February 7 2013
Culture of Alarmism Watch: Laundry
One of the most anomalous stories of 2012 involved laundry detergent. Apparently a few kids were eating single-dose laundry detergent packets because they were mistaking them for candy (man/baby Senator Chuck Schumer had the same problem, admitting he almost ate one of these packets, but mercifully was saved by his quick-thinking staffer/babysitter who yanked it from his chubby little baby/man hand before he could gobble it up).
This so-called problem of kids eating these laundry packets set off all the predictable alarms. Consumer safety groups began to swarm, newspapers ran scary-sounding headlines about this product being a danger to children. As expected, the mommy blogs went nuts as women everywhere took a moment away from Pinterest to freak-out about these potentially dangerous laundry products.
My reaction was a little different. It was all very bewildering to me. I couldn’t seem to figure out how kids were getting ahold of these pod-things; isn’t it common sense that kids will pretty much stick anything in their mouths if they can get ahold of it? It seems a pretty basic parental responsibility to keep shiny, colorful, yet dangerous items away from young children.
Apparently my reaction to this story was the exception. The prevailing thoughts on this wicked laundry product is that the outrage should be directed -- not at the parents for letting their kids get anywhere near these things – but rather to the company that develops these super cool, convenient, and mess free laundry pods.
Stories like this make me weep for the death of common sense and personal responsibility in this country.
Look, kids’ reasoning skills aren’t so good those first few years (apparently Senator Schumer also has some growing up to do too). Let’s face it; babies can’t tell the difference between a piece of candy and packet of detergent but they also can’t tell the difference between their snuggly stuffed bear and a growling pit bull. But that’s okay, right? That’s okay because that’s what parents are for—to care for and protect these tiny humans until their brains develop the ability to make sound judgments, to make reasoned decisions, and to understand consequences and the costs associated with certain actions.
Those who have criticized the company for developing this product might also suggest their readers start acting like responsible mommies and daddies by placing cleaning products and detergents on a high shelf—a shelf that is out of the reach of children. But I get it; what’s the fun in that? It’s so much more fun to sound the alarm. It’s so much braver to say you’re going to write the company a letter and then moan and groan about the polite letter you get back. It's nice to feel like a hero.
You know what else would be nice? If these some of these easily freaked-out parents could take a break from the parenting world for just long enough to consider what life is like for those who don’t have tiny detergent-eaters roaming around the house.
Take for instance, my husband’s 90-year old grandmother who still lives in the same house in which she raised her own children. She doesn’t have any nursing care so she still does all the chores around the house—including the laundry. For her, these pods are helpful. There’s no measuring. No lugging a 32-pound box of laundry detergent down to the basement. She can keep her pods in the kitchen and take one featherweight pod down to the basement when she does a load of laundry. She doesn’t have to strain to measure or pour or do anything that requires fine motor skills. She simply takes a pod and throws it in the washer. This makes life—a life with increasingly difficult daily tasks—a little easier.
One article on the “problem” of pod eating said the company spent eight years developing the product and tested it with more than 6,000 consumers. Well apparently they didn’t test the product on distracted parents who keep cleaning products lying around the floor within the reach of children. Of course, they might have had more faith in the general public to manage these common-sense responsibilities.
Look, I understand that having kids can be terrifying but it isn’t just detergent that poses a risk to children. For goodness sake, everything’s a kid killer at some point. My boys drove me nuts getting into things. They chewed on everything; they would have eaten my hair dryer if I’d left it within their reach. They also would have feasted on lighter fluid, antifreeze, liquid Drain-o, bug killers, prescription medications, kitchen disinfectants, hair products, make-up, dish soap, raw chicken, toothpicks, earrings, and bleach if I hadn’t placed these things on high shelves in closets with child-proof door handle covers or in locked cabinets under the sink.
You see, I don’t think it’s a company’s job to do my job. It's my job to take care of my kids. I'll concentrate on the kids and let these companies figure out ways to make my busy life easier.