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Nanny Notes from the State of Michigan

The Mackinac Institute is a free market think tank headquartered here in my lovely state of Michigan. Every month or thereabouts I get a large packet of well-produced materials from them--viewpoints, articles, and pamphlets--and I always feel a tad guilty about it. I'm sure I've never done anything for them that would warrant the amount of money these mailings must be costing, and in today's electronic world there is something faintly shocking about the sheer paper bulk I'm receiving. I can't possibly keep it all in a file.

But I usually look through it and often find good stuff. I just usually don't have time to blog everything good that I find. Here is a fun one (and later I plan to post a more serious one) that I recommend you read for a good laugh. It's about all the silly advice sites and articles the State of Michigan is publishing for its (evidently) incompetent and ignorant citizens. A few samples:

[S]tate government is concerned about your health. It offers shrewd advice on meal choices: Don't eat the guts, heads or bones of fish (Michigan Family Fish Consumption Guide). If you are trying to reduce your sugar intake, consume less sugar (Sweet Relief!). While state officials are rarely the model of restraint, they want you to practice self-denial: Eat dried fruit instead of candy, and eat unbuttered bread (Sweet Relief!).


Do not clench your teeth (Living Healthy and Loving It). Instead, "dance to the radio" and "take deep cleansing breaths throughout the day" (Living Healthy and Loving It). To maintain a beautiful yard, keep it watered and fertilized (Spring Gardening Tips for Bedding Plants) - but use less water and fertilizer to help the environment (Clean Air Lawn Care).


Michigan Web sites also provide countless pages of helpful tips on raising young ones. For instance, children occasionally spill when they eat (Child and Adult Care Food Program), and they have trouble sitting still for long periods of time (Why Play in Kindergarten?).

And probably my favorite:

It's also important to remember your offspring. When you take your child in the car, "Place something that you'll need at your next stop — such as a purse, a lunch, gym bag or briefcase — on the floor of the backseat where the child is sitting. This simple act could help prevent you from accidentally forgetting a child" (Hot Weather and Vehicles).

Read the whole thing to lighten up your day.

Comments (24)

Re the last quote, I only wish I could forget my kid.
In all the body of Roman law left to us,[ see Henry Maine] whatever happened to the concept of the paterfamilias? In rough form, no, you couldn't kill your son in latter days, it lasted more than a millennium.
I will pass on reading the "whole thing".
Somewhere there is a moral to be drawn between Caesar's description of Roman legionnaires breaking ranks and climbing over the backs of their front ranks to hack at Gallic tribesmen, and Oprah Winfrey, Michigan mush, and the polluted sponge in the White House discharging his effluvia on the expensive rugs we paid for.

Shockingly, and most dispiriting, this is hailed as progress.
But to the blind the tail is the elephant and the past is yesterday.

May God forgive us and help us.

I don't want to sound alarmist, because it is thankfully an extremely rare thing, but a child's death from accidentally forgetting them in the backseat of the car is something that can theoretically happen to any parent.

I'm hesitant about sharing this link because of the disturbing subject and the main story concerns a woman who guards her remorse with abrasiveness, but the other information in the article could alert someone when they might be at risk.

Well, if she's that abrasive, I won't read it, Step2. But let's just put it this way: The fact that it could theoretically happen to any parent and even has happened on rare occasions doesn't justify a state publication giving advice that makes it sound like we're all _prone_ to it. The advice given is unintentionally comical, because it makes it sound like one's purse or even one's lunch or gym bag is so much more important, so much more a part of a mother or father, than one's own child, that said mother or father must tie remembering the child to remembering the lunch or gym bag. And it makes it sound like this kind of bonding to one's lunch bag more than to one's child is so widespread that putting such advice in the imperative mood as something everyone should do is not insulting but rather important and helpful.

I can't believe I just had to explain all of that. Honestly Step2, just take my word for it--that's a bizarre bit of advice on the state's web site.

Johnt, lighten up, man. I know it's crazy that we have the state publishing all of this and treating us like mental defectives, but the Mackinac guys manage to help you _laugh_ at how ludicrous this all is. I enjoyed reading it to my family over dinner the other evening.

I can't believe I just had to explain all of that.

That makes two of us. As the article explains, what happens in these cases is, for lack of a better phrase, a memory glitch. Something is different from the usual routine, added with lots of stress and distraction, and the parent has a false memory of placing their child in a safe environment. The advice being given by the state is certainly not a mark of attachment, where the parent feels more connection to an item than to their child, it is simply a method of verifying the accuracy of their memory.

Two decades ago, this was relatively rare. But in the early 1990s, car-safety experts declared that passenger-side front airbags could kill children, and they recommended that child seats be moved to the back of the car; then, for even more safety for the very young, that the baby seats be pivoted to face the rear. If few foresaw the tragic consequence of the lessened visibility of the child . . . well, who can blame them? What kind of person forgets a baby?
The wealthy do, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. An accountant. A soldier. A paralegal. An electrician. A Protestant clergyman. A rabbinical student. A nurse. A construction worker. An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist.

