My baby boy is going to turn 3 next week. That means I’ve been a parent for roughly 1/11th of my life and 1/6th of his first 18 years. (see, no polynomials needed – just sayin’). Despite the money I’ve invested in parenting books, there is no manual for the first 18 years – anymore than there is a manual for the following decades. I’ve learned many things through trial and error. He’s a healthy, happy child and I feel like we’re doing well with him.
To be completely honest I know that a lot of what is involved with raising our child is common sense. It seems like there are things that shouldn’t need to be said in the parenting guides. Don’t try to dry your child in the microwave would be one of the obvious ones.
As a parent, sometimes I hear about a product recall and I just shake my head. Sometimes it’s because I’m disappointed in the company but many, many times it’s because I’m disappointed in the parents. Drop side cribs – totally upset with the companies for switching to cheap, flimsy plastic claw catches when the “candy cane” type of rails worked for generations. Because of the design of the “candy cane” type rails, it wasn’t possible for the types of suffocation accidents like those that occurred with the cheap plastic catches to happen. I place the blame for those accidents squarely on the manufacturer for making an inferior product.
The most recent recall of Bumbo seats, however, is one of those ones where all I can think is “What were the parents thinking?”. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission over 4 million Bumbo seats have been sold in the US. There have been roughly 50 reported cases of injuries – again, no polynomials needed – due to an infant sliding or wriggling out of the seat and landing on their head. Skull fractures are a serious injury.
But is the manufacturer really to blame here?
We have a Bumbo. It was really a fantastic product for our son when my arms needed a break. The first thing I noticed about it though was that it doesn’t have restraints. Because it doesn’t have restraints we never used it unless we were within arm’s reach of our son. It wasn’t a high chair or a place to put him where we could set him down and then leave him alone. For us, it was more like the changing table. You put him up there to change his diaper, but you never step away from him while he’s on it. We never used it on top of a table for the same reason.
He played in it, he looked at books in it, and he even ate in it. All those times I was seated on the floor directly in front of him. It never occurred to me to try to place it on a table, because the seat itself, while sturdy, is made of foam – one really good strong kick or wriggle from him and I could easily imagine it falling off a table.
Like any other parent, there were times when I needed a short break. But my need for a short break never overwhelmed my common sense. If I needed to use the restroom and didn’t have anyone to sit with my son I’d pick him up and put him in his playpen. I never would have left him in the Bumbo alone.
I suppose I should be surprised that there were only 50 injuries (a very small percentage of the 4 million sold) involved, because it seems that common sense is a rare commodity these days. I’m glad the company is offering a restraint system for the Bumbo, but I don’t think that’s going to solve the problem of injuries occurring with their product. Solving that problem would require a return of general common sense to the population.
Now, if you’re a parent, you might be outraged at this point. A few people may agree with me but many others will likely get upset and defensive and tell me that “even one injury from a child’s product is too many”. To those parents I’m going to stick out my tongue in a child-like manner. The world is a dangerous place. Sure, you buy BPA free bottles for your child – but have you checked them for BPS? You cannot expect the government or product manufacturers to protect your child from all harm. In fact, as much as I respect the CPSC for trying to keep consumers safe, I still believe they should be the backstop for safety. A parent has the responsibility to use products in a safe manner; to inspect them for flaws or potentially dangerous conditions and to pay attention to their children. The parent is the first line protector of their child. It’s a huge responsibility and, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be one that many people take seriously.
You are the person who is going to teach your child how to stay safe in this world. You are the person that will guide them and provide them with the cliff notes version of the manual for life. The world isn’t going to do it for you. If you can’t foresee the potential danger of situations or products how will you teach your children to watch for danger?
Now, that being said, it is sad that these children were injured because their parents used a product in an unsafe manner. It is even sadder that these parents involved might not learn a very important lesson from this. Particularly where children are involved you must question the safety of all products.
I consider myself a conscientious parent and consumer. I don’t think I’m unique in that. I certainly hope I’m not unique in that. But just in case I am, I hope that people who own a Bumbo will request the restrain kit that’s being offered, because your child really shouldn’t have to pay the price for your lack of common sense.
Just my thought of the day –