Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Two for Tuesday - Mixed Messages

WARNING ---- WARNING ---- WARNING




Okay, you've been warned that I'm on my soapbox today...

I never cease to be amazed at what a topsy-turvy world we live in and the mixed messages that the world, and we, send our children.

Several days ago it was on the local news that a baby had been left on the doorstep of an elderly woman one very cold morning. Follow-up stories gave us several bits of information.



  • The baby was a few hours old (cord still attached).

  • The mother was a 17 year old high school student (the "news" felt is necessary to name the school).

  • The baby was in a large shoebox wrapped in a blanket and two adult shirts.

  • The mother left a note saying she knew she couldn't take care of the baby.

  • The mother was later identified and taken in to be tried in juvenile court.


Clearly this was not a good choice and I am certainly not saying that there don't appear to be better options. What I do want to say is that there are some other interesting facts we know and a whole bunch that we do not.

  • They identified the mother because she got on the school bus after leaving the baby and upon arriving at school told the counselor what she had done.

  • She said she left the baby at that particular house because she knew someone would be home.


We do not know this girl's particular circumstances. We do not know about her home situation. We do not know anything about the father. (It seems she may have been trying to take care of the baby the best she knew how and was able to.) She did not leave it in a dumpster or trash can. Some feel that because we have a "Safe Haven" law she didn't use that she deserves to be prosecuted. Hmmm. Did she know about the law? Are we teaching about it in our schools? Are the pro-life and/or pro choice advocates/agencies putting money and energy behind making people aware of the details of this law? The law here allows a baby up to 45 days old to be left at a hospital, fire station, or police station. Was there one of those within walking distance of this girl's neighborhood? Keep in mind that she had recently given birth and very likely did not have the money to take a city bus or cab to an "appropriate" place. Do any agencies make transportation available to someone in this situation?



Stop for just a minute - take off your judgement hat, your pro-choice hat or your pro-life hat and consider what a mixed message we, as a society, send. We have a Safe Haven law - but if you aren't fortunate enough to have one of the "appropriate" drop off places where you can access it - we will prosecute you. We have a law that makes abortion legal. Therefore, if this girl had chosen to kill her baby four to six months ago there would have been no headlines and she would not be being prosecuted. It appears as though they will "go easy" on her. Even so, since the newspaper and television both carried the story along with her age, her school, and the address where the baby was left, her peers will likely know or figure out who it is and she will still have that to deal with.




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We send mixed messages all the time. Here are just a few examples:



  • We want our children to practice abstinence but we allow them to watch movies and television shows that glorify premarital sex and show it as "what everyone is doing".

  • We want our children to "just say no" while we can't wait to watch and read the latest information on the "stars" who have gone to rehab- been arrested - overdosed, or while we overuse or abuse prescription drugs or alcohol ourselves.

  • We tell our kids their "value" when we complain about higher taxes to pay teachers, police and firefighters more or about the cost of daycare but turn around and spend anywhere from twice to ten times as much for a ticket to watch a concert or sporting event.

  • We watch that team, buy their apparel, and are more than happy to discuss last nights game without a second thought about supporting the players who have been caught doing drugs, driving drunk, carrying unlicensed firearms, and a host of other illegal activities for which they mostly avoid prosecution.

  • Then there are all the issues with models and advertising...


Sadly, I could go on. I think, however, that you get the point.

We as individuals and as a society send our kids all kinds of mixed messages every day and then wonder what happened when they do something wrong or make bad choices or don't know what to do in a difficult situation.



Shame on us.



6 comments:

George said...

Debbie, you delivered a good message from your soapbox. Feel free to climb on at any time.

Lori said...

Hey, thanks for playing the letter meme! Your letter is "S".

Greg C said...

So true. I invite you to climb back on that soap box anytime the urge hits you as long as you do as great of a job as you did on this post. Great message.

Robyn Jones said...

I couldn't agree with you more...We definately are a society that passes on way too many mixed messages...thanks for sharing... (I think we are going through a baby boom....) :)

DoubleDeckerBusGuy said...

Although I agree with much, allow me to play Devil's Advocate...

We want our children to practice abstinence but we allow them to watch movies and television shows that glorify premarital sex and show it as "what everyone is doing".

