“Nightline” goes Free-Range Friday night!

Well, with a couple of caveats, that is.

First of all, the segment could be postponed indefinitely, should any “real” news develop.

Secondly, the piece is about a Free-Range tangent,  the whole issue I call the “Kiddie Safety Industrial Complex” —  that is, the multi-billion dollar  industry that has given us superstores full of baby products that didn’t even exist a generation ago.

Things like the baby bathwater thermometer that warns you if your baby’s bath is “TOO HOT!” (Never mind the fact that, unless you have no central nervous system, you could probably figure this out with a wrist in the water.) And things like “Boogie Wipes” — special Kleenex for kids. For their oh-so-special “boogies.”

Really — just writing about this product revolts me, but the messages behind it are too weird to ignore:

1 — That it is so “difficult” to blow our children’s noses that we need new, pricey (10 cents a sheet!) assistance.

2 — That kids are almost a different species from the rest of us, hence require a whole houseful of kids-only  products.

3 — That we really WANT to raise kids on grape-scented, saline-soaked nose wipes. As if the world isn’t chock-full of overwrought, over-scented, unnecessary junk already.

And that’s not even getting into the  way the safety industry creates a picture of  the world as super-dangerous (“Is your baby about to be SCALDED?!” “) so we will freak out and buy anything they’re selling.

Anyway, I’m happy the Nightline folks are looking into this topic, thanks to a great piece in SFGate.com. And I’m happy that they came to interview me. And happy, too, that  the  correspondent, David Wright, is really funny and a dad of two young ‘uns. So I suspect  it’ll be a good piece.

Till then — good luck with those “boogies.” Even though we seem to be the first generation in history that needs a whole lot of  help dealing with them.  — Lenore

35 Responses

  1. A tissue and my fingernail (and sometimes just my finger) serve me well enough. If I can’t get it that easy, it’s not worth getting.

  2. God invented sleeves for a reason…

  3. Oh. My. God. Special tissues for children’s boogies? Is it too late for me to opt out of having children?

  4. Oh god, the water temp duckies. We had one for the older niece – it was the only rubber ducky available.

    The foster sister, who has a kid the same age (three days apart) was bitching at me once that the bath water was too hot because of that damn rubber ducky.

    A. Kiddo wasn’t complaining. She was having fun.
    B. I thought the temperature was just fine.
    C. That duck was *frozen* on TOO HOT ever since we tested it out the first day. It never stopped saying that. Ever. Stupid broken ducky.

  5. Our “Too Hot” Ducky says it’s Too Hot every time you get it wet. Period. It should just say “too wet.”

  6. Those stupid duckies were the cause of more distress for my kid. After two baths with him screaming because the water was TOO COLD, I chucked the stupid thing. He was fine in a “too hot” bath. In fact, he was downright happy.

  7. Not to forget that toys now have to make at least 20 different noises, speak 3 languages, flash lights, move, require batteries, need a welding gun to get them out of the packaging, require a safety manual which tells you “this toy car is a toy and is not intended to be driven on actual roads,” and so forth…

  8. You know, the problem is that “USE YOUR BRAINS” doesn’t have a marketing department. Nobody makes a profit from your using your brains.

  9. Now this might get me flack even from sensible people, but I’ve always ignored that warning to turn down your water heater, too. Look, with seven people in the family, I need the heater set high enough so that the dishes get washed, the laundry gets done, and the people get clean before it runs out. If you go with the “recommended safety setting,” there’s simply no way that can happen. So my solution is (and this is why they pay me the big bucks and where I use my B.A.) “watch my kids when they’re big and strong enough to turn on the hot water and too young to understand why they shouldn’t.” Which in my experience, is less than a year each.

  10. Of course those duckies are set way too low. Think about it — if they don’t set it a good ten to fifteen degrees lower than what’s actually safe, they could get sued as a result of some freak accident. So, you have this device that’s supposed to tell you when the water is at a safe temperature, but for practical reasons it will only tell you it’s safe when your baby is freezing his soft little patoot off.

    So not only is it unnecessary, it’s useless. Most of us can judge when the water is cool enough to be safe (keeping in mind that children’s skin is more sensitive than ours) but NONE of us need something that’s intrinsically designed to tell us that the water’s COLD.

  11. I find washcloths work well for persistently runny noses. Not too rough on the
    nose, absorbent, and washable! And in a pinch…the bottom of my shirt works too. (I know…pretty gross, right?)

    SheWhoPicksUpToys – We don’t have our water heater turned down either – we have forced hot air heating, and were told if we turned the water heater down we wouldn’t get enough heat to warm up our house. So far, both kids are totally scald free. If they reach for the faucet while the water is running in the tub I stop them and explain about hot water. Last bath, the little one (1.5) reached for the faucet while the tub was not quite full and the older one (3) told him not to, because the water would get hot and he could get burned. I think they’re gonna be ok.

