Hi Folks! A number of you sent me this today — news of the European Union’s new ban on kids under age 8 blowing up balloons unsupervised, for fear the children could swallow them and choke.
This is not to discount the suffering of any family that has experienced this unlikely tragedy. But if the chance that something terrible COULD happen is going to be (and apparently is) our new standard for what to outlaw, we will have to outlaw stairs (children could fall), cars (for obvious reasons), pets (kids could trip), chairs (kids can fall off, tip backwards, choke on a bite of the seat cushion, impale themselves on the legs — you name it). The fact is, there is a small amount of danger present in everything on earth, and if that means that now we insist kids can not be around any of it unless supervised, we are really just saying we don’t want kids to be unsupervised, ever.
Here in America, the number of children who choke to death on balloons was 4 in 1998, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. Considering there are about 32,000,000 children age 8 and under, we are talking about 1 death in 8 million. That’s an outcome that is, thankfully, very rare. Rarer still must be the children somehow injured by those whistle-type things you blow into and they unfurl and then they curl right back up. We’re talking standard issue birthday party favors, but those are being banned by the EU, too — and not just for kids under 8. Here’s what it says in The Telegraph:
Apparently harmless toys that children have enjoyed for decades are now regarded by EU regulators as posing an unacceptable safety risk.
Whistle blowers that scroll out into a long coloured paper tongue when sounded – a party favourite at family Christmas meals – are now classed as unsafe for all children under 14.
FOURTEEN? A year or two younger than the age my grandfather sailed to America from Russia on his OWN? But suddenly this generation of kids can’t even handle a BIRTHDAY PARTY FAVOR at PUBERTY?
We are really treating our children as if they are the dumbest, feeblest generation ever to walk — crawl! — the earth. The question to ask is: What is lost when we do this, when we can’t just let our third graders blow up and play with a balloon on their own?
Answer: A whole lot. First of all, of course, there is the uninhibited fun of just goofing around with friends. It’s not the same with parents hovering. (Don’t you remember how different it felt when your mom came along on a field trip versus when she didn’t? I sure do.) Also endangered is that little hit of accomplishment: “I did it myself!” The sharing and compromising and creativity and problem-solving that all are part and parcel of kids coming up with a balloon game to play without parental “help” — those are gone, too.
But gone most of all is a sense of perspective. A little understanding that while we all want our children to be safe, there is no such thing as absolute safety and to try to conjure it up through legislation ends up bringing us laws like…well, like no party whistles for high school sophomores.
Somehow I just don’t feel our kids are a whole lot better off. — L.