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For safety's sake
by Asa Butcher
Issue 16
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Some of you may have seen the full-length version of this old email forward, but here is an edited highlight for the unacquainted:

"For those born 1930-1979:

We survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. We were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright coloured lead-based paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and we rode our bikes without helmets. We would ride in cars with no car seats, booster seats, seat belts or air bags. We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!"

I usually delete most email forward without thinking, but this one caught my eye because we had just begun outfitting our home with safety gear in order to protect our young daughter. Part of me wanted to safeguard my inquisitive precious girl, but another part didn't want to wrap her in cotton wool and make her seem too fragile for the world in which we live.

How far is too far when it comes to protecting your child from the dangers in your home, garden, street, neighbourhood or county? You walk a line of mollycoddling and neglect; it is a fine balance between securing the obvious dangers and then relying upon your parenting skills to guide the child past the rest. For example, you can easily child lock the cupboard containing the household cleaners and cover the electrical sockets, but should you invest in soft corners for the coffee table or even buy an infant crash helmet?

The range of safety gear is overwhelming and it is a game of conscience while stood in the baby section of the store. The guilt surges through your parenting nervous system and your hand clutches tighter to your wallet, but then you read the above email forward and begin to consider how much of this is necessary.

There is no way you will ever eliminate all the dangers of the house. All you have to do is remember the stories about your own childhood accidents and think how they could have been anticipated or even prevented. The problem that many parents face is the do-gooder neighbour or friends who spots a bruise or scratch on a baby and does their duty by informing social services.

It is the overzealous and suspicious nature of social services and not the neighbour's fault at what can then occur. I have been told many stories about false accusations and parents defending themselves against lies. One friend told me that Finland's social services find it suspicious if a baby under twelve months has a bruise and will investigate, which is unbelievable considering our daughter began walking at eleven months and moved with the grace of a drunkard.

Bumps, bruises and scratches are an everyday occurrence for babies and children, but we now live in an over-protective world that some say is good and others bad, either way we must negotiate our way without the bureaucracy overruling our parental gut feelings. For those born from 1930 to 1979 the world has become a vastly different place with more dangers lurking around every corner, but becoming nostalgic over email forwards will not help matters.

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