Risk Assessment: the hardest part of parenting? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 03:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This keeps coming up in a few threads. The "huge risk" that "we all know it is" to leave a child unattended in a car. But is it? Don't get me wrong, I'm not say, 'heck, just crack the window and go get your manicure', but can we examine this dispassionately?

The single greastest cause of injury and death to humans under the age of 19 years old is car accidents. We have grown accustomed to the carnage on our nations roads so when yet another kid or kids is badly hurt or killed in a wreck we sigh, offer sympathy and move on. When someone has the rather rare (and equally tragic) experience of having something terrible happen to their child because they left them in the car for a few minutes, it makes the local paper and Oprah invites them to come sit on her couch and cry with her. And we all cluck our tongues about the 'easily avoidable tragedy'. But aren't they both, really?

We don't really know which is more dangerous from any statistical basis or any other basis. We just know that our society has said "Hey, you NEED to drive", so that risk is acceptable but we haven't reached the same concensus on occasionally leaving kids in the car for a few minutes.
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#2 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 03:50 PM
 
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kama- I do agree with what your saying, I think there are lots of risks we take every day with our kids and its only when it gets media hype do we look at it like its such a crime. accidents do happen and we risk all the time driving to all these "necesarry "places, and some women pop into the post office and feel it's ok and others dont . certainly there are factors that differ in each scenerio and then theres the laws we have now in what? texas? where else? because someone really goofed or was plain negligent and a child died. this is so heated this topic. you are so right in your unheated opinion. thanks.
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#3 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 03:59 PM
 
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This is an interesting thread, and I am surprised no one has responded yet, since it is such an integral part of not only our experiences as parents, but also as human beings living life.

For example, why are some people comfortable with the risks of bottlefeeding (such as the risk that the baby will be sick more often), when they know the risks and have a choice?

I agree that risk assessment is a delicate balancing act. We take certain risks just by waking up in the morning. Then there are things we do that increase risk but seem to be a necessity of life to some people, like driving, or eating large amounts of chemical additives in foods (which according to my old epidemiology professor is the number one contributer to non-lung cancer rates in the U.S.), or taking kids to school (in most cases, they are more likely to be killed at school by a homicidal maniac than at home). By the way, I don't drive and I eat minmimally processed foods, and I love homeschooling, but I know my brother-in-law, for instance, sees all of the above risks as necessary. Then there are things we may do that are "risk taboos" such as leaving a child in a car for 5 minutes while paying for gas (which statistically is much less risky than driving). And what about risks we chose to take but don't "need" to, such as taking a walk during a lightening and thunder storm or letting our kids play football. I mean, don't we all draw some pretty fine lines?

When do I know that a risk outweighs the benefit for someone else? That's a tough thing to call from the outside, though I certainly think in some very specific cases we can make the call. But I think it is true to say that laws result when someone goofs, when someone makes a poor risk assessment, and then those laws affect all of us, even those of us who have differing factors in our own situations.

So much to think about.

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#4 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 04:10 PM
 
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Sorry, lauraess, I said no one had responded but I posted at the same time as you.

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#5 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 04:37 PM
 
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Kama thanks for the thread and Sierra thanks for you eloquence.

I will add that in our society (america) we have a strange way of assessing risk. In is not the relative risk, but the degree of media hype. For example, the whole hype around the "dangers" of co-sleeping. Ban it because 60 children died. These are all sad cases, but out of how many how does that compare to sleeping in crib. I think in many ways we have become a society of people frightened of the wrong things and blase about the things that can really hurt us.

