Over the holidays, the Duggar family found itself the subject of criticism—once again. Derick Dillard, husband of Jill Duggar, posted a picture of their son, Israel, posed in front of Christmas presents with the caption “Israel loved his 1st Christmas.”
The firestorm came because of what is in the background of this picture. Lurking behind young Israel (what I would guess to be a good foot and a half away) is an electrical outlet. The horrors! Never mind that at least one parent is immediately beside the child, taking a picture and watching his every move. This outlet does not appear to have a safety cover on it (although the picture quality is so poor that it cannot be said with certainty). Instantly Instagram followers rushed to judgment and weighed in with accusations: “Dumb idiots, you can’t even take care of a baby… Neglectful parents… Immature and inexperienced parenting… I suspect abuse.”
Can we all put our big-girl panties on and chill for a second? These days, marketers slap a sticker with the word “safety” on it and moms and dads are duped into buying every product in the aisle with the false sense that no harm will ever befall their child. Per my own pediatrician’s counsel, “Baby proofing really just slows them down,” with no guarantees. Even the most safety-conscious family will eventually have to go beyond the confines of their own home, where the kids are sure to encounter uncovered electrical outlets. Today at my doctor’s office there was a large sign instructing parents to “not leave children unattended” with the image of a toddler playing with an electrical outlet. Should the safety police run into every home and office building in America and cover up the outlets? Or is there a smarter way?
How about just teaching children to obey their parents? Groundbreaking stuff here, I know. When our son was first exploring his mobility we started to work very intently on teaching him to obey our voices—and to obey them the first time. “Don’t touch” meant “don’t touch.” It did not mean “think about touching it for a few more seconds.” It did not mean “wait until Mom turns around and then sneak a feelsky.” It meant “do not touch that, now or ever.” Reminders were needed and, of course, a one-year-old needs continual instruction and observation, but most hazards were not a real concern in our home because we worked diligently to teach our son to obey the first time.
Did it ever occur to the Insta-trolls that maybe, instead of neglect, Jill and Derick Dillard are actually engaging in a better parenting style? That instead of padding their walls and keeping Israel under lock and key—safe from electrical outlets—they are actually doing their son a huge favor and working to keep him safe in any situation their family encounters? Are we really that far gone from common-sense parenting that the only comments we have to offer involve calling the authorities on this family?
In our home, we’re sticking with common sense. We are committed to using our critical thinking skills and communicating to our child the best course of action when his safety is in jeopardy. Instead of dismissing new safety trends with “I survived without them,” we will take time to look into the new steps and weigh the pros and cons and how they will impact our family.
We can keep our kids safe without accusing each other of felonies. We can make these decisions without squashing the joy a young couple experienced on their first Christmas with their child. Baby-proofing can mean different things for different families as long as parents have thoughtfully considered the ramifications of each decision.