I’ve had several rather interesting “debates” with my brother-in-law, a Missouri State Trooper, about Seat-Belt Laws. I’m against them. I always wear my seatbelt, but I resent the fact that if I don’t, some mommy-cop might give me a ticket. I feel the same way about helmet laws for motorcyles and bicycles. I believe I have the right to be stupid if I want to be. Is it any less stupid to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or eat at McDonalds regularly than it is to forego the seatbelt or bike helmet? At what point did the government become my parent?
My brother-in-law (who is for the laws) reminds me that if I had to scrape the remains off a highway of some hapless fool who hadn’t been wearing a seatbelt, I’d feel differently and he might be right (though I doubt it.) He mentions that injuries caused by unbelted accidents raise the cost of healthcare, etc…, but I refer back to argument A then and ask where we are going to draw that line.
A few years ago, I experienced a new intrusion by the “nanny-state” mentality creeping into our culture. I took my son, who at the time was around 12, to receive a physical for athletics at a new pediatrician. It was to be a routine appointment and there were no major issues that needed to be discussed. Because we were new patients of this particular pediatric group, we had to fill out the customary first-time-patient forms and paperwork.
After a while, the doctor came in and started asking the standard questions of Why are you here? and Is there anything I need to know? But then, the doctor started a line of questioning, that as it progressed, became more intrusive. Among the questions I was asked was, Do you have smoke detectors? How often do you check the batteries? Do you own a gun? Where do you keep it? Do you require your children to wear seatbelts? Do you require them to wear seatbelts every time they get in the car? Do you require your kids to wear helmets when bicycling?
I later fumed with myself for having divulged information that was, quite frankly, none of the doctors business. I did not go to him for safety counseling. He is not my pastor or priest. To whom would he or could he share this information? As I shared my experience with one of my friends, he told me that they too had been grilled by this same pediatric group, but they took it a step further with his son. After asking all the questions I mentioned before, the doctor turned to his son and asked Does your dad ever spank you?
I kicked myself for having answered even one of the personal questions I was asked. But for the record, Yes, I have smoke detectors. I check the batteries regularly. Yes, I own guns. Yes, I keep them out of reach of my children. Yes, we wear seatbelts — every time. And no, keeping bicycle helmets on my four kids just doesnt happen. And Im sure some might be horrified to realize that my kids also jump on a trampoline, climb trees, eat red meat and dont always finish their vegetables. Do I need a lecture on that also?
I had intended to change doctors, but didn’t get around to it and low and behold it was physical time once again. So I again escorted my now pubescent son to the doctor where I was met by a nurse who told me that the doctor would like for me to wait in the waiting room during the examination. I smirked at the nurse and told her THAT wouldn’t be happening. She pressed the point and I pressed back. I won.
The doctor came in and took out his clipboard once again and started his general health related questions. I steeled myself because I knew what was coming next and he didn’t let me down. He started asking ever more intrusive questions about my son’s personal life, his relationship with his friends and then asked how he got along with me. I stepped in then. “He’s not going to answer that question,” I stated. “Why not?” the doctor shot back. “Because it’s none of your business.”
Then I launched on him. I said, “You also aren’t going to ask me about anything else that isn’t medical. You aren’t going to ask me about whether or not I own guns and where I keep them.” He denied that he was going to ask me about guns and I reminded him that he had asked me about it at our last visit and that I had been ticked off about it ever since. He denied strongly that he had asked me “gun questions”. I assured him he had and my son piped up and confirmed that he had indeed done so.
He was obviously miffed and I’m sure he pegged me as some sort of fundamentalist, home-schooling, right-wing, Republican nutjob, but frankly, Scarlett, I couldn’t care less. I wish the altercation had ended there, but it didn’t.
He announced that he wanted to give my 13-year old son a shot to prevent a form of Hepatitus cause by sexual contact. I told him that we wouldn’t be needing the shot because he wasn’t having sex and wouldn’t be having sex until marriage. Of course, he wanted to argue this as well. He rolled his eyes at me and snorted under his breath and said, “You can’t control that.” I looked him dead in the eyes and said, “I’m going to give it a pretty good shot.” He pressed the point further reminding me that I couldn’t be with him all the time. I wanted to pretty well come unpasted on him by this time, but ended up with simply saying, “I’ll be clear. He’s not getting the shot.” I went on to inform him that the interrogation was now over and that he could proceed with the physical which he did only after writing some more notes on his “intimidating” little clipboard. (It’s going to take more than a clipboard to intimidate me. I’m a former school principal and I’ve wielded the awesome “Permanent Record” file quite efficiently myself and know that it’s more bark than bite.)
Since that date, I take my son to my own personal doctor who is a believer and understands exactly my concerns. (If you live in Charlotte, NC, his name is Dr. Scott Moss and he’s an OUTSTANDING physician.) I have, to this point, continued to go with him to the doctor, but now that he’s 16, I’m cutting him loose.
So where does the whole loss of privacy and the interest of the government and other “over-seers” end? Am I a bad parent if I don’t read to my kids at night? If I don’t cover all the plug-ins? If I don’t have a radon detector? If I drive over the speed-limit? If I let them have carbonated drinks? If I force them to go to church? If I don’t check to see if they flossed? If I require them to attend a Christian school?
Once we decide that others have a right to control our decisions as a parent or to intrude on the privacy of our home, where does the line begin and end? Who gets to draw the line? How will it be enforced?
Here’s the bottom line — parents need to protect and fight for their rights to worship God, earn their living and raise their kids according to the dictates of their conscience. Yes…some people probably shouldn’t breed — but that’s not the business of a government or a physician or a bureaucrat.
What will we do when some over-educated zealot tells us that spanking should be a criminal offense? What if they say that requiring a child to attend church with you after the age of 12 is emotional abuse? What if the government decided that you must have a license to procreate? (Don’t laugh — several academics have called for this already.) Where will it end?
Bit by bit, we are seeing further intrusiveness on the part of the government into our private lives, our associations, our family and our decisions. If we don’t push back, we will run the risk of losing control of the big decisions.
I’m not trying to start a revolution. I am suggesting that we parents need to be vigilant about glibly handing over our responsibilities and rights to someone else because they have a few degrees behind their name or are wearing a white coat or say “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” Smile politely, speak firmly and say, “Thanks….but NO thanks.”
Be a good parent. Be a safe parent. But be a proactive parent — you are still the boss for now.