WARNING: I’m going to be getting up on my Soapbox!
This post was sparked, in part, by discussions with contributors to this blog at our quarterly meeting.
As a “Mama on the Far Side of Childhood,” I get questions from younger friends about how I did things with my children. Having 8 month old triplets in our family, and helping with a friend’s 2 month old twins, I’ve become much more aware of current trends in parenting. I can tell you, I don’t necessarily like the trends I’m seeing!
You have probably seen internet missives on “the good old days.” THIS is one of my favorites. Read it, and you will see why I believe there is a huge difference in the climate of childrearing today! (Be sure to click where the link says “see more,” to read the entire post.) Based on today’s safety standards, it is a wonder that my generation made it safely to adulthood!
Generations of common sense, traditions that have been passed down through families and cultures, and mothering instincts are now being dismissed as “wrong.” Of course, the changes are being couched and publicized as progress, but I’m not so sure. There seems to be a concerted effort to minimize women’s intuition and mothering instincts, under the guise of science and safety. I fear that the the comment by the MSNBC host about children belonging to the community, not the parents, is evidence of the philosophy behind the government’s, and other organizations’, expanding efforts to influence every aspect of child-rearing, especially education.
What has happened to our American belief in personal responsibility? It is a parent’s, not some government agency’s, responsibility to monitor their own children. Small game parts are no more of a choking hazard than rocks, acorns, and some foods! Children can drown in puddles and buckets. As parents, we need to be constantly vigilant about all kinds of dangers that might affect our children.
Legislation, lawsuits, and bureaucracy encroach on our freedoms and stifle businesses with additional costs. Zealous bureaucrats and aggressive lawyers have shut down many activities that are inherently dangerous, by making it too costly to continue doing business. Many activities I enjoyed as a child are no longer available. Motels, which used to have slides and diving boards, now have mostly shallow pools, to avoid lawsuits from people who don’t use common sense in supervising themselves and their children.
In addition to the plethora of legislative changes, surprisingly, recommendations for mothering “best practices” seem to have changed a lot, too. I, for one, am not convinced all of the changes are for the better. I am more of a believer in “contextual practices.” I think we need to consider individual situations instead of settling for “one size fits all” solutions.
For example, today’s “wisdom” says that NOTHING should be in the crib with a baby. No blankets, sheets, toys, crib bumpers, etc., because the baby might smother. I’m sure that could happen, but it seems a bit extreme, when millions of babies have survived, with cribs FULL of items that are currently “prohibited.” (Don’t worry, I’m not going to throw my non-compliant friends under the bus!)
The current notion that babies must sleep on their backs to avoid SIDS may also be junk science. Several studies show that lack of quality sleep, developmental delays, positional plagiocephaly (flattened back of the head), scoliosis, and reflux, among other complications, are all related to back sleeping. Juliane Pigeon wrote an enlightening article on back sleeping for Nickelodeon’s Parent’s Connect website.
My babies slept on their stomachs. They each had a sheepskin. When we traveled with the sheepskins, they literally gave every location a familiar feel for our children. Apparently, sheepskins in cribs are now verboten, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, even though Australians, New Zealanders, and Americans have continuously used them for many decades. Certainly anything in a crib needs to be scrutinized. That being said, if you believe your baby will sleep more peacefully with a favorite toy or blanket, or a sheepskin, trust your mothering instincts!
As for co-sleeping: Based on my experience, it is better for a sleep-deprived, nursing mother to have her baby in bed, than risk the baby’s falling out of a chair when Mama dozes off. Here and Here are articles that discuss the pros and cons of co-sleeping.
Some kind of oversight is probably necessary to shut down disreputable companies. I’m also sure that safety precautions like bike helmets and life-preservers have prevented injuries and deaths. However, I never knew anyone who had a head injury from riding bikes before helmets. Scrapes, bruises, and maybe a broken arm, from helmet-less bike riding were expected when you were being a daredevil! I still have an ankle scar from getting my foot caught in the spokes of my bicycle (pictured below), while my BFF was towing me, as I rode behind her on the fender seat. I have the same general thoughts about the transition from metal tricycles to big wheels. There are certain things you just can’t do on a plastic tricycle–like turn the handlebars around so a friend can ride there while you sit on the seat and pedal!
Many of the changes I’ve mentioned seem reactionary to me. Often, the government and its related agencies are overreaching. Because of isolated incidents, they try to fix things that aren’t really broken. The majority are made to suffer because of situations pertaining to a few, without there being a real need for change. I’m sure many recommendations are made with good intentions. I simply don’t think that means change is always necessary!
For example, if you believe that co-sleeping relaxes your baby, and gives you a better night’s sleep, use your God-given mothering instincts to make that choice without guilt. If your instincts tell you there is something wrong with your baby, after a doctor tells you he’s fine, get another opinion. You’re probably right. If you have a hundred year old cradle that you’re comfortable using, even though it doesn’t meet current bar spacing guidelines, use it!
If you really start looking at warning labels, product safety guidelines, and consumer legislation, you will go crazy! You will also gain a startling insight into just how much control our government wants to assert over our private lives! In researching for this post, I discovered that the Consumer Product Safety Commission says they need our help as a part of their “Neighborhood Safety Network.”
The first suggestion under how to get your Neighborhood Safety Network started is: “Assess the safety issues in your neighborhood. Identify potential partners that share the same issues. Detemine how you can collaborate to solve the problem.” Ummm, I don’t want the government encouraging neighbors to gang up and spy on each other, while assessing “safety issues!” (Similarly, I don’t think the government should have access to the content of my medical records, e-mails, and phone calls!)
By all means, observe laws, consider the advice of your pediatrician, and use common sense. On issues that are not clearly defined, do your own research and trust your mothering instincts–WITHOUT GUILT. Nobody knows your children better than you!
(Stepping off my Soapbox now! Feel free to comment!)