Child Neglect, Forgetfulness, or a Shift in Priorities?

Fall is almost here and I want to touch on a subject that I have been stewing over for most of the Summer. I’ve hemmed and hawed over doing an entry about this controversial subject because children are a subject that I get incredibly fired up about and I have a tendency to rant (and you guys hear me rant enough about animals on here already).  But — I decided to just jump in and the Devil be damned.

We’ve all had one of those days where we leave the house in a rush and forget something important. I know I’m guilty of it. Phone, keys, wallet, and the like; some little bauble that can have a major influence on how the rest of the day goes. Pretty understandable, right? Normally it only takes five or ten minutes before we notice it’s not there. We get busy, our minds get filled up with all sorts of tasks that we try to organize in our brains as we’re moving through our daily routine. It seems understandable and totally forgivable if someone arrives at lunch and says, “Oh shoot, do you mind spotting me? I forgot my cash.”

Babies, on the other hand, specifically a baby that belongs to you, I have trouble believing as one of these forgettable items on par with say…your Subway frequent buyer card. Yet, it happens. It’s actually quite shocking, but the number of babies forgotten by their parents in cars and dying from hyperthermia (extreme heat) is on the rise. Don’t believe me? Don’t believe that a mom or a dad absent-mindedly forgets that junior was in the back seat and left to bake for 10 hours happens? Just read the paper. It’s happening more and more lately.  There were several cases throughout the summer (another one just last week), and a while back, The Washington Post had a morbidly disheartening piece about this trending phenomenon.

Read it and weep. Literally. Then read it again, and if you’re like me, you’ll probably get a sense of anger, confusion, disbelief, and outright awe swirling around in your head as you try to find a way to rationalize such a horrendous (and apparently growing) act of memory lapse.

Humans are imperfect machines. This I know. Yes, mistakes do happen. But I just can’t wrap my head around a mistake of this magnitude. I forget my phone. I forget my umbrella. I forget my dentist appointments. Hell, I forget sooo many things. Admittedly my brain is a sieve. But I can’t think of a single distraction that is large enough to push out the regular mental check-ins I conduct on my own children. And the idea that I could forget them while they’re actually in my presence?  Uh, No.

I read an article recently that said there is an up and coming disorder called “forgotten baby syndrome.” Yes, the occurrences are so frequent now, certain media pundits and so-called parenting experts have given the “condition” a name. It’s certainly not what I’d call it. But I digress. Anyway, it’s specifically when people forget they have children. The article listed all kinds of reasons why people may forget their children — most were to do with work, mentally reminding oneself of chores such as picking up the dry-cleaning, thinking through the day, etc.  It suggested that you put your shoe, your lap-top, or your office keys with your child so that when you remembered that item, you’d retrieve it, and voilà there would be your child as well. So. You’ll remember your laptop before you remember your child. Hmmm.

The scary thought is, is this where our society is heading? Are conference calls getting top priority? Is the dry-cleaning really more important than the baby? Is Siri becoming more loved than little Susie? Is life really so hectic and our attention spans fragmented into such short spurts of linear thought that without an Outlook reminder to help us, we’re in danger of forgetting the existence of our children?

Have we become so selfish in our lifestyles that our priorities are no longer found in the car seat? I’m sorry, but in my opinion, kids are simply too important to forget; if you do get so distracted that you can’t remember you have a child, maybe, just maybe you shouldn’t have one.

Can we have some gun sense…maybe? Even just a little?

I know this is a hot topic right now, but it seems like over the past couple of years the issue of gun control has come up more and more frequently. Back in the day there might be a heated debate over mimosas at Sunday brunch, then in a fit, you’d slap a new bumper sticker on your car that says “We Need Idiot Control, Not Gun Control” or “Gun Control Means Using Both Hands” (depending on what side of the fence you argue).

Now—and you’ve probably gotten by now that this is a running theme of mine—social media has forced positions to be even more bitterly defended due to the great shield of distance.