  12. Olivia – “I think they’re gonna be ok” — Famous last words.🙂 And that’s not to say they WON’T be OK, I’m just giggling because 1)mine are finally, blessedly adult and I won’t have to face the grandkid thing for a few years and 2) they will always find something new and different and exciting to get into anyway!!!🙂

    kids: the most exciting and terrifying rollercoaster ride you’ll ever love

  13. gLovies??? is that some kind of joke??? uh- how bout actually spending- oh say, 30 seconds to actually TEACH your child about proper handwashing???

    and as for the stupid kleenexes-isn’t just regular kleenex enough?? Even if I HAD special kid kleenex- my daughter (age 8) would probably just use toilet paper like she does now… even though we keep the lotion-y kleenex in the house all the time!!!

  14. Meadowlark – Oh, I know they’ll find innumerable ways to get in trouble, get hurt, get dirty, drive me up the wall…but I still think in the long run they’ll be ok. I’m also sure that 20 or so years from now I will look back on me saying that and laugh my fool head off at how young and silly I was.

    And really – gLovies? That has to be a joke, right?? Who would make their kid walk around with little gloves on all the time. Please tell me it’s a joke…

  15. Hahaha…I bathe with my daughter because it’s fun and a lot better than bending over the whole time (she’s only 4 months so she’s not ready to have tubby time by herself). I can’t imagine having a bath in the temperature “they” suggest. She seems to do well in a reasonable temperature with me:-)

  16. I take a shower at scalding hot temps. I just don’t feel clean unless I do. But whenever I give my son a bath or shower, he would scream bloody murder if the water wasn’t at that “really hot” point, crying that the water is too cold. Baths and showers were a nightmare for several years because everyone in the house (the dad, siblings, grandparents, babysitters, etc) would freak out when they saw how hot he likes his water, so he would freak out just about being in the water…

    I asked everyone to give me a year, and now, a year later, he takes a shower on his own, at his temps, and does a really good job. No more trying hard not to kill him on accident because water scared him so much because of everyone else freaking out.. I go in to make sure it doesn’t get too hot, but he does keep it on a slightly hotter setting then anyone else in the house, but me.

    And I do have him in a sensitivity therapy to see about working it down to “safe” temps, but even the therapist sees no harm in it.

  17. The tub ducks are cute, but I use the elbow test for water temp.

    I still cannot believe all of the crap they sell to nervous 1st time parents.

  18. Heard you on CBC this AM in Canada….good job!

  19. I loved my rubber ducky that said “Too Hot” on the bottom (we got two at Gabe’s baby shower!) because I knew that babies’ skin is more sensitive than an adults to, well, everything! They’re new, right? It wasnt’ easy for me to trust myself and I sure didnt’ have the confidence that comes from experience when handling kids all the time. I didn’t help raise my cousins (all younger than me but 1) and I was the youngest child.

    That right there might be the reason why my generation (I’m 25), and the one before me, is so vulnerable to this kind of scary marketing and all the gadgets. We no longer live in a time when aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandmas, cousins and siblings with their parents live close enough together for everyone to learn and teach everyone else, and this definitely includes childcare. Babysitting doesn’t come close to preparing anyone for what it’s like to have a newborn in the house. So you’ve got a generation or two that don’t know how to raise a child. They turn to experts and the experts make a LOT of money on books, toys and gadgets to help out new, uncertain, parents.

  20. Looking forward to that Nightline. Thanks for what you’re doing, Lenore. I blogged about you and your work the other day and got some good feedback. A shame we have to talk about free-range kids now, when that used to be (since the dawn of time) just the norm. I think most people identify with that rather than the new “norm” of hyper-protectionism today, but don’t know how to voice it. You’re helping provide that forum and voice. Thanks.

  21. How about “baby detergent”? I’ve never bought it. My husband has sensitive skin so I’ve always bought the dye-free perfume-free Tide or All or whatever happens to be on sale. What’s the point of “baby detergent”? So you can make doing laundry harder on yourself by having to use different detergent for different family members? The grown-ups and the two kids can get by with the regular stuff just fine thanks.

  22. I agree with Jen about the reason our generation is so vulnerable to these products (I’m a little older🙂.) We don’t have people around to ask.

    Not only that- all the advice from the “experts” changes every five minutes, so even my mother in law, who knows a lot about babies, isn’t up on everything. What’s a new mom to do?

    That said, I didn’t buy a rubber ducky that said “too hot”. But I do second guess a lot of my decisions.

