Wednesday, March 16, 2011

They still can die, and they still probably wouldn't

Every single time you take your child in a car, they are traveling at high speeds on hard pavement in metal and plastic canisters of flammable liquids. That is a fact. It is also a fact that if you thought about the thousands of ways a child could die in an auto accident every time you got in the car, you'd never leave the house and probably have the kid taken by the state due to your emotional and mental issues over it. When people say "I could be hit by a bus tomorrow" they really mean "I know logically that I am mortal", not that they fully accept the gravity of the truth that they could be hit by a bus tomorrow, but they could. Why do I say this? Because people need to stop believing, and I mean this literally, that rules will make them immortal.

I know parents who are just anal about the rules. Never put a baby in a car seat in a coat, stay rear-facing as long as possible (ever known a mother to fold her kid's legs together to keep the car seat rear-facing longer? I have), never allow a baby to sleep on their tummy (I've heard of moms who rolled babies over who flipped on their own during the night), never let a baby have a blanket in the crib (why do sleep sacks come in toddler sizes?), never give a baby under x months old anything over stage 2 baby food. And what does all this boil down to? A belief that if they follow all the rules and never deviate, nothing can happen to their babies. And if something bad happens to someone else's baby, that person must have done something wrong. The car seat straps weren't tight enough, or there wasn't a fan in the baby's bedroom, or they are a cheerio before they were old enough. Every baby death must be avoidable because if not, then how can I be absolutely sure to avoid my baby's death?

You can't. You can minimize risk but never avoid it altogether. Last fall a kid at a school here in town was struck by lightning. The fiery hand of fucking God hit this kid in the parking lot of the elementary school. This is the textbook definition of random! And I heard parents rant about how the school had no lightning rod, and the kid had a skateboard, and my favorite: school should not have let out if there was a storm. Because what I want is for the school to hold the kids hostage until the rain stops, which often takes hours. But this accident must have been preventable and avoidable, or else we have no power. And if we have no power, then we are powerless, adrift on an ocean with our kids, unable to control the waves or the tides or the currents. And that just scares the fuck out of everyone. And rather than live with that reality, they hide behind their rules. And we all do it, to an extent. We all try to minimize risks (as we should), and we all somehow convince ourselves that a car cannot drive through the wall of our house and run over our children while they sleep, that organic food can never make us sick, and sometimes even that if we make our kids dress conservatively, they cannot be raped. But it leads to some harsh behavior too. Parents treating other parents like monsters and murderers for fastening the car seat straps over the coat rather than inside it (read that link, it's really good), or for giving a baby a blanket, or letting a toddler have m&ms (choking hazard, you know). But the fact is that we are all blood bags waiting to be popped, and nobody is running around with needles, poking their kids.

For the record, my 12 year old gets to ride in the front seat, my sons wear coats in the car seats, my babies have blankets, Danny gums table food, I absolutely love the BundleMe in the winter (and it's a death trap the likes of which will surely kill my child, another good link), and I consider myself to be a pretty good mom. But then, I also let my daughter ride her bike to the store by herself, so I'm obviously the most passive-aggressive murderer ever.

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