March 13, 2012

Child Rearing by Science and by Odds

When you find out you're going to have a kid, you realize you start having to make important decisions regarding things you are completely ignorant about.

Should I have an epidural? Should I breastfeed? Should I vaccinate? Should my kid only eat organic foods? Should I throw away my laundry detergent? Should I throw away everything plastic in my home?

And we spend the 9-month gestation period trying to become experts at things we had never thought of before in our lives.

Now if you spend 9 months learning French only in your spare time, and I put you in Paris today, alone, you wouldn't be able to get very far.

Yet, we make these decisions with such confidence that we then evangelize them to the masses.

"Don't you dare vaccinate your child!"
"Don't you dare feed your child that!"

And we kind of know what we're talking about. But, at the very least, there needs to be some humility here. Because how confident can we be in these decisions? How can we make objective decisions regarding the very important job of parenting?

My wife and I are slightly unique in the fact that we had already jumped on the crazy train a few years before Daylia was born regarding organic eating.

How convinced are we that organic eating is better for you? Pretty convinced. And this is, at least partially, where sheer probability comes into play. Is something with pesticides in it probably worse for you than something without? Probably. Does a diet with animal protein (meat, milk) carry significant health risks? We find the correlating evidence pretty convincing. Do vaccinations cause autism? No, we're convinced they don't.

So, our child slept in a co-sleeper. We solely breastfed. Went with cloth diapers. Non-toxic laundry detergent. And we are vaccinating her (except for Hep B thus far).

We're playing the odds as we understand them. These decisions weren't black and white. And we are fully aware that even the smartest in the medical community don't fully understand the cellular effect of our food, our drugs and our environment at a microscopic level. So, we probably lean more toward the "natural" and the cautious than even science dictates we should at this point.

But, these are not only decisions based on science and odds. But, on value as well.

Because would Daylia be safer if we moved to a much nicer neighborhood? Probably. What if we spent $20,000 on a state-of-the-art security system for our home? Most definitely.

Yet, we have done neither. Our relative poverty also insists upon relative neglect.

In short, people who yell, "Don't you dare vaccinate your child!" think they have a chance to save your baby's life. That's why they're passionate. They just also happen to be wrong.