What we’re worrying about TODAY.

So. The babies sleep with a little lamp on next to their beds. It has a really low-wattage bulb in it, and we have a dimmer attached so we can make it really, really, dim, but it’s enough light for us to come in and check on them and you can pretty much make out their faces and everything in the room. I had read something a while back about having lights and sound (like the noise machine) running throughout the night being detrimental. I mentioned it to Justin and try to make a point of turning the light down in there when I check on them, but other than that pretty much pushed it out of my mind so I wouldn’t have to think about it. Then I read this article.

“…exposure to dim lighting at night — such as that generated by a TV screen, computer or night-light — may lead to depressive symptoms, new animal research suggests…Mood disorders are by no means the only health condition linked to artificial lighting and screen time at night. Earlier this year, the American Medical Association (AMA) put out a disturbing summary of adverse health effects from nighttime lighting, noting that artificial lights disrupt circadian rhythms and alter the body’s normal hormonal responses. In particular, when people spend too little time in darkness, it seems that the body suppresses release of the hormone melatonin, which — among other things — is thought to fight tumor growth and cancers. Other health conditions affected by changes in circadian rhythms, according to the AMA report, may include obesity,diabetes and reproductive problems.”

Well, that’s awesome. By projecting my fear of the dark (shut up, dark is scary) onto my children I have ensured that they will be fat, diabetic, depressed adults. And, oh, yeah, Emmeline won’t be able to have kids. HOPE YOU ENJOYED THE NIGHT LIGHT, BABIES.

After reading this article, I immediately went to Justin and told him we were turning off the night lights RIGHT NOW (it was about 8 pm and the babies had gone to sleep). He reasoned that we should do it gradually by lowering the light intensity every night for a week. IF WE WAIT A SECOND LONGER WE MIGHT AS WELL GET A PRESCRIPTION FOR PROZAC, I said. AND BY THE WAY, GET THEIR INSULIN SHOTS READY TO GO AS WELL.

Because I had read something about this months before — maybe even as long as a year ago — and I had done nothing about it. The guilt was crushing. I wanted to try and fix it now. 

We’re bombarded with information in the media about all of the things that are harmful to our kids. It started before we even met the two devils: while I was pregnant, I worried about caffeine, second-hand smoke, tuna, my beloved ibuprofen and Tylenol PM, wine, the cat litter, and soft cheese. Now, we buy organic because of what we’ve read about hormones in dairy and pesticides on fruit. We limit television because of what we’ve read about how it can hinder development (and feel massive guilt every time we use it to grab a shower or a moment of peace). I’m terrified that the organic mattress pad isn’t enough protection from the toxins in the actual mattresses. I give their pajamas the stink-eye every night, wondering if the “fit” is “snug” enough to save them in the event of a fire, per the instructions on the label. There is no end to the worrying.

My Mom and I talked about this when she was last here. The topic came up when I admitted to an elevated sense of defensiveness even to her most innocent comment — “I think Jack is thirsty” translates in my mind to “Why are you killing your children by depriving them of liquids?” She found this interesting and said she didn’t remember feeling that way when we were little. She didn’t feel judged, or competitive, or worried that every little thing she did was going to ruin any chance we had of adult happiness. And you know what? I blame the Internet.

Every time I fire up Chrome I’m faced with another scientific study, or an article about how working parents are short-changing their children, or a Pin on Pinterest from a stay-at-home-mom who loves her children so deeply and passionately she spent 560 hours constructing a little faux grocery store complete with faux vegetables and faux canned goods. Those kids are going to grow up happy, I think glumly.

So why not just stay off the Internet? Why not just return to the more simple time that my Mom lived in, where the only place she could have possibly been exposed to a study about how she’s dooming her children with nightlights would have been in a stodgy medical journal in her doctor’s waiting room (which she would have avoided anyway for the more interesting Redbook)? Well, here’s the thing. This information I obsessively gather makes me feel like I have a chance of being completely in control of how my kids turn out in life — not just the amount of control I have over the reasonable things like feeding them relatively healthy food and not letting them play with matches. No, I feel like I might have control over the very fiber of their beings, their genetic make-up, their mental and emotional well-being, and their risk for heart disease and diabetes down the line. If I play my cards right, and fanatically pore over the Internet 24 hours a day, I can raise two super-beings who live until they’re 126 years old, contributing positively to society for every one of those years,  and generally being the happiest people IN THE WORLD.

It’s such a false sense of control, of course, but, nonetheless, the mirage of control is there. I’m simultaneously freaked out and comforted by the myriad of information available. And, in the end, it’s like plugging a leak with a sieve. You can only do so much.

The jury’s still out on how I’m going to play this . They’re new, you know? 19 months isn’t a long time to have been a parent. Maybe I’ll get to the point where I’ll say, “Oh, screw it, they’re too old at this point to change them. The damage is done. The die is cast.” And the knot inside my stomach will disappear.

Let me tell you, whatever I’m doing now sure isn’t making them be particularly nice to each other.

Subject One spots object of desire currently in use by Subject Two.


Subject One brutally makes his move on Subject Two.


Subject Two swiftly retaliates. Observer quickly drops her monitoring instrument to intervene.

Is it weird I was letting them play in the Rubbermaid containers left over from the yard sale we had this weekend? They were having such a good time…until they weren’t.


Robert M. Hightower - August 7, 2012 - 4:04 pm

Wonderful pictures. The pictures of them going after the others toys confined in this container reminds me of two wrestlers fighting it out in a cage match.

About the many concerns you have listed, about all I can say is you might have to much free time on your hands or else your are surfing the Internet late at night looking for trouble when you should be catching some Z’s. How in the world did generation after generation ever survive without the results contained in all these “reports”, “studies” and “conclusions”? If you believe all that stuff, then none of us should be around today to read it. (Gee whiz, I guess I have a severe mood disorder and didn’t even realize it.) Give it up….. you and J are doing a great job with the twins. They are winners without a doubt. You are wonderful, caring and loving parents and the children’s personalities reflect that. You have nothing to worry about.

Marsha - August 7, 2012 - 4:44 pm

I started to make a joke about the toxins in that plastic bin, but then realized that would start a whole new obsessive worry! Yes, get some sleep and stop reading all that stuff. You know that the next study will refute the last one anyway.

Or do what I do, and only believe the “studies” that make me happy — like red wine and chocolate being good for you and keeping you healthy!!

Katie - August 8, 2012 - 1:40 pm

Danielle has always had a nightlight, I turn it off after she falls asleep, and I hear ALL about how I “turned it off and then when I had to go potty I couldn’t see ANYTHING.” We have a nightlight in the bathroom now. I promise she has no issues thus far (but then again, she’s only almost 5.)


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