--- J.K. Rowling
Freedom of choice is often more of a burden than a choice. We are presented with so many choices in our lives, and the consequences of those choices color our lives forever. We are supposed to choose the career that we will spend the rest of our lives immersed in when we are eighteen years old, and we often pick our "forever mate" when we are just a few years older. Since scientists maintain that one's brain doesn't have the ability to truly understand consequences until we reach our later twenties, making these choices in our late teens can be devastating.
Many of us start families in our twenties as well. Suddenly we are making choices for the lives of our precious children while we are still working with less than full brain capacity. We become so righteous in our beliefs, and it is not until our children are grown that we look back and wonder, "What the heck was I thinking?"
The vaccine choice is a scary one, with both sides feeling sure that they are correct. When Mike and Beth were little, vaccines were a godsend that we would never think of skipping. We had seen the horror of polio and measles epidemics first hand in our own youth and ran to have our children inoculated. Children were at times blinded by measles, paralyzed by polio or killed by either one, so debating the worth of the drug that could prevent these (and other) diseases made no sense.
Life is a little different in the twenty-first century. Parents have had little direct contact with these diseases that were virtually wiped out thanks to years of vaccines. What they were seeing was seemingly normal children who shortly after receiving these vaccines exhibited traits of autism. Suddenly there were choices to be made, and it was terrifying. In this instance the wrong choice could be life altering, or in some cases deadly.
I watched Beth struggle with those choices when dealing with her children, and I was relieved to see that she decided to rely on science. While there are definitely a number of anecdotal stories that seem to support the theory of vaccines causing autism, the scientific studies found no links. What they did find is a large upswing in the number of children contracting measles, mumps, chicken pox, etc. Not only is the choice of not vaccinating your child endangering your child, but the dent it is putting in "herd immunity" is endangering the most vulnerable among us. Many children have diseases or immunity deficiencies that makes vaccinating them impossible, and their health relies on the children who surround them being vaccinated against these diseases. While every parent has the responsibility to make the choice that is right for his/her child, sometimes that choice has a very real affect on someone else's child.
Age has not made me wiser in recognizing the right answers, but it has helped me to realize that my choices are not always the only right ones. I have learned to research more before making any decision and to respect other people's decisions even if they differ greatly from my own. My choice of a career at eighteen was far from the career I ended up enjoying for many years, but my choice of a "forever mate" in my early twenties couldn't have worked out better. I guess my heart was smarter than my brain in those years.
One place I never go wrong is choosing a book. When I was very little I chose books over toys, and as I grew older I chose them over television. They have been my friends through thick and thin, and I can't imagine a day without them. This week I had time for one book only, and I made it a good one. David Rosenfeld's latest Andy Carpenter book, Collared, comes out in two weeks, and it is a summer reading must. Of course it includes a dog and a wrongly accused man, but there are other characters and events that make this a great read.
A complete review of this book follows this blog.