Now Our Kids are Too Delicate to Handle the Glare of Notebook Paper?

Readers — I just got some “helpful” back-to-school tips from a famous sunscreen company. (Hint: Think dog and little girl and bathingsuit.) Not only does that company really want kids to wear — this’ll surprise you — sunscreen when they go out for recess, but it had some other suggestions. Well, two, actually, one of which was for kids to wear a comfortable (as opposed to uncomfortable) backpack. Never woulda thought of that! The one single other “tip”?

Students spend so much time staring at paper, it may surprise you to know that the higher the contrast, the more strain on your son or daughter’s eyes. If the school allows it, give your child yellow or green paper. These colors actually offer reduced contrast and brightness, easing the strain on their eyes.

So basically, the sunscreen company is suggesting that, ever since Guttenberg, our kids have been going blind, or at least under difficult visual duress, thanks to that darn white paper.

As for the sunscreen company: I understand that you have to gussy up your “tip list” with other ideas, so it didn’t look like all you care about is selling more sunscreen. But it sure looks like all you care about is selling more sunscreen (and coming up with ridiculous new worries, so the idea of kids slathering themselves in sunscreen for 15 minutes of recess seems less extreme.) — L

STORIES NEEDED: Has Your Kid’s Camp Become Less Free-Range? Or Even Nutty?

Hi Folks! I’m writing a column inspired by the Maryland law that was about to be enacted that would have prohibited counselors from applying sunblock to kids. The state was, of course, afraid of perverts. But when parents heard about the measure, THEY were afraid of sunburn. So the law did not go into effect (but parents still have to sign a waiver saying they agree to counselor-kid sunscreen application).

Anyway, that got me to thinking about other ways camps have changed and even contorted, in response to parental fears, lawsuit fears, and just fears in general. If you have any examples, I’d love to hear ’em. Especially after just finding the FIVE PAGE health form I have to fill out for my son to go to Boy Scout camp for a WEEK. I know, I know — some kids have allergies to surprising things, but really: I have to check off whether the camp is allowed to give him calamine lotion for an itch or Bactine for a scratch? Yes indeed I do!

And so: I”d like to hear from parents, camp counselors, camp owners and anyone else with any camp connection. As you know, I love safety, but I also love sanity and a soupcon of summer freedom. Hope yours is a happy one! — L

Kids waiting to go to camp in the days before parents had to authorize the use of sunscreen. In fact, the days before sunscreen, period.

Free-Range AND Obsessive-Compulsive?

 Hi Readers! Here’s a little note I got that I thought you might like, too.

Dear Free-Range Kids: As the pseudo-aunt of a 2.5 year old nephew and 4 day (yes, DAY!) old niece, and as someone who wants children of her own, it is so refreshing to hear your point of view. My sister  and I have arguments about her toddler’s safety : Do we REALLY need to religiously apply sunblock on him for the twenty minutes he’s going to spend in the sun on the deck? Do we really have to use bug repellent on the off chance a mosquito traveled all the way from Africa surviving, against all odds, on the blood of jumping fish, and now might  bite him, giving him malaria and causing him to die? And don’t even get me started on “if we give him sugar, it’s ALL HE’LL EVER EAT!” (Because sugar, apparently, is the new crack. And we’re all addicted.)

I’m all for safety. Don’t play with matches. Don’t run with scissors. I certainly don’t leave him alone with my loaded gun. No need to COURT danger. But sunlight? Sugar? Killer mosquitoes?

And, by the way, I have a clinical diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I’m big on what-ifs. There’s a reason I wash my hands thirty times a day and quadruple check my door locks. Of course I worry. I’m better than anyone at finding things that could potentially be harmful. But I also know how miserable living a life afraid of “what might happen” can be. And if OCD me can let the child watch a movie (might harm his eyesight, you know, if he sits too close), or play with my Labrador (the puppy might suddenly, without provocation, attack him then turn on me and rip out my throat, leaving us in a bloody mess), or help me cook by adding pre-cut ingredients into a soup pot (I might lose my grip, drop him head first into the pot, causing him to sustain large burns and eventually drown in vegetable beef soup) — if I can do this, with a disorder that’s colloquially called ‘the doubting disease,’ then by God, there’s no excuse for the rest of us. — Signed Auntie OCD