It’s like everyone became OCD just because they could. By that, I mean the following:
1) As the tools of society constantly evolve, they reduce the need for a person to think for themselves and increase the survivability and prosperity of completely inept people.
2) The news media recently (in the last 20 years or so) discovered a few things. They discovered they are no longer required to be non-biased “readers of the news”. They also discovered, however obvious, that supplying a thinking person with news which also contains a sense of objectivity actually reduces panic. Only by supplying news through a “red alert” style shotgun blast delivery can a sense of calm consistently be destroyed, and we all know calm is the arch enemy of obtaining a tuned-in, locked-in viewership.
3) With sufficiently panicked parents who are even more inept than their parents were, common sense flies out the gaping hole in their heads.
Common sense says you wash your hands before you eat, after you take out the soggy trash and get garbage juices on your hands, or after doing your business at the toilet. But, washing takes more than 3 seconds so people tend to not do it. Therefore, no-wash hand sanitizer becomes an instant hit because it is more convenient than washing… and that’s where the train leaves the rails. Suddenly, crazed panic stricken parents are given a new way to go overboard. They start carrying that stuff with them everywhere and dousing their kids in it (and everything they could potentially touch, even other people) every 5 seconds.
Didn’t we learn anything from the pilgrims killing off all the Native Americans with their germs? The natives were living fine lives until the colonizers showed up and killed just about all of them with germ warfare… and why did that happen exactly? Because they were never exposed to anything like that before and had no anti-bodies for any of it. So, when they got sick, they got sick not just with one disease, but a whole host of them, and died. What I’m saying here is, you’re killing your kids by keeping them too clean. Children and their immune systems are amazingly resilient, and if you deny their bodies the opportunity to learn to fight off all the nasties this world has to offer, you are not only an idiot, you are a particularly cruel parent. Because of your inability to think beyond “red alert” news flashes and do even the simplest research using the amazing tools we now have at our disposal, you are condemning your children to a more difficult and vulnerable life later on.
Thank god there are now actual scientists on the case. Researchers in California are trying to explain why increasing numbers of children in developed countries, where antibacterial sprays and wipes are common, suffer from allergies such as hay fever and eczema, which are both autoimmune diseases. Of course, the implication is that a dirty child may grow up to be a stronger, healthier adult.
After doing a quick Google Images search for hand sanitizer and watching commercials for it on TV that target women, it is apparent that women and mothers are typically the ones who get overtly crazy with the idea of cleanliness. Therefore, DADS GOTTA STEP IT UP! Go out and play in the mud with your kids. If your kid gets a fever, grow a pair and tell the frantic baby-momma to take a deep breath. Just keep an eye on the kid’s temperature, keep the doctor’s number handy, but don’t rush them to the emergency room to pump them full of antibiotics…. save that for a real emergency. Simply stay with them, comfort them, and give them a chance to fight it off themselves… as difficult as that might seem. Being a sensible, calming, comforting father for your kid will probably do as much for their physical health as it will their mental and emotional health in the long run.
Back when I was 16, I worked at the local Radio Shack electronics store for a short time. Over the 1.5 months I worked there, I was appalled at the number of so-called parents that would come in on a regular basis and ask, point blank, something like “I want to spy on my kid’s phone calls without them knowing. Can you help me do that?”, or “Is there some way I can secretly know when my child does X?”
All I can remember thinking when talking to these “parents” was “Jeazuz I’m so happy my parents aren’t crazy assholes like these people. I wonder who their poor kids are?!” and on one particular occasion I ventured into scary territory for a 16 year old by telling the customer “you can use this thing to listen in on their phone calls, or you can just talk to them“. That almost got me fired on the spot.
I’m not sure exactly how my mother did it, but I remember as a kid not being particularly afraid of telling her what was going on in my life, even if it was something I knew she wouldn’t approve of. For example, when I was in my early teens, my friend had somehow come into a stash of “adult magazines”. We stored these mysterious windows into the odd world of women in a tree fort we haphazardly built out in the forest behind my parents’ house. One evening after viewing said material, my mother asked us what we had been doing out in the woods so long after dark. I hesitated for a second, then simply replied “We were looking at magazines with naked women in them”. I think my friend fainted on the spot, but my mother simply paused and said “Hmm ok, well, I guess you’ll find out soon enough that everyone has the same parts… its just parts… there’s nothing that mysterious about it. I don’t like that you are looking at that stuff in magazines out in the woods, and we can talk about that later… for now though go wash up and get ready for dinner.”
Obviously I never lost my fascination with women, but after that, looking at those magazines with a flashlight out in the dark, dank, musty, half-built tree fort never held the same attraction. Eventually I asked my friend to take them back to his house, and that was the last I saw of anything like that until several years later.
Today however, I see people constantly hovering over their kids and freaking out over the slightest things. It’s either things their kid did or things other people did in the vicinity of their kid, and it’s usually a red-alert response with no common sense or objectivity what-so-ever. That level of off-the-bat intensity only serves to freak out an unsure kid, and destroys their association of safety and guidance with you that will push them away later in life.
I remember one time I was at a local park with my nephew who was 6 at the time. Sitting on the sidelines were a gaggle of crazy ass moms, and me. They all had giant bags with hand sanitizer, band-aids, disinfectant spray (with numbing agent), etc. Over the 30 minute period I was there, kids fell down, kids got hurt, and like some kind of interceptor squadron, moms would launch off the bench before the kid even had a chance to realize they were hurt. Kids would be picked up and fussed over and wrangled back to the bench against their will for a massive bandaging session. Then the inevitable happened…
My nephew was on trying to get on the horizontal bars that were just a bit too high up for him. I picked him up and held him in the air as he went from bar to bar, then explained that he would have to get a little bigger to do it without me holding him. He said OK and I went back and sat down. No less than 30 seconds later, I watched him reach up, jump, and fail to catch the bar. He hit the ground with a thud, and I could feel the nervous shifting of all the moms next to me as they wondered why I was not rushing over to his aid. After the required pause all kids experience after getting hurt, he lifted his head out of the dirt and started crying. The moms next to me were making gasping noises and staring at me as I leaned forward and got up off the bench to slowly walk over (yeah, walk) to him. I had eye contact with him the whole time and could tell he wasn’t seriously hurt… so I just let him cry it out as I walked over.
By the time I got to him, he was already calming down. The same could not be said for the moms on the bench. Things were just about going ballistic over there with whispers and pointing passing through the entire gaggle. I picked him up off the ground and planted him on his feet. I asked if he was ok, and if he would like to try it again with me standing there. Still sniffling, he said “no” and walked off to play on something else. As I walked back to the bench, I faced nothing but bewildered looks from some and looks of scorn from others. I so badly wanted to flip them all the bird and tell them to chill out, but that would have undoubtedly cut into my nephew’s play time at the park.
So with all this rampant insanity, is there any hope for future generations? Well, apparently there is a growing backlash against over-parenting (pdf). I can only hope this trend grows, everyone just calms down, and parents everywhere learn to parent like, well, adults. I’m not holding my breath though.