My site so far has more about nutrition on it than parenting and that is slowly changing. I will still address matters of health and wellness, but I will also be sharing what I’ve learned along the journey of parenting.
Today, I saw a 30-second video of MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry talking about how “we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.” Her point being that when everyone has a vested interest in all of the children, money gets raised and spent differently.
I won’t go into the research that supports that the education system’s problem isn’t money. But there is research showing districts that perform much better on much less and they are models that should be followed, and I’ll leave it at that. Please do not kvetch about education funding here because you would only be ignoring my point. I don’t really care what the rationale is behind the statement.
What I really want to say is that while I understand what she’s getting at, I have a problem with introducing the notion this woman expresses–that children “belong to the community”. A few years ago in NJ, I read the pending “Children’s Bill of Rights” primarily to argue with what seemed to be conspiracy zealots. But reading it compelled me to write to my legislators to argue against it. Effectively, I would have lost the right to make decisions for my children if the mainstream and/or “experts” called me in to the authorities–who would intervene on behalf of my child. You know, because “the community” felt that my decisions–although not overtly abusive or negligent–were not “in the best interests of my child” (per the wording of the proposed legislation). That’s a very subjective thing. Heck, abuse and neglect are often subjective and difficult to navigate. I know because I have cared for the children held in the balance.
I have been a foster parent, a child who should have rightfully been a foster child myself for a period of my life, and a teacher. I ABSOLUTELY “get” the need for authorities to be in place to help children who are abused and neglected. But the concept that a parent gives up their parental decisions to the collective whole is a problem for people who do not fall in line with the mainstream. And while I don’t think this woman’s intent was going in this direction (or maybe it was–I don’t profess to know her intent), it is none-the-less a slippery slope.
The way my family eats, educates, and deals with technology/media exposure alone come under fire on a very regular basis. Within the last year, a relative accused us of crippling our kids by limiting their exposure to technology/media “in this day and age” (because there is no scientific data supporting my son’s reaction to too much screen exposure–so I don’t really have “a leg to stand on” if someone challenged that statement).
But when my son was 2 years old and we refused some heavy hitting medications for an extremely mild seizure disorder (which didn’t show up on a 72 hour EEG and, btw, “disappeared” when we moved to a more ketagenic diet–which is how Johns Hopkins University used to treat far more serious seizure disorders before medications were created for that purpose and still treat med-resistant seizure disorders); refused daily steroid medications when the pulminologist diagnosed him with Reactive Airway Disorder at 2yo and said he absolutely WOULD have asthma; refused giving him Wellbutrin (an adult anti-depressant) at 3yo to “rewire his brain” because he was profoundly developmentally delayed and then 2 years later (after he had been given an autism spectrum diagnosis) decided NOT to put him in a classroom. These are all things that went VERY HARD against “the experts” and would’ve made us subject to having him removed as a means of his protection. After all–what did we know? The experts knew better. As it was, we were always wondering if someone would call us in anyway and try to substantiate our actions as abuse or neglect.
But we DID know. Regardless, what a parent knows or researched are not always respected (if even heard) in a court room. Many of you do not have public access to foster care hearings, but it is remarkable what does not get heard or discussed. It is certainly an eye-opener when you see the proceedings first hand. Some might better understand how kids manage to get sent home to horrible circumstances or kept from stable parents when you see how it all goes down. Even under current-day laws (or lack thereof) in NJ, a mother lost her parental rights for refusing to have a c-section (you can read the piece when it finally hit the NYTimes and then Google for the judicial reviews) and a homeschooling mother charged ONLY with educational neglect had her child sent to school before the child was even tested to determine that she was below grade level (which she was later proven not to be).
I should note that there are many people who saw my son between the age of infant to 3yo who are amazed with what has become of him based on our decisions. He no longer has seizures (although can’t handle a lot of screen time), looks to most people like a pretty typical 9yo boy (although still carries a mild Asperger’s diagnosis that shows mostly in him not knowing when someone’s “playin” him) and by no means has asthma. I should add that although there were no recommendations TO defy for his immune deficiency, when he was an infant, the doctors told us that we should prepare for him to be hospitalized at least 4x/year. At 9yo, he has been hospitalized once and is rarely sick. I know many of you think that we are exceptional parents and I’m flattered; but really–if you were facing what we faced, you’d have done the things we did. You just weren’t handed that deck of cards.
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not rely on the court system to sort it out. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not hand your right to decide seemingly simple things over to the collective whole. Children need to know that someone very vested in their overall person is behind them and advocating for them. That’s you. Yes, it takes a village. But I personally would like to be sure that our “village” are people that I personally know and trust for my child’s well-being.