how far is too far?

how far is too far?

When it comes to children, our country is extremely paranoid.

I mean, how many laws and rules do we have because kids *might* be injured? I think I notice it more because I grew up in a country without most of those kinds of laws. I’m not saying that they’re all bad, but sometimes I wonder if we’ve gone too far.

Now that I’m researching stuff for our own kid, I’m seeing “warnings” out there that make me wonder. Obviously warnings are good and parents need to take heed. But when is it necessary to sacrifice comfort/convenience?

I’m going to get myself in trouble here and I’m going to get frantic parents emailing me and calling me an evil mother. So hopefully I explain myself okay.

Take climbing trees for example. Trees are fun for kids! I used to love to climb trees, and it was always my goal to climb higher than the power lines. But think about it – so unsafe! Kids that high in the tree, who knows what branches can support the weight – oh no! They might fall! The neighbor boy once fell out of the tree we used to climb when we were in Waxhaw. I remember he got a bloody nose, but he was okay, and it wasn’t too long before we were all back up in that tree hanging around like monkeys. But he could have broken his arm or even worse. So should we as parents not allow our children to climb trees? Where do we draw the line?

I was reading about infant clothing. They said not to let babies wear clothes that have drawstrings on them because of the danger factor. Okay, I get that, makes sense to me. But they went on to point out the “horrible” statistics – drawstrings have led to 22 deaths since 1985! Oh my gosh! Okay I’m not going to joke about children dying. But in the grand scheme of things, that’s a really low number. When is the risk great enough for a blanket avoidance of a particular thing?

My parents have my crib from when I was a baby. It’s still in good shape; all it needs is a fresh coat of paint and a new mattress. I was reading a book today that says you should always buy new cribs because the parts on old ones might be worn out. This made me think. Should I go buy a new crib? (Let’s assume I want a crib regardless – I can see all the mommies right now typing comments about cosleeping, Pack N Plays, etc.) Am I a horrible mother for putting my child in a crib that I used as a baby 26 years ago? And, does the cost savings of not buying a new crib worth the “risk” I take?

And now where I’m going to get the most heat from parents – what about car seats? The more I read, the more I wonder. I should not skimp in this category, I’m told. It’s worth the money for a good seat and I should never buy a used one. I need to buy a new carseat every five years because safety standards change and old carseats wear out. I should put my child rear-facing until she’s 2 years old. She should be in a booster until she’s 12.

Obviously, I agree safety is important. That’s why I put my seatbelt on every time I ride in a car. I don’t want to just toss my newborn in the backseat and just hope that she doesn’t get hurt. But, when is too much? Every time we ride in a car we are subject to possible death from a crash. There is absolutely no way to remove all danger. With each precaution we take, we remove freedom, comfort, and convenience.

I rode in a carseat until age 1. I hated it, my mom says. I screamed the whole time. My mom’s nerves would be so aggravated – she finally put me in a booster seat around age 1. I know, how horrible! But I did much better and everyone was happier, and my mom was a much better driver. I was moved to a normal seat when my brother finished with his carseat, so probably around age 4 or 5. We moved overseas when my younger sister was 3. We didn’t even have seatbelts in those cars, much less carseats and booster seats! We somehow managed to make it out of childhood alive. :-) And let me tell you, by the time I left Peru nine years later I was VERY good at balancing myself in the car without a seatbelt – I could take the worst turns and stops while still remaining fairly still in my seat. It’s quite a talent.

So now where do we draw the line? I am going to buy a carseat for my child – it’s the law, and I would do it even if it wasn’t. And I’ll probably buy a new carseat, though I’m hoping if I like this I’ll be able to use it for all my children even if I end up having it for more than 5 years. I’ll go ahead and put it rear-facing right now, and cross the bridge later of when to move it to forward facing. (Probably will depend on how the kid reacts to being backwards. I get bad motion sickness anytime I ride backwards, so I wonder how my kids will be. Also will depend on when we get a bigger car – our backseat is pretty small right now.)

I want my kids to grow up in a safe, healthy environment, but I also don’t want to freak out either. Kids need to play, and one side effect to playing is bumps and bruises. I don’t want to be the mother who doesn’t allow her kids to live. But I don’t want to sit back and watch them play with matches either. And to be honest, I don’t want to be judged as an evil mother because I let my kids climb trees. Sigh, so much to think about, so many lines to wonder about.

12 thoughts on “how far is too far?

  1. We’re reusing Josh’s infant carseat for this baby! The only reason I wouldn’t buy a used one is because you don’t know for sure that it has never been in an accident (unless it is from someone you really trust) and if it has it could be damaged even if it looks okay on the outside. Also, I don’t think think the higher pricetag of a carseat means it is safer. From what I understand about car seat ratings, they aren’t based on the safety of the carseat at all but rather on things like ease of use. All carseats that are being sold brand new pass current safety standards–they don’t publish the data on which carseats passed better than others. So when one carseat is rated #1, it’s not because it was safer than other carseats but maybe is easier to install, use, etc.

    And as far as cribs, well we bought a brand new one for Josh, hardly ever used it, and even so it broke by the time he was 15 months old. Sometimes new things just aren’t made well these days. I think the biggest concerns with old cribs is lead based paint or if the slats are further apart then a baby’s head could get stuck between them–that sort of thing.

    I guess my thing is that I don’t buy hard and fast rules like never use an old crib. I’d check it out and make sure it was safe and if it was, sure I’d use it! But I’m not going to stick my baby in a crib with broken pieces whether it is 20 years old or just a couple of years old.

