Take a breath

Editorial - May 2006

Can we talk? There is something we need to get straight. First, we know it is an overwhelming job to be a parent. It is not only the most important, but the hardest job any of us will ever do. We respect this. You probably wouldn’t be reading this magazine if you didn’t believe that to be the case.

But sometimes, we need to be reminded that when it comes to parenting your child, there is only one expert you should rely on—you—and that great common sense you possess.

That is easier said than done, however, when we are bombarded with so much white noise.

For example, when we went to press, there were all sorts of headlines out there about the mumps OUTBREAK!! hitting the Midwest. (See our story on page 43.)

And it’s true. Technically anyway. There is a mumps outbreak because, according to the definition of the word, an outbreak is "a sudden increase." Illinois normally has a dozen cases of mumps each year. As we went to press, the state was reporting more than 80.

We are on virus watch right now, long overdue for a pandemic, or so we have been told by public health officials and the mainstream media for more than a decade. Perhaps it will be the bird flu that turns into a deadly pandemic. Perhaps not.

Since it’s nearly summer, we can expect that along with the new crop of mosquitoes will come, as it did last year, a new crop of headlines about a West Nile OUTBREAK!!—possibly. Or a Lyme disease OUTBREAK!!—maybe. And later in the school year, we might see a meningitis OUTBREAK!!—perhaps.

We are not saying that people do not need to be informed. Nor are we claiming that the general media are sensationalizing health stories—OK, maybe we are. (Our favorite screaming headline story appeared in the late 1990s, when front pages proclaimed an unprecedented flu epidemic was sweeping the country. Months later, we read in small articles in the back of most papers that the number of flu cases was normal. The epidemic was one of understaffed hospitals.)

Our point here is that not all OUTBREAKS!! are on par with the deadly motaba virus Dustin Hoffman faced down in his movie of the same name. Some are ... well, much less.

Should you ignore the major media when it trumpets an OUTBREAK!! of some virus or another? No. But you should trust yourself to know how best to protect your child.

Don’t read the headline and worry first. As one of our wise grandmothers used to say, "Don’t borrow trouble."

Read the entire story. If it doesn’t answer your questions, do the same sort of research you did when you bought your car—check reliable Web sites. Ask your pediatrician. Or call us and ask us us to do a story. We’ll track down the information you need.


Welcome Kate

It makes life much easier when we have a full staff at Chicago Parent. And we are back to breathing now that Kate Pancero has joined us as assistant to the editor.

Thank you to the many people who applied. We feel very lucky to have so many talented people wanting to be part of Chicago Parent.

Pancero, 23, is a Cincinnati native who came to Chicago to get her bachelor’s degree in communications from DePaul University and adopted our city as her new home. She graduated in 2004 and spent some time as the assistant managing editor for North Lawndale Community News.

As the first line of reader contact for Chicago Parent’s editorial staff, she is likely to be the person you’ll speak with when you call our offices. We believe you will find her cheerful and eager to help.

She says she took this job because she sees it as a place where she can grow as a journalist, learn what it’s like to work for an award-winning publication with high ethical standards and because she "knew this would be a perfect place for me to blossom."

We agree. And we promise not to tease her for breaking her foot at her goodbye party from her last job. Not for much longer, anyway.


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