Thursday, November 15, 2007

Be Afraid... Be Very Afraid

In no particular order, here are some things that Parents magazine warns us to be afraid of in their December issue:
  1. "Researchers found an alarmingly high rate of iron deficiency among overweight toddlers..." which can lead to difficulty learning and "behavioral delays." (p. 35)
  2. Overwrapping your baby at night, which can increase the risk of SIDS. (p. 35)
  3. Giving your small child too much cold medicine can cause serious side effects or death. (p. 35)
  4. "The number of candle-related house fires nearly doubles in the month of December. (p. 36)
  5. Large amounts of hand sanitizer can result in severe alcohol poisoning. (p. 40)
  6. Nursing moms taking codeine for the aftereffects of birth should look out for "excessive sleepiness" in their baby, as this can be a sign of an overdose - "some women who are very quick metabolizers can have unsafe amounts of medication in their breast milk." (p. 42) Good thing I wasn't taking any painkillers... I would have been absolutely certain that Chloe was overdosing!
  7. In the 2003-2004 flu season, 153 kids died. Better get your shots. (p. 46)
  8. "An everyday trip to the mall... poses a surprising number of hazards that can cause severe injuries." (p. 54) These include store displays, which can fall over (p. 56)...
  9. ...escalators, which can cause little bumps, bruises, lacerations, and limb amputations (p. 56)...
  10. carts, which send 21,000 kids under five to the emergency room every year (p. 57)...
  11. ...elevators, which crush the hands and limbs of nearly 2,000 kids a year (p. 58)...
  12. ...oh, and right, they can also wander off. (p. 59)
  13. During pregnancy, there are "likely explanations" and "worst-case scenarios" listed for three symptoms (just because we don't worry enough already). If you see bleeding, it could be a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, preterm labor, a problem with the placenta... or nothing. (p. 75)
  14. If you have severe itching, it could be "inthrahepatic cholestasis." That shuts down your liver. Or it could be nothing. (p. 75)
  15. If you have swelling, it could be preeclampsia. Or it could be nothing. (p. 75)
  16. If you let your kid get too stressed out early in life, they'll never get over it - "Children who have higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, early in life are more anxious and easily stressed as older kids." (p. 112)
  17. This goes for pregnancy, too - stress too much when you're pregnant and your baby is more likely to be premature, low-birthweight, hinder their psychological development, make them more anxious, and sleep more poorly. (p. 113) Stressed yet?
  18. Your kid could choke on a bouncy ball that's too small. (p. 116)
  19. Your kid's wooden blocks could chip, dent, or splinter. Or your kid could use them as a weapon. (p. 116)
  20. The discount crayons you got for your kid could be made of something that's not nontoxic paraffin (probably lead from China). (p. 118)
  21. Your kid's teddy bear could carry dust mites and allergens and can cause breathing problems or skin irritation. (p. 118)
  22. The little pegs on your kid's puzzle could come off and choke them. Or they could be made with lead paint from China. (p. 120)
  23. Your kid's toy instrument could be painted with lead from China. (p. 120) Okay, and I was sort of joking about the "lead from China" crayons earlier...

And I'd say that's about enough for one evening, even though I'm only halfway through the magazine. Now don't get me wrong - I've found useful tips and products in these parenting magazines, including this one. Did you know that echinacea really does help prevent colds? Well, you do now.

My objection is that so much of what these magazines sell is fear. I don't dispute the factual basis of any of these items. Some of them are fairly minor, and I'm certainly not saying that we should knowingly expose our children to serious danger. But how much do we curtail their freedom, their ability to learn from the things around them, their sense of independence and exploration, just to keep them "safe"? What does "safe" really mean? How "safe" is safe enough? It seems that in the current cultural environment, there is no such thing as safe enough - if there's even a hypothetical risk, the responsible thing to do is to protect against it. That sounds good... but it doesn't sound realistic. Our world is not an especially "safe" place. (On a side note, I don't know why [heheh, okay, I do so] these magazines never recommend that people quit putting their kids in cars, as driving is clearly the most dangerous activity any of us engage in on a regular basis.)

I don't exactly have an answer to this, but I'm curious about what all of you think. An example: I think that Chloe will probably be allowed to climb trees... but I think of how high I climbed as a kid and what would have happened if I fell, and that's pretty scary. The thing is, I DIDN'T fall, and neither did any of my friends. I don't know of anyone who was injured at all in a falling-from-a-tree accident.

What did your kids do/ do your kids do/ will your kids be able to do/ will your hypothetical kids someday maybe be able to do assuming you ever have them which you're not saying you ever will? What kind of risk is unacceptable, and how do you gauge that risk? What are the benefits of allowing kids to do "risky" things? If you'd like to reflect on this a bit, you should check out Emmie's blog, Better Make It a Double, on the left sidebar. (Sorry about the link-lack; I think the relevant posting was in August. Or October. But probably August.) Maybe I'll post a follow-up with some of my own conclusions.


Blogger Karla W. said...

Okay, My favorite are the women's magazines that have the photo of a skinny woman with a big title "Loose 10 pounds by Thanksgiving" (or whatever) and then have an equally big photograph of a cake and title "tips on making this decadent chocolate cake..." Mixed messages?!?

Sammie is a climber. I don't know what risks she'll take, I only expect that we'll be in the ER with her for some sports or activity related injury before the age of 5. :)

11/16/2007 03:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"For I have not given you a spirit of fear. . ."
Sometimes it is hard to hold on to that in a culture that cultivates fear. especially when my heart (my kids and husband) are involved. But remember, God is bigger than anything we can worry about

And yes, my kids will climb trees! Perhaps even have a fort sometime!

11/16/2007 11:02:00 AM  

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