Can’t we all just stop thinking about the children
In these frazzled and time-poor times it is difficult to juggle the competing demands of feeding the children and getting them delivered punctually to school or childcare, while also meeting our own need for sustenance and employment.
To this end it is worth thinking about whether schools and childcare centres could be co-located at McDonalds drive-throughs. The children could be removed from the car - if they’re small enough you could pass them straight through the window – and a helpful McDonalds employee could then hand you a coffee and a McMuffin and give the kiddies some nuggets (or whatever) before taking them to class. You wouldn’t even need to leave your vehicle, and everyone would start the day with a hearty meal.
Clearly, this idea isn’t even remotely worth thinking about, but it is worth throwing it out there in a juvenile fashion to upset the nutrition freaks and child protection obsessives who want their cotton-wooled, risk-averse, no-fun agenda enshrined in the nation’s statutes.
Earlier this week it emerged that those wicked bastards who make energy drinks, the kind that are packed with caffeine and guarana and the same mysterious blue chemical used in radiator coolant, are now selling their monstrous hell-fluid in 1.25 litre “family-sized” bottles.
Cue the pavlovian calls for government to step in. Clearly, nobody has thought about the children.
“We can’t see a single reason why the energy drink market should not be curtailed,” AMA president Steve Hambleton said.
I can think of a few reasons. The first being that governments have got better things to do, like not stuffing up the economy, and ideally not much else beyond that. Or the more compelling reason, which is that as far as I can tell there aren’t many five-year-olds cruising the aisles with their personal stash of cash, shelling out five bucks for a bottle of V or Red Bull. It is parents who do the buying, and surely no parent would be so stupid as to give their kids these drinks anyway, unless they appeared to be flagging while finishing their homework and you needed some liquid to wash down the No-Doz you had just given them.
In this era when a bag of nuts comes with a warning that it may contain nuts or traces of nuts, no threat is too miniscule to warrant government intervention, a national education campaign, and the threat of fines for those who transgress. We are having an on-again off-again national conversation about whether fast food advertisements should be banned because the “pester factor” is apparently so great that we’re all shovelling KFC down the littlies’ throats. And while we’re on the subject, how good is that 10 pieces for $10 deal they’re currently running on Tuesdays?
A couple of years ago the nutritionist Rosemary Stanton became quite agitated when Bindy Irwin was hired as the public face of a packet cake mix, in an apparently sinister endorsement of the consumption of chocolate cake by a role model whom the littlies revere.
Playgrounds increasingly resemble padded cells where something as lame as a see-saw must be placed in a 10m deep pile of bark chips lest anyone does themselves a mischief.
The other day when the temperature was close to 40 degrees I went to Big W and bought one of those tiny inflatable pools, which upon unwrapping it included a stern note translated from the Mandarin saying under the laws it could only be inflated if placed within the perimeter of government-standard permanent fencing, the kind you would construct if you had a real pool. Obviously and tragically, plenty of kids have drowned unattended, it only takes a few centimetres of water, and as a parent you cannot imagine anything worse. But if your kids know how to swim, and if you are inflating it on the lawn directly in front of the barbecue, where you and seven other adults are spending the afternoon providing constant supervision, and then you drain the damn thing the moment the party is over, calling in the permanent pool fencing guy seems a bit over the top.
I often find myself thinking of the beefcake model Fabio, the guy who couldn’t believe it wasn’t butter, not on account of any weird sexual fondness for the man but because a few years ago he became something of a pin-up boy for what you could call irrational hyper-vigilance. Poor Fabio had ridden a roller-coaster in Florida and as the ride was going down a loop-the-loop at breakneck speed a massive migratory goose flew in his path and broke his nose. To his eternal credit the very decent Fabio said he had decided not to sue. But he explained that he had decided to go public, to make sure that it never happened again. As far as I can gather, it hasn’t.
Irrational hyper-vigilance is at its most pronounced when it comes to the tiny tots. Perhaps it’s a sign of how pampered we are in the west that we fret and worry about such trifles as energy drinks or the odd burger or dangerous playgrounds, while in many parts of the world kids are born in smouldering toxic slums and still kick on into adulthood. And when I say “we” I don’t mean the vast majority of parents. Most parents I know, and I know plenty of them, are much more laid-back and sensible than the paranoid busy-bodies who want to legislate against everything.
One of my earliest memories as a kid is sitting in the back of our green Kingswood station wagon where it was my job to hold on to the metal bassinet my baby sister was strapped into to make sure she didn’t slide off the bench seat and onto the floor as Dad took a corner. Probably not ideal, especially with all the Ben Ean which was being consumed in the 70s. Within the space of a generation we are now talking about whether children should have to stay in booster seats until they are 12. Maybe it is too reckless to remove them from booster seats at all. At least until their 21st. You can’t be too careful. You can actually.
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