Lydia, noted. And I must confess to a habit of airy, if not gassy, pontificating. You will excuse an outlet open to a geezer frustrated by an all to rapid slippage in what is no longer referred to as civilization.

But there I go again.
You are guilty on occasion of the same minor sin, granted with more reason and eloquence.

In my own meager defense laughter is harder and harder to come by. The soft pushes and nudges by the State are accompanied by measures more comprehensive and demanding. The ground free men hold continues to shrink, while contrariwise my crankiness increases.

Your admonition calls to mind Antisthenes ,"One must prepare oneself a fortress in one's own impregnable thoughts".
But laughter, maybe, a little satire never hurt. And even with the Titanic the band played while the ship went down.
Pick a tune, and thanks for the advice.

I just want to share that I wish I could un-read that article. I'm pretty sure I'm going to go insane from the pictures that it's conjuring in my head.

DmL, that must have been the part about how to get mercury off your pet if you happen to spill some on him. Speaking for myself, that's a problem I face all the time. :-)

Step2, if you can't see how patronizing and unintentionally comic that part of the state's publication is, if you think the amused head-shaking on my part can be answered by pointing to stories of tragedies, then I'm afraid I can't help you. We could all spend all our lives engaging in obsessive-compulsive behaviors invented for us by our Betters to avoid Terrible Things that have Happened to Other people, and what we'd end up with would be a sad pseudo-religion of safety, as directed by Big Brother. I hope to avoid that fate, myself, while also managing not to forget my children in the car.

It's at least mildly amusing as well that by the very account of the article you quote, part of the problem here is caused by a law of unintended consequences situation arising out of another Safety First fad--passenger-side air bags, followed by the need to put babies in the back seat. Which in turn created a forgotten-baby problem. As Thomas Sowell says, there are no solutions in life, only trade-offs and compromises. That's why it might be better if Nanny State didn't rush to apply the most recent idea in decreasing car deaths, etc., etc., to everybody and his uncle. Individuals could make their own decisions about tradeoffs and compromises rather than having one would-be solution imposed on everybody.

I must say that I'm beginning to wish for a couple of vocal ordinary conservatives among my readers. So far the commenting people on this thread fall into the camp of conservatives who are finding it difficult to appreciate the humor and liberals (one of those) who aren't able to appreciate the humor. The article to which I link is clever and well-written and heaps well-deserved, amusing scorn upon the High Priests of Telling Everybody What to Do About Every Detail of Life. Is it really possible that none of my readers are able to appreciate this for what it is and just enjoy it?

I hope not. "If you are attacked, stay calm and continually evaluate your options as the assault progresses (Crime Prevention Tips)."
had me laughing almost as much as a 'what to do in case a bear attacks' brochure I read once.
It said to play dead, and then, if the bear continues attacking, 'this could be a predatory attack; fight back vigorously.'

Oh, Lydia, I enjoy it! :)

The problem, of course, is that folks who enjoy something don't always bother to say so -- they just enjoy it. Whereas those who have a problem of one sort or another are always wanting to share. Human nature at work -- teachers, for example, always hear from the parents who are unhappy with what they do, but the parents who think they did a fine job -- not so much.

My lit students always ask at some point why so much literature is so depressing. I've taken to answering something like this: when everything is going well, what's your first impulse? Run and write it down? They get it then. :)

Thanks guys. :-)

I loved the paragraph that began, "As much as you may enjoy a pointlessly long and jarring commute..."

That's an interesting point you raise, Beth, about how depressing literature is. A whole interesting topic. I think in some ways that was less true during the Renaissance. Shakespeare (comedies, not only tragedies), Milton, Spenser, and those chaps. I think the "more often depressing than not" designation may apply most of all to lyric poetry. After all, even in the Renaissance sonnet sequence much time is spent wailing about the lady's hard-heartedness. :-)

The sad part about the baby-forgetting is that it happens so frequently here in Texas. Five or six times every summer, and it's big on the news.

Barring that, the rest of the article *was* a rip. I just wish I could find the original articles from whence these came. I'm sure there are more gems hidden here and there.

Well, comedy excepted, of course. :) But much of literature is about exploring suffering; as the narrator of James Baldwin's short story "Sonny's Blues" puts it: art is about "how we suffer, how we are delighted, and how we may triumph." Even delight in this broken world comes within the context of suffering. And even redemptive literature is often "depressing" in its honest exploration of suffering, and of course a fair amount of literature shows us a world with great suffering and little hope -- "Ah, love, let us be true to one another," Arnold says in "Dover Beach," right after he's said that there is no love in the world . . .

