Human beings are born too soon. Within hours of arriving in the world, a baby antelope can clamber up to a wobbly standing position; a day-old zebra foal can run from hyenas; a sea-turtle, newly hatched in the sand, knows how to find its way to the ocean. Newborn humans, on the other hand, can’t hold up their own heads without someone to help them. They can’t even burp without assistance. Place a baby human on its stomach at one day old – or even three months old, the age at which lion cubs may be starting to learn to hunt – and it’s stranded in position until you decide to turn it over, or a sabre-toothed tiger strolls into the cave to claim it. The reason for this ineptitude is well-known: our huge brains, which make us the cleverest mammals on the planet, wouldn’t fit through the birth canal if they developed more fully in the womb. (Recently, cognitive scientists have speculated that babies may actually be getting more useless as evolution proceeds; if natural selection favours ever bigger brains, you’d expect humans to be born with more and more developing left to do.)
Tag Archives: Parenting
At first, Craig Stillwell and Carla Andrews only vaguely registered the change at the hospital; how the expressions of warm, calm concern in the doctors and nurses who had been helping them look after their sick baby had iced over. It was 15 August 2016, in the early hours of the morning, and their three-month-old daughter, Effie, was fighting for life.
Two hours earlier, Effie had woken up screaming. Her parents, both 23, had no permanent home and were staying at Craig’s father’s place in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. They had all been asleep on the floor in the lounge: Effie in the travel cot that detached from her pram, Craig still in the uniform he wore as a grass cutter. Carla thought the problem was acid reflux. She passed the baby to Craig and went to prepare a bottle of formula in the kitchen. As she worked, Effie screamed and screamed in the other room. Suddenly she fell silent. Carla heard Craig panic: “Effie! Effie!” She rushed in. Craig, terrified, was holding the child. Effie was white-faced, limbs floppy, eyes fixed, gasping weakly for air.
Paramedics arrived at 3.19am, by which time Effie appeared dead. They reached Stoke Mandeville hospital at 3.50am. She roused a little and was taken for a brain scan. Afterwards, in the resuscitation unit, a doctor told them what they had found. Effie had suffered a bleed on the brain, and it didn’t look like it had been the first. Carla and Craig both started crying.
“But how could this happen?” asked Craig.
“We’re going to look into it,” the doctor replied.
One day last summer, around noon, I called Athena, a 13-year-old who lives in Houston, Texas. She answered her phone—she’s had an iPhone since she was 11—sounding as if she’d just woken up. We chatted about her favorite songs and TV shows, and I asked her what she likes to do with her friends. “We go to the mall,” she said. “Do your parents drop you off?,” I asked, recalling my own middle-school days, in the 1980s, when I’d enjoy a few parent-free hours shopping with my friends. “No—I go with my family,” she replied. “We’ll go with my mom and brothers and walk a little behind them. I just have to tell my mom where we’re going. I have to check in every hour or every 30 minutes.”
Those mall trips are infrequent—about once a month. More often, Athena and her friends spend time together on their phones, unchaperoned. Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, they talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear. They make sure to keep up their Snapstreaks, which show how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with each other. Sometimes they save screenshots of particularly ridiculous pictures of friends. “It’s good blackmail,” Athena said. (Because she’s a minor, I’m not using her real name.) She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”
I’m a lady considering taking on a foot fetishist as a slave. He would do chores around my house, including cleaning and laundry, and give foot rubs and pedicures in exchange for getting to worship and jack off to my model-perfect feet when I’ve decided he’s earned it. Am I morally obligated to tell my roommates? Technically the guy would be in their common space too. I will fully vet him with references and meet him in a neutral location at least once—and anything else you might suggest I do for security’s sake. Though my roommates are not what you would call conservative, I’m not sure they’d understand this kind of arrangement. I would have my slave come over when no one is around, and then my roommates could come home to a sparkly clean common area! My slave would never have access to their personal spaces, nor would I leave him alone in any area of our home until a strong bond of trust had been established. No harm, no foul? Or am I crossing a line?Man Into Cleaning A Shared Apartment
Pornography accounts for 10 to 30 percent of the internet, depending on who you ask, and with web access available to more children than ever, it’s no wonder they’re watching it. In a 2008 study, University of New Hampshire researchers found that 93 percent of boys and 62 percent of girls reported being exposed to porn by the age of 18. And 26.9 percent and 23 percent of them, respectively, had been exposed by age 13.Research has shown that exposure to sexually aggressive porn may make it nearly six times more likely that young men will perpetuate the aggressive sexual behavior themselves. And in the UK and US, doctors have raised concerns over an increase in young girls seeking labiaplasty due to unrealistic expectations of what their vaginas should look like—potentially fueled by “exposure to idealized images of genital anatomy,” the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists warned.
