Saturday, 3 October 2009

Health Care Providers: They're Like Servers Who Bring You Everything On The Menu...Whether You Want It Or Not

I've been blogging at Silicon Valley Moms about the importance of the health care reform debate (click here to read the post). And I'm on a letter-writing campaign to remind every one of our U.S. Senators to vote for those pieces of legislation that protect the health of American women. Along the way, I came across Senator Maria Cantwell's excellent speech to the Senate Finance Committee about controlling the runaway costs of medical coverage. (For those who don't know this, the Finance Committee is holding the reins of this health care horse--they have all the power.) In the video posted below, Sen. Cantwell (D-WA) likens health care providers to a server in a restaurant who brings every item on the menu to your table, whether you've asked for it or not and whether you can consume it or not. And, I would add, whether you can afford it, or not. She makes a powerful point that driving costs down should be an essential part of any health care reform legislation.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Mom Rant: "I’m tired of taking care of your kid!"

On Sunday, July 12th, 3-year old Demetrius Jones disappeared. He was in the care of his grandparents when he wandered off, riding his electric toy car, and ended up in the nearby river.

Any parent’s nightmare.

Thankfully, he was found two hours later by a group of fellow campers on the lookout for him, kneeling on all fours atop his overturned car, which was lodged near the river bank in nine feet of water. He was sunburned, but alive.

This incident underscores something that’s bothered me for a very long time: caregivers who don’t pay attention because they think everyone else will.

It came to a head, last week, while visiting family in Los Angeles. My little ones and I were at the neighborhood clubhouse, one afternoon, passing the fifteen-minute adult swim time by sitting in the gated wading pool area. There were a number of small children roughly four and under playing alongside two or three adults. Two of the mothers sat at a table in the shade, completely absorbed in conversation. A three-ring binder lay open in front of them; they appeared to be having some kind of informal, flip-flop-attired meeting. When the time was up, most of the kids walked back to the pool. I noticed as we exited that someone had put a box in the door of the gate. I squinted at it for a second. The two moms at the table were still sitting head-to-head. I let it go.

Seven-year old Boo isn’t a very strong swimmer, so she still needs a grown-up nearby for those frequent panicky moments when she gets tired halfway across. And The Bug won’t even put her face in the water. So my Dad and I each took a kid and paddled around the big pool. Boo and I were hanging onto the edge at about the five-foot mid-point, when I looked up and noticed a tow-headed two-year old with flimsy, inflatable water wings walking confidently toward the deep end. He sat down near the side and started scootching himself to the edge, as if to climb down the swim ladder. There was no other adult within forty feet, on this side.

I swam up to the little guy, knowing my strange presence would be enough to give him pause. “Hey, buddy,” I smiled. “Where’s your mommy?” As most two-year olds would, he sat and stared at me, mute. I looked to my right, where some of the moms from the kiddie pool were splashing with their own gaggle of toddlers. “Excuse me,” I asked the nearest, “but is this your little boy?”

“What? Oh. No, his mom’s in there. Hey Linda! Linda!” she called to one of the women still sitting in the semi-gated area. When one of them looked up, the woman in the pool pointed in my direction. “Is this your son?” I asked. The boy’s mother walked over to the gate and stuck her head out. She was about thirty feet away.

“He’s okay,” she assured me.

“In the deep end?” I asked, incredulous.

“He’s got floaties. He’s fine,” she replied.

Okay. Let’s just suppose this little guy is a great swimmer. But the fact that he’s got water wings on at all makes me think he’s marginal, at best. And let’s just suppose that the woman assumed the bored, squinting, teenage life guard on duty would keep an eye on him. But can we talk for a second about the fact that 1) this woman had no idea where her son was in the first place and had to be shouted at to even look up from her tet-a-tet and 2) the gate to the wading pool was left open and her boy could therefore get out and go ANYWHERE? (Please note that the main gate was also being held open by a Nerf football, probably put there by someone who didn’t want to bother with digging out a key, and note also that immediately outside the main gate is a parking lot. Bad combination for small people security.) Not to mention 3) the boy’s mother was obviously expecting the rest of the pool’s occupants to save her urchin, should he get into a danger he shouldn’t have been in to begin with.

“You know that children can still drown with these things on, right?” I point out loudly, waving my hand toward the airy little vinyl pillows encasing his chubby arms. Honestly, I’m surprised they even sell these things, any more. A false sense of security is the last thing a parent needs. She opened her mouth to reply, paused pointedly. “Okay.” She clamped her lips shut and called to her boy, who dutifully came back to the (sort of) gated fold.

My father thought I was out of line. His reaction shocked me, actually, given that he’s seen horrible things happen to children as a result of neglectful parents in his long career as a police officer. I should think that making a statement might make this woman think twice (I hope so, anyway) and might even save that child’s life, in the future. Even the tiniest chance of that happening makes being a jerk worth the social disgrace.

Now, granted, a neighborhood pool is nothing like an open campground with a river nearby. But the point is still the same. Caregivers of any kind need to watch their charges—especially the littlest ones.

I know that there are moments when wee people will wander, despite our best efforts. It’s happened to me and to others I know. The key is that we make the best possible effort to prevent it. But for an adult to willingly ignore a toddler and allow him to swim, unsupervised, in the deep end of a swimming pool? Worse yet, to not even know that he’s doing it? That pisses me off to no end.

Why? Because I’m the hyper-vigilant mom who watches and worries. I can’t relax at all when kids are near any potential dangers because you just never know when something might happen. As a kid, I once saved a baby from drowning when he walked off the pool steps in the shallow end, right under his chatting parents’ noses. I was the only one who saw him do it and I was halfway across the yard. It wasn't until I jumped in the pool, half-clothed and shouting, that anyone noticed what had happened.

I was big sister to a little brother who I swear had a death wish from the time he pulled himself up on two feet. Now that I’m a grown-up, I would love to chill out like the other adults around the camp fire. But I CAN’T. Because stuff like that happens all the time.

I don’t mind watching out for other peoples’ kids. What irks me is when they EXPECT me to do it, without asking, and therefore feel okay with doing whatever suits their selfish little hearts while their kids wander around, unsupervised.

I don’t intend to keep my own kids in a rubber room for the rest of their lives. They’ll have to experience things, fall down and scrape knees, maybe even break bones. But when it happens, it won’t be because I didn’t try to do my job, the only job any parent truly can be held to: helping my kids survive into healthy adulthood. It truly makes me want to vomit, to tear my hair out, to weep uncontrollably when a child is killed or maimed because of the egocentricity of those responsible for their care.

So to all of those selfish, irresponsible parents and caregivers out there: Please, do your job.

Because the watchful parents, the lifeguards, the police officers, the fire fighters, the paramedics, the social workers—you name it—we’re all tired of doing it for you.

Photo credit: Adam Reaburn