Dear Dave

Friday 16 November 2007

Protective perspective

Dear Dave,

You're right. Kids make you worry. Two kids is twice the worry and you only have half as much available time to fit all the worrying in. You need to concentrate your worry on major risks.

If only I knew what those were...

I seem to spend a great deal of my time shouting warnings about imminent catastrophe:

"Don't do that!"

"Look where you're going!"

"Watch what you're doing!"

"Don't stand there!"

"Don't touch that!"

Unfortunately, my voice usually carries the same sense of urgency whether 'that' is a sweet on the ground, my PSP, a python or an electrical substation. If the kids are doing something liable to cause injury, I will often throw in "It's dangerous!" If they're doing something hugely stupid, I might even go so far as to say "It's very dangerous!"

Still doesn't really give them a particularly clear picture of risk, though.

"Stop waving your fork around. It's dangerous!" isn't much of a step up from, "Watch out! Careful with your milk!" In fact, the latter is actually likely to create more of an impression thanks to the words escaping my throat in a frantic scream as I lunge across the table to catch a teetering cup. My kids probably live more in fear of giving me extra cleaning than they do of impaling their siblings with kitchen utensils.

I guess this will make them normal, though. It's hard to realistically determine probabilities and weigh likely rewards against possible disasters. It's not really surprising the kids don't have a clue. I don't even know what the most likely calamities might be and how badly they could go. Running with scissors probably is pretty dangerous (if they have a pointed end) and so is hopping with knives but how dangerous is dancing with a spoon? What level of warning should I use? Does it depend on the size of the spoon? The style of dance? The proximity of crockery?

Or should I just let the poor kid enjoy herself for a change without me prophesying doom?

The media doesn't help. I saw an item on the main ITV evening news the other week that was all shock and horror about the dangers of hazardous drinking. A large glass of wine every night is a hazardous level of consumption! Well-to-do rich people are drinking too much! Shock! Horror! Not once was it mentioned in what way this level of drinking was hazardous, nor to how great an extent. They did, however, imply a causal relationship between having an expensive house and drinking too much. This means that it's not really the drinking that's the root cause of danger - it's buying a mansion.

As I said, the media isn't much help.

Then again, neither is personal experience much good at assessing most risks. I know from experience that if we go to the swing park there's a good chance that someone will scrape a knee but what's the chance of one of the kids getting snatched? Considering I'm not in the middle of a custody battle, vanishingly small, probably, but all I've got to go on is hearsay and media reports. And I've already established that the media isn't much help.

Nope, it's very hard to tell what's really worth worrying about. Still, in terms of the amount of thought and effort I put into preventing disaster, these are the dangers I feel most threaten my children:

10. Food. Between obesity and food poisoning, additives and E numbers, E. Coli and bird flu, there are any number of food related scares around. I'm considering moving the kids over to a diet of lime juice and crackers, just to be on the safe side.

9. Going to hospital. Hospitals are full of germs and sick people. Must avoid.

8. Dirty hands. Dirty hands are covered in germs and cause sick people. Must wash.

7. My old Xbox. The instruction manual contains only one warning about photosensitive seizures but FOUR about not dropping the thing on a small child. Do the maths.

6. Dog poo. We have some inconsiderate dog owners round our way. I spend a great deal of time telling the kids to look where they're about to put their feet. Strangely, this usually makes them look behind them. They've got used to wandering around peering over their shoulder to see if they've just stepped in doo-doo. This is not hugely safe or convenient. I see dog poo on the pavement and shout at the kids, they look behind them, step in it and then walk into a lamppost.

5. Coffee. It's hot and spillable which is a dangerous combination. Luckily, it's usually gone cold by the time I get a chance to drink it.

4. Traffic. The boys have got the hang of the 'Stop' part of 'Stop, Look & Listen' but haven't yet realised that the other two are quite tricky if they're talking at me. A couple of days ago, while we were already halfway across a road, I told them to stop wittering about Mario and look for cars. Unfortunately, this just led to even worse distraction. Fraser promptly shouted, "Look! There's a car," and pointed at a car that was not only in the wrong direction but also on a different road. Handy.

3. Each other. When the boys were younger, I turned round from the washing up to find Fraser stabbing Lewis in the head with a fork as they sat quietly eating their tea.

2. Themselves. On closer examination, the number of triple puncture wounds suggested that Lewis had been letting him do this for a while.

1. Zombies. I watched 28 Weeks Later recently. Since then, most of my spare brainpower at any given moment has been devoted to locating emergency exits and suitable materials for barricades in case of the unexpected arrival of a horde of the living dead. It may not be a very likely threat but its consequences would be catastrophic. Best to be prepared.
That's the list. Essentially, if I gave each of the kids an eating utensil and a turkey sandwich while I was drinking coffee and we all followed a dog along beside a busy road on the way to the hospital, that's the most dangerous situation imaginable. Unless it started raining Xboxes... or zombies.

I suppose I could always take comfort in the fact that we all had clean hands.

Right, I'm off to purchase emergency plastic bags, a chainsaw, some bear-traps and a shotgun in preparation for the inevitable undead apocalypse. Got to keep the kids safe, after all. And it beats worrying about which secondary school would be best...

Yours in a woman's world,



Anonymous said...

My pet worry/ obsession is to always have an escape route ready in case of fire. Every night, I dutifully clear away any trip-hazards (large stuffed toys, discarded clothes, marbles) between the kids' beds and their bedroom doors. Of course, this is also to my benefit if I am suddenly 'needed' at 3am :-)

Oh, and I have an irrational fear of Christmas tree lights: you just know they'll go up in flames as soon as you leave the room... maybe not today, but one day!

Anonymous said...

Someone in my house is putting cushions behind doors so when I open them in the dark I can then walk into them as they bounce back unseen...

Might help with the zombie problem though.

DadsDinner said...

I assume that modern Christmas lights are safer than they were when we were small and they regularly showed TV adverts warning about exploding trees. Now that I think about it, though, my parents still use the lights they had when I was small...

As for spring-loaded doors, that's an excellent booby-trap. I just need to make sure the zombies are carrying cups of coffee for added devastation.

Anonymous said...

I've just got the idea of a coffee shop for zombies stuck in my head now and I just can't shake it!

Maybe that way the world would be a better place; us and zombies sharing a latte on the sofa; understanding, peace...

And if it all goes wrong, decorate the place with your parents tree lights.

DadsDinner said...

I might put the lights straight onto the zombies and maybe give them each a little santa hat as well. Christmas zombies are much less scary.

Until they unexpectedly burst into flames.