  2. the crib thing makes me laugh, there are so many recalls on new things you never know if it’s safe regardless. we have had two cribs and both were used, I wouldn’t worry about it.

    I was thinking the same thing about safety not too long ago. We are seriously a country full of fears. I’ll do what I feel is best to protect my children, but I am going to let them live. you bet your little behind they will be in trees if they want. I’ll let them play in the rain, I might even let them ride their bikes without a helmet (ooh, the danger).

    I think Car seat laws have gotten more strict for a few reasons, cars used to be huge and made of metal, now they are compact and made of plastic. Also, we have a lot more to distract us from our driving now than when we were little. Either way, we’ll be keeping Caylee rear facing for a while, she’s happy that way and her car seat allows it for a while longer. Lexi we turned forward facing at 10 months. I was young and naive and wouldn’t have turned her if I had known a little more. Either way, it’s up to you and Paul. I would only use a used car seat if it comes from someone you know though. that’s my opinion. :)

  3. We’ve been offered a used crib, and we’ll probably take it. I’ll buy a new carseat, but I won’t throw it out on its “expiration date,” because I’m not convinced that those date mean anything at all. My mom was as protective as they come, but I was allowed to ride to the parks and grocery store and school, all without a helmet. We didn’t have yards in Hawaii, so I played in the street all the time.

    With my kids, I hope to be as permissive as possible, within reason. I know I tend toward worrying, so I’ll have to fight that urge to let my kids just be KIDS. Climbing trees and wrestling and jumping off swings and hunting for frogs is part of that.

    And, I thought it was funny you used the phrase “blanket avoidance,” since that’s yet another safety rule for babies. Avoid blankets in cribs!

  4. Oh, welcome to being a parent! People will find ANYTHING to criticize your parenting choices about. Anything.

    I’ll let my son climb trees, but dang I don’t want him climbing past power lines! He’ll be rear-facing as long as I can make it last. He can see out of the windows sort of now anyway. I don’t think he knows any different.

    And yeah, all these new cribs are being recalled all the time. We have a brand new one and it’s finally get some use, but still not all night. Someday maybe. Heh

  5. The recall thing is a good point too. There have even been recalls for carseats recently (I think there was one for a Britax seat not long ago–and they are touted as the ultimate in carseat safety). But baby stuff gets recalled all the time, so buying new in no way guarantees that an item is safety.

    Maybe we should just get back to common sense!

  6. I have two boys. They both used an old crib. Old as in one from the early ’60’s. Guess what, no lead paint or heads getting stuck. I think the rule of thumb is no more than 4in space between slats. And that thing was solid. My cousin got a new crib for her oldest that broke before he was 1yo. So just be smart safe for your kids. As for not turning them forward untill they are 2, well my youngest was so carsick being rear-facing we turned him forward at 4months. The screaming stopped and he was fine. Not that I would recommend doing this, it just is what worked for us. It sounds like you already understand the diffrence between what I call smart safe and stupid safe. Let kids be kids. Just teach them to be smart safe.

  7. One thing I wanted to mention about the car seats… I’m curious who has decided the 5 year rule? Is it based off studies funded by carseat manufacturers? I don’t know this either way, but I do wonder about the motivation behind whoever sets these rules.

    Another thing that’s kinda along these lines but goes into a different topic that I plan to explore in depth whenever we have a son… Is the “wussification” of our sons. How we don’t let our boys be boys, but rather prefer them to be like little girls and demure and keeping their clothes pretty, yet this isn’t how God made boys. He made them to be strong and things like wrestling and playing rough when they’re younger help build that. Of course, those are more lines (when is it too far) that I don’t know.

    Annie: Yeah I hear you about cribs being broken or lead paint. Fortunately, my old crib is from 1982, which is after they stopped using lead paint.

  8. From what I understand, the 5-year rule is because the plastic starts to deteriorate. I think. I’d like to see actual studies of this.

    Our seat is a convertible and should last my son until he needs a booster. By then, our next child will probably have his/her own seat anyway, so I won’t necessarily need to reuse it.

  9. Joanna: Oh yeah! And start researching SIDS and there are SOO many rules! It freaks a mom-to-be out, because nothing is more sad than the death of an infant, but no one really *knows* why SIDS happens… There are just lots of theories.

  10. Kacie: re: power lines… I asked my mom about this tonight and she said they were really low power lines that went from our house to the neighbor’s house (which were both one-story ranches). So they weren’t as high up as street lines. Also, she said we usually didn’t try to climb that high because the best branches were below them.

  11. First, I want to say that the best and most memorable advice I ever got when I was at almost 30 weeks and anticipating the birth of Troy. It came from a sweet, innocent young salesperson (he couldn’t have been more than 17) who was working at the Babies “R Us in Gwinnett…I was shopping to make sure I was well equipped for the arrival of my baby, and he must’ve seen the uncertainty in my eyes. He asked me if I needed any more help, and I confided in him and only him, the fact that I wasn’t sure I was ready… but without hesitation, he reassured me that I WOULD BE – when the time came. I’ll never forget that. And sure enough, I was! It’s amazing what comes SO naturally after the birth of your baby!

    For Troy, I used all second hand gear from my brother’s first child… then gave it all back when they had their second. We never thought twice. The rear facing infant car seat stage is tough, though, and they had just started instituting that one about the time Troy was born. I hated it. But, I installed one of those two-way mirrors so I could see him while I was driving. I was lucky though, because most of the time I had a passenger who was willing to sit in the back seat and keep an eye on Troy. But when no one was there, I hated that his head would flop to one side, so I got him a neck support pillow. Ya gotta love that there’s a gadget for just about any dilemma you have!

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