Parental Responsibility

If you haven’t been following it too closely there’s been a bit of hue and cry over sphere magnets and recently there’s been a letter-writing campaign to ask the organizations to reconsider the ban. Yes, they give you a free set of magnets if you write in but from what I’ve seen there are quite a few valid points. Here is my letter; I’d appreciate any feedback:

To the CPSC,

Hi, my name is Aaron and I’ve been sober for… wait… wrong letter.

I’m a parent. I’ve been a parent for eight years and I’m looking forward to being a parent for many, many more. I’ve got two boys and amid the desires to beat each other (and their father) silly with foam weapons, ride their bikes and annoy the ever-loving hell out of each other there is a strong desire to explore all things neat and science-y. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shown them something as simple as a grade-school potato battery only to have their eyes light up and cries of “NEAT!!” fill the air. Those cries are quickly followed with demands to try to build it themselves and then tell everyone they meet the neat thing that they did and what they learned.

I admit that my qualifications aren’t as impressive as some of the specialists and analysts that are no doubt weighing in on this issue; I’m only a dad that wants his kids to experience all sorts of interesting things as they learn about the world around them. That’s why I’m not going to bury you with statistics that you are already very familiar (and are no doubt being bombarded) with on a fairly regular basis. I’m not going to tell you that the incidences of injury with these hobby items are significantly lower than that of balloons and trampolines that are actively marketed to children. I’m not going to draw distinctions between “estimated” injuries and “reported” deaths.

To put it simply; I think the ban on magnet spheres is unnecessary.

I know what you’re thinking; you can point to injuries sustained by small children that happened to swallow a pair of the magnets because we all know that they explore the world with their mouths. I can’t tell you how many times I remember snatching something inedible out of the hands of one of my children (much to their dismay) only to replace it with something a little more age-appropriate and difficult to swallow.

I was a responsible parent. I wasn’t always on the ball; I found a dime once in my son’s diaper and was very thankful that there was no injury as it passed through my boy’s digestive tract and I remember thinking that I had completely child-proofed my house only to be cleaning up the pieces of something I had stashed high enough on the shelf only to find that one of my kids was an apt climber. Once I realized they were old enough to devise a strategy to get what they wanted but still young enough to shove it in their mouth I moved on to the next phase of my parental plan:

I continued to be a responsible parent.

In 2008, when the first magnet spheres came available on the market, I wanted a set. I even went so far as to stare longingly at them in toy stores and ask my parents for them on my Christmas list.

Yes, I’m very much a “kid on Christmas” on Christmas; now more now than ever because “he who puts the toys together gets to play with them first”.

But, as I watched my two year old (he’s six now) try to shove yet another toy in his mouth (probably because he liked the taste; I didn’t question his motives, just tried to keep him from choking) I realized that those tiny magnetic spheres probably weren’t the best to have around the house.

I was a responsible parent and I have yet to acquire a cube of spherical magnets, though I think this Christmas might be the year.  If they are banned I might not be able to get them and that would be a huge disappointment to me and my children. They’ve just recently discovered the fun that is magnetics and they are the types who can play with the make-a-sentence magnets on my fridge together for a solid hour without any sort of fighting.

That’s a miracle, if you know my boys.

My point is simple, even if I took a long time getting there: there are always going to be dangerous toys. I could say “back in my day” but as a newly-turned thirty year old parent it’s not that far in the past and most of my childhood toys are still available in one form or another, though they are smaller than I remember and have slightly more padding.

Calling for a ban on a toy or kit or gewgaw or widget just because there are injuries reported or estimated is trying to put those at risk in a bubble and not let them experience anything for themselves. I know what you’re thinking: “but kids are being injured!” and that’s true, but if you’re going to ban anything that causes a child of any age to become injured you might as well ban bicycles, balloons, trampolines, swimming pools, pets, coined money, Lego…

You get the idea.

Instead why can’t the focus be on the age-appropriateness of potentially dangerous items? Simply saying “that is bad, IT MUST BE FORBIDDEN!” feels like a knee-jerk reaction that spoils the fun for those that are mature enough and responsible enough to use them as they are designed. Calling for a ban because of the poor choices of some parents or the ingenuity and resourcefulness of their children isn’t the way to fix anything. If we were to place a ban on all objects that caused harm to the younger generation they would be left with nothing but wooden blocks in a well-lit white room until one of them got a splinter and then they’d be left with nothing.

I know, I know; that was a little sensationalist but you get the picture.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s up to the parents to make the decisions regarding their children and if you take away everything that is even remotely harmful than those that were able to play safely will be left out.

Let kids be kids. Let parents be parents. Don’t ban sphere magnets.

Thank you,

Aaron

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