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When Tanning and Mental Health Converge

I have something to say about Patricia Krentcil, the mother who allowed her 5-year-old daughter to go to a tanning bed. And I’m not going to get all “What kind of mother … ?” on you because I think this speaks to a greater issue. This is more of a “What kind of PARENT … ?” issue because I want to focus on what this speaks to as a parent, not just a mom. As parents, we try our best to keep our children safe from harm. I put my children in age-appropriate car seats when they were younger and I don’t let them stay up too late watching television because I know how much sleep is needed to be functional during the daytime hours (8.5-9 hours for my youngest, who is a teenager). Finally, I make sure they have a vegetable at every meal because it’s good for them. I also have two fair-skinned, redheaded children who both know the dangers of staying in the sun too long — particularly, the pain that accompanies bare skin without sunblock.

But this? This is not just the face of a woman charged with taking her kindergarten-age daughter to a tanning bed, where the daughter sustained burns. This is not just the face of a woman whose own skin resembles a crinkly leather handbag. This is not just the face of a woman who, if I ever saw her in person, would cause me to stare wide-eyed in shock. This is the face of serious mental illness.

How can any of this be healthy? How can having an addiction to tanning be better than that of an alcoholic? In my opinion, it can’t. Taking one’s daughter to a tanning salon perpetuates the theory that tanning obsessively is good for you. Shouldn’t we instead view this type of child endangerment as an immediate threat and remove the child from the home? This is, naturally, what happened, but we need to have conversations with parents about emulating this behavior. It doesn’t help that Jenni “JWoww” Farley of Jersey Shore fame has been given her own brand of tanning lotion. Why we ever held up the trashy behavior of Jersey Shore cast members enough to even give them their own show is beyond my realm of thinking. The boys and girls on that show have such inexcusable conduct that they need their own mental-health diagnosis.

What is happening here, America?

As a parent, I can’t imagine taking my child to the beach without sunscreen. When my son was in 5th grade, he went on a field trip to a local water park, and I explicitly instructed his teachers to please re-apply sunscreen and remind him on an hourly basis. He came home bright red and had not only  sunburn, but sun poisoning on his feet. As a mom … ahem … as a parent, I discussed with Mason how important it is that he take care of his health and his skin. I also tell him things like drive defensively and keep up with your laundry and start a Roth IRA. This is what parents do: we have a lifetime supply of knowledge that we drop on our children when they need them. Patricia’s young daughter has learned a horrible lesson from her mother’s need to tan.

Patricia seems incapable of making healthy decisions for herself, let alone for her daughter. She doesn’t seem very fit to parent and raise a child without harm, since her daughter suffered burns from the tanning bed, but I wish someone would step in and really help this woman. Based off her picture, she can’t possibly think she looks good. Her skin is so brown that it looks dirty, and there are a few other photos of her in the news right now that almost make her look like she’s in blackface. If we can get her the help she needs and convince her to take some parenting classes, it’s probable that this family can be saved.

Maybe I’m wrong. But what kind of healthy adult would put a child in an enclosed bed with lightbulbs that change the color of their skin? (That’s an even crazier sentence than I originally conceived.)

Photo credit: NBC New York

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