Positive Cynicism – Kids need to feel more pain

Aaron Davis

Aaron R. Davis

That’s right, it’s October: when the leaves change colors, blogs count down to Halloween and an overabundance of safety precautions makes me ponder yet again what pussies kids are these days.

But, really, it’s unfair to keep railing against how lame kids are. After all, kids are a product of their upbringing. It’s high time we talked about what cowardly, overreacting lamebrains parents can be.

Here are some things that happened to me as a child:

1. While running in the house, I slipped on a catalog and split my head open the corner of an end table, requiring 13 stitches.

2. I played in subdivision construction sites, open sewer tunnels and storm drains. Once, I stepped on a nail which amazingly managed to pierce my shoe between my toes instead of puncturing my foot. I pulled it out and kept playing.

3. I got stung after some kids threw rocks at a hornets’ nest.

4. I fell into thorny bushes because I was idiotically walking on a brick ledge on our back porch.

5. I held a bear trap wrong and nearly chopped off my fingers.

6. I got my finger stuck in a car door and couldn’t get the door open again.

7. I caught a fishhook through my thumb.

8. My sister and I used to put all of our stuffed animals in a pile on the cold, unfinished concrete floor in the basement laundry room, then climb on top of the freezer and jump on them. We also used to jump from the landing onto a bean bag chair on the basement floor.

9. My friend Carl and I once made nunchucks and beat each other up with them.

10. I once watched my friend Corey fall out of a tree and snag the stump of a branch in the shin, digging a gigantic hole into his leg that ran from his ankle to his knee. We saw his bone.

And so on and so forth. All of this stuff happened, and more, and things I don’t even remember because I was too young, or, who knows, maybe I damaged my brain in a fall.

My point, though, is that when all of these things happened, never once did my parents run off and sue somebody, or prompt a product recall, or demand someone pay my hospital bills. They let these incredibly dumb things I did teach me lessons about not doing incredibly dumb things.

What prompted me to talk about this was the recent/latest/annual? Fisher-Price recall of over 11 million toys.

But what really struck me about this recall is the low incidence of injury. In fact, some of these products have injured no one at all.

One toy car is being recalled simply because, maybe, it’s kinda possible, that somehow, the wheels could sorta come off and that may be a choking hazard, if it were ever to happen, which it actually never has. But better safe than sorry, right? I mean, why not further damage the credibility of your company by recalling toys just because they could, eventually, possibly, perhaps cause a child to choke, maybe.

Now, before you start, I know that children can choke on things. I know you want your kids to be safe. I know you worry about things that could happen to your children and that you hope never will. That’s part of being a good parent. Despite the things I did as a kid, I’m not an idiot. I know there are real safety and hazard issues in this world for children. So don’t hit me with any jazz about how I’m taking this too lightly or should be more understanding about what parents go through.

But do parents really have to be such maniacs when it comes to child safety?

Remember going outside and playing until the street lights came on? Why did you grow up to put your children on leashes and panic if they’re out of your sight for too long? Why do you think everyone in the world is trying to poison, choke, kidnap or molest your children? There does come a point where it exceeds good, rational parenting and becomes something worse, and you start trying to remold the world to center around your kid. And you know what? I don’t really give a shit about your kid.

I saw an item on the news the other day about this recall, and it really got to me the panic with which the report was being given. The woman on the news was racing through the piece, trying to make sure that parents knew that their kids were going to, I don’t know, die if they had these things in their home. She was practically crying. I was nearly embarrassed for her when I went online and saw that the impetus of the recall was really just the fear of potential injury.

One item being recalled, a high chair with pegs on its legs, has been on the shelves since 2001. 13 kids have gotten stitches because they were scratched by the pegs, and one kid had some kind of tooth injury (to his baby teeth). One chair has injured 14 kids in a decade. Seriously? You’re recalling a high chair because it gave just over a dozen kids owies in one-tenth of a century? Holy shit, what a bloodbath!

I remember getting hurt on things around the house and hearing “Now you know not to do that again” and “Well, don’t put your finger in there.” This is the kind of thing growing up teaches us through experience: touch hot stove, never touch hot stove again. I once touched an exposed wire; I learned awfully fast why you shouldn’t do that. But it didn’t kill me. Cuts and bruises never killed me. Broken bones only slowed me down. I fell face first into experience, and as a result, I wasn’t afraid of walking in an icy parking lot or seeing a bee outside. I learned to be careful by hurting myself.

Here’s the kind of example I had as a kid: my Dad once took us sledding and decided it would be a slick idea to surf down the hillside. He stood on one of those roll-up toboggans and fell right on his head, sprained his neck, drove himself to the hospital and came back with a neck brace. I think he was about 30. Obviously, he wasn’t the kind of guy who was losing sleep at night because there wasn’t a door guarding the basement steps or padding on the table edges.

But you know what? He didn’t have to be. Because he also taught me about looking both ways before crossing the street and not getting in a stranger’s car and the correct way to hold scissors and knife safety and why you shouldn’t run from dogs. He worried about the things a parent should worry about, and knew that making non-fatal mistakes would teach me the rest.

And he certainly never forced a product recall because I scratched myself on something.

Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at samuraifrog@yahoo.com.

  1. Joelle October 5, 2010
  2. Joelle October 5, 2010
  3. Daskaea October 6, 2010

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