Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ever get the feeling we get blase about exactly the wrong things?

Like, say, recalls of things?

I am so grateful this peanut butter thing didn't happen while I was pregnant, because I was angsting enough over what was safe to eat (why is sushi bad if pregnant women eat it in Japan? Does soft-serve ice cream really have more bacteria than hard-packed?) and fearing peanut butter products would likely have exploded my brain. I love peanut butter. Favorite pregnancy snack: wheat toast with peanut butter and raisins. Yes, the husband found that disgusting too.

Granted the recall is specifically things made with peanut butter, like cookies or granola bars, and you could technically buy a jar off the shelf and be fine. But check the list of recalled products as of this point. It's a long list, namechecking some pretty well known companies. Kellogg. Little Debbie. Ready Pac. Clif Bar, which also makes Luna Bars. Which I also ate a lot of while pregnant.

This after the whole spinach thing in 2007 (now with more E. Coli!) and the salmonella-filled Mexican tomato outbreak last summer, except that it was probably peppers. Oops.

Seriously, is there some particular reason we shouldn't be able to trust our own food supply? Isn't this country supposed to be above this sort of thing?

What are we supposed to do, stock up at farmers markets all summer and then freeze and can everything for the winter, just so we have food to eat that isn't tainted? And if so, can someone 1. show me how to can things, and 2. rent me a deep freezer and a root cellar, since our kitchen is roughly the size of a closet?

One small piece of fortune is that we haven't given the kiddo peanut butter anything yet on the directive of our pediatrician, since the current thinking is that peanut allergies are less likely if you keep the kids away from them for a few years. We do, however, occasionally allow him a cookie. Imagine if one had been a Keebler.

Bringing me to my next point: This recall. And this one. Also this one. And hey, why not, this one too. As bad as the food issues, I think, are substandard children's products. Every week, it seems like, some toy or some crib or some piece of clothing is called out for being lead-encrusted, toxic or a strangulation hazard. And short of taking the initiative to check the federal recall lists every single week, there's no one centralized way to find out about all of them.

Sure, you could argue it took me about five seconds to find those. But I shouldn't have to. I shouldn't need to worry about the potential danger of every single product brought into my home. I shouldn't need to eyeball every single toy for parts that might break off, every single hoodie for drawstrings. What's the point of safety regulations if they aren't followed?

I am aware that new regulations on lead and phthalates in children's products are coming next month. But you'll note that thrift stores and other resellers are exempt from the testing standards. Less headache for them, more headache for parents.

I really feel like people shrug off this sort of thing. Oh, whoops, don't eat tomatoes this week. Hey, didn't need those peanut butter crackers anyway. Choking hazard? Oh, good thing I bought a different pacifier then. Lead paint? Well, he almost never puts his toys in his mouth anymore. Oh well.

We ought to be able to trust that the foods we eat and the products we buy are safe. That's so basic. I've complained before about the current culture of fear-based parenting; well, these sorts of recalls create that culture. They make you feel like you're justified in being neurotic.

Raising my kid shouldn't have to mean tossing him into a protective bubble. And then checking the bubble for phthalates.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I'm really, really, really not sure when it became mandatory to school your child before they even start school.

And I'm not just saying this because I got asked over the holidays whether I'd signed kiddo up for any classes yet -- again. (Note to self: Suggest alternate conversational topics to this person.) Horror of horrors, Mean Bad Mommy hasn't been expanding her child's mind lately.

No, I genuinely don't understand the point of music lessons or French lessons for someone who's, say, still learning to talk. Especially to the tune of several hundred dollars. What, he's going to get preemptively barred from Ivy League if we don't load his head up with learning now? Good -- then maybe we can afford college.

I'm all for tossing him in a room with other kids and getting him socialized. But I'm pretty sure there are less pretentious ways to do it. Like storytime at the library. Oh, wait -- storytime is at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday. Or 2 p.m. on a Thursday. Or some other time I could never actually make, because like most people in this pricey, rat-racey area, I work. To sum up: The service I've already paid for with my taxes, I can't use; the ones I might be able to use, I pay out the nose for. Assuming any of those aren't 2 p.m. on a Thursday, and I think most of them are.

So here's my plan to build a smarter child. Virtually guaranteed and nearly cost-free.

1. Find book. (A library book even!)

2. Put child in lap.

3. Read book to child.

4. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

So far he seems down with this plan. To the point where he'll shove a book in your hands, saying, "Do!" then spin around and plop into your lap. Too funny.

As for the socialization ... if he starts seeming antisocial, then I'll worry.