Posted 22 August 2004 - 12:24 AM
I was a foster parent in the late 80s/early 90s, and went through formal training in what was and wasn't safe. Back then, popcorn was officially okay over age 2. We were also taught (e.g.) to cut hot dogs in quarters and then into 1" segements before serving them to kids under 6 -preferably 8- and given a special tube the size of a 6 year old pharynx to test for choking hazards (and I'd like to point out that popcorn WOULD have passed that choke tube test!) Doing that when I was a kid would probably have gotten you labelled as a very poor 'neurotic' parent who was probbaly messing his/her kids up.
How many of you ate hot dogs without special help before you were 6 or 8? Hundreds of millions of US kids did. It'd be easy to find families where four or more generations did. If you include the sausages that preceded the formal "hot dog", there's no telling how far back the chain would go. Heck, they served me hot dogs in kindergarten and first grade (and for that matter, served them to my kids, well after the "danger" was known.)
Yes, there's a risk. Yes, I'd hope every parent would be better trained and would exercise better judgement. In fact, I think that most parents don't do one-tenth as good a job as they think they do. For all our overprotectiveness on trivial issues, our best estimates of emotional, physical and sexual abuse truly stunning, and we really do nect to nothing to help the tens of millins of affected children, while focusing on a few dozen choking deaths. I believe that out society couldn't handle truly protecting kids, and can only sweat the small stuff because dealing with the major problems would require massive social overhaul, and probably change the family forever.
But I'll back off on that rant, because typing the pages of documentation and cites to convince you would make me blow a few brain vessels, and Lord only knows I can't spare any.
Suffice it to say that I believe that though al most all parents insist they are "doing their best", most are just barely doing what they believe is "good enough". In spite of that, It really chafes me to read criticism of parents for "not knowing better" than to shield their kids from risks in the parts per million range. Were none of us ever children ourselves? Did we never eat hot dogs or play with balloons (not recommended for small children for a solid generation now, because the fragments when they pop can pose a choking hazard.) or experience any of the thousand traumas of childhood that kill several kids every year, from stepping off a curb and biting our tongue to eating peanuts (now considered an inhalation hazard) or consuming honey (once considered healthy, but now considered a serious risk for babies)? Heck - many of our mothers ate rare steak while pregnant (or trying) under medical advice in the 50s/60s, but by 1980, that was listed as a birth defect hazard (toxoplasmosis). How many of us never choked at some point?
Bottom line: yeah, I watched my kids when they ate popcorn, and did a lot of other things (I loved watching my kids do anything, even snore). Yet on purely scientific grounds, I don;t think our kids are better off with all of today's warnings and supervision than we were without them. I can definitely tell you that there is NO written guidelines in any of the 50 states that you can follow to guarantee that you will be judged "fit" or "not negligent" by any state agency. If the self-appointed experts can't draft them, how can anyone be expected to know them?
Do I think we need drastically overhaul how we raise kids? You betcha!
Do I think I know a parent who can afford to throw stones on this popcorn issue? No.
The kid gets my sympathies, posthumously. The parents, however lame they may be, get my sympathies for a loss that will haunt them the rest of their lives. The self-righteous, self appointed critics only get what little restraint keeps me for telling them, in excruciating detail, what I think of them -- with a ball peen hammer.
Present company excluded of course.