When I took over as editor of Metro Parent almost 10 years ago, my esteemed predecessor, the Pulitzer-prize winning Sheryl James, gave me a friendly warning about some of the polarizing parenting topics that could elicit controversy and the general wrath of some readers. Breastfeeding was one of those topics. Writing about a study that extols the benefits of breastfeeding for babies, for instance, can make those that don’t opt to breastfeed feel alienated and angry. Sheryl, being the clear pro that she was and is, wasn’t telling me not to cover these issues. She just wanted to give me a heads-up, so I was prepared.
And this month, well, I am prepared. I’m bracing myself for some irate emails and maybe even some calls. And, no, it’s clearly not because of the cover story on Outdoor Party Places, though you never know.
Instead, it’s a story that’s been in the works for months that aims to help parents who are confused about vaccines, who are wondering what the facts are and what is simply conjecture, fear and hunches.
And the truth is … if you are among those who are not vaccinating your child or who believe that vaccines are responsible for autism, you will probably not be happy with this story. Because throughout the tireless reporting by Metro Parent associate editor Megan Krueger, we found no credible connection between vaccines and autism. Instead, historically, they have protected children – and our population – from infectious diseases. As the doctors that Megan spoke to were quick to point out, that doesn’t mean there aren’t side effects. Cold medicine can have side effects, so, yes, vaccines can have side effects, too. But the potential risks of vaccines have been greatly inflated, causing more and more people to skip vaccinating their children. I’m giving a quick synopsis here, but I really encourage every parent to read this story. The stakes are high with this issue. After all, the No. 1 job of parents (and there are many others) is to keep your child safe. If you don’t do that, then the rest (the discipline, the character development, the education) doesn’t matter. So I understand why parents are spooked about vaccines. I have wondered and worried myself. But there is so much information – and misinformation – that we truly felt that we owed it to you to do our best to clear the air. Frankly, it would have been easier for us not to cover this story, or to do it in a way that gave equal weight to validated studies and unproven hypotheses.
But you know how sometimes being a parent isn’t easy? How you have to be the bad guy and tell your kids things they don’t want to hear or ask them to do things they don’t want to do?
Well, sometimes being a parenting magazine isn’t easy either. But, just like you, we do it because we care. And if that means we get some backlash, so be it. It’s part of our job to take it on the chin and hope we make a difference in the long run. And I hope that no matter where you fall on this issue, you get that.