Like any good mama, I want to make sure that my kids are safe. They are always properly restrained in their carseats (said carseats having been installed at the police station), they wear bike helmets when they ride, and I dispose of any toys that are broken and could be a choking hazard. I also signed up for email alerts from CPSC — the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Toys that have been recalled for safety reasons are a serious threat, right? Not necessarily, in my opinion.
Today’s CPSC bulletin regarded a riding toy that was recalled as a fall hazard. From the bulletin:
“Hazard: Children who lean too far forward on the seat can go over the handle bar and hit the ground. This poses a fall hazard.
Incidents/Injuries: The firm has received four reports of incidents, with one incident resulting in head bumps and one resulting in a minor concussion and cuts to the gum and lip from the child’s front teeth.
Description: . . . It is 14 inches high . . .”
Following this logic, shouldn’t we stop using everything that a child might sit on that is at least 14″ tall because the child might lean too far forward, fall off and bump his head? That would mean no bicycles . . . no riding on horses . . . no riding on parents’ backs . . . . no sitting on couches and chairs . . . the list could go on and on. Seems silly, but what’s the difference in the logic?
The bulletin also advises consumers to contact the manufacturer for a replacement toy. What might that replacement toy be? (I sent a message to the manufacturer of this particular item asking exactly that but have not yet received a response. If they respond, I’ll post it here.) How exactly might the manufacturer “fix” these deadly riding toys? Kids ride on them. They may fall off. It’s called gravity. I’m sorry for that one kid who reportedly got a minor concussion and some lacerations to his gum and lip, but he’s one kid and that could have happened doing a million other, officially “safe” activities. Hell, my kid broke his arm running through the living room, tripping over his own feet and falling down. Who do I contact about a recall on living rooms or feet?? For the person who had to type up this CPSC bulletin, I can’t imagine typing out, “resulting in head bumps” without laughing. It sounds like a nursery rhyme — “He went to bed, bumped his head and couldn’t get up in the morning.” Instead of issuing a recall, send the kid over here and I’ll kiss his head all better.
I don’t mean to make light of all product recalls or consumer safety in general. Trust me, Ralph Nader is one of my personal heroes and I thank him for all he’s done to make our products safer. I know that there are very scary, truly dangerous products out there and I give CPSC a lot of credit for helping us make sense of them. But as parents, it’s not enough to just keep our kids safe. We have to teach them common sense, responsibility, and accountability, not reactionism, victim mentality, and passing the buck. Kids have to fall so they can learn to get back up. We can’t protect our kids from all hurt, nor should we. So please, continue to read these recall bulletins (I know I will) but decide for yourselves what poses an actual, imminent threat to your child.
Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids has two amazing posts this week that really hit these points home. One is an incredibly moving letter from a mama who lost her nine-year-old daughter much too soon but finds peace in the fact that her daughter truly lived in those short nine years. The other is about the “Kiddie Safety Industrial Complex” and how we spend too much, an article written in honor of National Child Safety Month. I urge you to read both and let me know what you think.