Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Keep The Authority Where It Belongs: The Case For Parental Rights

You may have heard about the Stanley family by now, as their story continues to gain more publicity. What is being reported is that the authorities investigated their home after an anonymous caller told them that the children were running in the snow barefoot. The children were then taken into custody upon the discovery of a 'dangerous' mineral supplement in the home, one that the father claimed he used as a water purifier.

I do not know this family personally. I've never met them and know very little about them, only what has been written about this incident. I also don't know if there is more to this story than what we have read, and there very well could be. I feel it's important for me to mention that because it's frustrating when people jump all over a news story and make decisions about it based on the very little information that the media supplies. Tried and convicted in the court of public opinion, so to speak.

That being said, I also know this is not the first time I have heard of a family being ripped apart based on someone else's poor judgment. This story comes on the heels of yet another story about parents who are under investigation for allowing their two children to walk HALF A BLOCK alone to a playground. And these two stories come on the heels of numerous other incidents of parents being accused of neglect because they left their kids alone in a car for two minutes while they ran into a gas station or had the audacity to disagree with their pediatrician. Considering over 3 million children are 'checked up on' by CPS annually, it's no wonder these stories are so common. DHS and CPS appear to wield an awful lot of power. All it takes is a phone call from a nosy neighbor. Maybe one day the authorities will show up on your doorstep.

Is there anything in your parenting someone else might disagree with? Have you ever done, said, or allowed anything that would be deemed questionable by the cranky lady down the street, or even your own friends? I don't doubt the way I run my household is a little different from the way you run yours, but I bet you love your kids. I bet they love you. Chances are we're both doing what we feel is best for our individual families.

But when it comes to these types of investigations, where the lines are drawn appear to be so discretionary, based on the whims of whomever is involved in the case. Who do you think deserves to be investigated? Or even deserves to have their practices outlawed? Deserves to have their children taken away?

Families in a polygamist community? A family who practices alternative medicine? A family whose parents spank their children?

There have been plenty of times when I have felt sorry for other kids and the way they were being raised, but I also recognized that they weren't my children. When it comes to issues of personal liberty and parental rights, you are not the authority on my family, just as I am not the authority on yours. At least, that's the way it should be. But as the state receives more and more power and more and more funding to place itself in the middle of our daily lives, it can't come as any surprise that this continues to happen. And it won't stop, not as long as we continue to wage war on each other's ideologies.

Ours has become a culture of self-righteous finger wagging. All I have to do to see that is read through a few threads on a parenting website. How dare you mutilate your child with circumcision! Breastfeeding your 3-year-old is abuse! You should never feed your child McDonald's! Spanking is the same as hitting!

That's precisely where this gets uncomfortable. Should your standards be applied to all people? Of all backgrounds and religions and cultures? Which perceptions should we allow to dominate as we apply arbitrary rules to how people live their lives?

Because that's what human beings do best – decide they're right, and then decide that everyone else should live accordingly. That's why we're now under the thumb of so many laws and why children are getting ripped away from loving homes. But I'm here to say that your parenting choices should remain precisely that – your choices.

It's horrifying to hear of tragic cases of abuse and neglect. There are some cases of severe harm, sexual trauma, and death that I've heard about that stick out in my mind and sicken me to my core. But one has to wonder if these cases would be fewer if less time and money were spent on investigating ordinary people just trying to live their lives and more attention was given to real problems.

So to the nosy neighbors who like to make reports, I'd like to ask you to consider these things: Consider striking up a conversation with the family instead of reaching for the phone. Consider that you are about to step on the constitutional rights of those parents AND CHILDREN in that household. Consider that the strange family next door just might be good people who simply do things a little differently than you do.

Consider that you're taking away help from a child who actually needs it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Taking The Leap: Third Baby Fears

It feels kind of weird announcing this on here since I announced it on social media so long ago and am only just now getting around to blogging it, but that's what happens when you've got a sweet little thing inside of you that's been making you feel a little icky. Yes, that's right - it's official. I am pregnant with our third child.

It's fascinating how different the reactions to the third are from the reactions to the first or second. It is less 'yay' and more 'whaaaaat?!' I can only imagine what the reactions will be like if we ever spring for a fourth. You'd think we were Duggaring it up over here. (Side note: I think the Duggars are lovely, but I don't think we'll go for nineteen.)

I have always loved the idea of having a big family and would love to have even another one day, but you guys, pregnancy is no joke. It has been a rough few months in our household – lots of gagging and wretching on my part, and lots of TV watching and self-entertaining on the kids' part. I'm at 16.5 weeks now, and the morning sickness ('morning' – ha!) is definitely better, but there is certainly some lingering queasiness here and there. I think this baby is plotting. (“YOU SHALL HAVE NO MORE AFTER ME, BWA HA HA!”) Meanwhile, the crazy husband is already planning the fourth...

Going from one child to two felt easier to me than going from zero to one. When you have a first baby, especially when you've had a loss prior, everything is terrifying. From worrisome ailments to inexplicable crying (both child and parent), caring for your very first newborn is quite the trial-and-error phase of life. But with the second you actually feel like you know what you're doing. That was especially true for me since they were so close in age – I never actually left baby mode. It's a little different now that the age difference is slightly larger, and that's just one of the many things I get nervous about. I'm starting over in the baby phase. Yikes!

It would be easy for me to fear all the unknowns about this new endeavor. What's going to be different with three? Am I going to be overwhelmed? Will this baby sleep? What if something goes wrong?

There are so many things in life I could fear, but when I consider all that's taking place in the world, that seems to put it into perspective a bit. Having a baby shouldn't be toward the top of that list of things to be fearful of (although, having recently been in the throes of first trimester woes, I will say that three months of consistent nausea is a totally legit thing to fear). In every new phase of life there is room for fear, but I've got to cast that aside and embrace and enjoy what's in front of me.

Whenever I start to feel apprehensive about adding to our brood, I start reminding myself of the facts. Yes, kids are a lot of work, but they are the kind of work that is worth it! They are fun. And they are family, and who doesn't want more family? I mean, if Tori Spelling can have four, why can't I? Maybe she didn't feel like barfing the whole time though...

Anyway, there is much to celebrate. What I am looking forward to most is watching my two older babies gain a sibling and experience the joy of a new life. I'm excited to meet this new person and learn all about him or her. I'm excited to watch them all grow together and love each other. And that's the key right there - love conquers fear.

Some parents say that going from two to three was huge because they became outnumbered, while others say that it was a natural transition since they were more laid back. I can't be sure of what's to come, but what I can be sure of is that no matter what, we'll always have a lot of love in this house.

Fears about having a third child