Saturday, February 5, 2011

Raising Wimps

Lately, I've had to hide the newspaper from my sons. This is not because of the gore of the stories, but for fear that they will gain ammunition for battles with me.

Me: "Jacob, you need to get out there and help your dad shovel the driveway."

Jacob: "But Mom, this article says that kids under 19 experience more than 1,750 shoveling-related injuries each year! Do you want to put me in the hospital?"

Me: "I think those injuries are caused by parents whacking their kids with shovels to get them outside shoveling."

Seriously, who comes up with these statistics and decides to print them in the newspaper where any kid can pick it up and read them?

Me: "Ben, time to take a bath."

Ben: "I don't want to."

Me: "Ben, you have to take regular baths. Just like brushing your teeth, it's part of staying healthy."

Ben: "But Mom, it said in the paper that 'Poison Control centers say the bath salts with complex chemical names are an emerging menace in several U.S. states, and authorities are talking of banning their sale.' Doesn't sound healthy to me."

Me: "I'm sorry, what?" taking newspaper from his hand and pointing him to the bathroom.

Indeed, there it is, a short paragraph under the 'Five Things You Should Know' section of my local paper:

"When Neil Brown of Fulton, Miss. got high on bath salts, he slit his face and stomach repeatedly. Brown survived, but authorities say others haven't been so lucky after snorting, injecting or smoking powders with such innocuous-sounding names as Ivory Snow, Red Dove and Vanilla Sky..."

Ah, I see, yes. So let's ban bath salts because then, surely, no one will go find something else to snort, inject or smoke. Like, say, dishwashing powder. Or brownie mix. Or maybe glitter.

I'm all for keeping people safe, and keeping drugs off the streets, but if there's one thing I've learned in all my, er, years on Earth, it's that you can't protect stupid people from themselves. Rather than get frustrated, though, I try to remember to look at such stories as a good lesson for me. It's a reminder to keep the lines of communication with my kids open, and to talk to them about risks worth taking (shovelling) and not taking (snorting coffee grounds).

Wouldn't it be better to just educate our children on the dangers of temptation, the safe way to exercise and the healthy way to shop and eat, instead of making them afraid to live their lives? Then we wouldn't have to ban innocuous-sounding products that are being misused, scare our children away from exercise because they might get hurt, or put high taxes on fast foods and warnings on soda bottles to discourage people from having them for three meals a day. Seriously, it's not that hard. In fact, it's kind of our job.

Me: "It's OK, Ben. I used Mr. Bubble bubble bath, no bath salts."

Ben: "Oh, man!" Stomps toward the bathroom, opens the door. "Whoa! Mom, look at all these bubbles!!"

Me: (Tossing the newspaper section under the rest of the recycling and following him into the bathroom) "Yeah, I thought you might like that. So let's talk about that bath salts article...."