Archive for March, 2012
So today was a football day. I think I’ve previously mentioned this is mine and Best Friend of All’s time away from family though we have recently talked about taking Boy and his 3 Boys. In the end we decided to leave it another season. This morning when Boy picked up his Brighton flag and asked if he could come (he can’t, it’s all ticket and he doesn’t have one) I briefly regretted this. By the end of the train ride home however I knew we were right to leave ourselves sans children at the Amex again next season.
After the game the train back to Brighton pulls in and everyone piles in to a carriage. Just as the doors close cue a HUGE tantrummy shriek from a kid ‘somewhere’ on it. Like the wail of a banshee. Like a wolf’s howl recorded at 33rpm and played at 78. And it goes on and on and on until:
(all below speech is very loud and directed to the whole carriage)
Brighton Fan 1: Will someone PLEASE shut that kid THE FUCK UP.
Brighton Fan 2: Give him a dummy. Or some Skittles
Brighton Fan 3: I think Skittles are the problem. I think he’s had about 10 packets.
Middlesboro Fan: I thought it was nice down here. Is that’s what it’s like to live here really?
Brighton Fan 1: He could be one of yours.
Middlesboro Fan: I hope not. He’d be on our train back to Boro. 7 hours of that? FUCK NO. He’s yours.
Brighton Fan 4: He could be reliving the moment you hit the post at one up.
And so on and so on.
I could see some of the speakers but not the child. I had no idea who the parent was or what was going on with the parent. There was certainly no riposte. It was quite intimidating.
Terrible isn’t it? Or just brutally honest.
Imagine the same scream in a packed Giraffe restaurant. Or an NCT play group. Dozens of middle-class parent eyes on you. None of them saying a word. Just thinking. Leaving the parent to their paranoia. Their maybes.
What would you prefer?
An event has happened that’s made me write the post I know will be my most controversial. One of the mums at Boy’s school has just been released from hospital after a terrible time with measles. There have been a lot of texts from the school and her child has been kept off school. This is just the sort of thing that should not be happening in the UK today and yet it has.
To me, vaccinating children should not be controversial and yet, when the local paper reported the last measles outbreak in Brighton, it’s message board went in to meltdown. I have never read a longer thread. Clearly not only the MMR but vaccination in general is still, for some, a controversial subject. Which is nuts.
So let’s deal with them as two separate issues. Firstly vaccination in general. Our kids have had every jab they’re entitled to. The evidence for the benefits is all around us. Like the eradication of smallpox. Like the fact that the BCG (the vaccination turkey that voted for Christmas) has eradicated TB in countries that gave it so successfully it is no longer given in them. Conversely where it is not given TB remains. Same with Polio immunisation. And then there’s Bill Gates. Not so long ago he pledged 10 billion dollars to save 8 million children by creating vaccination programs in the Third World through his foundation. I don’t think the guy who created Microsoft is going to have a 10 billion dollar bet with poor children’s lives frankly.
Those who oppose vaccination on the other hand tend to come back to one name. Dr Viera Scheibner. So let’s have a look at a page from her. Here’s her Wikipedia page. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viera_Scheibner
Yes Wikipedia. I know. Not 100% reliable, editable by anyone. So I have been back to this page a number of times and certain facts on there about this anti-vaccination “hero” have never changed. Namely:
- Her only qualifications are in Geology and Palaeontology
- Her analysis is constantly challenged and considered sloppy and dishonest
- She claimed a direct link between vaccination and SIDS. The only link is that vaccination reduces SIDS risk.
- She withheld data showing Japanese Pertussis mortality increased 800% in the five years following the pause in Pertussis vaccination in Japan . (Evidence in the wiki footnote)
But now the MMR itself. Slightly more tricky. Firstly there’s the furore around the link between MMR and autism. This is a tricky one for a parent for not many of us are scientists and wherever you look – however discredited Andrew Wakefield and his study – it is ‘out there’. If the disappearance of smallpox, TB et al are obvious signs that vaccination in general works then the anecdotal evidence regarding MMR and autism is more problematic for signs of autism first show up around the time the MMR is due.
For me as a parent this meant reading. I started with this study on the World Health Organisation website. Note this is not the NHS – this is the World Health Authority. When Boy was due his MMR Andrew Wakefield had not yet been struck off in the UK as he has now. Therefore we did something additional. We asked my GP, if she would give her own child the MMR. She would and had. After that it was trust in her and the WHO and our own instincts that made the decision for us.
I have since read an excellent book on autism by Kamran Nazeer (himself an autistic) called Send In The Idiots that backs up the fact that Wakefield’s evidence was flawed and suggests reasons for it. Namely that equally flawed theories abounded at the time that autism was somehow down to bad parenting. Clearly that is ridiculous but, of course, a study showing it was instead linked to MMR would be gold to any parent previously guilt-tripping themselves for something clearly not down to them.
There are, undoubtedly, side effects and risks with the MMR however. My experience with our two was good but I have a very good GP who specialised in paediatrics. What happened with our two is what should happen in every case and it is thus:
- The doctor / nurse giving the jab should be able to explain the side effects and the contents of the inoculation.
