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I warned you yesterday I was pissed off. I’ve touched on this subject before, but it’s time to go deep. Put on your parachute and prepare to pull the rip cord if it gets uncomfortable.

I was talking to a friend who is So Very Clever and he posed a question (I’m not clear on the actual source of this question, but know it is neither he nor I).

“What is the most dangerous place on earth?” I sat in my car and pondered for far too long, thinking of all of the things I consider dangerous. I was shocked the list was so long and disturbing- I had no answer. So, I gave up.

“Between a mother and her child.” He stated this to me matter-of-factly and a montage began in my mind- equine, avian, bovine, porcine, and then my thoughts settled on human kind.

Anger with no source began to simmer deep within me. I let it go, as I was unable to invest the time. I filed it away UNTIL the next day when I ended up at a movie called “Shutter Island.” I’ll admit I made a mistake by not reading the preview- and was sucked in by the word “shutter.” As I am a photographer, it compelled me.

I hate to ruin this for anyone really excited to see this movie- so please stop reading if you must. It was elucidated early in the film the “patient” who had disappeared from this maximum security mental institution had murdered her three children- drowning them in the lake behind the house. The storyline punctuated the riddle Kevin posed to me and where my thoughts led me- here was a woman who had murdered her own children instead of protecting them to the death. It made me sick to my stomach and the rest of the film was intensely difficult to watch. Imagery of her bathed in blood- her children at her feet. Not sure why that image was necessary, as she had drowned her children. I have an idea- “shock value.” Then, images of concentration camps and suicide- not to mention the disturbing scenes with the most damaged of patients.

The movie crystallized my disappointment in the riddle- because it wasn’t true in all cases with humans. We are the highest functioning species from an intelligence standpoint, so it occurred to me, why is our desire to protect our children not primary and absolute? It is because we are capable of reason? Animals rely on instinct and we often override our instinct with reason or justification or simple selfishness? Are we not hardwired to protect like a mother bear? Apparently not. It’s widely assumed mothers are deeply connected with their children and would die in the defense of them- but oftentimes the mothers are the most devious and damaging influence in the child’s life.

Now, to a certain degree I am talking about syndromes and mental illness- and my anger is seated in the failure of family members to not recognize and act in the defense of the defenseless. At the end of the movie- the husband of the murderess says- “She told me there was an insect in her brain- she could hear it. She killed our children- and I killed them because I didn’t listen to her.” (keeping in mind- this is not an exact quote).

I recall an interview with family members and the husband of Andrea Yates (the woman who drowned all five of her boys in the bathtub). All of them said she had been screaming for help- begging her husband to acknowledge her intense post-partum depression- and he failed to listen to his wife but had no problem impregnating her over and over despite her never recovering from one child to the next. It’s surmised her mental health deteriorated with each child, as she became even more overwhelmed as a stay-at-home mom with five young boys. She cracked and it cost a family five children.

Susan Smith, who drove her two children into a lake. Pretending it was an accident, she left them in their car seats and climbed to safety. Later it was reported her boyfriend didn’t want her children. I cannot claim this is not mental illness talking- but it sounds more like pure unadulterated EVIL. What an abomination- to discard your children like an old photo album so they won’t interfere with your new relationship. Gross.

Then we have Darlie Routier- those in Texas know exactly who I am talking about. She was asleep on the couch when a man broke into her home and killed two of her three sons violently. She was awakened when he attacked her and she was superficially wounded.She’s been in prison for almost a decade (and awaiting lethal injection), and while some believe she killed her own sons, others protest- loudly- including her husband. Now, none of this makes any sense and I can’t say for certain the sequence of events. I’m pretty certain the children were killed first and then she was attacked. Who would break into a home- not rob it- and satisfy some type of blood lust? I know it happens, but not too many people are willing to murder a child. Now, her contention is that she didn’t know her children were dead when she battled her attacker- she was interested only in getting him out of the house. That explains why she didn’t die trying to defend her children’s lives- but none of it rings true. All of this happened without the dad waking? I am sure some of you know more than I do and I apologize if the details are not correct- the point to all this is that more evidence than not points to the fact this mother killed her sons. Gross. reports 11 of the 49 women on death row killed their children and 200 children are killed per year by their parents. Are you kidding me?

Now, on to a disturbing and chilling syndrome with which you may or may not be familiar – Munchausen by Proxy, which effects women almost exclusively. The first I’d heard of this was as I watched “Sixth Sense” with Bruce Willis unfold. I, along with the audience, was horrified to find a mother poisoning her daughter with rat poison until she died. This is a difficult syndrome to identify and to explain. This is what it looks like.

