Monday, November 24

The (failed) politics of (failed) mommy-hood.

Yesterday morning was typical Sunday rough, finding not just church clothes for two girls who, just yesterday, got clothes put on them on a changing table. Now they refuse to wear tights today, while at school on Friday, tights were essential. And Mom! I Can't Wear That Dress. It's red, not dark pink! The boy, my oldest, is not picky about clothes, but he simply doesn't fit into anything at 9:30 am that would have fit him at 8:15, he's growing that fast. Let's not mention that none of MY shoes (except the ugly sneakers) fit over my own swollen but healing foot.

I am permanently and forever late for church.

And that stress is relatively minor. At some point soon I'm going to have to find a job. And then if one of the kids gets sick at school, God help me.

I'm a single mother and my story is common and tiresome, even to me. But during the past week or so a new refrain has accompanied the common stressors:

Hey, at least I never dropped them off in Nebraska.

The horrible parenting tragedies happened before the Nebraska Legislature cauterized a wound and forgot to bandage it with a 30-day old age limit. Before this past week, a silly loophole in a backwater state legislature (the last in the nation to pass a bill requiring hospitals to accept abandoned newborns no questions asked) allowed any parent of any minor to drop off their child in like manner.

The thirty-six walking, talking children who were abandoned in Nebraska as a result are a small fraction of those whose desperate parents didn't have the guts or the gas to make the trip. Two mothers drove over a thousand miles to find a place of safety for their teenagers. As this morning's Wall Street Journal law blog points out: "Many parents were using the Safe Haven law only as a last-case scenario, after exhausting every other avenue to help their deeply troubled children."

My heart especially goes out to the adoptive mother, Melyssa Cowburn, whose son was abandoned to her care by a meth addict birth mother in a big box store. "Could you watch him while I pick up some diapers" and she never returned. The emotionally disturbed child would be beyond the care of any one person.

The boy has broken Cowburn's nose, cut her forehead with a snow brush and left deep bruises from biting her calf. He has put a kitten inside an oven and blinded the family's parrot.

Cowburn cannot physically control the boy, who already weighs 63 pounds. Both she and her husband are about 5-foot-6 and slender. He kicks holes in walls. He urinated on the neighbor's dog and threw canned food off the balcony. ...[He] set fire to the shower curtain one day, then flooded the apartment the next, clogging the sinks and toilets.

She flew him to Nebraska.

The Nebraska Legislature's oversight, which was "corrected" on Saturday, is probably a blessing. It brought to light bigger holes in our nation's so-called safety net (kids at risk for gang membership in some states can't get services until they commit a crime?) and reminded others of the existence, still of Boy's Town and Big Brothers programs.

And of course this issue ties in with abortion and reproduction and who should be parents. It's not that some kids would be better off not born, or that some pro-lifers care more about the fetus than any actual child. It's the disconnect, the complete disconnect, that being born is tantamount to anyone's quality of life.

The wonderful New Yorker article Red Sex/Blue Sex (do go read the whole thing) points out how the GOP convention saw Bristol Palin's pregnancy not only as forgiveable, but a non-issue, since unmarried, unexpected teen pregnancy had happened in the family/church/social circle of every single delegate there. Abstinence? In Red State Nation you attach shame to sex and a kobosh on contraception but as long as there is no abortion, and, I suppose, the baby is baptized, Jesus and "society" are content.

And when the baptized baby is emotionally disturbed and later attempts to murder his sibling, there's always Nebraska. Or there was until Saturday.

An aside: the majority of babies born in the United States today are brought into this world via Medicaid. That's a hole in the insurance system and the job benefits system and the economy that is not over when the federal insurance coverage ends after birth. And don't get me started about the so-called "controversy" of whether Medicaid should pay for contraception.

It's high time we begin to handle the issue of quality of life for children. We have an administration soon that, we can hope, gets it. (I wish to God Hillary Clinton could have been Secretary of HHS rather than State. Talk about a "pit bull with lipstick" on behalf of children, no one has done more, and American kids still need that fierce advocacy.) I certainly hope Michelle Obama steps up to the plate. "Quality of Life for Children" has a nice post-Rovian ring to it. I hope I'm not sucking the emotional moisture out of this issue to say, demography is destiny. If we don't begin to cherish parenthood and make protecting children of every age a priority...

But no one is going to make parenting easier. We parents will deal with the stress of rejected red dresses on a Sunday morning, and everything, everything, that is more important than that, in the life of our children. Without some solid national priorities behind us, though, our country's future may as well be dropped off at the proverbial ER in Nebraska.