I hope that made any sense. I am still trying to get this posting thing down
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#6 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 04:44 PM
 
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You know, I was about to add a p.s. to my post, but I think I'll just make another one. After I wrote what I wrote and went back to reading some different threads, I've noticed a couple times when people have said different things were "just dangerous." I was thinking about how some things are inherently dangerous, like collapsable walkers. Their structure makes them dangerous. And driving isn't one of those things I would say is "just dangerous" because I imagine that if you live out in the middle of nowhere, and if you live somewhere where people aren't likely to drink and drive, perhaps the actual act of driving isn't inherently dangerous. I don't think the act of leaving a kid in a car is inherently dangerous. I don't. There are too many variables, and again, driving in itself is far more dangerous than leaving a kid in a car, within view, for a few minutes on a cool day while you unload groceries from the trunk of the car and then move those groceries into the kitchen. There are neighborhoods I have lived in where I would never leave a child in a car, and cities I have lived in where everyone knew everyone and the risk is very small. Frankly, when people talk about how awful it would be if someone stole a car with a kid who was unattended, I am amazed that so many people think this is even a remote possibility in their towns. Look, how often are cars stolen in your neighborhood, in your city? In the town I just moved from, there was a less than 0.3% chance my car would be stolen in any given year. Again, driving in itself would have been a far riskier choice. And what is the likelihood that the car would get broken into while you ran into your mother's house to grab a book she is loaning you, with your car still within your peripheral vission? And what is the likelihood that a person would chose *your* car to steal, with your baby in it? Risk assessment is interesting because there are so many layers involved, so I am always interested in where people draw the lines.

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#7 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 04:50 PM
 
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This is such a great topic, and yes it is true that it applies to each of us every day, parents or not. Every time we make a choice we are conducting a "risk-benefit" analysis in our heads.

Getting actual probabiliities is generally the best thing, IMO. For example, you can say that the risk of A is double that of B, which may make A sound really bad. But if the risk of B is 1/20000 and the risk of A is 1/10000 the statement is still true that A is double B but even A is so rare as to probably not be of concern to anybody.

I too wonder how many children per 1000 are actually kidnapped from their cars. I too think media hypes up stuff like this.

Unfortunately, when bad things do happen (and hey, people win the lottery despite the tremendous odds against it) it is so easy to second guess ourselves, or when the odds hit close to home we are more likely to consider that a threat worth paying attention to, even if the statistical likelihood is still very rare.

Ultimately we all seem to have risks we take seriously (like the risk of not using a car seat) and risks that we don't (I don't worry one bit about not eating "natural only" foods, taking medications, etc.). So it's a very personal thing.

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#8 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 04:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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quothe Sierra
Quote:

In most cases, they are more likely to be killed at school by a homicidal maniac than at home
Ah, but again, are they? There have really only (Only? I know!) been a few dozen kids ever killed that way. Stack that up against the kids killed in their homes either accidentally or on purpose with handguns owned by their family. But people worry more about that than they do asking if their kids friends have guns in the house. They worry more about plane crashes than car crashes. More about cyanide in Tylenol than the Tylenol itself! It's all about publicity, baby!
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#9 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 04:57 PM
 
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kama'aina mama, I thought about that when I posted what I said, but I decided to still post it because I wasn't including family members. Should have clarified. You are right, at home, kids are more likely to be killed because of family members, which I didn't count because I was thinking that parents who decided to keep children at home based simply on a *risk-benefit* analysis would probably not be likely to kill their children. Which of course, is totally illogical because, for example, if there are guns in the home, the child might be accidently shot by a sibling. But then again, maybe it is still a reasonable argument because it is likely that if someone is making decisions based soley on *risk benefit analysis*, they would keep guns locked away. In any case, it is a weak argument, so please strike it from the record.

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#10 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 05:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by Sierra
In any case, it is a weak argument, so please strike it from the record.
bangs a little gavel
Striken! Please continue.
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#11 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 05:05 PM
 
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Oh, BTW, I wasn't considering accidental deaths, because as I said, the child would be more likely to be "killed by a homicidal maniac." So actually, come to think of it, even an accidental shooting at home wouldn't count. But of course a risk-benefit analysis would include more than just homicidal maniacs outside the family but also accidental deaths, etc., so it is still a weak argument.

Okay, continue.

