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Joseph Cramer, M.D.: Don't throw the baby out with the bath water

Published: Monday, Oct. 14 2013 4:25 p.m. MDT

Before we toss any bath water, check mindfully for the baby of attitude and gratitude, truth and humility, confidence and self-righteousness.

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As a board-certified pediatrician, I must protest strongly against those people who insist on throwing the baby out with the bath water. If you happen to do this literally, my protest will be directed to the Division of Child and Family Services. Baby throwing is considered abuse.

On the other hand, if someone throws the baby out with the bath water figuratively, I have to speak up as well.

When both the babe and the bath are tossed, we are throwing out the good with the bad. This error would be easy if we only looked for the negative. We would see just the wastewater and miss the child hidden under the bubbles. If our contact lenses are tinted and we only see the dark side of the world, we will overlook the virtue that exists or the beauty that abounds.

There can be a lot of personal dirt and human debris that obfuscate the good. Human behavior could use a good scrubbing down from time to time. A wire brush and a fire hose may not be strong enough to eliminate all the deadly soot. However, overlooking the clean baby in all of this mess misses the countless good people.

When we mindlessly generalize, our world is lumped into the same tub. We make everything the same. There is a dearth of details so there is no discrimination. We overlook the toddler in the tub. Never and always, everyone and no one become our bywords. There are no exceptions. Self-pity aggregates the whole universe into one giant waste pond.

Babies are more apt to be flung in times of hurry. When we rush from this to that or attempt multitasking when our brain is not built to do so, we risk chucking the complete contents. Rush is often the result of our own imposed pressures. Insecurities demand that we are everything to everybody. We can’t say no for our want of acceptance. Remember, confidence tells us that we don’t have to please everyone.

The splashing baby in the bath water also symbolizes gratitude. Dirty water surrounds us. Bad things abound, much like a baby’s diaper. However, gratitude is the smiling, playing, cooing child at the other end. Trash what needs to be, but hold on to the kid. Gratitude grows and matures like children. If we keep providing nutrients to our list of appreciation, soon enough the adolescent reaches full size. Then he can shower. Experience tells us teens get up and walk out on their own.

We throw out the baby in a lot of ways besides limited gratitude. In fundamental questions of belief ,we forget the truths we do know and out they go with our discontent of some aspect that is trivial. We become infatuated with the momentary bubbles in the bath water that will quickly pop. We ignore the child. We also blame him for the cloudiness and crumbs. Deep down we know there is a baby in there somewhere, but we don’t want to look.

Babies get lost when there is a huge barrel and tons of water. Excesses in our life become essential. Our material surplus compared to the rest of the world is bath water the size of Lake Michigan.

There is also the unfortunate self-righteous need of some to think that everyone else needs the benefit of bath water. They would be so concerned for the grime on others that with their washing of everyone else they would miss the innocent newborn flying through the air.

Babies are worth protecting. So is the good amongst the bad. Sure, both need to be washed off from time to time. Just be careful what goes down the drain.

So, before we toss any bath water, check mindfully for our attitude and gratitude, truth and humility while not skipping confidence. Either literally or figuratively, we should double check for adorable babies swimming in the sudsy water. I do not want to have to report you.

Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a practicing pediatrician for 30 years. Presently he is a hospitalist at Primary Children's Hospital and the University of Utah. He can be reached at jgcramermd@yahoo.com.

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