I remember the time I stuck my finger in an empty but live Christmas light socket. It was December 1971 and I was five years old. From the couch in the front room of our old house on North 7th Street, I sat in my little flannel nightgown, mesmerized by the glowing electric candle trios in each window. I spotted that one plastic trio was missing a bulb. Determined to investigate, I found the socket the perfect size for my little finger, and besides, what was in there that gave all those colored bulbs a magical glow? I instantly felt a jolt and a simultaneous resolve to never do that again.
Fortunately, parents today don’t have to worry about household dangers. With the advent of modern technology, we have a vast array of child safety products to make the job of parenting easier. Kids today can tear through their houses with reckless abandon, without fear of so much as a splinter, because all unused outlets have been capped, sharp edges padded, and cabinets and doors fitted with safety locks.
Parents no longer have to follow small children around warning them of dangers. But doesn’t this have to be taught at some point? In our haste to simplify parenting, have we ironically complicated child rearing today?
I clearly recall banging my chin on the sharp edge of my aunt’s coffee table and never wanting that to happen again. That piece of furniture became a terrifying object that I tried to avoid, despite the location of the candy dish filled with root beer barrels at it’s center. Today’s kid-friendly coffee tables are padded with big elasticized bumpers that almost challenge kids to give it a good nudge.
And what ever happened to “mean, green” Mr. Yuk? Now that there are child safety locks, he might as well be in an assisted living facility in Boca Raton playing pinochle with Don Rickles. Back in the 70s, I faithfully brought the Mr. Yuk stickers home from an annual safety assembly at East Pike Elementary, and my mother helped me stick them on all the poisonous items in the house that could make me sick. I learned that a Mr. Yuk sticker meant that, even if it contained a liquid that looked like delicious Tang, I was not supposed to sip from that bottle.
So what am I saying? Should we forgo the safety products and let our kids learn the hard way? Not quite. Outlet caps and cabinet locks are actually ingenious innovations, but how will little Dick and Jane truly understand the dangers lurking behind these gadgets? Convenient or not, today’s parents must still teach the simple life lessons we learned when we were kids.
Like the difference between Smarty Pills and Rolaids. That you never use a fork to make the toaster to “leggo” your “Eggo.” That oven cleaner can actually take the first layer of skin off your hand. That wet porcelain plus bare feet equals chipped tooth.
And that, no matter what your brother says, sticking your finger in an empty but live Christmas light socket will not make light shoot out of your ears.
[To request a free sheet of Mr. Yuk stickers, send a self-addressed stamped business-sized envelope to:
Pittsburgh Poison Center
200 Lothrop Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Or to listen to the Mr. Yuk song, go to http://www.chp.edu/CHP/mryuk.]