I was recently told that I obviously don’t put “much of a value on a child’s life“. And because of the context of that statement, (A celebration that I had discovered what may be the last functioning merry-go-round in the USA right at my daughter’s preschool) I thought it deserved a response. Because, you see, I do value Life.
In fact, I put so much value on every child’s Life that I try very hard not to squelch a single moment of it, even when that means I have to allow my children to perform death-defying acts of stupidity in their quest for adventure and knowledge about the world.
Perhaps that is the problem here. Perhaps that is the breakdown in communication. You see there are two camps when it comes to childhood, and to life in general really – there are those who value the lives of all children, as measured by the number of healthy breaths taken. And those who value the Lives of every child, as measured by the number of experiences they get to enjoy before their inevitable demise (hopefully as old wrinkly adults).
It is the difference between the people who will choose to go into a nursing home where they can die slowly and peacefully of nothing, and those who will choose to skid in sideways, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, screaming ‘Woo-hoo! What a ride!’
My children are still very young – 5 and 7 – and if something happened to them which left them incapacitated, severely broken, or dead, I would of course, without question, be devastated. Absolutely wrecked. But, I would not seek to use my despair as a tool to undermine other children’s abilities to LIVE. Not just breathe, but LIVE. Why? Because despite my despair I will know that that was the gift I gave my own children – Life. Not just air.
Our society’s current trend toward knee-jerk-over-reactionism is suffocating our children. But it’s not eliminating any real dangers from their lives, as pointed out by the man who believes me to be a heartless child killer because I dig dangerous toys. Because the real dangers are things we can’t ban, or things we won’t. They’re things we consider necessary to our lives.
In 2005 there were 20 children in the USA killed by toys.
In that same year 2193 children age 14 and under were killed by vehicles. An additional 5,522 teens were killed by vehicles. 1158 children drowned. 606 died in fires. 178 died from falls. 586 died from poisoning. (486 of those were age 15-18 which begs a lot of questions, such as how many of those teens should really be in the suicide category…) Accidents with guns killed 155 kids in 2005. A surprising 204 children died just walking down the street. 32 more died riding bicycles. 317 children suffocated to death, not counting the 636 infants, which again begs a few questions. 2974 children were flat-out murdered in 2005 including 303 infants and a shocking 1892 teens. And finally, in 2005 there were 260 tweens who took their own lives and an additional 1513 teen suicides. (http://www.statisticstop10.com/)
And what does that depressing death toll tell us? One small, simple, often over-looked thing. We cannot child proof the world. We cannot stop death. I did not even go into the many other causes of childhood death such as disease, genetic failures, lightning strikes… This is just the “preventable” deaths. The accidents. The things we think we can stop.
But as my friendly moral compass reminds me – we won’t. We won’t stop any of these deaths because “we can’t ban necessities in life”. Like cars. And ponds. And trees. And guns?
So when someone tells me that they are doing the world a favor by banning merry-go-rounds, that it’s worth it if it saves just one child from a life altering, or life ending, injury, I have to call bullshit.
Kids die. Even in America. It totally fucking sucks, but it happens.
Our job isn’t to stop that. We can’t. Our job is to make sure that before they die, they get a chance to LIVE.