Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Toys in the Attic

One might think that this title, given my penchant for the classic rock, signals that this post concerns the 1975 Aerosmith album. Or at least the song by the same name.

One would be wrong.

In fact, this post is about toys. You know, the nice, innocent toys for kids.

Except that they kill.

Like most of you, I had not really focused on the deadly nature of the playthings our young ones amuse themselves with. (Or “with which our young ones amuse themselves,” if you have false sentences-ending-with-preposition issues.) But according to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, children’s toys in 2004 caused 16 deaths and almost a quarter of a million hospital visits.

And that’s not counting my recent unfortunate experience with Mr. Potato Head, which I skillfully kept out official records. Yikes! To this day, French Fries give me that “not so fresh” feeling.

But let’s focus on the present. This story made me think about all the precautions parents take, only to find that kids are kids—and on occasion will do dangerous things. No matter how much parents overprotect their young ones, shit happens.

Which, I must say, is a good thing.

I learned many things at a young age by doing many things I was not supposed to do, and many of those things had many unsafe aspects. And you know what? I’m still here—and stronger as a result. Being exposed to scary and potentially life-threatening experiences as a kid was a risk, sure. But it made me better able to handle life as an adult.

Today, however, it seems that everything is about protecting children from every possible danger. Kids of my generation rode on a parent’s lap on the drive to the store and survived … yet laws today dictate the specifications of the seat that a child must be restrained in. I know that children died in car wrecks back then because they were not “protected,” but I never knew one of them.

Parental worry has reached heights probably unimagined by tens of thousands of years of previous generations. My sister (three kids) told me a few months ago that she would not take her 10-year old and two 8-year olds to “March of the Penguins” because she heard that a baby penguin dies. And that would be “disturbing” for a child.

This is the same woman who sits down with her children to watch the nightly news, full of images of dead American soldiers, starving Sudanese, and bombing victims worldwide. But she won’t show them the natural cycle of life if it involves a dying penguin.

Amulet’s Angle: If you shelter children too much when they are young, the trials, tribulations, and occasional horrors of life will overwhelm their ability to cope as adults. Then what good have you really done them?

Most parents will react to the study showing that toys are still harming children by calling for the government to enact more intrusive legislation, to regulate further the means by which each person should raise their child, and to limit what little parental latitude remains in our society.

I hope, instead, that it forces people to realize that even extraordinary precautions (like those we already have) cannot eliminate risk in the real world. And even if we could eradicate childhood dangers, would we want a country full of people so coddled as children that they cannot handle the risks and dangers of adult life?

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not about to buy my beloved nieces hunting knives for their birthdays.

But I’ll be the first to encourage them to run through the yard, jump into piles of leaves, build treehouses … and yes, even play with toys in the attic.


At November 22, 2005 10:02 PM, Blogger Davydgrey replied to my musings ...

Interesting post. I just read an article on how the plain cardboard box was added to the toy hall of fame.

At November 22, 2005 10:16 PM, Blogger Dear Jane replied to my musings ...

as far as the safety of kids sitting on laps in cars years ago, the speeds that cars can travel, as well as the speed limits themselves have increased dramatically since then. I myself, from my NYC shitty studio apt. try to find a balance between protecting my children from potential dangers, yet still letting them make their own decisions and choices. I do not believe that knowingly putting one's children at risk in any way enhances their ability to handle risk as an adult. I think teaching them the importance of weighing information and making appropriate choices is what helps them to succeed in all aspects of their lives...but what do I know?

At November 23, 2005 2:20 PM, Blogger BuffyICS replied to my musings ...

Exactly--you don't want to shelter your kids too much, otherwise they become hopelessly naive as adults, which can be extremely dangerous in certain situations. I think this also goes along with the current trend of not spanking your kids as punishment--seriously, kids aren't mature enough to be taught with calm talks and time-outs.

At November 23, 2005 4:14 PM, Blogger An80sNut replied to my musings ...

Living life in inherently risky. I remember a Joe Jackson song, "Cancer," where he pretty much says that everything around you will give you cancer. I believe that too often we do shelter ourselves from reality by trying to pad and candy-coat the facts. You don't hear about how many kids have died on bicycles last year but people will still buy them for their kids this Christmas. I know someone that lost her son to a drunk driver that came up over the curb and hit him on their front lawn. Sure the neighbors might keep their kids indoors for a day or so as a jerk reaction but they'll let their kids play out there again. I think we've just pushed protecting our children too far and instead stopped teaching them to protect themselves.

At November 23, 2005 4:29 PM, Blogger Laurie replied to my musings ...

Well said, and I agree with you (excluding car seats and bike helmets - working in a ER will do that much to you).

Your post reminded me of that very old SNL sketch with Dan Akroyd selling dangerous toys like a bag of broken glass. LOL... sorry, I have a sick sense of humor.

At November 23, 2005 9:12 PM, Blogger Metal Mark replied to my musings ...

I am a father and I work with children at my job. Ultimately decisions like these should boil down to being based on a combination of reason, common sense and knowing your child. Sometimes parents spend so much time worrying about a child's future that they lose site of their own past.

At November 25, 2005 4:11 PM, Blogger Meagan replied to my musings ...

I agree with "Amulet's Angle" too.

That photo from the article is so poignant with the rubber duckies, one fallen over showing its underside!

love meagan

At November 26, 2005 7:00 PM, Blogger The Phoenix replied to my musings ...

10 and 8 year old? I think "March of the Penguins" is perfectly fine.

Mr. Potato Head is still cool!

At December 07, 2005 3:20 AM, Blogger Ben Heller replied to my musings ...

Kids should stick to Aerosmith albums. Far less dangerous.

Good post...


At December 13, 2005 10:58 AM, Blogger Perplexio replied to my musings ...

On the Daily Show, I heard about a school district in New England in which teachers were encouraged to stop using red pens to correct student's papers because corrections in red were "upsetting" to the students. Jon Stewart had a field day with it. He was interviewing a woman who wrote a book that basically condemned all of this coddling and sheltering of children as being more harmful than helpful and cited that as an example.

I also take exception with soccer and softball/baseball leagues (in Tee Ball, I understand not keeping score, as it's not about winning or losing, it's about learning the basics of the game at that level) that don't keep score so as not to upset the children on the "losing teams"-- what ever happened to "you win some, you lose some" and experience being the best teacher?

If we coddle & shelter our kids so much at such young ages, how will they ever make it in the real world? How will they ever deal with the rejection of not getting hired for a job, of getting fired from a job, of being dumped by a significant other. Pain is a part of life, but a necessary part of life. The pain of rejection and defeat is a blessing, because it's only with that pain that we truly have a benchmark with which to gauge happiness and accomplishment.

By numbing our children to the potential of pain or disappointment, we're also numbing them to the potential for happiness, and giddiness.


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