10/11/10

Babies

This weekend we watched the charming movie “Babies,” a film that follows four infants from the first breaths to their first steps, as the tagline explains. The babies are from all over the world – Nabmia, Mongolia, Tokyo, San Francisco – and the film confirms that no matter what, all babies are cute, and all babies like zerberts.

My girls were startled by some of the details – “Why aren’t those ladies wearing shirts?” Phoebe asked, hiding her eyes every time the film cut to the African village. “That’s inappropriate,” Mallory commented when the little Mongolian boy was shown without his pants. “It’s a different culture,” Chris and I kept explaining; “this is how other people live. It’s different, not wrong.” I’m hoping that the girls learned something from the movie other than “Wow, I’m glad I was born in North Carolina instead of Nambia.” You have to start somewhere, I guess.

The movie did make me feel vastly privileged, and even faintly ridiculous, when I recall my own daughters’ infancy – the carseats (three different kinds before the age of 5), the high chairs with buckles, the monitors (with flashing lights!), the wet wipes, the pureed food and the peeled and quartered grapes. The Nambian baby learned to crawl in the dirt; her toys were rocks and sticks; she was forever putting pebbles in her mouth, and no one seemed worried about her choking. The Mongolian boy (my favorite) was left in his open bed unattended, tethered with a string around his wrist; roosters and cats came to perch beside him while he napped. When he got older, he crawled around naked in a field with a herd of cows. I think that it’s all well and good to use technology to protect our children; I think in our society we may be costing our children a modicum of self-reliance and resilience as we do so.

This was brought home to me on Saturday, when I got roped in to supervising play at a Bouncy Slide at our church’s fall festival. “No more than four kids at once!” the coordinator told me. “Make sure the slide is clear before you send another one up! No shoes, and watch out for zippers!” I spent a tedious hour telling kids to wait, to hang on, okay, you can go now, no, stop, watch out for that little girl, yes, it’s your turn – and all I could think about was 9-month-old Ponijao playing in mud puddles with her not-much-older brother, and 1-year-old Bayar exploring alone in his yurt while his mother milked the cows. I am quite sure that, left unsupervised, the children at my church’s festival could have handled the Bouncy Slide by themselves. We let them climb and jump; why can’t we trust them to gauge distance and wait their turn? Why can’t we rely on them to monitor their own behavior, to enforce the rules, to solve problems and have fun without an adult nearby?

Is it because we have too many lawyers?

4 comments:

Chris said...

I think your last line hit the nail on the head, pretty much, at least as far as the church thing goes. If some kid gets hurt on church property and there's no adult supervision, instant lawsuit. Even if the odds are against it, no one would dare take the chance. Also, I think the ultimate irony is that while technology is supposed to make us healthier and safer, I think it's also the main reason why we are so safety obsessed. The babies in Mongolia and Africa don't have to worry about electrocution, accidental poisoning, falling down stairs, SIDS, car accidents, or any of the rest of it, because of their simple lifestyle. They have their own challenges to be sure, but what makes our lives more comfortable and convenient also makes them more dangerous, I suspect. The more technology you have, the more safety you need, it seems. Although frankly, I would worry about my kid wandering off into the wilderness and getting lost if I lived in those places...not sure how those parents in Mongolia and Africa deal with that.

aimee said...

I agree with Chris and yes, our society has too many people thinking they need to sue for every little thing.

I have wanted to watch that and I think it would be very interesting. I can't imagine letting my baby stay tethered to a string but if I had to work, like I am sure those women do, then I guess you just do what you have to.

Anonymous said...

Amy here: Well, I am not sure if it is a case of too many lawyers, or a case of too many people thinking that they can sue you or an organization anytime they feel like it. There are a lot of lawyers too be sure-I should know I work for about 16,000 of them in the state, but it seems like it is sue happy people not just lawyers...

Karen said...

I also agree with Chris. I think of how things have changed in the years since all of you were children and now with your own children. Did I have 3 different car seats before any of you were 5? No, in fact, I think that as soon as you were able to sit in a car seat, I moved Jana out - and wihout even using seat belts either. Not that I think that is a good idea now, but I guess that I did not worry about things like that then.

Like Aimee, I guess one does what one has to do.