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#12 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 05:16 PM
 
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Of course leaving a child in a car in not inherently dangerous. It depends on the situation. At our local mom and pop market, I often leave my three kids in the car (ages 1-5), windows rolled down to admit air (but not enough that they can get out,) and windows and doors locked (with the master control only accessible from the driver's seat,) and they stay belted up. I have full view of the car through the picture window that fronts the store, glance out at the car every couple seconds, and could be out there in literally three seconds. THEY ARE NOT IN DANGER, anymore than if I was in the car with them. I am much more worried about someone wigging out about it and reporting me to CPS -- THAT would be detrimental to my children's well-being.

And how do we assess probabilities? You can tell me that there's a one in 100,000 chance (or whatever) that my child will be kidnapped from the car, because one (out of 100,000 children who were left in cars) was kidnapped. But that's not the real probability at all. How many of those children were locked in and in full view of their parents, and was that the case with the one who was kidnapped? I'd guess that the probability of my children getting kidnapped in the scenario I described at the top is... nil.

It's the same with anything -- take co-sleeping, for example. We're told that there's a so-and-so chance of a child dieing while co-sleeping. That probability, however, only applies to me if the specifics of those co-sleeping arrangements match mine. And it's very likely that they don't, and that the probability in MY situation is in actuality very different. Statistics don't mean anything when specifics aren't taken into account. And they rarely are.
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#13 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 05:19 PM
 
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Greenfrogs, just have to return the compliment. You and the other posters on this thread have been far more eloquent than I, and I *loved* reading your post.

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#14 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 05:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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And to think I hesitated to start this thread. Do you know what the odds are of getting flamed at Mothering for starting a thread that threatens peoples sacred cows?
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#15 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 05:48 PM
 
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You know, I never hesitated to start my original thread, even though I knew that I would be opening myself up for some criticism. But I also knew that I would get (mostly) thoughtful commentary and lots and lots of support. It seems that most of the Mamas here are thinking women, even if they don't agree on everything. On some hot topic issues (vax, BF, co-sleeping) I have seen lots of diverse opinions. Of course, there is a definite non-mainstream bias here (before I get flames -- this is a compliment!)-- that is why I came here in the first place. I did not like everything that everyone had to say, but (1) I understood the "risk" when I posted it and (2) most everything was from a sense of deep conviction tempered with understanding and support. Assessing "risk" is the hardest part of living life in general. It becomes that much more difficult-- and often controversial -- when we are talking about our precious children. Think about the topic that IMO is the most difficult one -- Vax -- this is %100 risk asessmeny. hoo boy, I think I may be off topic here.
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#16 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 06:15 PM
 
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When it comes to risk assessment, I think location plays a large part as well. I live in NYC (born and raised). So, there are probably hundreds of things that others who post on this board would feel comfortable doing or allowing their children to do that I would never do.

And, I was also a preschool teacher. The school where I taught put safety above all else. So, all the teachers in the school (including myself) became absolutely neurotic. Let's just say, I can walk into any situation and within minutes give you a list of all the hazards. What a skill!!

From this post, you would think I was a nervous and uptight mama - which is not the case at all. I just assess the risks and act accordingly to protect my child. As we all do.

My question is: are there any risks that universally people avoid?

For example: one of my major issues with safety is.... babies who are allowed to play with electrical outlets/cords. I know some people do not see a problem with this. But it freaks me out. And, this is due to personal experience - because I was electrocuted as a child...

~Laura
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#17 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 06:21 PM
 
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I also think this is a great topic of discussion. But difficult to bring up among people who would call the cops on someone for leaving a child in the car. I would never call the cops for something like that. (well, last resort, anyway) I might take some other action, but calling the cops could result in CPS taking the kids away. And foster care is more likely to be abusive than the child's own home. I think of my own AP practises and how mainstream people would call them abusive (co-sleeping, not vaxing in particular).

Accidents happen, and life can really suck sometimes. But I don't think we should turn our lives inside out trying to prevent these things from happening. Life happens. Weigh the risks and make your decisions.