What should you do if child-protective services comes to your house?
You will hear a knock on the door, often late at night. You don’t have to open it, but if you don’t the caseworker outside may come back with the police. The caseworker will tell you you’re being investigated for abusing or neglecting your children. She will tell you to wake them up and tell them to take clothes off so she can check their bodies for bruises and marks. She will interview you and your kids separately, so you can’t hear what she’s asking them or what they’re saying. She opens your fridge and your cabinets, checking to see if you have food, and what kind of food. She looks around for unsafe conditions, for dirt, for mess, for bugs or rats. She takes notes. You must be as calm and deferential as possible. However disrespectful and invasive she is, whatever awful things she accuses you of, you must remember that child protection has the power to remove your kids at any time if it believes them to be in danger. You can tell her the charges are not true, but she’s required to investigate them anyway. If you get angry, your anger may be taken as a sign of mental instability, especially if the caseworker herself feels threatened. She has to consider the possibility that you may be hurting your kids, that you may even kill one of them. You may never find out who reported you. If your child has been hurt, his teacher or doctor may have called the state child-abuse hotline, not wanting to assume, as she might in a richer neighborhood, that it was an accident. But it could also have been a neighbor who heard yelling, or an ex-boyfriend who wants to get back at you, or someone who thinks you drink too much or simply doesn’t like you. People know that a call to the hotline is an easy way to blow up your life. If the caseworker believes your kids are in imminent danger, she may take them. You may not be allowed to say goodbye. It is terrifying for them to be taken from their home by a stranger, but this experience has repercussions far beyond the terror of that night. Your children may hear accusations against you—you’re using drugs, your apartment is filthy, you fail to get them to school, you hit them—and even if they don’t believe these things they will remember. And, after your children see that you are powerless to protect them, this will permanently change things between you. Whatever happens later—whether the kids come back the next week, or in six months, or don’t come back at all—that moment can never be undone.
Leah Durant was cleaning the unfinished basement of her home in Falls Church, Virginia, one day in October 2010 when she scraped her hand on a rusty nail. Not long after, the then-37-year-old lawyer was seated in her doctor’s office, preparing to receive a tetanus vaccine—a preventive measure that since 1947 has reduced U.S. fatalities caused by the soil-borne bacterium Clostridium tetani 500-fold.
Her physician stood to her left and leaned over her shoulder with the needle.
The pain was immediate, and so excruciating that Durant screamed.
The beloved novelist and children’s author Roald Dahl once wrote an open letter describing how his daughter Olivia suffered from measles when she was 7 years old. Olivia seemed to be recovering, Dahl wrote, and he was sitting on her bed, teaching her how to build animals out of pipe cleaners, when he noticed that she had trouble coordinating her fingers’ movements.
“‘Are you feeling all right?’ I asked her.”
“‘I feel all sleepy,’ she said.”
False: Vaccination can cause autism
In 1998, U.K. doctor Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet suggesting that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine could trigger autism. In the years after, MMR vaccination rates among 2-year-olds in England dropped below 80%. But the claim began to unravel in 2004 after journalist Brian Deer reported undisclosed conflicts of interest: Wakefield had applied for a patent on his own measles vaccine and had received money from a lawyer trying to sue companies making the MMR vaccine. Citing further concerns about ethics and misrepresentation, The Lancet retracted the paper in 2010. Shortly after, the United Kingdom’s General Medical Council permanently pulled Wakefield’s medical license.
“This is a war against normal life.” So said CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward, describing the situation at this moment in Syria, as well as in other parts of the Middle East. It was one of those remarks that should wake you up to the fact that the regions the United States has, since September 2001, played such a role in destabilizing are indeed in crisis, and that this process isn’t just taking place at the level of failing states and bombed-out cities, but in the most personal way imaginable. It’s devastating for countless individuals — mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, friends, lovers — and above all for children.
Ward’s words caught a reality that grows harsher by the week, and not just in Syria, but in parts of Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, among other places in the Greater Middle East and Africa. Death and destruction stalk whole populations in Syria and other crumbling countries and failed or failing states across the region. In one of those statistics that should stagger the imagination, devastated Syria alone accounts for more than five million of the estimated 21 million refugees worldwide. And sadly, these numbers do not reflect an even harsher reality: you only become a “refugee” by crossing a border. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), in 2015 there were another 44 million people uprooted from their homes who were, in essence, exiles in their own lands. Add those numbers together and you have one out of every 113 people on the planet — and those figures, the worst since World War II, may only be growing.