Hot Diggity Death!

Filed under: Opinions

If you give a mouse a cookie, you get a cute little book. If you give a kid a hot dog, you could be booked for attempted manslaughter.

That's what it's starting to sound like, anyway. Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report on the dangers of childhood choking. It called for warning labels on the things kids gag on the most -- grapes, carrots, candy -- but number one with a bullet (and mustard) was, of course: the wiener. Gary Smith, a pediatric emergency room doctor and lead author of the study, went so far as to call it "high risk."

Now, frankly (so to speak), I agree that hot dogs do pose a certain risk to young kids. When my sons were younger I diced up mine like a mama bird prechewing a Ball Park worm. But "high risk"? Americans consume 20 billion hot dogs a year, according to the American Meat Institute. About 10 kids a year choke to death on them. This is terrible -- as is the death of any child -- but do the math and hot dogs turn out to be 99.99 percent safe.

Dr. Smith wants us to "redesign" the hot dog to make it even safer. But if we are going to start redesigning childhood classics that are already 99 percent safe, we have to turn stairs into slides, baseballs into tissue wads, and playgrounds into pillows. We'd also have to keep kids at home till age 18, because the Number One way children die is as passengers in cars. In fact, about 2,000 kids die each year as car passengers, versus about 10 a year from hot dogs. So no more car rides.

The problem with seeing everything through the lens of perfect safety is that once you start, nothing seems safe enough. And if there's nothing our kids can do, eat or play with safely, we have to reign 'em in. Which is exactly what we're doing. We're keeping them under lock and key, often staring at a screen, because everything else is too dangerous.

That's why, in a lot of neighborhoods, you don't see kids playing outside anymore.

Once we start to believe we can and should keep our children utterly, perfectly safe, there's no such thing as an accident anymore, either: If a kid gets hurt, it's our fault for not watching closer, or doing more, or buying more protection. One parenting magazine suggests parents carry shoelaces with them on play dates, so they can tie shut the other person's cabinets. It has become our job to baby-proof the world.

So go ahead and put warning labels on wieners. Sell Oscar Mayer oatmeal to the folks who find solid sausage too scary. One more safeguard can't hurt. But even as we try to keep our kids safe, let us remember that life is like a hot dog: To enjoy it, we've got to bite in.

Girl Pro-Eater is a Big Wiener Winner

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.