Friday, October 30, 2009

Better Safe Than Stupid

Here is my monthly Home News Tribune column that was published on October 29, 2009. Doesn't it just burn you up to see a parent acting ridiculously irresponsible?

A parent must assume full responsibility for their child's well-being at all times, from infancy to when the child starts school, and then some. That's why something that I saw recently left an indelible impression on me.

One fall afternoon, I passed by a house in my neighborhood and observed that a man in his thirties was mowing his front lawn. Nothing shocking so far, but then I noticed a child, perhaps one year old or less, in an infant snuggly on his back.I stopped my car and stared in amazement because I thought I was hallucinating. This man was pushing a noisy power mower (with no bag to catch the cuttings) and his infant is strapped to his back for the ride.

Confirming my initial observations, I drove away wondering what this man could be thinking. I tried to put myself in his shoes so as not to be too judgmental. Maybe he is a single father who is adversely affected by this recession and can't afford a baby-sitter for one hour (feeble reason). Maybe he loves his baby, works long hours, perhaps on the night shift, and longs for this precious bonding time (ridiculous reason). Maybe he thinks his baby enjoys the ride on Daddy's back and experiencing the great outdoors simultaneously (absurd reason).

Aside from the danger of dropping the baby or the baby falling out of the infant carrier is the bizarre assumption that this baby might be enjoying him/herself while inhaling dust and fiber from the grass cuttings and being assaulted by the deafening sound of a rattling mower engine. And what a magnificent view of Dad's sweaty neck.I controlled myself from stopping the car and telling this man what I thought of his parenting skills. I want to assume that this man cares about his precious charge but just didn't consider how enjoyable this might be for his child.

More inexcusable is that he did not recognize this as a dangerous situation.
Tragically, injury is the largest cause of child death in all developed nations, accounting for nearly 40 percent of deaths in the ages one to 14. These statistics are compiled in UNICEF's Innocenti Report Card.The report further states, "Taken together, traffic accidents, intentional injuries, drownings, falls, fires, poisonings, and other accidents kill more than 20,000 children every year in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) nations."

Traffic accidents form the largest category of causes of child injury and death. Interestingly, boys are 70 percent more likely to die by injury than girls. In every situation, parents should first determine if the circumstances are completely safe and then look at it from their child's perspective asking, "Are we having fun yet?"

Endnote: Not that you asked, but here's my (somewhat paranoid) list of recreational activities that are prohibited for each of my children due to safety concerns from yours truly:
• Motorcycles and convertibles (on the Turnpike versus 18-wheelers?);
• Hot air ballooning (just take pictures of them);
• Parasailing (200 feet high and your life depends on a rope?);
• Spear fishing and underwater shark encounter (can you tell I was raised in Miami?);
• Extracting cobra venom (Google "Bill Haast Serpentarium");
• Hang-gliding and skydiving (no explanation needed);
• Bungee jumping (not even worth discussing).
I think we've had a good deal of family fun over the years, despite the lack of participation in the aforementioned list of activities.

And wherever my children go, I always caution them: Have safe, be fun!

Dr. Alan Singer is a marriage therapist in Highland Park. Please comment on this column via his website


Kelly D. said...

I'm very cautious when it comes to what I do and what activities I allow my kids to do as well. Most of the items on your list would be items on mine. We all have different parenting styles and tolerance for risk.

OneSurvivor said...

And here I have been told I am TOO cautious! I am shaking my head at what you saw. Yes...we parents ARE responsible for our children's safety. As they grow older we have to teach them how to keep themselves safe and always ask ourselves if they are old enough to be responsible enough to follow the "rules" of safety.

Thanks for the post.