Kerre McIvor
Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: That's enough breast-beating

By Kerre McIvor

Most parents are just doing their best.
Photo / Bay of Plenty Times
Most parents are just doing their best. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times

When I was a young adult, Dad and I used to have some almighty battles.

I would come home to Hamilton for a weekend from my rich, full and exciting new life in Wellington and while I was gracing my parents with my presence I would lecture them on all matters pertaining to the way they lived their lives.

Mum was wise enough to deflect open confrontation. Years of running classrooms had taught her exactly how to handle obstreperous, righteous prigs like the one I'd become.

Dad and I, however, clashed head on.

We would battle away, hammer and tongs, for 48 hours over hoary old chestnuts like gay rights, the Treaty, feminism and sexual freedom. Then he'd drive me to the airport and I'd flounce back to Wellington and we'd both nurse our wounds before we girded our respective loins for another round.

I can still remember the fury I felt that I couldn't convince him of the error of his ways.

In any argument I believed I was right - in fact, I KNEW I was right - and it incensed me that he wouldn't concede he was wrong.

Thankfully I got over myself and we were able to appreciate each other again, but I was reminded of my own fierce priggishness when I stood on the sidelines and watched women tear each other to pieces during the breast versus bottle war that raged this week.

You'll know the story by now; a clip of Piri Weepu was removed from a smokefree advert because it showed him bottle feeding his baby daughter in his smokefree home. The Ministry of Health, Plunket and La Leche were approached for their opinion and they all objected to the clip on the grounds they didn't want any muddying of the waters about the message that breast is best.

So the clip was removed.

When the Herald on Sunday broke the story, there was incredulity from many men and women who pointed out that Piri could hardly breast feed and surely it was a positive message of a loving father helping to care for his baby.

Plunket apologised for any offence caused, while reiterating their belief that breast was best, but other breastfeeding advocates went nuts. The level of vitriol was extraordinary, especially against my fellow columnist Wendyl Nissen, who has written a parenting book and who dared to suggest on Campbell Live that in some cases a woman could and should bottle feed without feeling like a maternal pariah.

There was the same blinkered thinking, the same furious righteousness, the same unwillingness to see any shades of grey that I remembered from my priggish youth and that is common among all fundamentalists.

It was quite an eye opener. I loved breast feeding and found it easy and incredibly convenient, but there are women who can't or won't breastfeed and, tragically, dads who've been left widowers with young children who've had to bottle feed as well. And their babies are fine.

Not every woman who chooses to bottle feed is doing so in order to drink, take drugs and party, as one breast feeding advocate thundered.

And not all breastfeeding advocates are hessian-wearing slack-breasted cows who can't see beyond their own ideology.

Let's save our real fury for adults who hurt their babies, not parents who are simply trying to do their best.

Let's make it harder for theives

Almost every week I open the pages of the Herald to see yet another group of tourists staring forlornly into the camera, bemoaning the theft of all their worldly possessions from their campervan.

Left only with the clothes they're standing in, these young Europeans have lost their money, their passports, their computers and their cameras.

Kind-hearted New Zealanders, feeling ashamed these young people have seen the worst of our country, do their best to help them out and send them on their way. There's generally a follow-up story quoting the tourists as having their belief in humanity and this country restored.

But let's face it, anyone travelling round in a campervan is advertising the fact that inside their flimsy metal capsule there are rich pickings for thieves. Have the audacity and criminality to break into any vehicle that has Maui, Kea or Wicked emblazoned on the side and you will be richly rewarded.

So why not make it harder for thieves? Auckland City could offer tourists' lockers around the city to leave their most valuable possessions while they're sightseeing.

Perhaps the companies that hire out these vans could install secure safes so the cash and passports at least can be locked safely away. (And while they're at it, the companies should install toilets in every van.) Could there be a list of safe places, vetted by police, where tourists could park their vans and leave them, secure in the knowledge they'll be watched over. I would far rather see these burglaries prevented than Kiwis digging deep every time a tourist is left penniless.

- Herald on Sunday

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