I've never opted to leave my baby in the car. In the "it takes a village to critisize a mother" thread, some people suggested that asking someone to watch the baby would have been better than leaving the baby for a few minutes. But, IMHO, leaving the baby in the care of a stranger is just as dangerous, if not more so. That stranger could be the one who was going to steal the car or the baby, right? But I have done worse. I've buckled myself into the car and held baby in the sling, just to make a stressfull day a little less stressful for baby and others.

This could definately fill a whole other thread, but I think the media ( and people's responses to, and belief in the media) is responsible for creating mob mentality. With very little factual basis, a couple of properly-worded press-releases (from God knows what group funded by God knows who) can sway most of our society in one direction or another.

Just an annecdote: A friend of mine told me his mother told him she would leave him in the car when he was a baby (because he was sleeping) and go grocery shopping. I thought this was horrible when I heard it ('cos I could just imagine being a helpless baby, waking up all alone in the car). But he later told me that his mother worked for Child Protective Services. (I wanted to put a smile here, but I'm not sure what the proper response is.)
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#18 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 06:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Mmm... The VAX issue is an ideal example of this. I was discussing it with DH at dinner teh other night. Bonnie is prtially vaxed and did have the polio vax. I knew less then. I'm not sure what I would do about each vax now, but we had this chat:

Me- You know, there hasn't been a naturally occuring case of polio in the US in more than a generation but every year a handful of kids get polio from the vaccine.

DH- Really? I didn't know that.

Me- When you look at it that way, we increased her chance of getting polio from effectively zero to.. well whatever that handful of cases comes to, by getting her vaxed.

DH- No. (pause) No. I don't agree. (pause) I still think that's an important vaccine.

Me- But wait, there are known risks to the vaccine including mercury in them as a preservative... to 'prevent' a disease that she is only going to get from the vaccine these days!

DH- I still think it's an important vax!

Me- Pass the peas, please.

I love him to death, but he can be very stubborn and he just doesn't want to see this one like I do.
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#19 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 07:23 PM
 
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So glad for this thread! I have been thinking these same thoughts , but in no way could I have posted as eloquently as Kama did!
There is nothing harder than imagining losing your child, so I think we all like to think that many things are black and white. "If I never do this and always do this, then I will always be able to protect my child from harm." But this is not always the case. I know everytime I hear of something tragic happening to someone's child, my first thought is, "well they did x, I would never do x, so therefore my baby is safe."
On the flip side, when my son had a febrile seizure I spent weeks analyzing what I had done wrong to prevent him from having another. The truth is, it, like many things, was out of my control.
The idea of a child being harmed pushes fear buttons for a lot of us. It is much easier to see many issues as clear cut, than it is to live with the reality that we cannot protect our babies from everything.
I did post in the original thread about leaving babies in cars that it was Ok to call the police. I was posting thinking of the most recent "kids alone in cars" incident that I witnessed. Without telling the whole story, we did attempt to locate mom but could not and it was such a busy street!
I hope this post makes some sense, I keep getting interrupted!
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#20 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 07:46 PM
 
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sweetwater - you are absolutely correct. I was assuming that the study from which such statistics are gathered is designed properly. There are many that are not, and thus the statistics are meaningless. however, being able to review a study and determine whether or not it was designed and conducted correctly allows one to choose which studies they'll take seriously (eg. James McKenna's sleep studies) and which are bogus (CPSC cosleeping study). So you raise a good point - buyer beware!

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#21 of 31 Old 06-07-2002, 09:06 PM
 
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I would be more worried about overheating or kidnapping....it only takes a second for someone to open a door with those pryer things and you just never know the temp inside the car. Its often underestimated. Thats why we hear stories on the news.

It all comes down to BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY. I know what's safe.
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#22 of 31 Old 06-08-2002, 12:23 AM
 
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I do a sort of triage with my risk assessments. Safety comes first. And I try to make my decision based on Dr. Sears basic principles. It often makes the decision clear. However, with some decisions, like vaccinations, there are two conflicting opinions on which is safest and the decision is much more difficult.

