“Listen,” I say pleadingly. “You’ve got it all wrong. You’re not going in a drawer or in the garbage. I wish you were not made of Chinese plastic and that your ears were a color other than magenta. But you are loved, and it doesn’t matter what the doctors say. She will love you, too. I even have a document here that says one day you will be real.”
I am talking to a stuffed rabbit, one who is going to sleep with our three-month-old daughter as soon as she graduates from our black-market Fisher Price Rock ’n’ Play to a small crib. The bunny, whose name is Towel, has been in our family for several years and his first owner looks ready to move on from him. (Towel has been spending his nights in my office lately, but I get the sense that my habit of playing the Karajan Schönberg-Berg-Webern set at unbelievable volume till well past midnight is interfering with his beauty sleep.)
Forgive me for spreading misinformation, but like most parents until roughly the day before yesterday, I know that my children are about as likely to die from stuffed animals as they are from flesh-eating bacteria. You wouldn’t learn this from reading documents put out by the American Academy of Pediatrics, a pseudo-scientific organization that now exists mostly for the purpose of shaking down physicians who don’t believe that adolescent girls should undergo double mastectomies.
Because of their extraordinary influence, the utilitarian scolds at the AAP have convinced at least two generations of parents that in addition to no stuffies or blankies in their beds, wee ones are not allowed to sleep with their mothers, as they have done in virtually every recorded culture in the history of our species. (Christian art is full of depictions of this horrifying act of child abuse.) The AAP was, briefly, down on pacifiers, and it would not surprise me if in the next decade they came out against both tricycles and monkey bars, both of which, I can confirm, are indeed the cause of numerous injuries.
Perhaps because they don’t want the anti-vaccination agency known as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to secure a scientific monopoly on the memory-holing of facts, the AAP was in the news recently when it was reported that a number of studies on the importance of facial recognition for children’s development had disappeared from its website. This was not intentional, the group claims, and it had nothing to do with the fact that it happened at the same time the AAP was making the absurd argument that there was no evidence that forcing children to wear useless masks emblazoned with Paw Patrol characters could be bad for them.
For families like ours and those of many of our friends, the gibberish promoted by the AAP and the rest of the pediatric establishment is a source of amusement. But I find it hard not to think that for many young people it is simply another reason to find the prospect of raising children horrifying. Who knew that you could kill these little creatures by giving them toys, by not waking them up 16 times in the middle of the night to “correct” their preferred sleeping posture (all of ours have slept on their stomachs from the time they learned to roll over), by letting them sleep, as our baby does, in a Rock ’n’ Play?
The bogeyman here is, of course, “sudden infant death syndrome,” which is not a syndrome or even a medical term but rather a catch-all for deaths that investigators cannot (or choose not to) explain. (Imagine the police having a corresponding category called “sudden adult death syndrome”: perhaps that’s what Jeffrey Epstein died of.) The vast majority of “SIDS” deaths are unpreventable freak accidents or cases of negligence. (Naturally the AAP has nothing to say about the legalization of cannabis, which is a much more proximate risk to infants and toddlers than, say, teddy bears.)
In the world envisioned by our medical establishment, children begin life outside their mothers’ arms, being weighed like meat. They spend their first few days on this earth being ferried around to doctors’ offices for pointless check-ups and tests and shots they could receive in a year or two without any meaningful risk to their health. They will go to emergency rooms because of sprains or coughs. More to the point, they will not enjoy the company of siblings even remotely close to their own age: raising older children while caring for infants in accordance with AAP guidelines is virtually impossible. The idea that parents might have more than two children (who are themselves several years apart) doesn’t even occur to these people.
The funniest thing about the AAP is that in a culture which places an extraordinary premium on expertise, no one seems to care about the actual experts on parenting: parents, especially those with large numbers of children. Forgive me for not being impressed that a few graduate students ran some regressions and that their findings were distributed in PDF form after consultation with lobbyists.
Towel is leaving my office in three months.
Matthew Walther is editor of The Lamp magazine and a contributing editor at The American Conservative.