No video blog today. Salon tonight, see you then. - BG


  1. i thank god that they did drop off their kids. people do not understand mental/physical illness and being at wits end.

    better they were dropped off that trown into the steets or become just another statistic od murder/suicide.

    we need help and true compassion not just the mouthings of the "compassionate" bunch that has been at the helm for years now.

  2. Anonymous1:04 PM

    To abandon a perfectly healthy child because you can't afford it is just ridiculous. Those children are old enough to know what's going on. They will be scarred for life. And then there are the children the parents can't control. Drop them off too? Where is the help these families need? Can Obama provide it? We shall see. My two daughters were abandoned as babies in a foreign country and adopted by us as 1 year olds. We in this adoption community worry enormously about their mental scarring. What of that child who is 10 or 12 or 16 and just left at a hospital. We can't be a nation that allows that. There has to be a better way.

  3. Anonymous2:01 PM

    "It's high time we begin to handle the issue of quality of life for children..."

    Yeah, I'm sure they'll get to it, right after they deal with the quality of life of Wall Street types and Big Three CEOs.

    I was "hoping" for better. I'm stuck praying for just a little, I think.

  4. What's kinda sad is when you remember that you have to have a license to drive, a license to own a dog, you have to pass a test and be licensed to be a pharmacist, a geologist or a manicurist but two morons with ten minutes to spare and a flat piece of ground can create a kid. Makes ya wonder...

    Guess I'll cancel the reservation to Lincoln for the Peeper...

    Naaaw! I loves you, Peep!!!)

  5. We, also, are always late for church. And since our family comprises about a quarter of the church membership, and a third of the church band, it's not great. But at least we do make it there, and that's a good thing.

  6. Anonymous5:02 PM

    The thoughts I'm having in response to this article are agonizing. I've had an idea for a while now ... and it breaks my heart to even consider it as something that ought to be done to every human being when s/he is born: reversible sterilization.

    By this measure, no human can conveive a child until s/he has passed a series of stringent practical and ethical standards by which a child may be raised ... Standards would include steady, reliable, loving and nonviolent relations in the potential parent's/parents' life ... education, education and more education about everything from infant care to emotional moderation to the financial implications of being parents ... you name it -- every aspect of life would be included and considered --

    Standards would also be applied to the larger community -- society -- that would delegate appropriate responsibility there, too ... starting with APPROPRIATE SUPPORT FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BE PARENTS!! i.e., maternity/paternity leaves that enable parents to actually *bond* with their children, and adequate income for the duration ... a decent standard of living for EVERYONE, top-notch medical and health care for ALL ...strict conditions placed on institutions in terms of how much influence they may have on qualified parents (as in, They’ve done their job; now let the parents/children/families develop natural bonds) … intelligent education and mentoring for all ages & stages ... NO WAR ... communal standards of clean water, healthy food, shelter, etc. FOR EVERYONE, etc. …)

    I could go on for ages ... It frightens me how many babies are born to people who are simply not qualified, able, ready, and sometimes WILLING to be responsible, balanced parents.

    We humans breed far too young and easily.

    I know my thinking may sound totalitarian -- I'm a very "live and let live" kind of person in just about every other way ... but this scenario in its ideal would include EVERYONE ... material stability/wealth would be just one factor in deciding who can breed.

    If all standards were met ... only THEN would any of us be allowed to conceive a child.

    Compassionate, practical, consistent RESPONSIBILITY -- a thorough understanding of causes (conception) and their consequences (a lifelong responsibility towards a child) would be the most important factor -- the "yay or nay" clincher.

    How much wisdom and practical help do our institutions *really* pass on to people who are parents (or caregivers of any kind, come to think of it)?

    What have any of us *really* learned about how to simply GET ALONG and be relatively decent, kind, and generous towards one another and ourselves?

    I'm 50ish and I didn't know myself to be capable of even basic competent parenting until I was 40. I have no children, and it's just as well (there are several little ones I'm bonded with via relatives and friends...and they give me as much of a "child" presence as I can tolerate in this life ... I'm also a person who lives with a chronic and sometimes debilitating illness -- my nervous system can only take so much stimulation ... I "crash" often because that's just what my body and brain do).

    I've had to reconcile this within myself: the *knowledge* that I would have abused a child had I been given responsibility for him/her. It took me 'til I was 40 to *feel* any desire for a child. For lots of reasons, I continued to say "No" to the possibility. It just isn't in me to be anyone's parent.

    How many of us really *think* and *feel through* the implications of bearing a child?

    The ability to breed and the profession of love aren't enough. We all know what we're capable of for whatever we think "love" is ... from "God" on down.

    Look at the consequences ... they're all around you, perhaps in your own home.

    (Written with an open, and broken, heart...)


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