Regarding the car issue specifically:

I had not considered the possibility of CPS taking kids away from their parents because the kids were left in a car and a stranger called the police.

But that is a severe risk. Why would someone want to chance that a busybody stranger might call CPS?

I admit that I am genuinely surprised at the number of women on these boards who think it is OK to leave their kids unattended in the car, even for a moment in their own driveway. I am not saying that to be critical.

And I find it interesting that people are so concerned about my saying that I feel that leaving kids unattended in the car is unequivocally dangerous and should never occur except in cases of a real emergency. I did not mean to be unkind or rude at all. I do feel judgemental about it, but to me, some things are clearly unacceptably dangerous for matters of convenience. I don't see a grey area here. And now, with the issue of CPS raised, that makes it even worse to leave kids in a car unattended.

My feelings may be stronger than most because I live in a state known for its killing heat.

I admit that even with one baby, I feel the seductive pull to leave her in the car for just a second to run back in the house for something I forgot, especially if I have already strapped her in the seat. And although I only have one baby now, I was the oldest daughter of seven kids and did plenty of out of control babysitting (starting when I was just a kid myself) for large unruly groups of children. I know firsthand what it's like to have an unmanageable situation due to a large number of kids with conflicting immediate needs.

This thread is interesting, and it will certainly make me think twice before calling the cops if I see a kid unattended. Thank you for opening my mind a little.

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#23 of 31 Old 06-08-2002, 07:37 AM
 
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Clearly, a good risk assessment regarding leaving kids in the car would include temperature and the fact that temperatures rise steadly and quickly in cars on heated days, so that while it is maybe 80 degrees outside, it could be well over 100 degrees inside a car, even after only a few minutes. So obviously even on a somewhat warm day, unless you are leaving the car on and the air conditioner going while say, you run to pay for gas, it would be foolish to leave baby in the car for even a limited period of time. Cold temeratures should be accounted for as well.

I know that back in the days when I had a car, I knew almost to the 100th of a degree how hot my car could get with any given temperature. This is because I spent a lot of time in my car given a long commute (I was driving four hours a day) and the fact that I spent countless lunch breaks sleeping in my car, sometimes with the windows rolled all the way up, and that I had a thermometer in my car. So I say it is possible to know just how hot a car would get. Of course, it is always better to be safer than sorrier.

And as for kidnappings, whether or not the car was in view and reachable within a couple seconds would also be a part of the risk assessment. As well as where someone lived and the risk of kidnappings, the security of one's car, the length of time the parent would be gone, etc. Now I am not saying that leaving children in cars is something to be done except as a last resort or under extreme circumstances. I'm not saying it should become a habit, although I don't see anything terribly bad about the habit that sweetwater's in. I'm not saying leaving kids in cars is desirable beahvior and that it can't be a mistake. At times it is, clearly. A good risk assessment would include an assessment not only of the dangers, but also of the benefits. In almost all circumstances, I would imagine that the benefits of leaving a child in a car would be far outweighed by the risks. But I am still not convinced this would be true in all cases, and therefore I can not agree that leaving kids in cars when the risks are low and when safety precautions are adhered to and when there is a clear need is inherently dangerous.

I also still believe that driving in and of itself is a far bigger risk to children than the carefully assessed, non-habitual, rare and highly limited periods of time that a child may spend in the car alone (with saftey precautions adhered to), often watched through the window by her parents. And this is something I don't think we've adequetly addressed. Are we willing to take the risk of driving because it is more accepted in general and supported by the media, or is it because of a percieved necessity that we accept the risks? Do we believe that leaving a child in the car is truly never a necessity for any parent, or are there limits to that notion? How do you all justify driving? I'm not asking with any preconcieved notions about the values of your responses and percieved needs, but I am curious about this.

