I've really enjoyed reading Parents magazine over the years. When I first had Junior, I giddily raced out and bought an issue; yes, tell me everything I need to know about #2 nipples and cutting sandwiches into fun, cool shapes! Please.
Lately, however, I have begun swearing at the magazine. It's because of their monthly column, "True story." If you're not familiar with the column, it details horrific, "real-life" injuries sustained by poor, innocent children at the hands of their parents.
Like this poor kid below, maimed by a coat hanger:
If only the sweet girl's mother hadn't had the poor judgement to buy clothing that needed to be hung up, this senseless tragedy could have been avoided.
And this sad little cowboy (the column used to be called "It happened to me"—insert demonic mwahahahahaha cackle):
If only the boy's mother had put down the crack pipe—I mean, battery-powered toy—and decided to switch to wooden toys, this child's suffering could have been prevented.
Every month it's a similar tale. Children come close to losing fingers because of stray hairs (!). Coffee grinds that should have been thrown away (!) end up in shoes and cause disfiguring bunions. Salt and pepper shakers that should have been glued down to the table (!) end up stuck in eardrums, rupturing them and causing the worst case of deafness known to mankind.
There's this pervasive sense that "If only I'd seen the danger in that [insert harmless everyday object] little Billy wouldn't have to limp to school. Learn from my example...before it's too late."
But you can't learn from examples that aren't realistically preventable. You don't have 10,000,000 eyes in the back of your head, ergo you can't be sure that even though you bolted your plastic hangers to the coat rack, someone else didn't come along and accidentally yank one off and forget about it on the floor.
For Pete's sake, the damn dog could have bumped the rack and undone all your hyper-vigilant handy work.
And for fuck's sake, do you really have the mental stamina to be sure your child isn't sitting beneath you every time you unscrew the battery casing on your children's toys?
I've written about the fear mongering before (yah, I hated the Superbowl suggestion) and I'll continue to do so. We have to stop believing that we can prevent bad things from happening to our kids if only we watched them more, or put them in rubber suits, or thought ahead more, or planned more, or glued things down more.
Features like "True story" perpetuate paranoia and guilt. Yes, accidents happen and when they do you'll feel bad and wish you could make it all better, but columns like this turn everyday objects and tasks into worst case scenarios. They make you look at the coat hangers in your closet and think, This could kill someone!
And here we thought wire hangers were bad.
Not anymore, apparently.
About me: I'm 40 and just added a gherkin to our pickle party of a family. My husband Chuck, our 7-year-old Junior, our 4-year-old Everett and I live in a town in Connecticut I affectionately call Mulletville Lite (aka my childhood hometown). My friends call me Nutjob, and they're right. In my husband's spare time he dresses up as a Viking and chases ghosts (and I'm the nutjob?). When I'm not busy working as a graphic designer, I lie in a ball in the corner.