Parenting Perspective

*This first ran as a guest post on Bod for Tea in Great Britain.

What’s parenting in the USA all about?  That’s a bit like asking a hundred different cooks how to prepare Thanksgiving dinner and getting a hundred perfectly valid recipes in return.  I agree with mommy bloggers who point out we should all be less judgmental and more supportive of each other.  Yet, none of us defends an absolutely dirty kitchen (different than messy, yes mine is often messy) or spoiled food.  At the risk of sounding judgmental, I’d like to share with you my recent experience with two different sorts of stroller brigades.

The first was a state-by-state effort by moms who want common sense reform to the United States’ Toxic Substances Control Act.  This 1970s measure gave little more than lip service to the idea of protecting consumers.  Since TSCA, the coalition Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families says the Environmental Protection Agency has required testing on just over 200 of the 62,000 chemicals grandfathered in under the law.  Meanwhile, scientific research is showing more and more reason to be concerned about many of those chemicals such as a large group of them called endocrine disruptors.  So parents trying to educate themselves can find out that from crib mattresses to children’s toys to food and beverage containers, we’re usually on our own to figure out what’s safe and what’s not.  If there is an alternative product considered safer, it usually costs more.   We’ve also heard that companies sometimes sell the safer formulation of a product elsewhere in the world while selling the more questionable version in the US.  When a small group of concerned parents and even a grandmother turned out for the peaceful Stroller Brigade asking our state’s US Senator to support the Safe Chemicals Act, most of our friends – the ones who otherwise turn out for play dates and parties and school functions – were not there to support us.

The other stroller brigade that I accidentally got involved in turned out hundreds if not thousands of parents and kids just a few days later.  It was a free admission weekend at the local zoo, and many families took advantage of the fun outdoor event.  In addition to the understandable lines where my children and I waited to play in activity centers or view the lions, was waft after waft of cigarette smoke.  I remembered my manners and clutched my bag carrying a rescue inhaler for my child who’s had some breathing issues.  Sometimes we just gave up and moved on to another spot when the smoke got too annoying.  Usually the smoking adult was moving along with children of his or her own.  There were several strollers at the zoo that day.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been shocked to see a young man with the cigarette pursed between his lips while he pushed a very young baby in a stroller.  I bit my lip and moved on.

I’m the least of all people to say I’ve mastered perfect parenting.  There will always be a wide range of parenting styles just like there will always be (I hope) a wide range of political, faith, business and lifestyle choices in our free country.  While I want to respect our differences, I wonder why we can’t care a bit more as a free society about the welfare of our most vulnerable citizens.  The babies neither have a say over the chemicals used in their crib mattresses nor over the tobacco smoke.  Science shows us reason be concerned about both.   If we the people can’t do more to protect our children as the at-risk consumers they are, then parents are called to be even stronger advocates than ever for our children’s health and safety.

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