Save Your Buckyballs!
My oldest is sick, so, since I’m not getting much done today anyway, I feel the need to pen a quick defense of Buckyballs, maybe the world’s greatest toy for everybody who is ever bored, ever. They call themselves an “adult toy,” to make clear that it is not for children. I can’t use that term because I’m a sex-educator, so an “adult toy,” to me, is a sex toy. So let’s just say that Buckyballs, like most of the balls that I am fond of, are best suited for adult play. (Mmmmm, balls.)
Buckyballs, if you don’t know, are incredibly strong magnets that you can fondle and shape into pretty much anything your bored and easily distracted mind can imagine. I could go on about the importance of abstract play in developmental psychology, for both children and adults, but that’s not really at issue here. What is at issue is the idea that the CPSC should outlaw anything that could potentially harm a child. And a culture of adults who litigate and blame others for things that are either genuine accidents, or the result of lazy parenting.
Go ahead and get mad at me for suggesting that when a kid eats a magnet, there probably should have been a parent watching the kid, or keeping the magnet out of the kid’s reach. Or for suggesting that “shit happens.” Because it does. Especially if you have kids – even if you are paying attention. I have kids. 3 of them. One of them is a toddler. She hasn’t hurt herself on any of the myriad things that can be found in our house.
Anyway, the CPSC is trying to shut them down because the magnets pose a risk to kids, if swallowed. This, after years of working with the CPSC to cover their packaging in warning labels, making clear that not only are Buckyballs NOT kid’s toys, it’s a bad idea to let your kids eat them. (Duh.) Despite 100% compliance, the CPSC is trying to take them off the market altogether.
So, since I’m being lazy (and my oldest kid is at home with the flu, and I can’t figure out who to sue about it,) I am going to give you a list of things that my toddler could probably hurt herself with, all within 15 feet of me.
1) My glass of water. Glass poses an almost unparalleled threat to the safety of children, and should almost certainly be banned. Should they drop a glass, or knock one off a table, the shards could easily cause, abrasions, cuts, loss of an eye, or even death if a vein is cut just right.
The American Pediatric Association suggests the following:
It is almost impossible for a curious and active child to avoid some scrapes and minor cuts, but there are things you can do to decrease the number your child will have and to minimize their severity. Keep potentially dangerous objects like sharp knives, easily breakable glass objects, and firearms out of his reach. When he gets old enough to use knives and scissors himself, teach him how to handle them properly and insist that they be used safely. At regular intervals make a safety check of your house, garage, and yard. If you find objects that are potentially dangerous because your child is older and can get into them, store them securely out of his reach.
But I don’t think that’s good enough. Clearly, the CPSC should ban drinking glasses.
2) The canned air that I use to clean my electronics and camera equipment. Hell, kids get high on the stuff, and what if my toddler was looking at it and she squirted it straight in her eye? Blind? There is a warning on it, (just 1, not the FIVE that Buckyballs has on their packaging) that says “KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN. INTENTIONAL MISUSE BY DELIBERATELY INHALING CONTENTS MAY BE FATAL.” Fatal. As in, dead.
Not like having a magnet work its way through your body, and into the toilet, in tact, kinda like a corn kernel. And it will still work! Corn can’t do that! Anyway, ban the canned air, that shit can blind you – kill you, even!
Yes, a 3 year-old in Oregon ate 37 Buckyballs, and it fucked her up, temporarily. She had to have surgery, the works. I know the gang at Buckyballs is too kind to say it, but I’ll say it – where were the parents when their child was eating 37 magnets? Do you know how long that would take? Long enough to break a glass and use a can of compressed air to spread sole-shattering shards all over the damned place, that’s how long.
As far as I know, all the other magnet-munchers have just pooped them out. Still working.
