I’ve had babies on my mind this week. Not mine. Stranger babies.
Most of them loved. Some not.
There’s Emerson, a 5 ½ month old from London, Ontario who is the subject of a You Tube video gone viral. Emerson’s reaction when his mother blows his nose just never gets old. (This video will show up at Emerson’s wedding in twenty or thirty years.)
I have to say, I wonder a bit at whether Emerson is truly terrified and if so, why we laugh. I choose to believe instead that he’s simply startled by an unfamiliar noise but because it’s his mother making the noise and she’s safe, then it instantly becomes hysterically funny. Or he’s just hysterical. Emerson reminded me of Laughing Baby who was viral on You Tube a couple of years ago. Just laughed and laughed and laughed. It was infectious. Adorable. Ridiculously cute.
The second baby is the baby on a television show called, “Raising Hope”. This is a really silly show. Baby Hope is the product of a brief union between her teen father and her serial killer mother. The mother is eliminated in the first episode, via electric chair and teen dad discovers he’s become a proud papa. A lot of dark humour in Raising Hope. Papa Jimmy has parents who somehow manage to get through life but who are frankly, inept. They all live with Jimmy’s grandmother who suffers from dementia. Granny is played by Cloris Leachman. You can imagine. There are several equally strange and demented secondary characters who wander in and out of each half hour episode. It’s clear from Hope’s expressions – ones I expect would be shared by Emerson – that she is really the only sane one in the bunch. She cracks me up. Adorable? You bet.
(If you’re curious, click here: http://www.fox.com/raisinghope/ )
Baby #3 was a visiting baby here at our Arizona condo. Just ten months old, she arrived with a bad cold and an eye infection and moved in next door with her parents, her 4 year old sister and her grandma. There was a fair bit of intermittent crying from Baby #3 but really, under the circumstances, wouldn’t you? As the eye infection and the cold began to clear, she became pretty sunny. And again, adorable, especially in her little St. Patrick’s day pop top with bright green shamrocks and bright yellow bubble pants.
I was thinking about these loved babies and smiling when I happened to read a story on the front page of the newspaper. A heartbreaking story about a baby who suffered terribly during her short life. Whose parents were aware she’d stopped breathing but waited a few hours before getting around to calling 911. Her parents and her grandmother have all been charged in connection with her death. The writer of this story apologized to this little girl because the story had been under-reported. People were more interested in hearing about the current senator scandal here and the sports scores and any other bits and pieces of the daily news, from the salacious to the mundane.
As I read this story with tears rolling down my cheeks, I remembered a similar story going back many years. When my son was barely two and my daughter a few months old, a little boy was beaten steadily for several days before finally succumbing to his injuries. For months the image of that little boy stayed with me and would set me to sobbing when I least expected it. I cried because of his pain, because of his confusion, because of the failure of the people who were supposed to take care him to meet that responsibly and
because he never knew love. I cried for him when I cradled my own babies close. To this day, when I think about him, I still shed tears. As I’m doing now.
My son who is now 31 is a social service worker. He’s currently working with young people who’ve experienced trauma or abuse or severe loss or neglect, or all of the above. Who are angry. Who act out. Who don’t understand a world that has allowed them to experience their kind of pain. And who’ve found themselves living in group homes under the care of the state because nobody wants them.
Most anyone can bring children into the world. Not everyone has the skills, sometimes the ability, to be a parent. There are no requirements. No tests. No licensing. Which means lots of people have children who shouldn’t. It’s considered a right. I wonder about that.
My son is engaged in work I don’t think I could do. I’m proud of him for choosing it. Yet it’s so undervalued. He told me recently the government was cutting back on funding again for this kind of care and he didn’t know what that would mean either for the kids or for him. He barely earns enough as it is to get by. I worry about his ability to make a life for
himself, to have a partner and a family, to be a self-supporting member of society. Does any of this make sense?
This leads me around to some of the political decisions that are making headlines right now. Decisions to roll back or eliminate rights, to cut education and social services. Here in Arizona, the state decided recently to cut funding for people awaiting transplants. They
are not cost-effective, apparently, because the success rate is low.
So what does this have to do with Emerson and Hope and Baby #3? They are the lucky ones. They are babies who, at least as far as I can tell, will have a chance at life. Because they were lucky enough to be born into families who love them and care for them. And those babies who are not? What of them? Do we have no responsibility? Do we simply abandon them? We appear to be electing political leaders who think that’s okay.
I am past raising babies of my own although as much as my children roll their eyes when I say this, they will always be my babies. I have grandchildren now who are growing before my eyes and who are some of the lucky ones. I will do my best to teach them what a just and fair society is. And what we need to do to have one. To stand up. To pay attention to the world around them. To be their brother’s and sister’s keeper. To make themselves
heard. To make good choices for who should lead. Perhaps to lead themselves.
- Baby Emerson latest Canadian YouTube sensation (theglobeandmail.com)