- There is a risk of anaphylactic shock immediately after. Your GP should ask you to stay in the waiting room for 10 – 15 minutes afterwards so it can be dealt with there.
- There is a risk of fever in the days after as a side effect. Boy got one. Baby didn’t. (I, however, got mumps when I was 6 and it was an absolute bastard. Constant sore throat, immense pain, fever and quarantine for over a week. Boy’s fever was more like a bad cold and over in a day. And measles is much worse than mumps.)
Make sure your GP surgery can do all of these things before they get a needle near your Little One. If they can’t then don’t refuse the jab – change GP and get it done by your new one.
There is also a well known MMR compensation case. It’s worth bringing it up here as it was another thing I looked at. The full judgement, while finding MMR culpable in this one-off cause of epilepsy, makes it clear there is no link between MMR and autism. You can read it here. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-11125343. It is also worth noting here that this is the only case of note in the UK. Meanwhile one in 10 measles cases require hospitalization and the measles death rate in the UK is one in 5000 (source http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/Measles.htm)
I have written this not because I am a Doctor or a Scientist. I am not. I am an ordinary parent who faced, along with my partner, a choice I felt unqualified for and yet one that every parent in the UK has to make. I have documented my thought process and experiences. They won’t be everyone’s but they’re ours and we’re proud of them. Boy is now thriving at school and I am glad to say I was one of the parents who was not worried for him when we got the text from the school. Just worried for the family affected – affected by a disease that should, by now, be on the extinct list.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Wikipedia (evidence for the quotes was on the wiki page as at March 24 2012)
World Health Organisation
Send In The Idiots by Kamran Nazeer (Bloomsbury Publishing 2006/7) excerpt paraphrased.
So today I made a mistake as you may have seen from the apology I posted. I am still angry though. Angry with technology.
Technology wars are absurd and they nearly always involve an emerging invention which has 2 big forms each made or promoted by a similar but different behemoth. It started for me with video players. VHS v Betamax. As wars go it was short but you definitely didn’t want to be on the losing side. There was a kid at our school who had a Betamax recorder and he didn’t live it down for 5 years. Still to this day I bet he walks in to the pub and someone says ‘Alright Betamax?’
At around the same time the Sinclair was taking on the Commodore 64 in the first of computer wars. And guess what? They were fairly similar but with annoying subtle differences. One similarity though – half the time the games didn’t load.
The next generation was p.c. v Mac. WHY? Two computers with different operating systems that have slightly different things they are better at and yet people have fights over which is best. Why the actual fark is that?
DVD v Blu Ray. Haven’t a clue who’s going to win that. Got one of each so I don’t get laughed out of pubs.
Then there’s wars within wars. Android vs iPhone. Smartphone vs tablet. Smartphone vs tablet vs p.c. All doing more or less the same stuff but not quite and Vicente Rodriguez help you if you get it wrong.
But the worst has to be browsers. I use Google Chrome at the moment because I like the look and feel and rendering speed but I have used Firefox in the past and IE when I didn’t know better. Opera is probably the best yet no-one uses it so no-one codes or tests for it. Each one makes stuff look just a bit different.
This is where the real war is. Open the wrong browser in the wrong company and you’re toast. There seems to be a competition to use the most different or obscure software too. “Look at this new open-source browser, Genghis v5.0. It can render any page in a trillionth of a nano-second and it tugs you off while it does it”. “Gerald?” “Yes?” “it only comes in Mongolian and there’s no translate facility”. “Oh”.
And here’s a thing. For a good long while Apple have been famous for not running Flash. Astounding. Famous because your farking hardware won’t run something used by half the websites in Christendom. And they’re proud of it. They wear it like a badge of honour.
It’s no wonder people get a little confused. I’m just the one that goes on instant rant mode over it instead of taking a while to think.
Today I have made an idiot of myself and I must apologise. Someone re-tweeted the link to the parentdish article I disagreed with. I wondered why as it was quite old so I opened it using Safari on my iPhone. The mobile version of it doesn’t show any of the comments when you open it. In fact I still can’t work out how to see them.
Naturally my suspicious mind added up 1 (re-tweet) plus 1 (missing comments) plus 1 (a comment on my blog) and made 517. I thought they’d been removed. They hadn’t. If you open it using a p.c. like I did 5 minutes ago they’re there.
I apologise to everyone who’s late afternoon I made a bit more rubbish.
The rest of you beware. The mobile version of some sites and blogs is quite different to the p.c. version. I’ve just learned that the hard way.
*takes self in to corner and gives self a talking to*
So this morning my wife was at another Nearly New Sale. We kid ourselves these are in the name of recycling but she always defeats the purpose by coming back with more stuff than she set out to sell. It is, of course, stuff of a different size because Baby is growing.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Baby was giving me a much more practical demonstration of this. First she brought me the foot bit of the blue snowsuit with the enormous pink flowers mentioned in my is-it-a-boy-or-a-girl post. Since that’s still on my blog it has outlived the snowsuit which she has grown out of. While I was having a teary moment at this she disappeared.
