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.