What I can agree to is that the risk that someone would call the cops or CPS is a huge one, though an often forgotten one. We've had similar discussions on these boards about several topics, such as use of marijuana (which is not a topic I really want to reopen, but I just mention it as an example). I think it is sorta weird to be in this place in history in which risk-assessments are not only often based on media hype, but also patrolled by other parents who put significant value into media hype rather than the careful assessment of individual situations, and finally enforced by laws that address the fact that a rare parent has made a bad judgement call in his risk assessments. This would obviousuly tip the scales in most subsequent risk assessments, but it is interesting because the tipping of the scales is caused by an odd and fasinating factor. So that's a weird and interesting concept to look at, which I think is part of the whole reason this thread was started.

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#24 of 31 Old 06-08-2002, 11:35 AM
 
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What gets me is child drownings. In Phoenix just in the last 6 mos. there have been 23 near-drownings and 10 deaths from actual drownings. Most of them happen in backyard swimming pools although a few happen in bathtubs. I just don't get it. Why would you even want to take the risk of having a pool in your yard and small children in the house. All of these pools had gates but obviously that's not working.



Bottlefeeding is a sensitive topic for me because that's what I did. I pumped for 4 mos. so she got my milk. But I had a lot of breast problems due to oversupply that I was never able to get under control, even working with an LC. Lots of plugs, several cases of mastitis. I was consumed with guilt that somehow formula was this awful concoction that would make her sick and take away IQ points and all that. Finally had one hellish week of dry up under the guidance of a very compassionate and good LC (tried to get her to the breast at 3. 5 mos but it was just too late for us) and went to formula. It was the best decision for our family at the time. I no longer was consumed with my physical pain and the pumping schedule, but got to be instead consumed with my beautiful baby girl.

Our bfing experience was so awful, despite all the help I sought out from LLL and a bad LC (didn't know she was bad at the time). My best friend is a LLL leader so it's not like I didn't have any support, but the bfing just didn't happen despite all our efforts. It was so painful that it sent me into depression and I didn't fully bond with my dd during that time, and our marriage was also a mess for awhile. Not exactly the ideal picture of new motherhood. I wanted our baby so badly but when she came I was just so depressed that I couldn't have the special bond of bfing, and it was painful emotionally and physically. Still is after 18 mos.

But life goes on. Dd has never had one ear infection, nor has she inherited my family's allergy and asthma history. These were my greatest worries with her being on formula but she's healthy and happy and smart. Until last month when she discovered that she could hold her own bottle, she was "nursed" in my arms and the bonding experience was still there in the holding.

Most of all I'm thankful that after all our prayers we finally got our precious child. Breastfeeding is a huge part of the newborn days but as the child grows up you find other things that become just as important, if not more so. The rest falls by the wayside when I think that my dream of becoming a mommy has come true finally, and I count my biggest blessing in my life. In that light all the other problems seem so small in comparison.

Darshani

7yo: "Mom,I know which man is on a quarter and which on is on a nickel. They both have ponytails, but one man has a collar and the other man is naked. The naked man was our first president."
 
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#25 of 31 Old 06-08-2002, 12:10 PM
 
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Oh yeah, one more risk factor that we had to weigh-- vaccinations. In this country perhaps the risk of a bad reaction is greater than the risk of disease-- because most other kids are vaccinated and the diseases are rare now. We took dd to India when she was 12-15 mos. old and we were sure to get the proper vaccinations for her. Polio is still an active disease and her chances of getting it were very great.

I think that the main problem with our society is that parents don't always *think* and make *educated* choices. They do it because everyone else does it, period. This could apply to vaccinations, bottle feeding, circumcision, and so many other things. My SIL told me about one friend who *chose* to have two c-sections because she didn't want to be bothered by the labor process. Obviously she didn't know her risks or she might have chosen labor. Or maybe she just didn't care about anything but her own convience.

And does anyone calculate the emotional risk factors of non-attachment parenting, like leaving your newborn to CIO? It's certainly not something that is done in nature, but is only done for the convenience of the modern parents. Same with bottlefeeding. Do the parents not think about the risk factors, or do they just not care?

Darshani

7yo: "Mom,I know which man is on a quarter and which on is on a nickel. They both have ponytails, but one man has a collar and the other man is naked. The naked man was our first president."
 
