style. The problem is that I don’t think he’s ever told me that he loves me. He’s always been a great dad and I have no doubt that he does love me. But as I get older—I’m nearly thirty—I start second-guessing myself and I really need to hear the words. I tell my kids all the time that I love them. Why won’t he tell me? Do you think he ever will?

A: Whenever I get an email like this, I’m nearly overcome with sadness. It’s tragic that your dad has never told you that he loves you. But I’m encouraged that he’s found other ways to get the point across and that you’ve gotten the non-verbal message. That still leaves your questions. Going in reverse order, yes, I think he will tell you, but it may take a little work on your part. As to why he hasn’t said those three magic words, there are quite a few explanations.

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Pregnancy: Is There Sex After Sex?

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m an expectant father and my sex life has completely disappeared. We’re not very far into the pregnancy but my wife seems to have lost all interest (admittedly, her throwing up a few times a day probably has something to do with that). Are we EVER going to have sex again?

A: My money’s on Yes. But you’ll have to be patient. In the first trimester, many couples experience a drop-off in their sex life. Sometimes it’s because of the mom-to-be’s nausea. Other times it’s because she’s worried that you won’t be attracted to her changing body or that having sex will hurt the baby or cause a miscarriage (that’s extremely unlikely). In some cases (though not yours) the guy truly isn’t attracted to his partner anymore or thinks that she isn’t feeling attractive and wouldn’t be interested in sex anyway. And in some cases, the whole idea that you’re about to become parents sinks in, and one or both of you starts thinking about your own parents, in bed, naked…. That can be a real mood killer.
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Becoming the Model Parent

Dear Mr. Dad: People are constantly talking about how parents should be good role models for their kids, and that makes good sense to me. But everywhere I look, I see parents behaving in horrible ways. Maybe I’m confused about what “good role model” really means. What are good role models supposed to do?

A: We all know that our kids are watching our every move (even when they’re ignoring us). And most of us have banished the phrase “do as I say, not as I do” from our vocabulary. So there’s no question that what we do is important and that our behavior can have a big influence on how our children will turn out as adults. But for me, setting a good example is much more about the being than the doing.

If you want your child to be an ethical person, treat others (and themselves) with respect, and make the right choices even if they’re not the easy ones, you’ll have to do more than demonstrate behavior. You’ll have to talk about the issues and point out examples of good—and bad—behavior around you, and in movies, TV shows, and books. And you’ll need to discuss with your child why people make the choices they do and what your child would have done instead. The goal is to lead your child to a point where he or she will make good choices even when you’re not there.

That said, being a role model isn’t all in your head, and how you behave is still important. Here are a few ideas:
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Color Me Healthy, Kiddo

Dear Mr. Dad: It seems like every meal in my house is a battle. I try to make healthy, tasty foods and my kids do nothing but complain about it. It seems like all they want to eat is white rice and plain pasta. Why won’t they eat anything else, and what can I do to get them to expand their preferences?

A: Ah, yes, the white food group. I remember it well. Besides rice and pasta, my two oldest kids were flexible enough to include French fries (or, sometimes, a baked potato with sour cream), cheese pizza, fish sticks, and salt. Lots of salt. For a while, I was worried that their limited diet would stunt their growth, but they’re both 5’ 7,” and incredibly healthy. When I think about it, they did eat non-white foods too: peas and carrots were okay (as long as they weren’t touching on the plate), tomatoes (cleverly disguised as pasta sauce), vitamins (in milk), lots of fruit, and even some protein (often fish sticks or chicken nuggets). I’m sure your children’s culinary repertoire is broader than you think. That said, I know I could have done a better job.
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The Write Stuff

Dear Mr. Dad: I’ve been reading your columns for quite a few years, and you frequently talk about how important it is to read to children. With all the emphasis on literacy, I think we’re forgetting about writing. When I was in school, we had classes in penmanship, but my preschooler and kindergartener aren’t learning it at all. Is writing even necessary anymore?

A: In a word, absolutely. Not all that long ago, we used to talk about the “Three Rs”: reading, (w)riting, and (a)rithmetic—the fundamental skills taught in school (I know, not a very good lesson in spelling, but catchier than saying “The R, the W, and the A”). But, as you’ve noticed, the second R (writing) has pretty much fallen by the wayside—in fact, over the past few years, schools all around the country have stopped teaching cursive altogether, and a growing number of children are doing their homework, including writing papers and essays, online.

According to a new study, the percentage of children using tablets has doubled in the past two years alone, and now includes 75% of children under eight and nearly 40% of kids under two. Some people say that with all that technology, there’s no need for kids to learn how to write at all—it’s a lot easier to just use a tablet or other device. I can see the point. And I get that typed assignments are a lot easier for teachers to read. But, at the risk of sounding a little old-fashioned, I think writing is a very important skill—and there’s getting to be a lot of research that backs me up.
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HPV Vaccine: The Safe Choice for Your Kids

Dear Mr. Dad: I have boy/girl twins who are 11. Their pediatrician suggested that my daughter get a vaccine for HPV, but he didn’t offer it to my son. I’ve got three questions. First, why didn’t he suggest the vaccine for my son? Second, why are they offering a vaccine against sexually transmitted diseases to 11-year-olds anyway—isn’t that too early? Third, it seems to me that vaccinating kids against STDs will only make them more likely to have sex and less careful than they ordinarily would be. Am I right?

A: That’s a lot of questions, so let’s jump right in. But a warning: This column will include some adult words, so reader discretion is advised.

Your pediatrician should have recommended the HPV vaccine to your son. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vast majority of a number of cancers are attributed to HPV. For girls, these include cancer of the cervix or anus (over 90%), vagina and throat (over 75%). Boys are also just as susceptible to anal and throat cancers, plus HPV causes nearly two thirds of cancers of the penis. HPV is also linked with nearly 100% of genital warts—an equal opportunity STD.
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