The response to the terribly tragic death at the shooting range in Arizona by a little 9-year-old girl who lost control of an Uzi has brought out all sorts of gun control opinions on Facebook forums. A friend of mine recently posted something akin to “oh great, now all the gun control nuts are going to go crazy using this incident to back up their stupidly zealous claims that we need more gun control.”

And I’m over here like “well, yeah, duh.”  I mean, I’m sorry if people are going to pathetically use the accidental death of a human being by a now horribly traumatized juvenile as a reason to maybe rethink our gun laws. Excuse them for being so out of line! Why would they ever think this would be a great time to maybe bring up reform measures to our fire arms policies?

Can you taste the sarcasm? Cause I’m laying it on pretty thick. In all seriousness, it does seem that a point-blank shot to the head brought about by a child would be a great jumping off point for at least talking about the need for more gun control, especially as it pertains to children.

I hope this doesn’t make me sound like a gun control nut who wants to dump every piece of artillery into the deepest, darkest depths of the farthest ocean — because that’s not who I am at all. Gun control does not always mean anti-gun. Sometimes it just means being sensible. I’m all about moderation; moderation that perhaps prohibits a fourth grader from firing military-grade firearms. Is that too crazy of a thought? If someone uses a Dora the Explorer backpack, can we maybe consider keeping them away from Uzis?

I know I’m bringing the questions up, but I highly doubt the NRA is listening. I mean just two days after the incident they tweeted a highly informative article about the “7 Ways Children Can Have Fun at The Shooting Range.” So kids having access to the guns are not a problem in their eyes. Let’s not stop it, they say. Let’s keep it going, tweak it a little, and hope that it doesn’t happen again.  Really?   Was this a sane, or even appropriate, response to such a horrific tragedy?  Many things that people and organizations do these days worry me, sadden me and sometimes leave me with my mouth gaping open in awe.  However, this one…this one took the cake.

At the end of the day,  I can’t help but think that one simple common sense law or age restriction could have prevented such a tragic event… and kept a young child from being scarred for life.

Trading Up

I have an idea! It’s perfect if I do say so myself. Let’s turn in grandma and grandpa for newer models…

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the traditional role of grandma and grandpa. It’s a real treat for young kids to go to the grandparent’s house while mom and dad are working – grandma will bake cookies and other goodies and let the kids eat all they want. Grandpa will take the kids fishing or to the park or somewhere fun.

But sooner or later there will come a time when grandma and grandpa just can’t hack it anymore. Grandma no longer bakes and can’t do certain things anymore because of arthritis. And Grandpa just can’t move like he used to, his knees pop and his back aches…what fun is it going to the park when grandpa has to use a scooter?

Let’s forget about all the wisdom and love grandma and grandpa have provided over the years and can still provide.  No baking, no trips to the park? No need to visit them any more.

But…mom and dad desperately need the time off that those visits to grandma and grandpa used to provide.

So as I said, I’ve got the perfect solution!

Take grandma and grandpa to a shelter where they can be quietly put down (or not so quietly depending on the technique) – after all, they’ve outlived their usefulness – and exchange them for a new grandma and grandpa!  The newer model grandma can cook tasty treats, and the new grandpa will be able to get into a roller coaster with the grandkids and they can all get happily sick together.

Perhaps you can see where I’m going with this. Okay, yeah, I know. I’m melodramatic. But stay with me here for a bit.

I’m talking about people who have had dogs and cats for years and years (the animal’s entire life even), but once the dog gets too old to chase after a ball, or the cat has lost interest in playing with the little laser light and just sleeps all day long, lots of people just take them straight to a shelter – a kill shelter, mark you – because really, who wants an elderly dog or cat? – and replaces them immediately and without compunction with a new impossibly adorable puppy or a kitten.

So, a dog has given a family a lifetime of love, and now when it can no longer run and jump, but simply wants to sit by his master’s side and be petted, the family just gets rid of it? It’s disposable because it’s so easily replaceable, I guess. This is our society now. This is what we do. Aren’t you proud?

