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So you need to use the booster AND the seat belt?

Most parents are good about getting their kids to stay in car booster seats at least until state laws tell them they can do otherwise. But there’s no accounting for HOW they put the children in those seats.

Or for the common sense of photographers and other professionals on the set of car rental company photo shoots.

It’s great that an ad campaign on Alamo car rental buses is letting us know that the company can give us access to child safety seats (usually at a cost per day above the price of outright purchasing a seat from a store, that is). But then they advertise that convenience service for a kids’ safety device with this photo:


Why not make the seat belt extra comfy and loose? What harm could come of that?

Why not make the seat belt extra comfy and loose? What harm could come of that?

Whoa, there. That seat belt is looking might nice and comfortable. And unsafe. You’d think someone at the company might have noticed that this is not the best way to tout safety to American parents — reinforcing images of a highly ejectable child sitting lounging with a slack seat belt, ready for optimal toss-around.

He also looks like he’s on the younger side for sitting in a belted booster.

Yes, you could say I have a few issues with this stuff. It’s not rocket science, but 93 percent of parents bring home newborn infants either incorrectly strapped into car seats or in safety seats that were installed flat-out wrong, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

And this photo campaign is reinforcing an image that says it’s all right to keep the belts loose, when all usage rules indicate that the strap needs to be pulled close to the body in order to work in a crash.

It seems we could use a little more guidance on this stuff, and clearer instructions all around. For everyone.

Sure, there are a lot of dumb Americans breeding, but the idea that a full 93 percent could be idiots is a little ungenerous.

The instructions in the manuals just aren’t sticking with the general public, and this needs to be fixed.

This is how the Graco booster manuals say to belt your kid.

This is how the Graco booster manuals say to belt your kid.

I have made my share of mistakes with safety seats over the last few years. What mistakes have you made? Have you noticed others putting kids in wrong? 

No shots, no school: It’s that simple

Measles are back. And I blame Sherwood Schwartz.

Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, “The Brady Bunch” was the rerun show to park your kid in front of while you made dinner. And from that Schwartz-produced show, we have today’s measles mini-epidemic.

For today’s parents, those six kids made measles look fun. A lark. A reason to act really bratty and ring dinner bells as your parents and the family maid were at your beck and call. It was just a rash, right?

No. That’s a sitcom, people. Real measles might be almost fun, and it might also result in blindness, brain damage or death. Those after-effects are proven. By science. The stats.

One thing that hasn’t been proven is the supposed link that autism has to MMR vaccines. Not proven, and please don’t say the name Andrew Wakefield. It’s unbecoming to cite falsified results. If there’s a connection, there would be proof from other sources. There’s not. People have looked.

I’m a firm believer that if you don’t want to get your kid vaccinated, you don’t get to send your kid to public school. You want to be off the grid as far as vaccinations go? Then go ahead. And it’s my right to keep my kids away from people who don’t believe in preventative care for their kids.

Do you really think that modern hygiene is the reason we no longer have this disease around much, and that perfectly coincided with the widespread introduction of measles vaccines? Did hand washing appreciably improve in the late 1970s? Should we thank Ivory soap? No. It’s the vaccines, stupid.

You want to go off the grid? Then go do that. But it’s our right not to be part of your measles-, mumps- and rubella-carrying herd, so please stay the hell off the grid once you do go there.

Turning down a shot does affect my kid and other people’s kids, and grownups, and I could go on. The vaccines work by breaking the chain of contagion, and when you turn down the shots, you are volunteering to be one more link in that chain. Immune-compromised people who cannot get the shots for actual medical reasons would be protected if you would stop being so ignorant of history and human disease.

The shot isn’t perfect, but it is effective, and that’s proven by the fact that we haven’t all had measles, and that a sizable portion the general U.S. population isn’t blind, deaf, brain-damaged or dead as a result of it. Before vaccinations began in the early 1960s, hundreds of people died of measles each year, and more than 45,000 were hospitalized.

This isn’t eczema.

And this shouldn’t be optional.

If your kid isn’t vaccinated and can be, you’re simply not doing your part.

