May 28, 2009

Shhhh.....chicken pox party

I was the most popular dad in the school parking lot today. Felt like Santa Claus. What presents did I have to give? Little itchy red sores all over Zekiah's back and hands.

Quietly informing the office of Zekiah's chicken pox led to an outbreak of excitement from the other parents in the hallway, two of whom instantly requested a playdate. Moms outside offered advice on homeopathics and oatmeal baths. Galen was begging to share utensils with his brother, and Zekiah said that getting pox was the best thing of his day.

Outside the Waldorf sanctuary (and in some parts within also), however, the world was more wary. Warnings of scars, excessive itchiness, blindness, and shingles in 60 years were accompanied by intimations of wanton negligence for not immunizing.

Most interesting was a request to not send out a big email to the class inviting them to a chicken pox party. The person making the request (whose opinion I respect greatly) personally supports our approach to letting children experience natural childhood diseases, but observed that it could press some hot buttons for parents with different beliefs.

The rebellious Bill Durham in me ("Fuck em if they can't take a joke") is still chafing, feeling the usual "why does the conservative, normative side always get the default win?" But in a small school community still recovering from similar divisiveness over different handling of the whooping cough epidemic, this person is undoubtedly wise - the email would not promote dialogue or mutual understanding, but just inflame the situation.

So, this unusually receptive Rick is just talking to trusted parents (ie, people I know will share the same attitude) in the parking lot, and sharing it all on this blog, which people presumably visit because they want to learn more about what I experience and struggle with. In this case, I believe that:
  • Our children are strong enough to deal naturally with natural illnesses. As much as we hate to see our children sick, to try to preserve them in a bubble of never getting sick is unnatural and ultimately unhealthy for them.
  • Their bodies will develop strength through this victory over chicken pox that will protect them in the future.
  • The risks of vaccination are higher than the risks of dealing with the illness.
  • I love my children and am being the most responsible parent I can be.
Being a parent is inherently risky. Whether we choose a conventional medical path or an alternative approach, if something happened to our children we would undoubtedly question our decision. When that decision goes against societal norms, the risk of self-questioning and societal questioning is higher even if the medical risk isn't.

All we can really do is be informed from a variety of trusted sources, then follow our deepest sense of what is the best course for our families. And perhaps even harder sometimes, trust that other parents making different choices are doing so from the same base of information and inner searching that has just taken them down a different path.

This is why the no-email request disturbs me. It suggests a lack of respect for we parents who have made thoughtful, loving, and even brave decisions that go against the norm. But in the same breath I have to admit to my own struggle to respect "those" parents making their own informed, loving, yet different decisions.

So thank you, dear friend, for your wise counsel. In the space that it created, I see that the same energy that could have been put into (and fueled by) a possibly inflammatory email is better spent in becoming more grounded in my own beliefs and more trusting of others' beliefs. When I finally reach that place of acceptance, then true dialogue can begin.


  1. awesome post.

    "why does the conservative, normative side always get the default win?"

    what a great question...I'd love to know the answer if you ever get one!

    Those of us going against the norm always end up being the ones who compromise. At least that is how it feels so much of the time.

    If I were over on the Island, I would totally bring my youngest over for some "germs"! My older two have already been through the chicken pox, my son had hundreds, more than I can even believe now that it's over, and not a scar in sight.

    Hope Zekiah is somewhat comfortable!

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  3. I think it is good that you are allowing your kids to gain natural immunity instead of using the vaccine. I never had CP as a kid and actually I am trying to get them as part of an anti vaccine documentary I am doing. This is the 1st time I have seen your blog and just wanted to say it is great.