Diary of a Stay at Home Dad: Weight percentiles, the metric system, and the mommy bloc

So I was almost 9 years old when I started following politics in the late spring of 1976.  Amazingly the campaigns didn’t start until June of the year of the actual Presidential election.  A bucked toothed Governor from Georgia was taking it to my man and current President Gerald Ford.  I was only 9 so the most I can remember was the knock against Carter.  He was going to move us to the metric system, oh and his brother was also bucked toothed and apparently constantly drunk on something called Billy Beer.  I had no concept of beer except that my mother claimed then and now that it is made from cow pee.  Don’t worry Chris, she wasn’t talking about Guinness.  (yes she was)

Of course as you all know we never converted to the metric system.  I had no idea why.  I thought it might be due to the shellacking Carter took in the 1980 Presidential race against Ronald Reagan.  All I knew was I would not be happy learning a new system cause at the age of 9 I had a tough enough time with the current one.  It still makes me a little nervous when I see it on the golf channel.  Only Great Britain converts their measurements back to the US mode during European Golf telecasts.  All other European nations stick with the metric system leaving me and Frank to bust out the slide rules in an attempt to figure how far the little angry German dude just hit an 8 iron.

So what in the world does this have to do with being a Stay at Home Dad?  Well I’m glad you asked.  I have finally discovered why the U.S. never switched to the metric system during the one term of Jimmy Carter.  The answer to this lifelong riddle in a minute.  Y’all probably already know this, but I shall press on.

Fast forward from May of 1976 to May of 2009.  Frank is four days old and we are taking him for his first doctor visit.  Now his pediatrician is great and her office is one of the few places where treatment of stay-at-home dads in no different from stay-at-home moms.  I actually like going there.  However, Frank’s not liking it at all because his wrinkly butt just got stripped down and he’s laid out in all his glory on a scale that has a built in yard stick and he’s freezing.  The doctor, I’m going to say doc or doctor every time even though I am aware the women measuring him at that moment was probably a Physicians Assistant or a Nurse Practitioner.  They all seem wildly smart to me and they all look like doctors so there you have it.

Anyway Frank is laying there freezing and the doc is taking notes in reference to Frank’s measurements.  They didn’t seem like good notes or joyful notes, if her expression was any indication.  I caught it on tape here: It’s a bad check.  This must have been important because Tracy was really anxious about getting these numbers.  I was still a babe in the woods and had no idea of the statistical importance of Frank’s first height and weight measurement.  Excuse me, length measurement.  No way a dude who can’t stand up-right on his own gets a height measurement.

Well Frank’s percentiles were in the low single digits for length and weight.  This caused concern for all except me.  I was struggling to find the meaning in these numbers?  Are we back to reporting Frank to the state? 5th percentile compared to what?  Is there an actual standard?  What in the world are you people talking about!?!?  This went on for each subsequent visit.  Finally at the 1 yr visit, I’m sorry the 12 month visit, (that’s a whole separate discussion), when Franks “numbers” were relayed to us I had to ask the doc “So what”  “Does that mean anything of significance Doc?”

Her reply, Nope.  That’s it, just Nope.  It can’t be just Nope.  There was way too much consternation over these numbers for the past yea… I mean 12 months for it to be a simple Nope.  We were losing sleep over whether we were feeding Frank enough or enough of the right things for a Nope.  When I say we were losing sleep I of course mean Tracy was causing me to lose sleep over it as I was clearly not showing the requisite concern for Frank’s paltry plummeting percentile predicament.

The Doc simply turned her laptop towards me and pointed to the thing that was important; his growth line as compared to the AMA standard.  Now you’re speaking my language, with charts and graphs and standards.  She said the percentiles are just for the moms.  As long as Frank moves in a upward tick along this growth line the percentiles with respect to other children mean absolutely nothing.  That may have been overstating a bit on her part but I got her point.  I did 2 ye…. 24 months running test stats for the Air Force so I knew the growth line had to be derived from somewhere and it was most likely from a solid sample of national percentiles.  But her explanation served my shallow purpose so I went with it.

For me it’s just more numbers I have to remember if I want to be part of a conversation where I’m the only male among a group of stay-at-home moms.  It’s a common scene, moms  inserting their child’s percentiles into a conversation.  You can tell if they think they are good numbers or bad numbers by the look of pride or humility when the numbers are spoken aloud.  This has been going on for a lot longer than I ever imagined.  My wife tells me this has been an issue for as long as she can remember.  I never heard of it until some of my close friends started having kids.

So to close the loop here, all this percentile business is just a big scorecard.  That’s it.  But that scorecard could not exist had Carter moved us to the metric system back in 76.  Could you imagine this exchange, “little Fauntleroy taped out at 42 centimeters and 3.5 kilograms.”  “Well Rupert is 50 centimeters long and 3 kilograms.”  I mean which mother was supposed to get the beat down in that confrontation?  No way to know.  The metric system; for people who don’t like to compete.

Moms weren’t having the metric system and moms had and have a big voting bloc.  You don’t think so, ask Proctor & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson.  J&J has just drawn the eye of the mommy bloc for not remaking their shampoo without the two ingredients that are known to cause cancer. Link: J&J Boycott


The mommy bloc is a powerful group, as they should be.  Probably why Carter got smashed by Reagan in 80.  That or the gas crisis, it’s a close call.

This entry was posted in Diaries.

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