  23. @Elizabeth, right on. Reminded me that I wanted to comment on that kind of stuff too. Lenore hits it in her original post above: “As if the world isn’t chock-full of overwrought, over-scented, unnecessary junk already.” I hate that it’s actually difficult now to find non-scented home and personal items for me , let alone my child. What a pain. There are plenty of smells in nature. I don’t need every little soap, wipe, sheet, etc to smell like gardenia-freesia-lavender-patchouli crap!

  24. “so even my mother in law, who knows a lot about babies, isn’t up on everything.”

    Assuming your husband has all his limbs and no major lifestyle-induced diseases, you can probably trust what she does know and not worry much about the rest. 😉

  25. When I had my first kid I got Dreft, the baby detergent. Used it for awhile, always carefully washing the grown-up laundry and the baby laundry separately. Then my son got really bad eczema around 5 months, and when I told the doctor I used Dreft he said to stop immediately and switch to something like All Free & Clear (which is what I used to for myself!). Dreft says it’s perfect for kids but is filled with fragrance. Yet another baby product that swears you cannot live without it but is not a good as the regular product….

  26. […] Lenore will be on Nightline tonight to talk about the gadgets and gizmos sold to parents in the name of child safety – things like wipe warmers, crib nets, and kid leashes. Word to new parents, you don’t need all that crap. I had a second kid just so I could raise her without all the rubbish I thought I needed the first time (just kidding). […]

  27. Jen, you really got me thinking on that one. I think the lack of confidence works the other way… all the advertising convinces you that you don’t know, rather than not knowing and then being vulnerable.

    I am quite a bit older (mid40s) but was never raised around kids, cousins, siblings, etc and when I had my first at 21 I lived in Japan and had nobody to turn to. Without the marketing to tell me different, I just assumed that I would do OK and used some common sense… it seems to have worked.🙂 So I guess my point is that a generation or two of marketing has convinced young women that they do NOT know anything and that they have to rely on “experts”. Whatever the He** THOSE are.🙂

  28. Ah, marketing. Any way to make a buck. New gadgets, new food, new everything.

    It’s the way of our species. Unfortunately, things change so quickly now, that it’s hard to weed through the really valuable gizmos and the wastes of energy crap.

    I always laughed at the diaper wipe warmers. And the bottle sterilizers. And everything that is labeled “anti-bacterial” as if that phrase is a GOOD thing.

  29. Ok, ok. So, I bought the infamous “boogie wipes”. I have to admit, though, I use them more for myself when I need a grape scented high than on my son. Ha Ha! Just kidding! They were on sale (I guess no one else likes them) and he had a real hard and dry streak of snot on his nose and I didn’t have regular wipes with me. Does that excuse fly?

  30. We had to use dreft on our shirts because our free and clean detergent was giving the baby a rash on her face. On the ducky issue, I feel that one that would give you the actual temp of the water would be much more helpful than one that just tells you it’s too hot. That being said, we got a ton at baby showers and have been trying to give them away as our friends have babies too. Nothing like regifting a useless gift.🙂

  31. Even baby cereals fall into this category. I’ve had conversations with mothers of infants where they’re trying to figure out which cereal is best and which order to give them in. Um, do they realize this stuff didn’t even exist 60 years ago?

    I tried the rice cereal with my first baby. Really I did. He lasted a week on it. The day I got it up to proper consistency was the last day he ate it. The stuff tastes like cardboard, and when he made the sucking lemon face three spoonfuls in a row, I decided to stop torturing him. I chucked the whole thing, went to the store for some brown rice and a jar of applesauce, and that was it for cereals forever. I figured that if the human race could survive as long as it did without this stuff, then we could probably manage.

  32. Saw you on Nightline, was great. I told several friends about it and watched it with my wife. Good stuff. At least one friend responded back to me on Facebook (where I joined a free-range group, non-official, not yours i don’t think) that he admits to being just too scared, too worried for his kids. I know the guy, and he’s not a freak- he’s very intelligent but just needs to hear more about this. Looking forward to getting and reading your book soon so I can better educate friends. Keep up the good work.

    Oh, and tell your neighbor that their place looked great (I know your secret!) 🙂

  33. My daughter is 9 months old and literally LOVES having her nose wiped with toilet paper.

    My mother-in-law keeps buying me junk. Wipes warmers!? Come on! If the wipe is really *that* cold, I’ll warm it with my hands! And don’t even get me started on all the “Make your baby smarter” crap. $200 to teach your infant to read? What ever happened to good, old fashioned flash cards and just reading together?! Sheesh!

  34. alright alright! i bought the stupid boogies wipes!

    seriously, we thought it was funny. we bought them back in march and the half used package is still around here somewhere (three months later). don’t worry, i’m not buying them again.

    now i have to type up a letter and explain how my kids are pretty much free range.

  35. […] knock an Aussie small business, but I’ve got a major issue with what Lenore Skenazy calls the Kiddie-Safety-Industrial Complex. Basically, companies using parental fears to market […]

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