Surely You Must Be Choking!

Posted by: , March 14, 2010 in 11:10 am


 Surely You Must Be Choking!There was an  AP story the other day about the American Academy of Pediatrics wanting companies to start labeling hotdogs, carrots, grapes and other foods as choking hazards.  Which, admittedly, they are. And sidewalks are tripping hazards, and puddles are slipping hazards, and trees are bumping-int0 hazards. The minute you decide to get up off the floor and sit on a chair (falling hazard) or couch (fire hazard) or go out the door (big, wide world-hazard) you are taking your life into your hands.

It is very sad — really — that in 2006, 61 children died choking on food. I can’t imagine their parents’ anguish. But to put that number in perspective, in 2005, 1,335 children died as car passengers.

Which is to say: Every day we engage in activities that hold some danger, however slight, and that is as it should be. Otherwise we’d be paralyzed with fear.

Should we try to be safe? Yes. Can we ever be totally safe? No.

I believe in car seats and safety belts. And I guess I believe in cutting up food until children are really good at chewing it themselves. I cut up some grapes in my day. What is unnerving about the idea of slapping a warning label on everyday foods is that we are now defining something as “unsafe” that is actually very safe —  just not absolutely, perfectly safe. The story ran on MSNBC under the subhead, “Pediatricians Seek to Protect Kids from High-Risk Items.” To me a “high risk” item is a leaky beaker of plutonium.

So what we’re talking about is a new way of looking at safety — and risk. When something that is safe 99.99% of the time is defined as “high risk,” the world looks like a death trap. It also changes the way we are expected to parent, demanding, as it does, hypervigilance, hyper-involvement in everything our kids do/eat/touch/try, and hyper-criticism if e’er we flag.

As if those of us who give our kids hotdogs weren’t already in society’s crosshairs!


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  1. mickin on February 26th, 2010 5:10 am

    Outrageous! You can’t be afraid of everything. Keep your kids safe. Be practical about it. Not neurotic.

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