President James Garfield was standing on a train platform in Baltimore when Charles Guiteau, in Dr. Howard Markel’s delightful phrase, “broke through the crowd and entered the history books” shooting the 20th president twice. Medicine in 1881 was nothing to write home about. Doctors poked and prodded their unwashed, unsterilized hands into the president’s body searching for the bullets. It would be hard to exaggerate the pain Garfield, suffered losing 80 pounds over the next two and a half months until he finally–mercifully it could be argued–died.
Guiteau’s not guilty by reason of being bat shit loony plea was highlighted by his assertion that “the doctors killed Garfield, I just shot him.”
Which is where I would like to begin our discussion today of 2023 parenting. What will we look back on–five years, a generation from now, fifty years down the road–that will be the equivalent of the blood letting (leeches, ick!) and being fed egg yolks, milk, whiskey and drops of opium rectally (food enemas, again, ick!) The scientist Louis Pasteur was working on a germ theory of disease, the surgeon Joseph Lister was pushing hand washing in the late 19th century. Are there ideas about how to raise healthy children now flitting about in the ether?
Spare the rod and spoil the child is now accurately defined as abuse. What fundamental ideas did your parents have that you have eschewed for your beloved children? What do you feel remains immutable?
I have been rereading some of my 600 columns recently. I still stand by most of my advice. Raising Healthy Kids In An Unhealthy World was published in 2013. (Spoiler alert: Play parcheesi with your children. Take your kids camping.) In the subsequent decade threats to healthy families have–somehow–exponentiated. Failing an algebra test or being turned down for a date rather than being local disappointments are now debacles globally recognized. The reasons to stay close to your kids are magnified in a time when that which should be processed privately is perused instantly. Your kids have to respect the opinion of their parents. They have to look to you first, before considering the misbegotten suggestions of their pimply-faced peers.
I’m pretty sure about that. But I look forward to our continuing our conversation over time.
And before anyone condescends to the doctors who inadvertently tortured President Garfield, note that we may soon look back on the best cancer protocols that medical science currently has to offer–radiation, chemo therapy–as horrific, ineffective treatments as targeting gene therapies are figured out.
So we continue to make the best decisions we can, bringing up our beloved children with love in our hearts, an inquisitive mind, and the knowledge that we are doing the best we can, but that we are likely imperfect and may need to make corrections along the way.
See you next week.