Neighborhood Watch


One of the blogs I follow recently had a “conversation” (and I use that term loosely) about the c-word.

Don’t worry, I won’t get into it. Already dealt with that one, anyway.

I was struck most by the overwhelming number of responses on the momversation that indicated that “it’s nobody’s business” and “who are they to question my parenting?”.  Sure, everyone has different parenting techniques, and different things work for different people, but there’s a basic understanding that to be a good parent, you need to try and avoid chopping off body parts.

And we say those things, but…do we really mean it? Do we really think that “whatever floats your boat” is a good way to navigate parenting? To navigate life?


Say you see a mother beating her kid in the Kroger parking lot, apparently not a simple disciplinary spanking. It’s obviously hurting the child.  Do you say anything?

What about if it was a dog? In a story by Anne Lamott, she sees a man abusing a dog on the beach. And she’s powerless to even speak, to say anything that would get the man to stop.  What’s worse is that her son is watching, seeing the abuse, calling it by its name, and watching his mother do nothing.

What if the parent was locking the child in a closet, and you knew about it? Would you say something- to anyone that could change it?

What if the issue were FGM?

A good friend recently had his first baby, a little boy. I asked if they were planning on a circ, and he said, “Yeah. Why not?? I had one and I don’t remember it.” 

When we get to the point that it’s ok to hurt our children, as long as they don’t remember the abuse, haven’t we lost it? Isn’t that where the boat stops floating, and we’re left in the deep end?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, since I am by no means clear on this. Where does our responsibility to others intersect their personal freedom? At what point do we become the neighborhood watch?

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11 Responses to Neighborhood Watch

  1. KathyB! says:

    I so enjoy your blog, and the thought provoking topics. I have four girls and never had to deal with this. But our decision (we didn’t know what sex they were until they sprung forth) was not circumsize. I haven’t researched this in the last 11 years but, at that time, there wasn’t really any compelling reason to do so…

    I’m looking forward to checking back to see what sort of responses you get on this. It surely has the potential to be spirited.

    And thanks for the encouraging words you left on my blog. I intend to take the advice to heart 🙂

  2. Karen says:

    Just a thought: current research seems to be leading to the conclusion that those who are circumcised are less at risk for transmitting / become infected with STD’s. There also seems to be links between increased cervical cancer rates and a partner who is uncircumcised.

    I am not militant one way or the other. Just figured i would add some information to discuss.

  3. Emily says:

    i am pretty sure current research is not as definitive as karen writes.

    we found out the sex in advance so we would know whether we had to have this conversation. i was against, my husband was for. i didn’t think we should do it just because we’re jewish — if it wasn’t a good enough reason for fgm, it wasn’t a good enough reason to do it on the boys.

    i cannot tell you what we decided because to discuss that online seems a privacy line i don’t want to cross. but good for you for writing this!

  4. Karen says:

    just to clarify emily, i didn’t say that it was definitive just seems to be leading towards that conclusion. I just happened to have access to the researchers who are conducting these studies.

    Also, i haven’t said which way i fall on this issue, not even 100% sure myself 😉 . In my family there are those who are circed and those who are not. My comment was just food for thought. when someone is making their decision they should look at all reasons for and against.

  5. Emily says:

    i will be fascinated to see further studies. thanks, karen!

  6. faemom says:

    Well, I had two boys. And my husband and I were on the fence until the two weeks before the boys. I knew all the research. For every study that said it was good, there was another study for inclusiveness. So basically we turned to our learned doctor, one of the top doctors in the county if not the state. He said that the research pointed to a circ man did have less chance of an STD, so if we were on the fence, we should have it done. So we did; with both. There is anistisia when the process is done. Yes, I witnessed my eldest done. I wouldn’t recommend a parent watching. Before you point out that if a parent can’t watch without feeling uneasy, I’ll point out I watched my 12 mo recieve stitches and I don’t want to do that twice.

    But to compare circ to fgm is just crazy. They are completely two differnet procedures. If fgm were like circ, then it would be cutting off a tiny bit off the outer lips and it would be done in infancy. It’s not; it is done at 12 and it cuts off the inner lips and in many cases the clit and sews up the vaginial openning. It is a way to control the female population. If you want I can give you all a lesson in the roots of both circ and fgm, but I doubt any one is really interested.

    But the topic of the neighborhood watch would be a tricky one on this subject, just like breastfeeding or sleeping together in a bed. Since we’re talking about a medical procedure that is done in a sterile enviroment with medical professionals, which does not permantly harm the child in a physical, emotional, psychological way, I think this is one of the times, we have to let the parents make the decision that is best for their family.
    Sorry I wrote so much; I talk too much 🙂

  7. antropologa says:

    As you know, to me circumcision is barbaric child abuse. I also think calling a kid belittling names is abuse. People do this stuff all the time. So I would only try to “police” stuff that the majority of people think is wrong, as long as doing so doesn’t put me in jeopardy.

  8. evenshine says:

    Thanks, everyone, for your comments.

    I have to agree with Emily that the studies are far from clear-cut (ehem). Faemom- if the study your doctor saw was the one conducted in Kenya, there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding it, since the participants were told not to engage in sexual activity for six months after the study. OF COURSE, then, there would be a lowering of STDs.

    But we don’t live in an undeveloped country, so our kids will (statistically) have higher levels of accessability to protection.

    Try this article:

    But everyone misread me, except for Antropologa. I was not trying to debate circumcision, but the question at the end- at what point do we say something? I consider circ-ing to be abuse, (especially considering the majority of hospitals DO NOT use anesthesia). But take any of the other examples- at which point are we morally or ethically bound to get involved?

  9. Karen says:

    There is a study going on in a maryland based institution currently. but I will put that aside. 😉 Honestly I was not and am not looking to be argumentative. If that was how I came across, I am sorry if I caused offence.

    I can tell you that at least in maryland anesthesia is used. Babies are premedicated with Tylenol and either emla cream is applied or lidocaine is used. I 100% agree that a circ w/o any anesthesia is inhumane.

  10. Ari says:

    Just an interjection-have no kids, so no opinion on the yes/no should you do it. But, one of the leading reasons for the STD thing is because of all the extra “nooks and crannies” (pardon the expression) and skin surface area in an un-circumcised member than his circumcised counterparts. On the whole though, this is mediated by old-fashioned hygiene (of course, this is all still theory, as is everything else). Who would have thunk it?

  11. Yes, I would say something to anyone beating anyone (children, dogs, etc.)!

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