Tuesday, August 16, 2011

On the Matter of "My Parents ___________ and I Turned Out Fine"

I hate that phrase. I hate it because it insinuates that whatever we learn about life, parenting, or existence is irrelevant, somehow invalidated by the fact that our parents or relatives did things differently while we were growing up, and since we were fortunate enough to not suffer any ill effects that we're aware of, the way things were done for us must be good enough. The logical fallacies here are insane, and to me painfully obvious, but many parents may as well be wearing blinders to this topic.

So why doesn't anybody seem to understand why this reasoning is faulty? Let's consider a few things that often seem to factor into a person's usage of this defense.

First, people typically hate implying that somehow their parents raised them in a sub par way, or that their parents - despite not knowing any differently - were taking a potentially life-threatening risk while raising them. And I understand that need to believe, because most of the time, to a point, the reasoning is true: our parents did the best they could, and usually they didn't have the information or access to information that we have. Their choices were informed to a fault. Today, though, we're lucky enough to have the ability to research almost any choice or option, and there is no end of accessible opinions, either online or in books. So where do we draw the line and decide what is a choice made out of ignorance, and what is a choice made of WILLFUL ignorance?

For me, the line is drawn right here, right now. There is no excuse anymore, no excuse for not knowing or wondering - no excuse for accepting tradition. And why should we, when tradition means cutting off parts of our sons, or allowing doctors who are notorious for not disclosing all of the necessary information to make a truly informed decision as to our medical care inject us with harmful substances, then lie about or neglect to mention their potential effects on ourselves and our children? Why should we allow tradition to be the early forced evacuation from the womb of babies who otherwise have no medical need to be born early? Why should we risk the lives of children, of mothers, of families everywhere by ignoring the blatant, obvious benefits of breastfeeding and breastmilk, benefits that have been proven time and time again through numerous studies, while we tout formula as being somehow equal, if not better? Why do we do all of these things?

Because it's easy. Because the idea that somehow our parents might have made mistakes is beyond us; because we want to imagine we were given the BEST, instead of labeling it as what it truly is: the best that was POSSIBLE. That does not make it the best of all circumstances, or the absolute best option regardless of other choices that could have been made. It is almost legitimate to say that the parents of a boy circumcised  in 1978 made that decision because at the time it was simply something that wasn't discussed in any circle, medical or otherwise, it was just an accepted truth; today, only 55-65% of newborn boys are circumcised for secular reasons, and it's figured that this number is dropping sharply every month. The difference, of course, is that now people are openly discussing circumcision and its harmful side effects; men who were circumcised as children are willingly coming out and explaining the pain and trauma they've experienced throughout their lives thanks to a choice made by someone who assumed control over their body. Mothers are being ASKED if they wish to circumcise their sons; while this is far from perfect, it's better than the previous assumption that it would be done. There are forums discussing it, websites and books and magazines and organizations dedicated to the idea that the ability to circumcise should be the choice of an informed adult, and not a choice made for a helpless newborn.

The idea of bodily autonomy is becoming mainstream, and is edging its way into becoming a legitimate, accepted topic of conversation among parents and medical professionals.

So is the fact that circumcision used to be so common that it was often performed without permission or informed consent a reason to continue to do it? Is the fact that a majority of the adult (18+) male population of the United States circumcised (likely at birth), completely unaware of what they lost through circumcision, and thus willing to speak out and say that somehow circumcision at birth is "okay", a good reason to continue to advocate for it?

Of course not. What worked for our parents - our grandparents - our ancestors ten or twenty times removed - is not necessarily the best choice for us. It is no reason to accept that the previous generation's "normal" should be the "normal" that our children grow up with; no reason to willingly blind ourselves to the truth because we don't want to consider the idea that maybe, just maybe, the choices of our parents were not the BEST choice. Best POSSIBLE is no excuse for us now, in the information age; if we are able to provide the BEST, it is our duty as parents, as mothers, as fathers, as caretakers, as those who have given birth and witnessed birth, as those who assist and those who deliver, to make sure that if we are CAPABLE of providing the BEST that we do so - and that we ask every possible question along the way.

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