What prompts this ridiculous rant you ask?  Well, recently I saw this couple, with their kids in tow, dumping a 13-year-old dog off at a shelter and at the same time were adopting a puppy. There was nothing wrong with the dog except he was just too old.  I could see his confusion and terror, it was written all of over his face. He knew something was wrong but just couldn’t quite figure out what. The woman was even talking about what a great dog he was, he was just “too old.” They wanted a younger puppy around the house. And the shelter had no problem with this!

“Ah, yes, Fido’s outlived his usefulness, we’ll take care of him so you don’t have to (and you know what their idea of “taking care” of Fido will be) and here’s a brand new puppy for you – see you in another 13 years! Have a great day!”

You’ll be happy to know that a rescue friend of mine swooped in to save the day for Bruce (his name is Bruce). But what about all of the elderly dogs that are dumped daily into “shelters” (what a euphemism that is!)? I have a hard time with any animal being dumped at a kill shelter (there are so many alternatives) but it especially breaks my heart to see a dog who has lived with one family his entire life, has given his love, his loyalty, his everything, and that family who supposedly loved him has no qualms about abandoning him.

It’s a shame that those pet-owners/parents can’t be dumped by their kids when they get too old – or maybe they will be. Maybe their kids will learn from this…so much more than the parents ever intended.  And when they get older their kids will dump them in “a home” the first chance they get because they’re “old.”

old dogs

Is it too soon for another rant?

Okay folks, I know it’s early for yet another rant but I can’t help myself.  This latest “shake my head moment” is brought to you courtesy of a news article that just crossed my desk.

Remember the entry I just posted about a zoo’s worth?  And the one prior to that about the fiasco at the Copenhagen Zoo?  Well, it just gets better and better.  Apparently a zoo in Switzerland recently euthanized a healthy brown bear cub to make a point that “nature is cruel.”   I’m including the article below (click on the photo). In addition to making a point, the zoo also claims that the mother has rejected the cub and the father mauled the cub’s sibling and since they were allowing nature to take its course, they decided to euthanize the cub because with all things equal, it would surely die in the wild.

Now, I may be wrong (I’m wrong a lot), but from what I remember of documentary shows on brown bears, the parents do not raise a cub together. In fact, the only time brown bears co-habitat (usually) is when a mother is with her cub or cubs. So if they’re so concerned about the natural order of things, why is the male in with the female and cubs in the first place? It should just be the mother and her cubs. The male’s absence would surely negate any worry over mauling, right? Not to mention the female is probably depressed and rejected the cub because 1) her other cub just died a horrible death and 2) she’s living in an unnatural habitat with an unnatural family unit.

Here’s the kicker.  This zoo, which is so determined to do things naturally, hand-raised the parents of this cub.  Hand-raised. Because that’s soooo natural.  Why couldn’t they do the same for the cub? Simply remove it from the family unit where it was at risk and hand-raise it. They obviously have the experience and capability (as proven by the cub’s parents). Well, that’s where the “let’s make a point that nature is cruel” philosophy comes in.

Yep. Makes sense to me.

Click for news article

Click for news article

 

 

 

Another Rant — or What is a Zoo’s Worth?

For someone who walks around with animal well-being on the brain all day it should come as no surprise that the concept of a zoo stirs up some strong emotions. Most of us have fond memories of going to the zoo on a school trip and seeing some of the most amazing animals the world has to offer. I know that I’ve always loved the zoo. Never did we consider the conditions the animals were being kept in, the possible struggle they feel being kept in a small pen when their DNA is screaming for acres of open land, or the lack of social stimulation they have by restricting their interactions with others of their species.

