It nearly drove me over the edge, but a new study proves I was
right. Attachment parenting is, in fact, good for babies. For
the uninitiated, attachment parenting is an approach to infant
care developed by a sadist who, playing on new-mothers' fears,
prescribed never putting the baby down, not even to take a dump.
The new study measured how long babies cry and found that those
who are held for 16 hours a day tend to cry less overall than
those who are left to comfort themselves. What the study doesn't
say is how long the mothers cried.
Even when I was bleary-eyed and on my knees begging my husband
to either kill or commit me, I didn't put the damn baby down.
Why? Because an earlier study had shown that babies who are held
a lot in their first year "bond" with their mothers
and develop better immune systems and go on to become NASCAR
heroes with their pictures on cereal boxes or something like
I am a slave to studies. Occasionally I'll make a decision on
my own, like when the second child came along and I tossed him
into his crib with a ham sandwich and a TV set and told him I'd
come back when he could talk. But typically, I am the one anxiously
clearing the pantry shelves of fats one day and filling them
with Snackwells only to learn it was the refined flour that was
killing me in the first place. Back came the fats, but not the
trans fats. Out went the pretzels and in came the wonder foods
--- oatmeal, blueberries, and pomegranates.
And why not follow the latest scientific findings? We are lucky
to have all this data at our fingertips. Let's use it. Not everyone
sees it my way, however. Recently, when I was explaining how
important it is to eat dinner together --- lower juvenile delinquency
and drug use, higher grades, etc. --- my kids fought back.
"Studies show, studies show," my 9-year-old said recently
"Why don't you take a chance," the snarky teen, the
one I once held for 24 hours a day, added, "and actually
learn something on your own?"
I'm not the only one being held hostage by scientific studies.
For most Americans, it started with cholesterol in the '70s.
Early studies correlated high cholesterol with clogged arteries
and heart attacks, and we haven't been the same since. My father,
in fact, had had his first heart attack in his mid-20s, so when
a doctor told him to watch his diet, he signed right on.
Suddenly all food was suspect. My childhood was a roller-coaster
ride of embracing and then rejecting the same foods --- margarine,
eggs, pasta --- as new studies contradicted old ones, showing
how healthy or, alternately, unhealthy these things were. And
we weren't the only ones watching our diets. I remember the ads
run by the panicking meat and milk industries that feared their
products would be made obsolete.
Fast forward to today. We're all in thrall of each new scientific-sounding
health report, a trend not lost on the drug companies. In fact,
there's even --- surprise surprise --- a new study that addresses
this phenomenon. A recent report shows that pharmaceutical companies
are systematically inventing diseases in order to sell more pills.
Playing on our desire to first medicalize and then improve our
lives, these companies exaggerate rare or mild diseases or characteristics
for profit. For example, according to the report, a charley horse
is now "restless leg syndrome," and ordinary shyness
is "social anxiety disorder." And yup, you can buy
medicine for both.
I'm a little behind in my reading. I need to integrate a whole
pile of new studies into my family's life. Caffeine makes you
smarter and a better listener, I just learned, so from now on
I'll make my kids chug a Red Bull right before the school bus
comes. I've temporarily lost my battle against video games because
the children found a study that showed that game-playing surgeons
have better outcomes in operations. I need to find an even newer
study that shows that video games cause brain death or small
For now, I'm sticking with screaming and threatening. And how
lovely for me that a recent study shows that people perform better
in an atmosphere of fear. When it's chore time, I'm breaking
out the whip. I'm sure my brother will love that. He once compared
my parenting style to something you'd find in a "19th-century
British orphanage." Fine, I used to think, he can let his
urchins run wild in the streets for all I care. But when he learns
--- as I just did --- that a recent study shows that strict parenting
can lead to obese children, I'll never hear the end of it.
There are lots of stupid studies, like the one showing that
macho men who handle lingerie or see sexy pictures lose their
bargaining skills. Duh. My husband's favorite study has to be
the one that found that ill people feel worse when their sympathetic
spouse walks into the room. If the spouse is not sympathetic,
there is no increase in pain experienced by the sick one. If
a little bit of neglect is a good thing, my husband figures,
a lot is even better.
For now I'll just keep smiling; even fake smiles can improve
your mood, you know. If that's not enough, I'll zap that forehead
crease --- the one that wrinkles when you frown --- with Botox.
It'll make me happier. I have the report to prove it.