This semester in my intro class, in the fiction section, we've read "The Story of An Hour" (desire for independence crushed), "Hills like White Elephants" (pressure to have an abortion), "The Rocking Horse Winner" (destructiveness of materialism), "A Good Man is Hard to Find" (consequences of superficial Christianity), "The Littoral Zone" (effects of adultery and divorce), "Flowering Judas" (isolation by refusing to love), and "Sonny's Blues" (the suffering of the artist and the suffering of blacks in Harlem in the early 20th century). Several of these offer a redemptive vision, it's true (though not all), but the suffering they explore is hard to read. It's especially hard for young people who've been brought up on either little literature or only easy, "happy" literature (maybe for a lot of the girls "inspirational" novels), and who are young enough that for many real suffering is still an abstract concept. And we hit them with harsh depictions of what sin does. They start reeling a bit after three or four stories, understandably. :)

I of course do not find such literature "depressing," really, because I know how to read it, how to react to it, how to learn from it, how to appreciate its literary value, how to love its honesty, and so on. But one has to learn to respond this way . . .

And there's a nice little thread-jack for you -- but at least you started it! Can you tell I've been thinking about all this a great deal?! I shall go back into lurk mode now and write my curriculum for our second semester comp course. A lovely fall break, indeed . . .

Hmm. Personally I almost wholly agree with Lydia. Almost. The article had a real impact on me, not that I can, in any way, be associated with such circumstances -- circumstances which I would personally reject at very inception. I do have, nonetheless, some identity with the accused. I associate with this tendency to "forget" this or that when circumstances create a scenario that preclude it. But, I mean, for God sakes, we're talking about a dependent child here! If, in any way, this child's immediaate welfare becomes less important to us than its extended welfare, then, I think we might want to re-think our prorities.

@Lydia - I only wish that were true... I just have to keep telling myself that it's already over... whooo... deep breaths...

Re: vocal conservatives getting the humor - Sorry, it was funny, I just totally forgot about it after reading horror after horror in the other article linked. I should probably go read it after following the wrong link last night.

@Beth - Re: literature - Don't most young readers think "happy" stuff is boring?

@All - Re: unthinkable horrors - There seems to be a common thread too, where they, in their heads, "assign responsibility" of the child to someone else fallaciously. Speaking from experience, even though my child is in another state right now, I am still very much in my alert, "I'm responsible for this person" mode. I don't understand how you could ever, EVER think "oh, she's at the sitter's I don't have to think about her." You are still responsible for that child.

The article seems to have a main theme of "no prosecution," which I agree with, and I also noted the connection between the nanny-state regulations and the increased prevalence of these incidences. I have half a mind to leave my windows rolled down permanently, or disable the airbags and put her in the front.

DmL: "Happy" literature is "cheesy" -- but they'd rather read cheesy than depressing, if they must read at all! :)

"...eat unbuttered bread."

Well, that's not going to happen. As Julia Child advised, "If you don't have whipped cream, use buttuh."

"It's also important to remember your offspring."

Are they referring to my children? I've never stood them before anyone and said, "Allow me to introduce my offspring."

I don't think _all_ happy literature is "cheesy," Beth, but it's too early in the morning for me to counterexample.

DmL, I'm sorry, I didn't know which story you meant. Yes, the WaPo article is disturbing. I finally read it. I'm sure Step2 and everybody else will now dredge up example after example to the contrary of what I am about to say, but I couldn't help noting that as far as I could tell, in every single instance in that story the plan was to drop the baby off on the way somewhere else. That does actually help to explain what happened. Baby is asleep, and the really fatal first act of forgetting is forgetting to drop the baby off. When you get where you are going, you wouldn't normally have the baby with you anyway, so you get out and go on your normal daily way. That actually explains things quite a bit. In a different whole type of lifestyle, nearly any time you take the baby out in the car with you, you are actually expecting to have him with you at your final destination. The fact that the original Michigan State advice thingy is addressing presumptively working parents planning to drop their children at daycare on the way to work also helps to explain the instructions ("put your lunch bag in the back seat," etc.). No, I'm not saying it can't happen to at-home moms or that these poor parents (whom I am moved to pray for, the stories were so horribly sad) are bad parents for taking their children elsewhere on their way to work. I'm just saying that I can now see how dropping your baby somewhere else on the way to somewhere where you won't have your baby, day after day, month after month, in a super-busy, stressful life, provides opportunities that don't arise when the baby is always either home with somebody or going for a (short) _whole journey_ to the store or church or whatever with somebody. Cell phones in the car also not good.

Oh, Lydia -- I didn't mean that *I* think that! My students use that as an accusation against anything that doesn't hold the angst du jour. Yes, they are inconsistent. It's the nature of 19-year-olds! There is a good deal of what I would call "happy" literature that is not "cheesy" but simply lovely and uplifting. But the interesting thing is that if it's honest literature it will still include elements of suffering, without pretending that it doesn't exist or that it's going to just "go away" (such as is the formula for the Christian "inspirational" novel). The emphasis is what makes the difference. Too early for me, too, to come up with examples, and besides I'm about to leave for a day out with my good friend!

That's a good point Lydia. As a stay at home dad, my child will always be arriving with me at my final destination. Just one more good reason to add to the bunches and bunches of reasons my wife and I decided there would always be a parent home.

I'd add a longer comment, but I just realized that I've left my child in the parking lot of WalMart since Saturday!

Boy is my face red...

Looks like the post is down can anyone provide a re-up? Thanks!

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