Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Borrowing Babies

Last night, at our National Night Out block party, I got to hold a six-week old baby while his mother chased after his two-year old brother and his father played cello. Fussy at first, he settled down as we swayed to the music of The Spaghetti Western String Co.

Such tiny feet and such skinny legs on such a small body. It seems hard to believe that my kids were ever that size.

This summer, my kids have been following the reality TV show, The Baby Borrowers. The premise was simple enough, but the real drama was watching teen romances fold under pressure.


Using children -- both the babies and the teens -- on a reality TV show is one of those ideas that's so wrong, I find myself stammering instead of voicing an objection.

Tonight's show was "Lessons Learned." Among the guests in the studio audience was a critic of the program, Dr. Kyle Pruett. He nailed it.

Pruett pointed out that the various safeguards that the producers put in place -- the parents watching on CCTV, nannies standing by, psychological screenings for the teenagers -- all of that was to assure the adults that everything would be okay. None of those precautions could have assured the babies that everything would be okay. From their perspective, they were thrust into an unfamiliar setting with unfamiliar caregivers, for an unusually long time.

Do I think the children were harmed? Not really. I'm not going to brush it off with a quick "Kids are resilient." Yes, they are, but we shouldn't take advantage of that remarkable quality. If there's any potential for harm, it's more likely to be from the publicity surrounding the show and the effect it might have on the families.

Though I stayed home with my kids, I'm not against childcare. I don't think that the debate over the ethics of "The Baby Borrowers" should turn into a chapter of The Mommy Wars. But it doesn't take an expert to realize that a couple of stressed out teenagers on a reality TV show set might not be the best childcare option.

While searching for commentary on the show, I found this wry summation of an NBC press release on Salon's Broadsheet:
Watch our show! Four out of five psychiatrists agree -- it's harmful to children!

One might think that "The Baby Borrowers" would have caught the attention of the pundits at the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, but if so, I haven't noticed. Hmm. They were all over Big Love.

1 comment:

chasingjoy said...

"Watch our show! Four out of five psychiatrists agree -- it's harmful to children!"

OMG! I had not come across this in my research. It's just terrible. When does humanity become more important that dollar signs to these people???