Through one prism a zoo is just like a prison. The only difference is that the animals didn’t do anything to be there. They’re not convicted felons, arsonists, thieves, and rapists. And yet I feel like they’re treated similarly to an extent. Many zoos around the world are poorly maintained and these innocent animals suffer for it.  A prime example of course is the Copenhagen Zoo. The brilliant officials running that place thought it was best to kill a giraffe simply because they had over-bred/inbred their giraffe family.  The giraffe’s genes were too similar to the other giraffes in the breeding program therefore it wouldn’t be wise to continue mashing those chromosomes together. This was not the giraffe’s fault. It did not ask to be the child of a small gene pool. Regardless, it was punished as if it did make the choice to be incompatible. A cruel and pointless death of a perfectly healthy creature.

Likewise, the very same zoo mismanaged their lion pride and killed four healthy lions (two older males and two cubs) to bring in one younger male who was apparently ready to knock up a lioness immediately and would’ve killed the cubs in no time. I’m guessing the idea to perhaps…oh I don’t know…separate the cubs and new male just didn’t cross the officials’ minds.  Or even better, leave their pride as it was, intact.  But it came down to money and the cubs’ lives simply were not profitable. Sadly, this zoo is not an exception to the rule.  Copenhagen is just one of the only ones to get caught.

elephants at Philly Zoo

elephants at Philly Zoo

Breeding aside, the everyday lives the animals endure are something of a concern as well. Giving a polar bear a pool of water big enough to fit maybe two of them is not the equivalent of being “free.”  It’s not even the illusion of freedom. Do you know how far a polar bear can swim? How far zebras and elephants can walk? It’s in their nature to roam and the zoo puts a tight lid on that. Nothing about the way they live is natural. Their food is handed to them. Their mates are introduced at specific times. They’re constantly surrounded by people pointing and yelling at them. And we wonder why they pace in circles all day long.

polar bear at Philly Zoo

polar bear at Philly Zoo

Zoo advocates can easily say that they may be getting the best, most nutritious food available. That the animals are never in danger of being hunted. That by taking them out of nature they are essentially given a life free of stress. But it’s a known fact that animals in captivity (especially larger animals) get depressed and while their lifespan may be longer I have reservations regarding it being more pleasant. In some instances the depression and/or lack of activity leads to chronic illness.  So while they live a long life, is a life in captivity a fair exchange for a few more years?  It’s hard to say.

leopard at Philly Zoo

leopard at Philly Zoo

On the other hand, some zoos have excellent programs focusing on saving endangered species. Other zoos take in wounded animals that would have died if left in the wild. For example, the San Francisco zoo houses two bald eagles, both of which were found near the brink of death (one is missing its right wing) but are now basking in the California sunshine rather than turning into compost. There is a zoo in Virginia that is strictly a rescue zoo taking in animals that have been injured and subsequently rehabilitated.  It’s a small zoo, but hey, the animals in their care would otherwise be dead because they certainly wouldn’t make it on their own in the wild.

Zoos also give children the chance to see exotic animals up close, hopefully creating a stronger bond (and therefore empathy) between human and animal that might carry over into a growing affinity for participating in conservation efforts….an extremely important cause. Plus, if not for a zoo, where else would most kids get the chance to see a hippo in real life?

In a perfect world we would have wild-life sanctuaries or nature preserves for all the endangered species but let’s face it, that’s never going to happen. Actually, in a perfect world, there would be no endangered species because we, as humans, wouldn’t have continually destroyed the habitat of so many fellow creatures (but that’s a rant for another day).  In lieu of wide-spread sanctuaries or nature preserves, if a zoo is truly well run, well maintained and well-managed maybe it’s a good thing.