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#26 of 31 Old 06-08-2002, 05:57 PM
 
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This is a really interesting topic! One book I recommend to pretty much everyone is "Protecting the Gift" by Gavin de Becker (I think); he also wrote a fantastic book on self-protection called "The Gift of Fear." (I've read both.) He notes early on that the single thing most parents fear the MOST is a stranger kidnapping their child. The thing is, while kidnapping is a horrible, awful thing, it's also really RARE. You heard about that 14-year-old who got kidnapped in Utah, right? Do you live in Utah? No? When was the last time you heard about a fatal car accident that happened outside of your immediate metro area? There was this absolutely ghastly van fire in my area (Minneapolis -- the fire actually happened in Blaine) that killed three children just this week -- you didn't hear about that, did you?

Most parents VASTLY overestimate the risk of kidnapping. Vastly. And, well, that's because places like the Center for Missing and Exploited Children mis-report the numbers. When they give out the number if kidnapped children each year, they include non-custodial kidnappings. Not that it's a good thing to lose a child to a non-custodial ex-spouse, but it's a damn sight better than losing a child to a murderer. They also include children who are kidnapped, held for a brief period (and probably molested), then released. Again, NOT something you want to have happen to your child -- but not quite in the same category as losing a child forever.

Now, the risk analysis I found myself thinking about a few months ago... I know a whole lot of parents online who will not let their children play in their own back yard unsupervised because they're afraid the children will be kidnapped. I'm not talking about toddlers (I do not let my 20-month-old out of my SIGHT!) but about grade-school children. My PERSONAL theory is that part of the rise in obesity among school-aged children is because so many of them have paranoid parents. When I was a grade schooler, I walked to and from school by myself (it was a quiet walk with no busy streets) or with friends; I routinely played in the yard, biked up and down my street (on the sidewalk), and climbed up the railroad embankment behind my house. I had to keep my parents posted on what I was up to, but I was NOT constantly supervised. If I had been, I would have spent a lot more time indoors!

(I'm pleased to say that in my neighborhood, most parents seem perfectly willing to let older children roam a bit, within reason. I find it deeply heartwarming to see a gang of totally unsupervised seven through eleven-year-olds playing games of pickup football in the park near my house. That's the way childhood SHOULD be! That's what childhood sports SHOULD be like! Parents micromanage their children waaaaay too much, IMO.)

Okay. So, chew on this: some parents are so frightened of kidnapping (a very, very rare event -- your children are much more likely to be struck by lightening) that they do not let their children play outside unless the parent is available to directly supervise their child. Inevitably, this is going to lead to more sedentary play and less vigorous outdoor play. This in turn can lead to obesity and a host of other health problems (with one of the most depressing being adult-onset diabetes at the age of 11 -- I find that one just horrifying!)

Of course, I do NOT leave toddler dd alone in the car. I think there's a clear benefit to allowing older children (responsible older children, of course -- an impulsive kid who runs in front of cars should obviously not be left alone!) to play without direct supervision. There's no benefit to the child of being left in the car while you get your hair cut or whatever!

Anyway. For realistic risk assessment AND some really fantastic information on how to protect your children from some of the biggest risks (like their daycare provider and your own friends and relatives!) check out "Protecting the Gift." REALLY worth reading, especially the information on checking out a daycare and your child's school.
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#27 of 31 Old 06-08-2002, 11:01 PM
 
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Naomi "Protecting the Gift" was one of the best books I ever read.

Risk assessment and parenting:

You have to do the best you can on any issue with the information you have. Whether it is vaccines, diet, babysitters, or cars, you must do your best to make decisions based on what information is currently available to you on any given subject.

It is impossible to eliminate risk. As parents we can only do our best to minimize the risk inherent to situations we cannot easily avoid (driving) and to avoid situations that we think carry risk and are unnecessary (for us, we don't keep a gun in the house period).