1) The mother or primary caregiver intentionally inflicts harm on their normally preschool age child to not only garner attention from doctors and family members but often feels satisfaction at “outsmarting” a team of professionals baffled by the mysterious illnesses.
2) The perpetrator often has knowledge of the medical field and spends a great deal of time fabricating illness (often just by lying about conditions affecting a child too young to understand, report it or ask for help).
3) The perpetrator comes across as a deeply loving and committed parent as they linger about the child and hover at the side of the doctors asking questions, begging for help and answers.
4) Often the mother was physically or sexually abused as a child and is perpetuating the abuse- not seeing the child as a person, but as a method by which to generate sympathy and love.

If Munchausen or abuse is suspected by a family member, a friend or a doctor, cameras installed in the form of nanny cameras can expose the damage being done to the innocent child. It is best to speak to the doctors and not to the suspected perpetrator- they could do something rash, such as kill the child to avoid being exposed. cites the following as possible indications of Munchausen by Proxy.

1) The illnesses seem impossible and vary greatly, baffling doctors repeatedly.

2) The children are suffering from multiple illness such as “allergies,” “asthma,” “rash,” “vomiting” and over all sickliness.
3) A defensive mother who alternates between praising the efforts of doctors to seek a diagnosis and blaming them for not trying hard enough. It is not uncommon in extreme cases for a mother to move the child in order to continue their destruction.
4) When separated from the potential perpetrator, symptoms abate. A first step to exposing the mother is to limit contact with the child.

It would seem to me- concerned friends or family members would be the most likely to identify this if not the HUSBAND. Wake up people- these are children- they CANNOT defend themselves. We are the village, we have an obligation to protect them. For more information, visit

The last disturbing disorder I wanted to touch upon is Borderline Personality Disorder- (BPD). Usually diagnosed in people in their late 20s, it is hallmarked by intense fears of being alone (whether real or imagined), belief they are unloved (usually fabricated), desperate need for attention (so much so that extreme and dangerous lengths will be gone to in order to acquire it). Those who have BPD generally have highly dysfunctional interpersonal relationships and even their intrapersonal relationships are wrought with conflict and instigation. They alternate between complete worship of objects of affection to intense hatred- vehement and bitterly attacking- most often unprovoked. These people thrive on chaos and will go to any length to create and maintain it.

Children have been suspected of evidencing BPD as early as 3 years old- but the symptoms are explained away by their age, when fear of being alone is normal, needing attention is normal, being emotionally immature is normal, having conflicts with family members and schoolmates is normal. However, these characteristics should fade as the child grows older, more mature, more secure and emotionally evolved.

When there is no evidence of maturing, teens have been suspected of BPD, but as the diagnosis is a very serious one, healthcare professionals are reluctant to “label” anyone under 18, as it is difficult to “outrun.”

The problem with what I consider an unethical refusal to “diagnose” an adolescent suffering with BPD is this: they tend to engage in self-destructive behavior such as drinking, drugs, promiscuity, shoplifting and self-mutilation often in the form of “cutting.” Now, you can imagine the dangers associated with not getting an adolescent help as early as possible.While only 15 percent of those with BPD kill themselves, 75% of those afflicted are women- which means they are able to bear children. It is not unusual for women with BPD to have the need to reproduce- constantly searching for “unconditional” love from someone who “can’t” or “won’t” leave. However, BPDs are remarkably unstable and the psychological environment for a child is IMPOSSIBLE. The BPD can be abusive and hateful toward the child- never feeling loved enough, resenting the child, often “giving up” on it and having another in hopes “this child” will love them.

So, what is the point to all of this? As our society grows ever more selfish and I believe mentally incapacitated, children are in jeopardy. I’m simply asking parents to listen to one another, listen to concerns voiced by teachers and family friends who tend to see things you might be reluctant to acknowledge. No parent wants to admit psychological illness, but parents must consider potential mental illness in their child as seriously as leukemia. Do not bury your head in the sand. If you fear something is wrong with your child- get them help.BPD is a serious and dangerous personality disorder and sadly is there little in the way of treatment, drug therapy or a cure. It is painful for the person suffering. As a parent, you have an obligation to alleviate the pain and to make certain their self-destructive behavior doesn’t lead to an unwanted pregnancy or even a “wanted” pregnancy.

So, when mothers fail to protect and advocate their children, not to mention provide basic needs, perhaps we all can work together and share the responsibility. Perhaps we can commit ourselves to all children, regardless of whether they “belong” to us. We can make the “space” between a village and its children the most dangerous place on earth. They are children. They deserve to be protected. Let me tell you, men- you do not want to be the man who ignored his wife’s pleas for help and have to suffer the consequences. The price might be too high.

OK, I’m in Austin working, so I can’t guarantee you will hear from me until Sunday ,when we begin our series on grilling. Next week we will continue our series on wedding planning, and Clever Guys- this is not a subject you should avoid. Fact is, you are the other part of this equation and likely you will be spending some cash on the event itself- so protect yourself and your wallet by reading the Wedding Planning Tips for Clever Couples here and click here for more.