Thursday, December 10, 2009

everyone's a david

Sometimes PR firms send releases to publications having nothing to do with its coverage area, which is how I wound up receiving a release titled: David vs Goliath: Tobacconists Condemn Irresponsibility of W.H.O. Report on Smoking, which was sent to my email.

It's an odd release that portrays the World Health Organization as a tool of corporations and the
International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers as a struggling group of mom and pop stores compelled to battle the unfair claims of W.H.O. The oddest part of the press release is that it says the W.H.O.'s report is full of "wild, unsupportable claims” but refuses to state what those claims are, claiming that repeating these claims would just give them more coverage. Most organizations would try and refute unsupportable claims, but the IPCPR seems to feel that saying the report is wrong is quite enough.

It fascinates me that the release positions the IPCPR as a David battling the World Health monster. And there is a curmudgeon quality to the release that does suggest it is the work of a small, rather unpolished PR firm reduced to quoting angry, unpersuasive statements from its employer like "
What would you expect from an organization that refuses to hire people who smoke?”

Yes, tobacco is under siege, but if it's a David, it's a David that was once a Goliath and has got cut down to size. The approach is similar to that of the Republicans, who are acting like a feisty little group of rebels even though they have run this country for most of the last thirty years (of course, they even acted like that when they were in power). But for me, a Goliath who has hit hard times is never a David.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

baby experts

When I was a baby, my mother did what many mothers did; she bought books on how to raise babies. Parents do this because they're afraid of screwing up.

My mom took the advice of Dr. Spock, who at that time told parents that if their children started crying in their crib, you should just let them cry it out. Picking them up would make them soft, dependent crybabies. Your child needed to learn to deal with life right away.

And so, according to my mom, she would stand there, watching me cry, wracked with guilt but afraid that picking me up would lead to my ruin.

Years later, I hear, Dr. Spock said oops, he was wrong. Apparently, if you just leave babies alone when they cry they feel abandoned and forsaken and develop trust issues and have less of a bond with their parents, something like that.

So I figured that had all been settled, until today when I was watching an episode of the TV series Being Erica in which a parent talked about "self-soothing."

I looked it up. Also known as Ferberizing, the idea is, guess what? Let your baby cry it out.

Well, it's a little more detailed than that. The idea is to train your baby to sleep through the night, so you put him to bed, let him cry a few minutes, go in, pat him but don't pick him up, leave for a while longer, come back if he's still crying but still don't pick him up and so on. Eventually you've got your baby trained to go to sleep and leave you alone.

I imagine this does work, because once the baby realizes his parents aren't going to do anything for him when he's upset, he'll learn to deal with it. I'm sure if you stop feeding a six-year-old he'll figure out how to use a chair to get to the cabinets and find food and make himself meals too; children can learn to do a lot of things if they have to. The question is, how does this all affect the child's trust of its parents and his sense of whether he's got support in life or is on his own.

Would I be a different person today if my mom had picked me up when I cried? I have no idea. But I do think that parents might be better off listening to their instincts than reading a book. If you feel like picking your baby up when he cries, you should probably go ahead and do it. If you don't mind the crying, ignore him. But quit reading books on the subject, because in ten years there will be a whole new set of books that say totally different things.

Perhaps there should just be a golden rule for babies; treat babies the way you would want to be treated if you were a baby. Or perhaps the rule should be; parents should only do as much as they can do without losing it and crying themselves. I don't know; I'm not going to have any babies so it's not a decision I'll ever have to make.

But as someone who doesn't know enough to make an informed decision, I still think there's something a little creepy about this self-soothing thing.