Saturday, February 10, 2007

Just Post (January)

Just Post Jan 2007

My Just Post nominee for January is this post by Emmie from Better Make it a Double.

You remember that scary news release from Consumer Reports, claiming that all but the two most expensive carseats were pretty much guaranteed to kill your baby? Well, the report has since been discredited, but don’t let that stop you from reading Emmie’s perceptive take on the matter. She talks about how the rhetoric of safety and babyproofing functions as a screen discourse for all the things we don’t want to think about: the deteriorating environment, the crumbling public-school system – the problems affecting our children that can’t be solved with a $2 electric-plug cover or a $350 carseat.

Returning to her post this week, I’ve been struck at how the public dialogue about motherhood functions in much the same way – as a red herring, a distraction from the fears we don’t want to acknowledge. My newspaper is full of terrible stories this week: a toddler smothered by a 13-year-old foster child, a baby scalded by a desperate mother who used a kettle of boiling water as her cry for help. Children are terribly vulnerable in our society, and there are gaping holes in the patchwork of social services designed to protect them and support their parents. So how do we respond? With rules. Never drink on a play-date. Respond promptly to every cry. Spray down the change table with anti-bacterial spray once a week. Never leave your toddler unattended.

And we respond with laws to make spanking illegal, to require helmets on toboggans. If we always speak in absolutes, and raise the bar for mothers high enough, maybe the real problems will just go away. A law is much cheaper than a respite program or adequate parental leave; psychological pressure is easier and more convenient than real support.


Jenifer G. said...

Thanks for the link, I just visited and added in my two cents. Actually, my comments repeated about three times, oops.

It is more than car seats and tub thermometers, it is systemic of such a larger problem and drawing a little attention to it is a good idea. Buying these safety items in itself is not a bad thing but, using them in place of say watching your child is. For those of us who can afford these things does it excuse us from basic parenting? Of course not. I hate how if you don't have these things you are made to feel irresponsible. What about those who cannot afford these items?

The rules meant to protect us (and our kids) are adding to the pressure to parent in such a way we eliminate all chance. Commonsense tells us this is ridiculous but, if you look around this is how we are being conditioned to parent.

So well said B&P.

jen said...

as usual, you are so right on. rules somehow equate safety, but the safe we crave is not driven by any rule, it's driven by love and compassion and listening.


Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

And here's a third Jennifer ... In real life I don't know _any_ Jennifers besides myself, how odd.

Very nice post. It reminds me of what Mad said on fear recently, and made me think the same things I wrote about... I know this was not your point but it seems to me that we are not allowing people to judge the level of risk. We say only, a risk exists, and legislate against it.

I'm surprised I am allowed to let my 5-year-old on the ski slopes.

Em said...

This is so true - our daily lives are full of red herrings - which make us neurotic about the details of motherhood and stop us stepping back to look at the big picture.

Lawyer Mama said...

You're so right. So many of our mommy "rules" are ineffective bandaids for much larger problems.

Beck said...

I think that we all feel so ineffective and helpless in the face of larger problems that we've all become obsessed with controlling the things we CAN control. It's just sad - my parents talk about running all over the countryside, this immense childhood freedom, and my kids aren't even allowed to play in their own yards by themselves.

Mad Hatter said...

You mean I can't buy my way to the perfect child? Damn.

Yes, yes, yes and again yes.

NotSoSage said...

Something sure does smell fishy...

Kelly said...

For real.

Let's focus on moms who might have a glass of wine on a playdate, as opposed to changing the rules so mothers with six-week old babies don't have to rush back to work as soon they heal from giving birth.

Ya know, the important stuff?

Lady M said...

I agree that the underlying problems don't get any attention, compared to the eye-catching headlines about Mommy Wars, new rules, and car seats until your kids are old enough to drive. That's because it takes a lot of hard work that might not have results before the next election cycle. Ick.

Thanks for your comment about news at my place. "Compassion fatigue" is an excellent phrase. I've found I can't read stuff about missing and maimed children much. It gets too upsetting.

wordgirl said...

Can I just say right now how happy I am to be pasat the carseat phase of my life?

ewe are here said...

There's been a lot of sad and horrible stories about hurt children on this side of the pond as well, lately. And the Unicef report about how children are faring throughout the western industrialized world came out this week, too. US and UK are at the bottom, of course (probably due to the extremes of the countries).

I, too, am so sick of rules and absolutes for moms to follow. And the venom I hear on the talk radio stations over here that is directed at mothers (rarely fathers) who choose to have children (obviously all by themselves) and expect society to help them by providing them with a decent education in buildings that aren't falling down around their ears and preentative healthcare, and maybe even a support network for those who didn't realize that they need some extra help due to a change in circumstances. Oh the nerve of those mommies, wanting to do right by their kids!

Make me want to cry sometimes. When did society get so mean when it came to children?

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