Look very closely at this picture, posted to the Duggar Family Official Facebook page, which features a group selfie of Jill Duggar and her family, including 10-month-old Israel. Can you spot the spot that’s causing people to clutch their pearls?
Give up? It’s a faint, teeny-tiny bruise, right over the tot’s right eye, and according to some commenters on the page, proof positive that there’s something rotten going on in the Duggar house. Again.
Just weeks ago, the couple’s babyproofing skills came under fire when they dared to place their son in a room with an electrical outlet that was — horror of horrors — left uncovered. There were allegations of neglect and crappy parenting, and this latest “development” is no different.
The conclusions people are drawing in the post’s comment thread about a stranger’s baby’s quality of life come from such rock-solid evidence as his parents not also sporting bruises:
“Someone needs to call C.P.S. have them come out and interview this family. Something is wrong with a child having new bruises on him every week. don’t see any bruises on this couple?”
And of course, the ever-reliable gauge for a baby’s safety that is the relative amount of sadness one could perceive in their eyes:
“The baby’s eyes look sad and I do not think a child his age should be having the bruises that have shown up. Maybe they should not trust the child to a day provider if they sometimes do. Both parent’s eyes look really tired with bags underneath them.”
Then there’s the stuff that’s entirely inexplicable and just plain wrong:
“I am a retired R.N. This lovely child looks like he may have a pssible DX of Down’s syndrome. This could account for the bruises etc. that people may see. If it is true, he appears to be able to have a perfectly normal life.”
Um, thanks for that unsolicited, out-of-left-field “medical” opinion. Fortunately little Israel has Internet strangers like you looking out for his chromosomes.
Of course, there are plenty of people defending the couple and rightly pointing out that babies sometimes get bruises, mostly because they are terrible at everything, including not hitting their little heads and faces on things.
Increased mobility in kids leads to bruises all the time, and Izzy is about at the age where he’ll start bumping into pretty much everything as he crawls, cruises and walks. In fact, 52 percent of new walkers will have bruising on their shins from running into things and on their foreheads from pulling themselves up.
More: Her breastfeeding photo went viral, then came the death threats
Plus, baby bruises are especially conspicuous, because a bruise happens when blood vessels under the skin rupture, and because baby skin is thin and weak sauce, the bumps and spots appear darker and more gnarly.
There are kids out there who are abused, so it’s never a great idea to just dismiss allegations, even spurious ones, but context is always key. Bruises on children who are abused are much more likely to appear on the trunk, underarms or thighs.
We have to stop shouting “CPS! CPS!” every time an outlet goes uncovered or a bruise appears. In a world where hyperconnectivity and visibility are normal, we are all privy to others’ small, mundane acts of imperfect parenting like convenience meals of fast food and moms on smartphones. There’s always someone quick to conflate these minor “sins” with egregious acts of harmful neglect and abuse, with the kind of sanctimony that often borders on the absurd.
Then there are the simple differences in philosophy that cause folks to wring their hands when they’re confronted with “things they wouldn’t dream of doing,” like popping a kid into day care, extended breastfeeding and family beds. It takes a special kind of narcissism to imagine that because you wouldn’t sleep-train a child, everyone who does is an abusive monster who delights in the screams of children.
But this kind of stuff is the worst of all: instances of what is likely sheer happenstance causing people to point fingers and shout “j’accuse!” at the mere sight of a bruise, bump, case of pinkeye or runny nose. If you are the person who sees a child’s scraped knees pop up on your Facebook feed and immediately start dreaming up scenarios in which something unspeakable has happened, a new hobby might be in order.
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