Comments, please. What do you think about parents who choose not to vaccinate? What do you think about parents who do choose to vaccinate?

Parents’ bully phobia might build better victims

In the winter, many people find themselves unwillingly stuck in the house with a pack of sugar-jacked kids unless they get out and go to the one of the hell holes known as a “children’s museum.”

Or better yet, a “science” museum, where kids jockey for position gaping at naked mole rats and narrowly avoiding stepping on butterflies.

It’s also a great place to go if you want to watch people from all walks of life demonstrate the latest techniques in helicopter parenting, also known as raising the passive child.

My five-year-old was playing with discs at a bizarro station that looks like a conveyor-belt sushi place. He was taking a bunch off the belt and stacking them up.

And then I heard a parent angrily chewing him out for taking too many and not leaving enough for her precious offspring, who was also 5.

(One might ask why she was so close to a contraption that provides hours of entertainment to kids who clearly do have a knack for stuff like factory work. If you want to know why those mean adults in Lowell, Mass., hired 19th-century children for endless menial tasks in factories, just take one look at a kids’ museum. They love it. Forget the basement foosball table and just put a sweatshop down there. But I digress.)

Why was she not — at the very least — advising her five-year-old to tell my five-year-old that he was being over the line?  Did she really think she was the only capable person in the pair? Are we training kids to be so conflict-averse and non-bullying that they can’t even stand up to a nonthreatening peer? Why?

I’m wondering if I’m living in some kind of twilight zone where I expect my kids to talk to other kids about how to share and play, and everyone else is intent on training their children to roll over and whimper. Meanwhile, the parent takes out any faintly aggressive child in his or her path. I’ve seen this happen many times at many kids’ play areas over many years.

Kids know the rules, and usually can be counted on to hash out a deal. And if it gets too volatile, well, then an adult or police officer or EMT can be called in. Since about three people left in the country send their kids outdoors to play alone together, where else can kids practice these skills but at a simulated factory?

I suspect that the main reason The Other Mom was intervening was that she felt her child was a victim, and that she was standing up to the more assertive child. I’m here to tell everyone today: just because bullying exists in society does not mean that children who look out for their own interests and don’t hand everything away are bullies. These types were once known as showing leadership potential, before society got bogged down with wanting all children to compete in a passivity/sweetness contest.

That day, this child learned that only his mommy can stand up to pushy kids. He needs her there to wade through the morass of scary, assertive kindergartners. And where does that leave his development? When will he get a chance to do this on his own if not at age 5? Will he magically be left alone by all slightly more aggressive children because he has been shielded from all conflict? Or does he perhaps need to develop a few social skills to tell other kids when to back off?

But on another note, since when do adults tell off kids in front of their parents? Was she unaware that I was about to metaphorically drop-kick her? She’s taking a big risk in the first place that her kid will not grow up to know how to get a job or make a friend, but also that other parents are going to go nuts on her.

Or merely blog about her.

Have you encountered a parent telling off your kid? Have you told off kids? What do you think about this issue? Share your story in the Comments box below.

First posted in December 2014

The real reason kids’ pajamas are ridiculously tight

Every parent learns that you have to buy kids’ cotton pajamas two sizes too big. We’re not supposed to, according to the yellow hang tags from an unidentified authority, but that is how it’s done in reality.

Otherwise, kids look and feel like they’re wearing too-tight body stockings, and no one wants to sleep that way. (What if you get an itch? You’d then need to completely undress, sliding off that clingy cotton peel just to scratch your thigh.)

If the pajamas you buy in your kid’s size fit more reasonably, it’s because they are made of synthetic fibers (which may or may not have been chemically treated long before the fabric became pajamas) or have been made thoroughly coated in flame retardants that must make it through at least 50 washes in all their chemical goodness.

How did these pajama rules come about? And how many kids in loose cotton jammies were truly in danger before these regulations first came into effect in the 1970s? (And couldn’t that risk have a lot to do with the vastly greater numbers of parents who had cigarettes dangling from their lips in 1975?)

The tight fit is considered protective because no loose fabric means less of a chance that a sleeve or pant leg will be set ablaze.

