Worse Than “Baby on Board!”

Hi Readers! Excuse me while I gag. Amazing how one sign can make everyone who passes this stroller feel big, dirty, disgusting, diseased and depressed.

Remember those “Baby on Board!” signs, that made it seem as if people who were seriously considering crashing into a car would reconsider upon realizing it was carrying someone small? I’m having flashbacks.  — Lenore

While we're at it, don't breathe near me, either.

Condo Won’t Let Kids Play Outside

Hi Folks — Sometimes the inbox brings a little symmetry. Here’s a story one of you sent in about a condo association that can’t stand kids running around “from yard to yard” making “unacceptable noise.” Perhaps children should be taught to use their “indoor voices” outdoors.

But then here’s a story, also just in, about how Berlin is now officially allowing children to run around and MAKE noise (just not on Sundays).  So there’s hope. Far away. On weekdays.

Finally, I didn’t alert you to my current piece on ParentDish, “If You Don’t Have Kids, Can You Give Parents Advice?” So — here it is! Enjoy! — Lenore

School Uses Laptops to Spy on Kids: The Update. Really Weird Update.

Hi Folks! Just read this bizarre new wrinkle on TechDirt about the case of the Pennsylvania school that gave its 1800 students laptops and then used them to spy on the kids — 42 times! While the school claims it activated the cameras only when trying to track down a lost or stolen computer, nonetheless the original student we were talking about here was disciplined for selling or taking drugs. That’s an activity the kid did in his own home, as witnessed by a school administrator  via a secretly activated laptop.

And the administrator witnessed wrong! The drugs turned out to be Mike & Ike candies, says TechDirt! And now my worry is not just that the school was spying, and not just that it got it all wrong, but that someday kids WILL be spied on and WILL be disciplined for eating candy! Or, God forbid, homemade baked goods! (See below.) Aieeeee! — Lenore

Twain on Twains (Well, Really, Twain on the Risk of Train Accidents. Couldn’t Resist.)

Hi Readers — Look at this lovely little snippet of Mark Twain cogitatin’ on risk, and how we tend to blow it up all out of proportion. Apparently we managed to scare ourselves to death back in 1871, too. This excerpt appears on a blog I hear mentioned all the time, Schneier on Security, by Bruce Schneier who is (surprise!) a security expert, and who also writes a column for that great magazine, Wired.

Enjoy a little sanity from the ages. — Lenore

I Weep for My City (Banning Homemade Goods At Bake Sales)

Because, as we all know, the lack of funds for library books and gym equipment doesn’t kill kids, homemade cupcakes do. Nothing like a micromanaged snack. Check this out. And bartender? Make it another milk. Straight up, no cookies. — Lenore

P.S. My husband says we can’t call it a bake sale anymore either. How about a Fake Sale? The Deli in the Gym? Or maybe Processed Food Sale. That’ll bring ’em galumphing.

Wow! Many Kids Possibly Mis-Diagnosed as “Allergic”

Hi Readers! This is news to me: The well-regarded St. Louis Children’s Hospital has a program whereby they take kids who have tested positive for food allergies to see if they really ARE allergic. To that end, they feed the kids a steadily increasing amount of the allergen for hours on end, while closely monitoring them for adverse reactions. Turns out that in about half the cases, there aren’t any.

Well I’ll be a Mr. Goodbar! Another study, published last month in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (no, I don’t read it — I heard about it in the same story I just linked to, above), the University of Manchester performed these “food challenges” on 79 kids who’d tested positive, via a skin or blood test, for peanut allergies. Guess how many turned out NOT to be allergic?

A whopping 66 of them! That means only 13 WERE allergic!

The problem — the BIG problem, it sounds like, to me — is that blood tests measure the antibodies present when a particular allergen is introduced, and skin tests measure hives produced by a prick with the food extract. But it turns out that merely producing antibodies doesn’t mean a person will have any other symptoms, and neither do hives produced via prick. Who knew?

Anyway, I alert us to this info not because I want anyone doubting the veracity of another child’s diagnosis, but only so parents can be aware that perhaps their kids are not living under the allergen-covered Sword of Damocles. I only wish it were easier for the kids to take this “challenge,”  to see if they can relax and eat what they want. (Apparently the waiting list can be a year.) Fewer allergic kids could also mean fewer schools having to outlaw peanuts or homemade goodies. Anything that brings homemade cupcakes back into the mix is something I can get behind. — Lenore

Is the allergy test nuts? PHOTO: Gilles Gonthier. CREDIT: http://bit.ly/ctkHiD

Surely You Must Be Choking!

Hi Readers — Thanks to all of you who sent in this AP story today, about the American Academy of Pediatrics wanting companies to start labeling hotdogs, carrots, grapes and other foods as choking hazards.

Which, admittedly, they are. And sidewalks are tripping hazards, and puddles are slipping hazards, and trees are bumping-int0 hazards. The minute you decide to get up off the floor and sit on a chair (falling hazard) or couch (fire hazard) or go out the door (big, wide world-hazard) you are taking your life into your hands.

It is very sad — really — that in 2006, 61 children died choking on food. I can’t imagine their parents’ anguish. But to put that number in perspective, in 2005, 1,335 children died as car passengers.

Which is to say: Every day we engage in activities that hold some danger, however slight, and that is as it should be. Otherwise we’d be paralyzed with fear.

Should we try to be safe? Yes. Can we ever be totally safe? No.

I believe in car seats and safety belts. And I guess I believe in cutting up food until children are really good at chewing it themselves. I cut up some grapes in my day. What is unnerving about the idea of slapping a warning label on everyday foods is that we are now defining something as “unsafe” that is actually very safe —  just not absolutely, perfectly safe. The story ran on MSNBC under the subhead, “Pediatricians Seek to Protect Kids from High-Risk Items.” To me a “high risk” item is a leaky beaker of plutonium.

So what we’re talking about is a new way of looking at safety — and risk. When something that is safe 99.99% of the time is defined as “high risk,” the world looks like a death trap. It also changes the way we are expected to parent, demanding, as it does, hypervigilance, hyper-involvement in everything our kids do/eat/touch/try, and hyper-criticism if e’er we flag.

As if those of us who give our kids hotdogs weren’t already in society’s crosshairs! — Lenore

When kid bites dog, that's news! PHOTO: jetalone. http://bit.ly/9IDazT