One of the many joys of watching “Mad Men” is seeing how worried — not — the parents were about their kids, at least in this fictional portrayal of the early ’60s.
The kids are told to run off and play in another room so mom can have coffee with a friend. They’re put in a playpen…so mom can have coffee with a friend. Maybe I just like the show because I love having coffee with a friend (and think the kids can pretty much take care of themselves while I do). Anyway, in the best scene, a girl of about 6 or 7 twirls into the room announcing she’s a fairy, or space monster, or something, dressed head to toe in a costume that consists of a dry cleaning bag.
The mother is horrified! “If I find those clean clothes on the floor, young lady, you are in big trouble.”
Visions of crumpled clothes, not imminent death, dance in her head.
So I looked up the stats on plastic bags. Are they really so bad or are we just paranoid? Must we really keep them away from our kids?
Yes and no.
Yes, about 25 children do die each year, suffocated by bags. Horrible. But according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, most of these have been children under the age of 1. They rolled into a bag and couldn’t roll out, or a plastic bag of clothes fell on them and they couldn’t get out from underneath and suffocated.
These are terrible stories. But they have nothing to do with a 6-year-old twirling around in a dry cleaning bag she can yank off whenever she wants. They are really stories of babies suffocated by baby-hood — by not being able to crawl away yet, or even lift a head.
We have a tendency these days to lump all children together as totally incompetent and vulnerable. At the risk of, well, risk, we don’t give them any credit for figuring out how to handle themselves, even as they start growing up. We even forget that that’s the way a child does grow up: by handling situations that are a little tough.
It’s not that I’m not advocating plastic bag face masks. I’m just wondering about how, in trying to prevent any childhood trauma, we have forgotten that children and babies are not the same thing. It’s something moms in the ‘60s — at least the ones on TV — understood, even as they sipped their Chase & Sandborn coffee. — Lenore