Guest Post: Is EVERYTHING Too Dangerous?

Hi Folks! I was reading this blog post about product-recall-mania today and nodded along with so much of it, I asked the writer, Julie Colwell, if I could post it and she said sure. So here it is, slightly edited:

Micromanaging Moms 101, by Julie Colwell, from her blog, “The Mother Load.”

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 6-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.

I wish mellow moms, friends and, well, I would speak up: 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.

When did “safety first” creep into the top spot on the priority list of our national parenting consciousness? If you’re a parent now, chances are your parents left you in the car while they ran into the post office, and you 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 20 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 U.S. 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 we -– and our kids — would be better without.

There’s a movie coming out soon called Babies.  It’s a documentary about four babies born to different families around the world.  I am hopeful that watching a baby take a bath in a bucket with a goat nearby it will reset the standard American moms’ expectations on what is safe and normal.  There’s always hope. — Julie