I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a baby in this country. When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Central Asia, the specifics of childrearing were pretty much lost on me. I was 22 at the time and not thinking much about kids, even though I spent most of my working days with them. What was very clear is that the children were raised by the community and they had a lot of independence.

About four months into my service, I got my own bachelorette pad. It was two rooms with a shared outbuilding containing a hole for relieving yourself and an adjacent room with a torch and cauldron for washing. It was January and it was cold the day I moved. When I opened the door to my place, I found my neighbor bathing her newborn daughter in a pot next to the open flame on the gas stove. I didn't think much of it at the time but now I laugh at the thought of that sort of thing happening here.

As parents, there are plenty of things to protect our kids from-- bullies, drugs, and oncoming traffic are a few good examples-- but I think we are remiss when we try to prevent every single potentially bad things from ever happening to them. Read any issue of Parents magazine, and you'll find yourself plagued by fear that a random piece of hair may accidentally get wrapped around your baby's finger and cut off his circulation. Or you'll find that for $19.95 you can own a contraption that will prevent a door from slamming on little Mary's hand. Of course no one wants poor Mary to get a boo boo but if it happens once she's likely to be a little bit more careful the next time she closes the door. Wouldn't it be better to just teach our kids how to handle the bumps and bruises that come along in life?

I often wonder if I would be a different parent if I had my daughters somewhere else. Right now, I often feel like I am swimming upstream against a rising tide of anxiety about how unsafe the world supposedly is. This past summer, I frequently let Vivi play outside alone. I could see her from the window and I felt that, given the demands of the Turtles, it wasn't fair to have her sequestered in the house all the time. I had four different neighbors knock on my door to tell me that she was out in the yard. (Ummm... yeah, I know. It's because I have neighbors who also look out for my kid that I felt comfortable doing that.)

In light of all my ponderings, I was pleased to see this on You Tube. In April 2010, we can see how we compare.


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