Monday, April 26, 2010

Micromanaging Moms 101

So, in my inbox today, I got an email that was a collection of all the baby and child recalls this year.  At first I thought it was a joke since there were literally millions of recalls.  Apparently absolutely everything you've ever bought is dangerous, including sweatshirts (your kid might hang himself on the drawstring), foam board books (he might chew on them), and plastic fork and spoon sets (if your six-year-old is using them, he could bite off a prong or two).  Just about anything might cause your child to lose a finger, fall down, or choke.  And if they do, you should sue the manufacturer for millions of dollars because every accident is actually someone's fault.  Few injuries have been reported, but if you complain, you could cause a nationwide recall because YOU NEVER KNOW what might happen or who you, oh indignant consumer, might be saving.

I wish my mellow moms friends and me would speak up, but we are all too lazy, we are tired of listening to how dangerous it is to be alive, and how careless we are with our kids.  We are used to pinch-hitting with whatever we have on hand, even if it is a contraband second-hand car seat that has been in a fender bender or a stroller with a finger-chopping hinge.  Any mom of more than two kids knows that any stroller can work as a triple stroller in a pinch.  You can pile the kids on top of each other.  One, assuming they have adequate head and neck control, can ride in the lower basket, or one can straddle the handle and hold on to the back of the seat, or, on occasion, his sibling's hair.  If one falls off or jumps off, which will happen, does this make the stroller dangerous?

When did "safety first" creep into the top spot on the priority list of our national parenting consciousness?  And when did we decide that creating a sanitary environment was better than teaching our kids not to wrap the strings from the blinds around their necks?  If you're a parent now, chances are your parents left you in the car while they ran into the post office, you sat in the backseat of a station wagon without a seatbelt, rode a bike without a helmet, and babysat three or four neighbor kids by the time you were twelve.  Most moms today wouldn't think of leaving infants or toddlers with seventh graders, even though THEY were seventh graders twenty years ago who managed not to maim the little ones in their care.  Is it because we didn't "know" how dangerous all those activities were, we didn't think twice about doing them?

A friend of mine went to a water park in Honduras.  There were no rules and people (after waiting their turn) splashed down the slides forwards, backwards, upside down, holding babies, holding each other... any way they liked.  She said it was fantastic, fun, and liberating.  That would never happen here.  In the US today, you won't even find diving boards in most pools.  They've all been taken out because they are such a liability.  If they're there, they are accompanied by so many rules that they're not much fun if you're older than five... and then you may not be allowed in the deep end without a parent "within a hug's reach."

How did we get to be so paranoid?  And why is safety more important than community or honesty or compassion?  All these crazy recalls drive up the costs of stuff we actually do need.  They increase the already rampant litigiousness of our society, and they imply that everything that happens could be avoided... a delusion of control that our kids would be better off without.

There's a movie coming out soon called Babies.  It's a documentary on four babies born to different families around the world.  I am hopeful that watching an unattended baby take a bath in a bucket with a goat nearby will reset the standard American mom's expectations on what is safe and normal.  Maybe there will be fewer babies in all the bath water we've thrown out the window.  Sigh... there's always hope.


Lenore said...

Ah -- I love this post. You'd never know from the literally MILLIONS of recalls that we are living in one of the safest times in history to be a kid. Even as recently as 1950, more than 3% of kids did not make it to their first birthday: 3179 babies out of 100,000 died. Today? 656 out of 100,000. Instead of celebrating we are worrying more than ever. Kudos on a great post about our ungrateful belief that we live in a hideously unsafe world.

ivey patton said...

thank you!!!!can i link to this and quote you? i'm getting fallout for letting my two sons ride their bikes in our delightfully bucolic colorado small town.

Julie Colwell said...

Sure, you can link and quote me. I got grief for letting my second grader ride neighborhood streets to his friend's house too. He loved it. It was only other parents who couldn't believe it was possible.


Genie said...

What? Another sane person out there? It's nice to know that I'm not the only one. As soon as my toddler can safely remember to avoid the poisonous snakes and scorpions out in the trees, she's free to roam around as much as she wants! I didn't get much freedom as a kid and I want to make sure that my girl does...maybe it will help with the teen years? :)