‘If It Bleeds, It Leads’ & Parenting

I’m wholly content if my family never gets their 15 minutes of fame.
Thanks for stopping by ParentalGRIT, where today we discuss how much I loathe myself when I give in to temptation and…turn on the news.  No, this has nothing to do with politics but everything to do with headlines and attention and the inescapable reality of evil and misfortune that exists in the world.   Because, as it turns out, turning on the news (or reading it online) basically equates to giving consent to see and read about all the terrible things that happen to kids on a daily basis.  Gross.  I always feel like I have more than enough terrors to protect my daughters from until I turn on the news and read that some 2 year old in Pakistan swallowed a fork or something and I ban all forks in my household to compensate.  It is increasingly brutal for parents in the informed, digital age to constantly be met with stories of child deaths, abductions, accidents, and the like.  Every time I allow myself to check a news site, I generally regret it for a full 45 minutes afterward.  Welcome to 21st century parenting, I guess.

Last week, I went to our local news station’s website most days to check on an impending storm’s progress.  Big mistake.  On consecutive days, I was met with three children locking themselves in an unplugged freezer and suffocating, two parents being arrested for their 18 month-old’s fentanyl death, a continuing story on the abduction of a Wisconsin teenager, and a two year old getting locked out of her own house in negative wind chills and freezing to death on her own front porch (a quick Google search would bring any of these stories up, if you must).  This naturally led me to the following question: WHY THE HELL DID I WILLINGLY SIGN UP FOR THIS PARENTING NONSENSE?  This bizarre thing happened when I first had my oldest daughter…I actually developed a little affection for the little critter!  It turns out that I’d like to keep my girls safe and protected, which is hard enough to do within my own walls but now I have to worry about predators and accidents and a vile world while the news basically tells me I might as well give up now.

The folly of “It If Bleeds, It Leads” reporting is that it is incredibly unlikely that a child will ever be abducted or assaulted.  Generally speaking, crime rates have been falling for decades while access to ever-improving medical care in the case of accidents is increasing; historically speaking, this is the absolute best time—safety-wise—to parent a child.  Polio and leprosy aren’t seeping through the gutters and a random rattlesnake or dysentery battle on the plains isn’t happening either.  The chances are astronomical that my daughters will ever face most of the heinous threats I see on the news and worry about frequently.  Yet all it takes a single case.  A single accident.  Perhaps it is a 1-in-a-billion chance…but what about the parents of that one child?

It took a winter storm to drive me to a newsfeed last week, as I can already hear many people suggesting “Why watch it at all?”  I really love that sentiment as I always feel worse after tuning into any news station; believe me, I consume less media than 95% of the people out there.  I hate the negativity, I hate the finger pointing, and I hate the highlighting of everything going wrong in the world, whether it has to do with parents abusing a toddler or the doomsday projections ever-present in our politics.  The problem, however, with bailing entirely on news content altogether, is that as a parent there are certain things I wouldn’t mind knowing.  Seeing the recall on my daughter’s car seat would be beneficial.  Knowing large swaths of the country are being poisoned by tainted vegetables is a pretty good thing to know.   And, as I was doing last week, I need to know when the weather is getting rough—God help my wife and I if we’re ever snowed in before our grocery run with our girls screaming “SNAX!  MORE SNAX PLZ!” until our ears start to bleed.  Anyways, it’s not as easy as simply abstaining from news. If you want to capture that minuscule little sliver of good or worthwhile information, you have to be willing to be saturated with all the bad.

Before actually having kids, I always assumed I’d be one of those parents that would let my kids run wild with adventure and not go running after each and every scraped knee; somewhere along the line though, I changed and morphed into an overprotective ninny constantly worrying about any and all dangers my daughters might face.  I do recognize, however, that this is definitely not in their best interests so I will have to work on letting them develop independently at times.  But that’s a tall task in today’s world, when the worst in humanity and the worst in nature bombard your home pages and news feeds in an endless loop as your imagination runs wild on all the terrible things you pray won’t happen.  If you hadn’t noticed, this blog didn’t turn out to be one of those “How to Deal with XYZ as a Parent” but rather devolved into “Whiny Blurb about Not Wanting to Hear About Kids Dying”.  I don’t know what the right solution is, but in the meantime I think I’ll avoid as much of the news as possible.  It’s either that or cover my ears and eyes and whisper “Fake News” to myself repeatedly for another decade until I can get my daughters accepted to the convent…  🙂

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