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The safest children in the world

Alex Miller

As I sit across the desk from a man whose wife is pregnant with their first child, I think about the changes in store emotionally and financially, the joy and pain – not to mention the dreaded notion of having to “baby-proof” one’s home.Actually, a more accurate term is “toddler- and preschooler-proof,” since babies mostly lie about, for the most part staying out of trouble until they master crawling then “scooting,” walking, running, springing, climbing, curtain-crawling and furniture base-jumping.And that’s all before they turn 3.I have in front of me today a review copy of a new book called “The Safe Baby – A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Home Safety,” which is one of roughly 7.9 billion books written in the last decade alone on keeping kids safe. The author, Debra Smiley Holtzman, has done a fine job of categorizing every conceivable horror that can visit baby, along with steps for preventing all or most of them.From tick bites to babysitter problems to environmental hazards to creating a safe nursery, it’s all here for the nervous parents. Read it cover to cover and you can only arrive at the conclusion that the only proper way to raise children is to have them perpetually suspended in padded vats of Jell-O, wearing full body armor, helmets and surrounded by a cloaking device to hide them from anyone and everyone who might bump into them, say a cuss word or toss a careless banana peel.As the former editor of a parenting magazine whose seen about 7.8 billion of the baby-safety books out there, I can only say that Holtzman’s book looks quite thorough, full of legitimate advice but skirting the main point: If you’re smart and/or concerned enough to read all or part of this book, you probably already possess the primary tool in kid safety, which is common sense. Following from that, here’s Job 1: Keep little kids away from stuff that can hurt them. Adapt as necessary.There, I just save you $14.95 the price of “The Safe Baby.”But there will always be a market for this stuff, because people confuse buying a book with action. Since I have the distinct pleasure of being the dad to a 4-year-old (with a few siblings before him), I can say with some certainty that, aforementioned Jell-o vats aside, no amount of fussing and book-learnin’ can keep kids safe all the time. That’s not to say we don’t all try, but more experienced parents have learned to relax about the little stuff. From half a mile away, I can rank the injury by the pitch of the cry, octaves and pauses correlating to everything from Band-Aids and ice packs to triage or an ER visit.But we’re now part of the Safer Generation. With our helmets, knee pads, air bags, switchplate covers, baby fences and oven guards, we’re justifiably determined to make it a safer world for our kids. Perhaps it’s a reaction to our own memories of bouncing around the back of the station wagon, the seatbelts long having disappeared beneath the seat cushions as the folks smoked butts up front.If it sometimes seems like overkill, I suppose it’s better than the alternative. Even so, today’s kid safety books read like a testament to our anxious times, where fun is measured in ergs of caution and danger lurks at every turn. Every swimming pool is a death trap, every sunbeam represents a potential carcinogen and pets are lethal depositories of rabies, salmonella or toxoplasmosis.Good grief. If my short version of the book is “keep kids away from stuff that can hurt them,” then here’s the quick-take epilogue: “Be safe, but have some fun in life, kids!”Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14625, or amiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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