Thursday, June 26, 2008

TV Has Sunk to a New Low

"Baby Borrowers" message to teens: Don't get pregnant

NBC and The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy are educating teens about unplanned pregnancy while enchanting them with "The Baby Borrowers," the network's upcoming new reality show featuring five 18-to-20-year-old couples tasked with taking care of tots, toddlers, tweens, teens and elderly folks on camera.
Are you kidding me? What parent in their right mind would hand their children, especially very young children under 3, over to a complete stranger for three days?

After NBC announced it was producing an American version of "The Baby Borrowers," Natural Child Project director Jan Hunt posted an open letter on the organization's site, lashing out against the network "for the present and future emotional health of the babies and young children whose lives will be so strongly affected."

"Sudden removal from their parents and placement with strangers for long periods of time is from a baby's point of view no different than a kidnapping," wrote Hunt. "It has been well-established that babies who suddenly lose their primary caregiver can quickly go into mourning and emotional depression."
When my dad died unexpectedly almost 5 years ago, Viva was only eight months old. I was her primary caregiver, although we did have a babysitter coming in a couple of days a week to watch her for a few hours at a time (for situations like when it took me over three hours to vote in the presidential election). It was December. My dad's funeral was taking place in Boston, more than 2,600 miles away. There was a nationwide flu epidemic and while we did have warm clothes for Viva, having a baby prepared for winter in Los Angeles is a very different proposition from having a baby prepared for winter in Boston. My husband had just started a new job the previous week; fortunately they were sympathetic and gave him a couple of days off. I had to make a decision quickly, and I decided to leave the baby at home with her Daddy. I left on a Saturday night on a red-eye flight, caught up with family Sunday, went to the funeral Monday, and flew back Tuesday morning.

It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Walking out the door with my suitcase, knowing she couldn't understand that I wouldn't be back in ten minutes, was awful. At that point in Viva's life, we had never been separated for more than two or three hours. I cried most of the way to the airport. When I spoke to Sweet Dub over the next three days, he said she was pretty much inconsolable at night and although he could play with her during the day, he could tell she was looking for me. She would occasionally just rest her head on his shoulder, looking completely dspressed and heartbroken. When I returned on Tuesday, she was sitting in the babysitter's lap on the couch. When she caught sight of me, her face lit up, and then she burst into tears. She cried for a long time. It was utterly horrible.

Now, I know my experience is just anecdotal, but it reinforces all the reading I have since done on early childhood development. Viva seems to be pretty well-adjusted and attached to me to a fairly normal degree (whatever that is), but I wonder sometimes if this impacted her more than I know. When she was a toddler -- not that long in her lifetime from when we were first separated -- she wouldn't leave my side when we went to the playground. I would try to show her how to play with other kids, offer them sand toys, the usual, and she would have none of it. She only wanted to play with me. I was amazed to see children younger than she was who would just crawl or toddle away from their parents, completely confident and independent. Admittedly, this clinginess may just have been part of Viva's temperament. Or it may have been rooted in that separation. It's hard to know.

When I left Viva for three days, I left her in the loving care of her dad, with her loving grandparents right down the hall, and her loving babysitter for one of the days I was gone. I did not leave her with a complete stranger. It was nonetheless clearly traumatic for her. (It certainly was traumatic for me. And knowing what I know now, I am inclined to think that if I had it to do over again, I would take her with me.) This new show, based on a British show of the same name, seems cruel to me. What do you think?

P.S. Here are statements from two groups concerned with child welfare, Natural Child Project and Zero to Three. Both condemn the show, with good reason. Read if you want more info.

P.P.S. I'll have a new post up at Belly Overwhelmed later today if you are inclined to read it. No pressure!


Cee in SF said...

I love all things reality, but even I have limits! I did not watch, nor do I intend to watch.

E. said...

No, that just sucks. That's going too far. I hope the show folds because no one is willing to give up their baby. (I'm so naive.)

Your story about your separation from baby Viva is devastating. You did the right thing, did what you had to do, but what a heartrending experience for both of you.

Lisa Blah Blah said...

cee: I confess, I did watch a slice of it last night. One of the teenagers was trying to feed a baby and having trouble and she finally just flung the baby food aside, pulled the tray off the high chair, and said, "Fine then! Starve!" The baby's mom, who was watching on camera from a house down the street, immediately went down to the house and was remarkably (in my opinion) restrained, considering her child had not really eaten any solid food all day because of this impatient teenager. She tried to explain to the girl that she had to be patient and that when you have a baby it can't be all about you and what you want to be doing instead. The mom then left, the "teen dad" came home, and the "teen mom" went upstairs and flung herself across the bed, complaining about the real mom's attitude! Oh, no, I had to turn the TV off at that point.

e: It was a tough decision. I just can't imagine doing that unless I absolutely had to. Viva had at that point just recovered from her first real cold, and I didn't want to expose her to a completely different environment and get her sick again - not to mention that there was a horrible snowstorm while we were there, and we had to drive through it (at some points, with tires spinning out on the ice) to get to my stepmother's house. With my 80-something great-aunt in the back seat. Good times!

Thanks for the sympathy. Even years later, it still makes me weepy to think of it!