...and yet, they had the same problems throughout history... the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries being very well noted... with the 1800's being really bad for "unwanted" pregnancies in Europe...) and I don't think they had access to the same "entertainment" as we do. Can we be so quick to blame what the popular media portrays... or should we not simply educate that there's "media" and then reality... and very rarely do the twain meet...

We want our children to "just say no" while we can't wait to watch and read the latest information on the "stars" who have gone to rehab- been arrested - overdosed, or while we overuse or abuse prescription drugs or alcohol ourselves.

Again, not as new a problem as one would think. Consider the amount of opium smokers in the early and latter nineteenth century... It behooves us to say that, sadly, these things DO exist... but the consequences aren't worth it ever. I liken it to seeing, about two years before he passed, Yul Brenner doing anti-smoking ads... he smoked four packs a day and died young of lung cancer... Had he practised, early on, what he ended up preaching...

We tell our kids their "value" when we complain about higher taxes to pay teachers, police and firefighters more or about the cost of daycare but turn around and spend anywhere from twice to ten times as much for a ticket to watch a concert or sporting event.

We don't. We explained the differences between "Want" and "Need" early on... so the kiddollo knew about the concepts of what is necessary (police, fire, teaching, etc.) versus Miley Cyrus tickets. That comes down to parenting... explaining why money on SOME things is more important than on other things.

The most AWFUL thing our eldest once said is she was HORRIFIED that it wasn't easier to get a driver's license... I reminded her that driving was a privilege, not a right... and found that she really didn't understand that concept... We soon set her straight though.

Either way, we also instill a sense of absolute responsibility in specific order... you must look after yourself, and respect and look after those around you... only after that can those "wants" and those "privileges" be looked into because they have been earned.

We watch that team, buy their apparel, and are more than happy to discuss last nights game without a second thought about supporting the players who have been caught doing drugs, driving drunk, carrying unlicensed firearms, and a host of other illegal activities for which they mostly avoid prosecution.

I agree with this one... but where would we draw a line? At what point do we say someone is "irretrievably damaged" in sports? I think of people like Paul Molitor as an example... He had a drug problem, but over came it... played amazingly well, and lectures on doing things without substance abuse to kids. I can give other examples. It's important to teach that if you make a mistake, you MUST correct it... and there's zero harm from watching the trials of others to learn from their mistakes... and never making them again.

We have drilled into our kids the immortal words of Erma Bombeck... slightly paraphrased for today's generation... Never confuse fame with success... Pamela Anderson is one, Mother Theresa is the other."

...after spouting that, we look at them and simply ask... "How do you want to be remembered in history?"

Then there are all the issues with models and advertising...

Body stereotypes are the worst offence... but we (again) took the time to teach the value of "fit" over "fashion"... and to remember that although we, in Western society and beyond view "skinny" and "youthful" as a goal, not too long ago, "Reubenesque" women were all the rage... and, from a simple biological standpoint, in the long run, men are attracted to women with "curves" as we are drawn by basic mating urges (Who would make the best mate? ... Literally, who is the best mother?) Times and tastes change... and that's a good thing.

...anyway...

The shame is on us... but it's up to us NOT to shield the youth in our charge because "it's out there" and they will find/see it no matter what we try or may try to do and as such, we must educate them... and say to them that more often than not, the consequences outweigh any initial "benefit" (hedonistic type of benefit really,) they may achieve in the short term.

Do they want to experience of a life... or the experience of a few minutes.

Andy Warhol was not speaking for everyone... some of us want more than fifteen minutes... and it's not fame we want... but success in life.

Debbie @Like a Rose said...

Bus Guy, I whole heartedly agree that if parent's do their job it would become mostly a non-issue.

I wasn't suggesting either that we shield our kids from everything, then they would just experience culture shock when they got out on their own. By the same token, where we spend our dollars influences. If enough people quit going to movies with gratuitous s*x and violence, there is less incentive to make those types of movies.

While I agree that athletes can be rehabilitated and turn out to be great spokespeople that wasn't exactly my point. I stand by what I said about kids implied "value" as determined by society, government,etc. Any time we spend massive amounts of money or defer taxes, fees, etc. to build a huge stadium while at the same time telling schools there isn't enough in the budget to buy supplies or give teachers decent wages, something is badly mixed up.
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Erma Bombeck was a wise woman!