My mother once told me that when she and my father were starting our family in the mid 1950’s, she never imagined that she would give birth to unhealthy children. As it turns out, she was right: between 1956 and 1964 she gave birth to four healthy babies. My mother’s expectations were not all that unusual: Sixty years ago, most parents expected that their children were probably going to be born healthy and grow up to lead healthy lives.
Most parents believed this despite the fact that the infant mortality rate was 26 per 1000 live births, over four times what it is today. Polio was still a threat, and public swimming pools were regularly closed during the summers of the 1950’s for fear of polio. As if polio weren’t scary enough, twice as many children were dying of Measles as from Polio in 1956. We were years away from an effective Measles vaccine.
Need a SLEEP COACH?
And in an age where car seats were never heard of, and seatbelt laws did not exist, four times as many children died in accidents in 1956 compared today.
And yet, our parents believed we would probably be born healthy and grow up safe and sound. They believed that children were essentially healthy human beings. That is to say, it is an element of their essence that children are healthy. Sure, things would happen: they’d catch the flu, they’d fall down and break a bone, but the children were essentially healthy and they’d recover.
Fast forward to 2016
The mindset that was common among my mother’s peers has been turned on its head. Instead of believing that their children are essentially healthy, it is common today for parents to believe that their children are essentially un-healthy. A version of this mindset is that their children are potentially unhealthy, one sniffle away from certain doom.
The facts suggest the complete opposite. Babies born in 2016 in the United States belong to a cohort of human beings who are the healthiest that have ever lived on planet Earth. That is not just pie-in-the-sky optimism: that is demonstrable fact. And yet parents are more worried than ever that their children are sick or will become sick.
It is the aim of this blog to explore this phenomenon of the “Essentially Unhealthy Child”: to test the truth of the hypothesis; to examine the possible reasons we’ve come to the pass; and to explode the myths that have come to surround the institution of parenthood.
We really that unhealthy?
There are several consequences of The Myth of the Unhealthy Child that I believe are at best counter-productive to the enterprise of raising healthy, happy children. At worst, the consequences threaten our very self-concept of our health and well-being as adults.
I hope you’ll join me on this journey – I look forward to hearing your contributions.