3) Stairs. From where I sit, there are 20 stairs between my lazy-ass and the floor below me. There’s also a huge opening that creates a lovely atrium, an open 2-story space for light. These are all edged by some highly affected European styled cabling that, really, any child could fall straight to their death through. In the 14 years we’ve lived here, with countless babies running around, not a single one has fallen. (One kitten did, but she was fine.) My dad did trip on the stairs that I can see, outside, from where I’m sitting. He was walking the dog, and we had to call the paramedics. Not sure what happened, if it was the stairs, the dog, the leash, the nighttime, the old age. That said, it’s all an accident waiting to happen, so the CPSC should probably ban stairs – and dogs, leashes, low-visibility and old-age.
4) Pretty much everything in my knitting basket. Knitting needles for poking and stabbing, yarn for choking and strangling, scissors for limb and eyeball removal, maybe tongue slicing if things to really badly. Yes, CPSC, please ban my knitting and crafting supplies, it’s possible that if I’m not paying attention, one of my girls could hurt themselves, or each other. Come to think of it, scissors should have been banned long ago, based solely on the tragic haircuts that kids have been giving each other for generations. Talk about scarring, do you know now embarrassing those pictures are when your mom brings them out and shows them to your high-school sweetie?
5) Nail polish. I don’t really know what would happen if a kid drank nail polish, but it wouldn’t be good. For that matter, that pile of cotton balls next to the remover is looking really menacing, now that I think about it. Can you digest those? Do they come back out? Or would they just swell and sorta choke the plumbing? We can’t risk it. Ban ’em. All of ’em.
6) The jar of pennies on the desk. This is, perhaps, the most akin to the Buckyballs. Small metal objects that many people keep on a desk or table or shelf. They’re just filthy and useless, certainly a choking hazard (never mind that they are usually stored in glass!) Ban ’em. (Actually, please ban pennies, mostly for economic reasons. Stupid things, no one uses them.)
7) The binoculars. Total safety hazard. Long cord for choking, stiff protuberances for impaling, and glass, for all the fun things that class can do.
8) Windows. Defenestration.
9) Window shades, cords, hanging.
Shall I go on? Life’s dangerous. Every damned minute of it. Imagine if this list had taken place in a kitchen. I know for a fact that a pot of scalding lemon-pudding can do some harm when intentionally poured on the head of a bratty little-sister who reprograms the remote so that you can’t change the channel and get stuck watching He-Man after school. Shall we ban pudding? Pots? Stoves? (Yes, I did. She deserved it, in my 9 year-old mind. On the other hand, I’ve always been a great cook. Made it from scratch.)
Every year in the US there are more than 136 million visits to the ER. You know why? Because shit happens. It usually happens when people do stupid things, but regardless, it happens. It happens when people use things like stairs properly, and fall anyway. When hands slip and glass breaks and fingers get cut off. When people swallow things they shouldn’t swallow, or have an allergic reaction to something that was fine the last time they ate it. It happens when people stick “adult toys” that don’t have a flared base up their asses and things get lost.
Some of those visits, sadly, are kids. I don’t want to belittle the pain of the kids or the agony of the parents, really. But if we were to let the CPSC remove every single thing that a kid could use to hurt themselves, we’d be living in a padded world full of padded rooms, playing with each other’s balls because there would be nothing else to do.
I do put a lot of responsibility on parents to not only watch their children, but to teach them how to be safe in the world. Not to stick their fingers in sockets – but please, let us keep our sockets! Not to impale themselves with knitting needles – but I loved teaching my kids to knit. I don’t know why the CPSC is picking on Buckyballs, as opposed to every other hazard out there. But it’s wrong. It’s creepy, and it’s a terrible precedent. And it further puts the responsibility of an individual onto the government – which is just not where we want to go.
My kids and I both have lots of toys that could hurt us if we used them wrong. (Just to repeat, cuz it’s my job, flared base, really.) I’m doing my part. I’m teaching them how to be as safe as possible in a world that is inherently unsafe. Because as much as my little sister probably wishes her big sister hadn’t dumped hot pudding on her head, I am much more concerned about a world in which Big Brother is making all my decisions for me.