I’m not going to lie, I enjoy going to the zoo. Certain ones anyway. Unfortunately there are too many zoos that aren’t kept up to the standards I think they should be held to. I feel they need to be strictly monitored but even so, even if the animals are ensured safety by living in this fake habitat; is that worth the cost of their freedom? Ask yourself this: If you could check into a hotel for the rest of your life, all food is paid for, no charge, but you could never leave (hmm…that reminds me of a song), would that be a fair deal? Oh, and people can look in your windows whenever they want. Sound good? No? So then what’s the cost of your freedom? It’s a difficult question.  I certainly don’t have the answer to it.

penguins at Philly Zoo

penguins at Philly Zoo

FB Cleavage (Or with friends like these, who needs enemies)

Riddle me this: What would you do if you were clowning around on the internet, maybe visiting the very popular site Reddit, and saw a picture of yourself posted with lewd comments about you from strangers across the country? The picture itself may not be lewd. It might be a shot of when you were at a baseball game wearing a t-shirt of your favorite team. All that you know is that you did not put that picture on the site and you do not know any of the people who have leered at it. Spoilers: this site gets all of its material from so-called “friends” on Facebook.

Sounds like make-believe, right? You shouldn’t have to worry about anything like that happening because, c’mon, has our society really sunk that low? Oh wait, yes, yes it has. The Huffington Post wrote a report a while back (but I just happened about it recently) about a new page on Reddit called “Facebook Cleavage.”  Its creepiness is very simple. As the name implies it’s a page where anyone with Internet access can view women – most of whom are sporting  various degrees of cleavage or have on short shorts, are maybe just have pigtails, or possibly wearing roller skates, all of the strange and sometimes incomprehensible tropes that men supposedly find desirable – at their leisure and sans consequence. Oh, but it gets better.

These women are not models. Or at least that appears to be the primary goal of the site. I’d venture to say that most of them (upwards of 99.9% of them) don’t even have a clue that their picture is even on this page. How gross is that? What makes it even worse is that if you go to the site you won’t be inundated by images of models laying seductively on the beach in string bikinis or bending over the hood of a car with garden hoses in their hands. No, these are just regular pictures of women on vacation, taking selfies, partying with friends, in a restaurant, wherever. Yes, they’re sexy.  That’s the point.

In short, this page only exists to objectify women who, in all likelihood, don’t even know their photos are on the site. And before you even go there — no, it’s not the woman’s fault for posting a photo of herself in a bikini or taking a selfie shot that exposes her cleavage or god forbid that photo of her and her friends at a party.  It’s one thing when a woman decides to post a photo to her Facebook wall. That’s her choice.  It certainly doesn’t mean anyone and everyone should be able to then steal it and post it willy-nilly wherever they want. But that’s exactly what’s happening.  What I can only assume are mostly guys are now stealing those photos and plastering them on a page meant only to soothe voyeuristic tendencies.

Obviously the pictures can only be posted by friends of the girls (or whoever might be privy to their Facebook timeline), but what kind of “friend” does this? Okay, so did I mention the creepy factor behind this whole venture? If not, now is a good time to bring up the “ick” factor of having these kinds of friends.

The page, in a terribly transparent attempt at decency, has a set of five rules but even that goes down in flames pretty quickly. They are as follows:

1. Find sexy pictures of your hot Facebook friends. Upload the pictures to imgur.com, and submit them here.

2. Doesn’t have to be cleavage. Any sexy pic will do.

3. Don’t post pics that don’t come from Facebook. You will be banned.

4. Only post people of age. Underage posts will be removed. And user banned. Report underage posts to the mods.

5. Please don’t mention real names.

Notice that none of these rules have anything whatsoever to do with getting permission from the girl before you post. Apparently, that’s not anything to be concerned about. I mean really, why would it be?

I have no idea how much traffic this page gets (I’m sure it’s a lot), but just the mere fact that it exists is enough to make me shake my head.  And again, it really makes me wonder just what kind of person would look at their friend’s Facebook photos and decide, “Hey, I know! I’ll steal this private photo of my friend and post it for everyone on the internet to see and ogle!”  With friends like that, who the hell needs enemies?

Altruism…maybe, maybe not

Ever since that horrible day in American history known as 9/11 there has been a noticeable and dramatic increase in the government asking the public to keep their eyes on their neighbors. Homeland Security and related agencies – transportation authorities, hospitality services, etc. – have been drilling into our heads over and over if you see something that doesn’t look right, make a call. Let someone know about that bag that’s been left behind. Call someone over about the ticking you hear in a nearby backpack. And that’s all well and good. The idea that we’re all looking out for each other is rather comforting.

