it’s like a neverending, really hot playdate with nothing to drink but kombucha

maybe a few weeks ago, i was dicking around on the internet, as you do. i was perusing some terrible advice website, similar to yahoo! answers. maybe it even was yahoo! answers, i don’t remember. anyway, someone had posted & asked, “my baby is bleeding from the eyes. what should i do?” the “best answer” selected was, “go to the emergency room.”

after taking a moment to fervently wish that i never have to confront a situation where my baby is randomly bleeding from the eyes, i had to laugh at this person whose immediate impulse when confronted with an obvious medical concern was to consult dr. internet. maybe i truly am of another generation, having not been raised with computers & internet connections, but when confronted with true emergencies, going online is just not my default solution. the internet is for reading snarky recaps of babysitters club books & looking at cat pictures. it’s not a licensed medical professional.

so i posted this observation to facebook. my suggested answer for this person was, “accept the fact that you are a terrible parent.” one of my friends, who is a nanny but not actually a parent, got VERY upset about this & left a long response about how it’s never appropriate to call someone a terrible parent because parenting is really hard work & sometimes people make mistakes but they aren’t going to be helped by having their parenting abilities defamed. she elaborated that some people don’t have money for medical care or access to doctors–some people are isolated in rural areas or very poor or both or something.

but not so rurally isolated & poor that they can’t afford a computer & an internet connection? seriously, if you can get online, you can probably get within striking distance of an ER, especially when the situation is an infant BLEEDING FROM THE EYES. don’t give me all that “check your ER access privilege” malarkey. in the united states, emergency rooms are obligated to treat patients regardless of their ability to pay. when i was a teenager, i did live in such a rurally isolated area that we couldn’t get cable TV access. but there was still a hospital like half an hour away.

a few weeks later, jared & i got to chatting about the episode of “beverly hills, 90210″ where donna is in trouble for drinking at prom. plot synopsis: before the prom, there is an assembly where the students are informed that drinking at the dance will not be tolerated. they are told that anyone who is caught drinking or drunk will be barred from the graduation ceremony. not that they won’t graduate. just that they won’t get to walk in the ceremony with their classmates. & maybe there was some kind of summer school/community service element, i forget the details. so the gang goes to prom & donna manages to get completely wasted in the bathroom. to the point that she can no longer walk under her own power. it’s up to her friends to try to sneak her out of the school before any chaperones notice that she’s toasted. but of course, they fail, & donna is in big trouble.

she’s brought in for a disciplinary hearing & informed that she won’t be walking in the ceremony. her friends think this is really unfair because she wasn’t the only one drinking–she’s just the only one that got caught. somehow they convince, like, the entire school to rise up in solidarity with her. they stage a walk-out & storm the hearing where they demand amnesty for donna & permission for her to walk in the ceremony with them. & despite the fact that the school administrators made the rules more than explicit upfront, & donna brazenly disregarded them, they cave & cancel the punishment.

i posted about this on facebook too, because it’s absurd, & one of my friends wrote this rant about how she’s some kind of a teen educator (not a teacher, i don’t know what she does–tutoring, maybe?) & it’s a developmental reality that teenagers find it really important to do what their friends are doing & have their friends’ approval, so it would have been psychologically crushing for a teen to be barred from walking in the graduation ceremony with her friends. she also said that events like graduation ceremonies are important milestones & preventing someone from participating in one can be, i don’t know, emotionally scarring or something.

um, maybe i am missing something, but isn’t that kind of the point of a punishment? you take away a privilege that really matters to the kid. what the hell is the point of a punishment that the kid doesn’t care about at all? when i was a teenager, if there was something i wanted, like a show i was dying to see, or a sleepover at a friend’s house, & i broke a rule, obviously stopping me from doing that thing i wanted to do was going to be a far better deterrent than, like, making me do lines or something. it’s like this girl was suggesting that telling kids that there are clear consequences for misbehavior, spelling out exactly what those consequences are & what kind of misbehavior they’d have to do to earn the punishment, & then actually following through when someone misbehaves is, like, cruel & unusual punishment. isn’t it more cruel to keep moving the goalposts by being completely inconsistent in what you say & what you do? isn’t it cruel to society to not hold kids responsible for their actions?

it’s nice to have principles, i guess, like that it’s never okay to suggest that someone is a terrible parent, or that teenagers have unique developmental needs that must come before everything else. the problem is when those principles brush up against reality. or when people start coming up with hackneyed excuses to ignore the fact that sometimes people make really bad choices that potentially have long-term consequences. & i feel like this is the morass i am wading into by becoming a parent. i’m in for a lifetime of, “hey! some people’s only access to sound medical advice is yahoo! answers, okay? we can’t all call up mayoclinic.com like you!” & “subjecting your children to reasonable consequences for their poor life choices will turn them into sociopaths!” hell is other people, & the ninth circle is reserved for people with lots of opinions about children.

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