Just Because We Survived Doesn't Mean Something Isn't Stupid

Why insist on doing things in a way that is irrefutably less safe simply because doing it that way did not kill you?

Hands up if you rode in the back of a pickup truck as a kid and survived. What about rode a bike without a helmet? Drove without a seatbelt? Had measles or the flu?

Okay, now hands up if you didn’t survive. Anyone? No hands? Well, I guess the survivors have it, those things must be safe.

Every single time I see someone say, “I did it and I survived,” that discourse runs through my head. Yes, you survived, obviously, you’re here preaching about it. We almost never hear from the people who didn’t.

I understand the reasoning behind the “I survived” diatribe. It’s clearly backlash from the helicopter parenting movement in which kids are sometimes protected to the point that it becomes detrimental. But there is a difference between not bubble-wrapping your kids and ignoring evolving safety standards.

Sure, it is possible to make playgrounds too safe, in fact, it’s been suggested that when playgrounds are designed without any potential danger, our risk-seeking kids will create their own by misusing it. So, include risk, but make it reasonable. Just because we managed to survive the scorchings from metal slides doesn’t mean our kids need to experience second degree burns when alternatives are available.

Riding in the back of pickup trucks was fun. But it was stupid. And not everyone did survive. Ditto riding a bike without a helmet. I never wore bike helmets. My takeaway from that is not that my kids don’t need to wear one; it’s that I am thankful I was never seriously injured.

Some of it is well-meaning or unintentional. Grandparents are not always up to date on the latest safety protocols. I know my parents have uttered a frustrated, “I don’t know how your generation survived” from time to time when I have insisted on things like grapes being cut in half, or no blankets in the crib.

It certainly doesn’t help when guidelines keep changing. When we were little, it was not only acceptable but encouraged to put babies to sleep on their stomachs or sides. Now, that is verboten, back sleeping only. My kids are five years apart, and several guidelines changed in between my first child and my second. I understand the frustration of trying to keep up and also the potential for feeling insulted that the way you always did it was “wrong.”

And some of it isn’t clear cut. Is it okay to leave your child in the car on a cool day? Where? How old a child? For how long? Everyone has a different answer for this, and there isn’t a perfect answer. But what I don’t understand is the push back when it is indisputable.

Like car seat safety. As testing is done and innovations are made, safety standards and practices increase. This is physics and biology, not opinion. And it is demonstrable. I spoke to a first responder who stated that the outcomes for children in crashes he has responded to have been markedly better since extended rear facing became common practice.

So why fight it? Why insist on doing it a way that is irrefutably less safe simply because doing it that way did not kill you? Personally, I have higher standards for my kids’ safety than “It didn’t kill me.”

I see the “I survived” comments in every discussion about vaccines. Inevitably, someone had measles, or the flu, or another preventable disease, and did not die, so they don’t see the big deal about vaccines.  That a disease is not 100% fatal is a bizarre reason to not prevent it. First of all, the risks of the diseases are there, whether everyone dies or not. Second, not dying doesn’t mean having the measles is pleasant. I’m all for sparing my kids that experience.

So yes, you survived. Congratulations. So far, nothing in life has succeeded in wiping out all of humanity, and very few preventable things kill everyone who experiences them.

Instead of smugly exasperating, “I did it and I survived” can we please make the shift to, “I did it and I was lucky to survive. Thankfully, we have better methods of doing this now”? We can still let kids be kids. We can still let them take risks and fail, that is an important part of growing up. But let’s make sure they don’t have to pay for their mistakes with their lives.




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Heather M. Jones is a mom of 2 from Toronto. When not writing, she can be found reading, worrying, and spending way too much time on Facebook.