In terms of the car issue that was mentioned in the OP, I would look at it this way: If you cannot see or hear your child, then you cannot assess their safety. The chance may be small that your child is going to shift the gears of the car, overheat, strangle, or be kidnapped while you run in the store for 5 minutes. However, in that five minutes, any of those things could happen, and you have left no one in charge to handle it if it does. It is an unnessary and easily avoided risk. Unless you are in a life and death emergency, what is this risk really worth to the individual parent?

In terms of risk assessment, I am sure there are times when a child *is* safe in the car without you literally in it as well (assuming the car is turned off)...such as when you return the grocery cart to a nearby corral, pump gas, or park next to an ATM machine you must step out to reach. Your child is probably safer strapped inside the car than standing near gas fumes, in the grocery store parking lot, or on the ATM sidewalk with you. You can see and hear the child in the car, and still assess their safety.

Great discussion!

Heartmama

Mother is the word for God on the hearts and lips of all little children--William Makepeace Thackeray
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#28 of 31 Old 06-08-2002, 11:30 PM
 
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Darshani, I'm so sorry you had to go through such an awful bf'ing experience. I had a horrible LC at the hospital right after giving birth... so I feel for you. Fortunately, I finally hooked up with some good ones and am still able to bf. I just know it was sad for you have to go through that.

Regarding Gavin de Becker's books, they are fantastic. The Gift of Fear is better in general, but Protecting the Gift has more information specific to protecting children. I third the recommendations for these books. They are cheap paperbacks and a fast read because they are fascinating.
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#29 of 31 Old 06-09-2002, 04:15 AM
 
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Great topic! Sierra and Naomi, I particularly loved your posts! I don't have the energy to post my thoughts right now, but I really think this is a fantastic thread.........and I soooooooo agree with you Naomi about the kids not playing outside anymore (I'm lucky enough to live in an area where they do...my ds is outside all day!).

"Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen." Ralph Marston

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#30 of 31 Old 06-11-2002, 03:27 PM
 
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Hello,

Risk is one of my major areas for the Ph.D. in geography (not trying to create a mantel of expertise with that statement). So, I'm thrilled to see such a discussion here.

What I find interesting is the disconnect between statistical risk assessment and how most people experience the world and make decisions. Rather than say that the experts are right and that the public are just damn fools, some researchers are trying to develop models of public risk perception.

A big thing is that the probability of an accident or death is not the end-all, be-all. There are a number of characteristics like the degree to which the activity is voluntary (e.g., industrial accident vs. skiing), whether the risk event is short or long-term (e.g., heroin use vs. smoking), etc. that influence people's decision-making. [I'm sick and can't think of any good examples but can post later after looking in my literature.]

Standard risk assessment also ignores how different worldviews and mental models affect people's risk "calculations." It's not just that some of the studies upon which risk data are based are flawed and can be fixed (though that can often be glaringly obvious), but rather that it's impossible for them to capture all the relevant variation b/c they operate on a pinball model where one or more variable influences the risk variable. IMHO, life is too complex for this approach to science. As sweetwater mentioned, it's all in the specifics and you can carve those specifics up into different variables but how can you get it all in there. So better models are better but we should never just bow down to the statistics.

Vaccinations is a great way pf thinking about how underlying expectations influence thinking. (I'm thinking of switching my dissertation to this from fishing but that's another saga). From reading here and elsewhere on the net, some people view the pro-vax people as malicious (drug companies out to get your $$, docs trying to save their a$$, government as big brother) and all that may be true (at least partially). But I think a more compelling reason for the disconnect is that the non-vax/natural healing community has a very different vision of the body, the immune system and how to negotiate illness than mainstream med, It's so different that the communities can't even talk to each other b/c they are coming from such different places.

This is not to say that thinking about risk is silly and pointless but rather that it's rich and uncertain. And I haven't even talked about the media but I'll close here before I bore you to tears . I'd love feedback on the worldview and vax issue as I'm really tempted to ditch my current topic for one that's closer to my life these days. Hmmmm.

Angie, Mama to Finn (6/01) and Theo (4/05)
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