Most of life, and particularly parenting, feels like a negotiating process. We adjust the rules to fit our lives, allowing our kids to do some things that might have surprised an earlier version of ourselves. People who despise pacifiers grow to love them, and then hate them again. People who don’t believe in thumb sucking finally decide it’s not worth the fight and maybe just end up paying for braces down the line. I try to keep Harley from playing with pens or climbing on tables, but I’ve given up on trying to keep her from eating her food off the floor. Most everything is up for discussion or flexibility, but not quite everything. There are some things that simply aren’t up for debate, that aren’t negotiable, and I’m wondering what are your non-negotiables.
For me, it comes down to safety. I mean, life and death sorta safety. I think Mandy from Pregnant in Cape Town put it best when she wrote about carseats for the first time, saying is the alternative your child dying? If your kid wants to wear a weird outfit to school or eat breakfast for dinner, I doubt they will die from it. But failing to strap your munchkin into a carseat? It really is a matter of life and death, even in a low-speed collision. Scary, scary stuff.
I’ve written about carseats before. A lot. Like, really a lot. So I’m not going to bore you going into the facts about carseats or why they’re important. Suffice it to say that Harley always rides strapped in, and I’m so very happy that she does so in her gloriously safe and beautiful Volvo, rear-facing carseat. It’s something that isn’t up for debate. Luckily, Harley is pretty happy in her carseat. She usually falls asleep if we go for long rides, and if it’s a short journey and isn’t near nap time, she happily chatters and sings to herself in the back of the car. No worries. However, even if she screamed and cried the whole ride, I wouldn’t unstrap her. She rides in the carseat, I wear my seatbelt. Every time. No exceptions – it’s not up for debate or negotiation.
There’s another thing I don’t equivocate over, and it’s something that has become more controversial in recent years. Harley does the full schedule of vaccines. Period. She is fully up to date for her age, and will continue to stay up to date. When she was first born, she was too small to be immunized, so we had to wait until the day she was discharged from the hospital for her first injection. Thereafter, we worked with the sister at the clinic to ensure that she received the next vaccines with the correct spacing, and it all balanced out after a few months.
Her most recent shot was for chicken pox, and I must admit I was a bit put off by it. No, there weren’t any side effects, no issues or anything. But it wasn’t an injection that I had as a kid – it didn’t exist when I was growing up. Instead, I actually GOT chicken pox, as was the way back then. I still have a teeny tiny scar on my hand from it (although it really is hard to find). Is the vaccine really necessary? Is it really something worth doing? I mean, sure I don’t want to see my kid get sick with chicken pox, but surely it’s not that bad. Then I remember that the older you get it, the more dangerous it can be. What if she didn’t get chicken pox growing up, and because she wasn’t vaccinated against it she became seriously ill as a teen or adult? Could I live with myself if she suffered through my inaction, if I put her life at risk instead of protecting her?
There are so many things in life that we can’t predict. I didn’t think Harley would come early, but she did. This year has been filled with tragic and otherwise unexpected surprises. It’s the nature of life – we plan as best as we can, but things will always happen that we can’t control. I don’t know what Harley will do in the future, where she will go, what will happen to her. What if she goes somewhere and is exposed to Hepatitis A? Or Diphtheria? Or any number of Pneumococcal diseases or infections? I can’t protect her from the whole world and all the dangers it holds, but I can certainly do my best to keep her healthy and safe.
I heard a terrible story recently from a friend about a family who lost their child who was less than a year old. A tiny baby, an infant really, who died because she wasn’t vaccinated. This isn’t a scare tactic or an old wives tale – this was literally one-degree of separation. I honestly don’t know how I would live with that guilt. What if I withheld a vaccine from Harley and she died? How do you go on knowing that you are responsible for the death of your child? I can’t imagine anything in this world that would be more devastating. And for those who believe that vaccines cause autism, no. No, they really really don’t. The research has been done over and over again and disproved over and over again. But even if it did, do you consider autism a fate worse than death? Here is a video that I think sums up what I’m saying quite nicely.
But beyond carseats and vaccines, there isn’t much else that is non-negotiable for me just yet. Once Harley is old enough to talk, being polite to me and Dean will probably go on that list as well – she’s allowed to get angry with us, but certain behavior and language will not be tolerated. I suppose school will be a non-negotiable when Harley gets older, although there’s also wiggle room with that thanks to the option of home schooling. While there’s the usual day-to-day goals of having her bathe, eat right and all that good stuff, if we skip a day it’s not going to put her life at risk; it’s important but not at the level of a non-negotiable. Please, please tell me what are your non-negotiables? Am I missing out on important things, or is it pretty much life and death safety stuff and everything else has some room for discussion?