The whole world cannot be childproofed, and that’s actually a good thing.
My neighbor—correction, my neighbors, as this is a rapidly spreading cancer—have taken to sticking a bright orange sign near the middle of the street to remind us all that children are playing in our residential neighborhood. Let me say that once more for emphasis: children are playing in our residential neighborhood. These are people who insist upon a “may contain peanuts” warning on a bag of peanuts.
I love my kids. I love your kids, too. Kids are funny and sweet and can really get behind a good fart joke. The last thing I want is for something bad to happen to a child, but if I have to dodge another one of these stupid “children at play” signs I’m going to lose it.
Hypervigilant parenting via signage is nothing new. If you are of a certain age you probably remember the great “Baby On Board” invasion of the ’80s, when faux street signs dangled from the rear windows of Volvo wagons, admonishing drivers to proceed with caution when nearing their safe, boxy vehicles. I don’t remember anyone actually saying, “Slow down, honey, there’s a baby in that car. We better give them a wide berth.” Rather, the majority of us mocked those who displayed “Baby On Board” placards while said owners of both baby and sign congratulated themselves for being such fantastic parents. Then we each enjoyed a wine cooler, played with a Rubik’s Cube, and fiddled with the zippers on our parachute pants.
Regardless of their efficacy, millions of Baby On Board signs were sold during the Reagan era at a couple of bucks a pop. Preying on parental fear and guilt is big business: 7 billion dollars are spent on baby proofing each year, according to some estimates.
But child safety cannot be purchased. The world is full of sharp edges, speedy cars, and peanuts. The best way to keep your kid safe is to teach him or her to properly assess danger and react accordingly. If you don’t want your child to get hit chasing a soccer ball into the street, teach him not to chase a soccer ball into the street. Still not sure? Monitor her until she’s responsible enough to monitor herself. That way your little darling won’t chase any soccer ball into any street, regardless of the presence of a “children at play” sign.
Teach your kids to be responsible for themselves, not dependent on a warning label. It’s a big world out there full of unsupervised adventure, danger, scissors that must not be run with, and irons that should not be used on clothing one is wearing.
I need to cut this short and get to a meeting with my lawyer. Can you believe that nobody warned me peanut butter contains peanuts?
—photo courtesy of the author