But when does it go too far? When does a genuine concern over something you witness turn into a subconscious desire to bring someone else down?  Turning in drug dealers is great. If you notice that supposedly “abandoned” house at the end of the block getting visitors in and out at all hours of the night, please call the cops and see if they can find out what the blackout curtains are for. That’s fine by me, but this is a slippery slope that some people are just all too willing to slide down. It seems that some people feel it’s their civic duty to keep an eye and thumb on everything going down in their neighborhood.  Those are the ones who slid alllll the way down that slippery slope and gleefully landed in the sludge at the bottom.

Stalking someone simply because they have on a hoodie or calling the police or the local HOA because someone has parked their car on their own grass? (worth repeating…on their own grass). Not exactly what I would call looking out for the safety of the neighborhood. That’s just being a jerk. More examples? A hawk-eyed neighbor sees a mother having a simple birthday party for her kids in her backyard (paper plates, Dixie cups, a sparse amount of balloons, white paper napkins, home-made Duncan Hines cake) and reports her because they think that’s a misappropriation of her food stamp funds. Oh come on, they can’t use the food stamps to have fun people!!

Or someone sees the kids and Mom at a cheap matinée show and that must mean they’re living the high life and can obviously make some cuts to truly earn those government funds. Never mind that the mom might be working two jobs. Never mind the budgeting she does every evening in the hopes of finding an extra dollar here and there. Never mind that she might not have bought a new pair of shoes from Payless for herself in over two years. I figure if you can’t see into her home life, it’s best to reserve judgment and just let her be happy the few moments that she can. If she were chartering jets for the kids to go to school or is a regular at the Apple store buying stacks of iPads, maybe you should pick up the phone. But giving her kids a carton of Neapolitan ice cream isn’t what I would call an offensive use of money.

Then there are the people who receive disability or SSI benefits from the government. Some healthy individuals out there actually think that to be sick you must always look sick too. The symptoms of MS or PTSD or Lupus or Cancer (to name a few) can often be masked, but they’re real and viable and crippling afflictions. Yet without a visible limp or missing limb they are deemed unworthy of receiving assistance thereby filling some people with this uncontrollable need to call someone, anyone, to make sure that this atrocity is immediately halted.

It’s bad enough when strangers report other strangers out of anger or jealousy, but it happens amongst friends and neighbors too. It’s as if one person claiming they need financial help and the judgment by their “friend” that they don’t is an insult that can only be corrected by turning them in. The “friend” sneaks around taking pictures of the afflicted neighbor not hobbling down the sidewalk, or lifting a grocery bag that looks heavy. Notes are taken and an unofficial record of their activity is compiled through the help of some nifty new binoculars…all in the effort of making a strong claim that their side of the story is the correct one and the neighbor should cease receiving help immediately.  All I can think of is “wouldn’t their time be better spent elsewhere??”  I mean if they truly want to make the world a better place, couldn’t they use that energy to volunteer at a shelter or a community “clean-up” or I don’t know….actually helping their less fortunate neighbors?

I realize that welfare and disability fraud are unfair acts that ultimately cost all of the taxpayers (personally I think the hand-outs corporations get are a lot worse). And I know there are those who abuse the system. However, I question the motives of people who look for a reason to turn someone in and then claim they’re just doing their civic duty.  Especially when it’s a neighbor or worse yet, someone you previously called friend. Is this altruism in action?  Not likely.  More like spite.  Spite because for some reason they don’t like seeing a person receiving the assistance. Spite because as the unofficial neighborhood protector they feel like nothing should happen unless it’s approved by them. And when it comes to community affairs (like parking your car in your own yard or painting your house a certain color), what purpose could there be to turn this person in?  Certainly not altruistic.

 

what "neighborhood watch" looks like at my house

what “neighborhood watch” looks like at my house