And the rule change in the 1970s did result in a significant reduction in fire injuries to children. That was back when the manufacturers were using a few flame retardants that were so obviously hazardous to health that they were swiftly banned in 1977.

Today, I can safely say I seldom hold my children over an open flame. Particularly not when they are wearing pajamas. But then again, mine hardly ever wear pajamas anymore since they’re are so darned uncomfortable. The synthetic fibers are too heavy, and the cotton versions are too clingy. I like fire safety, but I also like having kids who will fall asleep at night.

But these fire-safe jammie laws mean nothing if everyone buys a bigger size or ditches the clothes for loose T-shirts and shorts. It’s common sense to avoid clothes that smell like chemicals. It’s common sense to buy clothes that fit. And it’s common sense to keep the kids away from things that make fire.

Until recently I was under the impression that these laws existed to protect kids who woke up in burning homes, but I was wrong. In 2000, a memo from the Consumer Product Safety Commission stated that children should only wear cotton pajamas when they are snug because loose garments catch fire fast. The press release notes, “Children are most at risk from burn injuries that result from playing with fire (matches, lighters, candles, burners on stoves) just before bedtime and just after rising in the morning.”

It sounds to me that rather than changing the clothes, fire prevention experts need to work on looking into households where kids routinely play with fire before bedtime. Limiting access to matches and lighters and teaching kids not to turn on the stove might be, say, a whole lot more effective. Guards that prevent young children from being able to turn on the stove would be a good move, too.

And maybe the parents could just make sure they occasionally look in on the kids. (Sadly, I know, that’s sometimes too much to ask.) I’d have to say that tight cotton pajamas and chemical-coated polyester blends certainly do seem to be a Band-Aid here.

They aren’t really doing the job, either, if most people avoid buying the products. It’s a little like banning brown wooly coats so children don’t get shot by hunters. It’s the free-ranging gun that’s the problem! Just like it’s the free-ranging fire sources that prompted these rules.

Let’s start a movement instead to get the lighters and matches away from kids, and outfit every home with a stove guard.

Do you break the fire safety regulations, too, or do you follow every last rule to the letter? Let’s discuss that in the comments.

Kid, get out of my hair

Raising kids can be a scary business.

The latest manifestation of this, for me, has lately come in the form of hair pulling. Hard hair pulling, at close range, with an adorable, smiling two-year-old cackling, breathing directly into my face, chanting: “Let go! Let go! Let go!”

Forget “What to Expect.” This is some “Sopranos” shit. Who knew a toddler could be such a chilling assassin? And when did he learn to sound like Gollum?

I really did a bit of mental arithmetic during one attack lately, such as, what happens if he does not actually, um, well, let go?! Do I lose hair? Skin? Platelets? His nasty, sticky little fingers are not coming loose, and I see some sort of weird trophy lust in his little blue eyes. Mocking my previous requests to stop rending follicles out of my scalp was not particularly nice of him, either.

Pediatrician/parenting expert Dr. Harvey Karp likens toddlers this age to charming chimps, but, as we all know, one lovely chimpanzee ate that lady’s face off a few years ago. I love my kids, but, hell no, we are not going there. I draw the line at no nursing while eating, and no gnawing off Mommy’s discernible features.

Well, maybe … but only if he promised to finally sleep through a night.

Previously posted at The Two Boys Club site:

What have your kids done that made you fear for your own safety?

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Parenthood: It’s a dirty job

Today’s entry is a flashback to March 2011, when I couldn’t go more than a foot without a child emitting fluid in my direction. Previously posted on The Two Boys Club (

This morning, without even getting permission, I found myself spot-cleaning my husband’s sweater. While he was wearing it.

Hey, it had a splotch on it, possibly from a small child’s orifice. What can I say? He was still able to proceed with making his cup of coffee, and didn’t wriggle nearly as much as a toddler. Though I didn’t clean his ears, I did sneak a peek just to make sure they were good to go, too.

I’m not the neatnik, meddlesome type, but I want to protect others from my fate: to find myself rolling the shopping cart along on a visit to a local superstore, and looking down to see I have mud on my shoes. And my pant leg. Oh, yeah, and on my sleeve. And my hood. And, gee, my children aren’t looking so clean either. (We do, after all, live in the land of everlasting muck and rain.)

