Thursday, August 16, 2012

Are We Too Safe?

I feel like I don't understand many things that seem to have happened over the 14 (yikes) years since I graduated from high school. I know I've talked about this before, but times have changed. Every generation has probably said that at some point, but I feel there's something particularly relevant about that concept these days. The overexposure to people we have gained from social networking sites in addition to the continued wave of hypersensitive parenting styles, have made what I consider to be a larger than average stride between myself and younger crowds.

People have every right in the world to raise their kids in whatever manner they see fit, so long as they are not putting that child directly in harm's way. The downside of that idea is when a parent makes a decision for their child with every good intention in the world, and it catches on so rapidly that society takes a seemingly harmless idea and forces the world to change around it in a harmful way.

The other day, a friend posted a picture on his facebook page. He, his wife, and their roughly two year old boy had taken some professional family photos. In one of the pictures, he was holding his son upside-down while he and his wife were kissing. Their boy had that kind of kid-smile that is infectious. It was a very sweet picture, but it wasn't long before comments started flying about holding his child upside-down. How it was very dangerous and to consider what might have happened if he was dropped! Then came the attacks on the two of them as parents, of course from total strangers.

Look, if you as a parent decide that it's unsafe to toss your child into the air and let them fall into your arms, or lock hands with them and spin around in a circle, or dip your child upside-down, that's completely your business. Quite frankly, if you hear laughter coming from inside my house during the day I'd caution you to stay out since there's a pretty high chance something like that is happening right at that moment. A higher level of caution when it comes to your kids does not make you a better parent than someone with a little more flexibility in that area. It also does not guarantee your kids unlimited protection from harm. More so, having an opinion on something doesn't mean that every needs to bend to your view, and offering your opinion of what is "safe" is not the same as some blind rage comment on how people who differ from your view are wrong.

So what then? Do we need to put bubble wrap over every object in the house? Ban the sale of tables with pointed instead of rounded corners? How long are we going to hear about Steve Irwin's son feeding crocodiles before we're able to be okay that he's someone who is growing up in a zoo with this lifestyle? Interesting to me, as I grew up in Florida just miles away from an entire park where young kids can come face to face with giant alligators for a price. Safety is really a frame of mind. I, for example, feel much more safe in a car than an airplane though statistics tell me planes are the way to go. So how safe are we? Too safe?

Something bugged me during a recent online search for a trampoline. One of William's favorite movies is the newest "Winnie the Pooh" and while he certainly loves that willy, nilly, silly old bear, Tigger has inspired him to fill moments of his day with bouncing. I'm happy to join in, but that can only last for so long. So I thought, "Hey! He'd bounce for hours on a little trampoline!" A short time into my search I saw this little bundle of joy:

I love how hard they work to imply that this is not just some fun plaything. It's a fitness center! Complete with fitness slide! Better still is the level to which they have gone to convince people that it's safe. You're basically leaving your child to play with a cloud, while on a cloud. Everything is beautifully soft, rounded, contoured, and padded. There are nets to protect you from swinging too far off course. Best of all, the trampoline has a safety bar! Nothing says, "Have fun kiddo!" like a bar on a trampoline designed to restrict your movement and bounce height. Isn't that why trampolines like this were invented? No springs to pinch skin, seemingly impossible to hit any part of the frame, and better shock absorption than most off-road vehicles. Still fun? Of course, but look at the cost of all that peace-of-mind.

We spend so much time worrying about our kids. Parents try to teach these little life lessons, but learning to pick yourself up is something often overlooked. For a time, William realized that the threat that he might be hurt would get attention. This led to fake injuries with fake emotional responses, something we then had to learn to ignore. When a child is learning to walk, falling is part of that process. Eventually the training wheels need to come off the bike, and falling is part of that process, too. What is it Dory says in Finding Nemo? "Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo."

Odd that after writing this, I wake up to several announcements regarding this:

So perhaps there's a sound logic to a company providing over-the-top safety precautions when there are parents out there who will simply ignore the most basic rules. Even if they are printed out for them, three times. Clearly there needs to be some middle ground established on this matter, and you just can't account for people who will be brazenly careless with their children. We used a Bumbo for a while, it went on the floor and was surrounded by carpet and blankets to fall on. We have knives in the kitchen, we keep them out of their reach.

...and when I buy some little trampoline for William, I won't be telling him to keep the bounces under two inches. Aerosmith taught me to live on the edge.

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