Kids and safety


I was astounded yesterday when leaving work. I was driving down Hagey Blvd, just north of the University of Waterloo, about to turn left onto Columbia. On the right side of the road, there’s a day care centre, and a woman on a bicycle came out of the day care centre ahead of me, and crossed over until she was on the left side of the left lane (she didn’t cut me off, she was far enough ahead). The light was red, so I stopped, and she came up beside me (on my left), and turned sharply to the left and proceeded across the crosswalk. The thing that astounded me was that she had a child seat on the back of the bike, with a small kid in it. The kid couldn’t have been more than 2. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but I wouldn’t have crossed over the street into the left lane with a kid on the bike.

I sometimes wonder if Gail and I are too paranoid when it comes to the safety of our kids, but I guess if you’re going to be too paranoid about something, it may as well be safety. (I’m also too paranoid about other things too, like the kids making messes or lots of noise, but that’s another story.)

The car seat thing is the biggest one, though. The car or van does not move unless the kids both have their seat belts done up — I can probably count the number of times that they’ve been in a moving vehicle without seat belts on (backing out of the garage a couple of times, once at John & Jackie’s place after I drove into a ditch, and of course various busses). We brought our own car seat when we took one-year-old Ryan to England because we were unsure of the quality of the car seats we’d get from the car rental company. And we get quite angry whenever we see any kid standing up in a moving car, or any kid that should be in a car seat but isn’t. We watched a biography on Princess Diana recently, and there was some footage of her carrying the infant Prince William right after he was born – she got into a limo, carrying the baby in her arms, and the limo immediately took off. There wasn’t enough time for her to get a seat belt on, and there’s no way Wills was in an infant carrier. Gail, who was a big fan of the Princess, cringed.

When I think about all the security issues that we as parents have to deal with that our parents did not, it makes me wonder if our kids will grow up safer, or just more sheltered. Things like:

  • bike helmets – our kids are not allowed to ride bikes or scooters without one, and I never even had one. Actually, that’s not true — I did have one, as well as elbow and knee pads when I got my first skateboard (when I was about 8), but the first time I was laughed at for wearing it, I took it off for good.
  • car seats – I remember being annoyed when I grew too tall to stand up the back seat of the car, and I rarely wore seat belts
  • food allergies – we were certainly allowed to bring peanut butter to school, Ryan is not
  • strangers – we were told simply “Don’t talk to strangers”, but that policemen were OK. Now, we have to tell our kids who they can talk to if they get lost at the mall – don’t look for a policeman or security guard, because pedophiles have been known to dress up for just that reason. We tell them to go to a store and talk to someone behind the counter, and let them get a security guard if necessary.
  • It’s only been this year that we’ve let them play in the backyard without one of us being out there with them — and if it were only Nicholas, we wouldn’t.
  • When playing outside in front of the house, one of Gail or I must be there, and the kids aren’t allowed to go far enough away that we can’t see them. I’m sure that rule will get relaxed in the future, but not to the extent that Gail and I remember as kids.

Now they’re coming out with cell phones aimed at kids as young as 9 – they can have something like 5 numbers pre-programmed, and can’t call any other numbers. I’m sure we’ll get one for our boys eventually because we’ll want the security of knowing that they can get in touch with us at any time if they need to (or vice versa).

Are we too paranoid? Maybe, but I prefer to think of it as “safety-conscious”.

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