And that’s when it hit me: It’s just not possible to look even remotely dignified in a public place with two small boys tailing you, hanging off of you, yelling. As if your hair could appear to have been brushed. As if your clothes could be deemed even slightly clean. As if you appear calm and maybe the tiniest bit benevolent. You’re instantly dropping at least two socioeconomic levels just by walking in with them. And that’s before you get home and microwave the chicken dinos you gave in to buying. (However, I’ve decided it’s not trashy to eat chicken nuggets at every meal if they’re labeled “100 percent natural,”  or if you eat them with kale.)

There is also no way known to look sophisticated when you’re pushing along two kids in a shopping cart designed to look like a NASCAR tractor-trailer. This thing is huge — it fits a 4-year-old and 1-year-old comfortably, riding up high, and handles with all the grace of a Humvee. Seriously, the elderly look frightened and turn back when they see us coming, often when I’m attempting a five-point turn in an aisle with lots of glass jars.

The latest trip turned out fine, and we came out with little red sneakers for Baby, little light-free shoes for Big Boy, and nothing at all for Mommy — not even dinner — because one suddenly decided it would be fun to shriek and stand on the shopping cart. Not in the cart. On the cart.

But I have to concur that it must be kind of fun for them. Hanging out in one of those big red Cadillac Escalade-size carriages is as close as a toddler gets to a tailgate party. Checking out the other kids, hoping to get lucky in the toy aisle. With a little tweaking, and the addition of copious amounts of alcohol, I can see this standing and screaming in a cart thing really taking off with the over-18 crowd.

If only we could get someone to chauffeur us around the store, too.

Comments welcome!

The Grantham menace: I can’t quit you, ‘Downton Abbey’

Does Julian Fellowes use his cell or his landline when he phones in “Downton Abbey” each week?

Last night’s episode on PBS was markedly better than the season premiere, as I didn’t find myself coming up with ideas for new drinking games to get me through the experience.  (more…)

Bathe yourself in divine lighting

There are some new mirrors on the market that make you look like you’re well, Jesus Christ. And, much like him (according to some reports), they are everywhere at once.

At first, I was excited to see these frames that evoke a medieval or renaissance look. They’re in pretty much every store that sells anything vaguely decorative.

“Gee, that sacred mirror would look swell in my dining room!”

But then it dawned on me that it looked like any user would look like, well, an aspiring deity. (As far as I know, even Kim Kardashian has not made it to that level yet.)

According to Wikipedia, halos reportedly went out of fashion by the 19th century in Western art, but they’re back, baby. It’s the ultimate DIY project, and just perfect for the Internet:

“How to look divine in two easy steps.”

“You won’t believe this new saint life-hack!”

“I went to Crate and Barrel, and you won’t believe how holy I look now.”

So, despite the kooky “Game of Thrones” vibe they might give to an otherwise drab dining room or ungodly bathroom, I passed on getting a mirror.

I don’t need my already confident kids to get heads that big.

It’s probably somewhere in the kid manual that they not view themselves with halos at all times.

He’s making the world a better place, one M&M at a time

In case you haven’t heard, five-year-olds get homework now.

Yes, actual homework, the likes of which a 1977 kindergartner never saw. (She was too busy walking to school alone, breathing in leaded gasoline and avoiding cars on the road with doors tied on with twine.)

This week, my son’s homework includes writing a new year’s resolution. I found it amusing since my own resolution was already broken by Jan. 4. Yes, I got that far, and I’m quite proud.

I thought this assignment was a great exercise for him to think about all the (more…)

Mommy talks about fog a lot  

As I was driving along this morning on a busy street, I saw that a parked car was ahead in my lane. There was enough room, so I decided to merge into the next lane.

The lady at the wheel decided she was going to have none of that and sped up. To which I said, “Why are you fuh- …”

Oops, stop there. I didn’t actually say it, but I was close. And who did I have in the back seat but an eager 8-year-old, who wanted to know more. “Did you just say the F-word?”


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