I was reading a couple of things today about product recalls for babies and how they’ve gotten out of hand and I just wanted to add something of my own experience. We bought Zoe a little cloth book with a little ball dangling from it on a string. On each page you were supposed to do something with the ball – make it stick to velcro, hide it in a pocket, and, on one page, “throw” it through a little cloth basketball hoop, etc. It was recalled. Of course. Why? Because theoretically, if the baby put the ball through the hoop in such a way that the book was around the baby’s neck, the baby could strangle him- or herself.
This had not happened, of course. And let me tell you, theory doesn’t always translate to reality. The truth is, if a baby was at a high enough stage in development to get the ball into the hoop at all, the then baby’s neck was very likely already too big to fit inside the loop that such an act would create. In fact, if the baby was out of the womb, the baby’s neck was very likely already too big to fit inside the loop that such an act would create. And I say this as a parent of a very tiny child. Furthermore, while it would take some degree of coordination to get the ball into the hoop, and also a great deal of emotional/mental development to be interested in such an activity, it would take an even greater degree of coordination to do this while the book was around one’s neck. I suspect there are plenty of elementary school students who couldn’t manage it, even if the string was large enough to fit around their necks.
But what’s the point? That yet another product was ridiculously recalled for no apparent reason? Who cares? My point is this – even though I thought the recall was ridiculous, and couldn’t actually bring myself to return it, I sort of stopped letting her play with it. I mean, I didn’t snatch it out of her hands or anything, but I didn’t bring it along on car trips; I didn’t choose to show it to her if I was trying to distract her, and I didn’t keep it with her most-played-with toys. So she sort of forgot about it and I let that happen. And I really, really didn’t think she could choke herself with it. I just thought, but what if I’m wrong, and something happens, and then the reaction is, “Well, it was recalled. What kind of a parent lets their child play with something that’s already been shown to be dangerous?” And a part of me wasn’t really thinking at all, I was just reacting emotionally to a toy now branded DANGEROUS. My point is, community standards have their effects on even parents who are actively trying to resist them, and for better or worse (mostly worse) mass media largely constitutes our community. So all these recalls, and the culture of control and blame surrounding them, make a person paranoid. I mean, the fact is, as unlikely as it is that a child would be harmed by this book, crazy things sometimes happen. But instead of seeing a world in which crazy things sometimes happen, we see a world where some parent, some corporation, some school wasn’t responsible enough. And it’s making us all crazy even when we have our blinders off.