This did not cause too much alarm. The kitchen door was closed and locked and the stair gate was closed, cutting off the possibility of Baby related calamity. Then I heard a familiar sound. The little
so-and-so darling climbing the stairs. She has worked out how to open the stair gate. I am metophorically buggered.
I remember this stage with the Boy. It involves a whole new phase of parent pain. From now until I am confident she can climb the stairs without risk (say, when she’s 10) I will be up and down the stairs 20 times a day behind her. I will develop the leg muscles of a Premiership footballer. And asthma.
I fetched her down and gave her a toy. She said ‘thank you Daddy’ and I bursted with pride. Then she threw said toy across the room. This used to be more annoying than dangerous but of late she seems to have developed an arm like Freddie Flintoff. I should probably reinforce the windows. With, y’know, steel bars.
Toys themselves are changing. Stacking rings and shape sorters are becoming phonics buses and dolls. She will bring me a book and hold it the right way up and say ‘book!’ and I will read to her. Soon it will be jigsaws and paints and a scooter and then, before I know it she’ll be at school and then, before I know it again, I’ll be searching her room for Thunderbird and Camel Lights while she’s out and tossing smelly long-haired boys in band T-Shirts down the street by their hair. It’s probably not long before I’m bed ridden and she’s feeding me mash and pretending she’s never heard the ‘Vicente played for Brighton once y’know’ story. Fuck.
Of course with every day I am starting to forget the bad things about her when she was new born. That she slept all day and not in the night. That she puked everywhere. That she cried non-stop for no fathomable reason. I am starting to remember instead that she was light as a feather and didn’t answer back. She certainly didn’t just open the stair gate and assault the North Face of the staircase without me knowing. I look at newborns in town now with an ‘aren’t they cute’ look instead of looking at the parents and thinking ‘you poor tired bastards’.
My Doctor had better damn well hurry up with that snip referral.
Today we were pushed for time. I am a bit of a punctuality freak. Actually that’s not true, I’m a ‘be ridiculously early because the worst will always happen’ freak. Which just makes me a freak really. Here’s some things I do which are stupid but which I feel I need to do as a matter of course as regards time.
If I am taking a flight and I am required to check in 2 hours before departure I like to aim to arrive at the airport about 2 and a half hours before departure. On my own this is fine. I have travelled by air by myself a great deal and this to me means less chance of missing the flight, less time in a check-in queue and more time in the coffee shop / bar (depending on time of day) pre-flight. Win / win. But add an easily bored wife and children in to the mix and the stress that is involved in getting anywhere near that early arrival target when you have two little people to pack and organise and I can see it’s less than ideal.
I also like to leave in the morning so I arrive at the station about 20 minutes before my train to work is due. This is just because. Just because I’m a panicky idiot who’s sacrificing 15 minutes extra sleep over the possibility that something might prevent me getting my train if I leave any later. Like tripping over a warthog on the walk. Like needing a ticket and being in a queue for the ticket machine behind 40 Japanese tourists with limited ticket buying skillz. Like someone moved the station.
And then there’s the lunch bookings at local restaurants which I insist we must be early for because otherwise they will give the table away to someone else and the children will cry and no other restaurant will take us and we’ll starve and die. Just reading that makes me feel a bit nuts.
So where was I? Ah yes. This morning. I work from home once a week and when I do then I am in charge of the school run. As you can imagine I am normally one of the first parents to arrive in the playground. However, today stuff happened. Or rather it did last night. Boy had a nightmare and got up for a very long time and then would only go back to sleep in our bed, relegating yours truly to the sofa. This made him tired. And so, at 8 o’clock this morning he did Not Want To Wake Up. The doors to Red Class open at 8.50 and close at 8.55. The rational human being would have seen this as plenty of time. Me? I was already thinking of what I could say at his exclusion hearing when he was booted out for arriving at 8.56 and the wife and I were thrown in clink by Social Services and branded with Bad Parent tattoos. Forever.
When he finally got out of bed he did not want his breakfast. When he finally ate his breakfast he did not want to put his uniform on. And so on and so on.
My approach to dealing with this is, by my own admission, pathetic. It’s all stick and no carrot. I go for it in the style of the ignorant Touriste Anglaise. Basically I repeat myself only slightly louder.
Me: Put your uniform on.
Me: PUT YOUR UNIFORM ON
Boy: *ignores me*
At this point the wife, who also has to be somewhere, always cuts in and introduces the carrot. Meal eating / dressing or whatever else are suddenly turned in to a fun game which the Boy miraculously excels at. I am reduced to parenting pondlife. And the task is achieved. She did this again this morning and went from hunger strike / uniform refusal to a ready Boy in 5 minutes.
I wish I could do this. I know what I do is wrong. But I’m not really thinking about the correct way to parent. I’m thinking of the terrible consequences of being a minute late for school. I am not, remotely, thinking straight. I am just lucky my wife thinks differently.
Writing this has helped a bit I think. It’s helped to at least understand that my punctuality obsession is a bit weird and not entirely helpful. So maybe next time I have to be somewhere by a set time I should read this back to myself first. Just as long as, y’know, I leave enough time to read it in. Perhaps I ought to start an hour or so ahead just in case.
(In case you were wondering we made it to school on time)