For the last three days, it's been open season on the father who -- stupidly -- lifted his kid over a barrier at the cougar exhibit at Como Zoo so he could get a picture of the lad. A cougar wounded the boy when it reached through a fence.
The always-entertaining commenters at the Star Tribune Web site did not disappoint:
Another cool picture might be if you put your kid on the highway centerline and the blur of the cars speeding by made neat streaks right next to him. C'mon...what are people thinking when they do things like this? Kids deserve better from adults. Especially their parents.
Boy vs. cougar is an unusual confrontation, and there's no excusing what the father did here, especially since there were signs warning him not to do it.
But it's not as if we don't deliberately put our kids in increased danger from time to time.
Like with these things:
It's a great invention that allows you to get your exercise while taking kids out for fresh air. But there's got to be at least some elevated risk of danger to a youngster if a car strays from its lane. According to Parent Guide News, "Bicycle trailers are more often involved in collisions with motor vehicles than bikes with baby seats, leading to serious injuries and death. In addition, the jarring motion from regular riding can lead to injuries similar to "shaken baby syndrome" that might not show up as developmental delays until years later."
Those things always remind me of the giant yellow pads behind MnDOT trucks that are designed to cushion the impact from another driver not paying attention.
You'll probably pass more people with bike trailers today than men putting their toddlers near cougars.
Over the weekend, I saw a youngster of about 7 riding on a motorcycle with his, presumably, father. On a per-mile-driven basis, people on motorcycles are 37 times more likely to die in a crash than people in a car. But nobody called the media -- or the cops -- on the guy for child endangerment.
On the bicycle trails near my home, I see kids all the time who are allowed by mom and dad to ride without a helmet, even though they probably know it's safer to ride with a helmet than without one. But have you tried getting your kid to keep a helmet on past a certain age? Eventually, parents give up trying.
How do we determine what that point is that putting our kids in increased danger is acceptable? We must be thinking before we do it, because we do it all the time.
Well, sure, there's an element of risk in all of those activities you describe, but those are cases where the parents make a risk-versus-benefit judgment and decide that the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. The cougar case is one where the risk is almost 100% and the benefit is pretty tiny. That's why the guy is in deep doo-doo.
Parents make many horrible decisions about their children's safety every day. In some cases they should know better, and some they actually need to be told.
For instance 4 out of 5 car seats are used incorrectly. In some cases, it's only out of ignorance. In some cases it comes from there being so many possible combinations of car seats and cars.that it's hard to know the tricks to get them to work together. In some cases, it's pure stupidity, like using a seat that has broken parts. On Saturday, in less than an hour, I saw 5 parents with babies in the infant carrier car seats using the car seats in incorrect, potentially dangerous ways.
How about walkers for babies? Very dangerous if you look at the CPSC numbers, yet still sold. And, of course,When you were little they used to use them all the time and...what? Babies got hurt and died then too? Oh.
As someone who is a parent educator professionally, I hear this debate all of the time. I also know how scarily uninformed so many people are. Some things are just flat out bad ideas, but you see them all the time. Some things are parental choice, and can be debated. But having this conversation over and over is moving things forward and making kids safer. I hope.
That's why I confine my kids to the couch, in front of the TV. There's too much risk in doing anything else.
Statistically, the most dangerous thing most kids will ever do is ride in a car.
But here's another statistic to consider:
"Among children ages 14 and under, more than 80 percent of bicycle-related fatalities are associated with the bicyclist’s behavior, including riding into a street without stopping, turning left or swerving into traffic that is coming from behind, running a stop sign and riding against the flow of traffic." Link (PDF)
So it stands to reason that kids who have learned responsible riding behavior by going for rides with Mom and Dad as small children will be safer in the long run. As per Doug's point, this benefit (along with instilling a love for exercise and bonding over a shared activity), to me, far outweighs the extremely remote risk of being run down by a car in the process.
This is a little much, Bob. These people are taking their kids on bike rides, not dangling them in front of cougars. The cougar possesses killer instincts. I hope we can say more for motorists.
These cyclists really deserve praise, not condemnation. Consider the motorist-parent driving that great hunk of steel everywhere he goes. He gets behind the wheel of that world-destroyer, and he knows exactly what he's doing for his children. The cyclist may have to keep his eye out for the occasional lunatic, but at least he rides with the knowledge that he's done right for his kids.
You missed the point. The point is not that there's a comparison between putting ("dangling" is not a correct term) a kid up on a wall to take a picture near a cougar and taking a kid for a bike ride.
The point is that we all actually DO put our kids at increased risk on a daily basis. It's an invitation to examine how we calculate that increased risk and where exactly the point is that it is unreasonable.
See, I would argue the opposite Bob. How many times did your parents or the parents around you walk you to the bus when you were a kid? Now go out in the cities and watch how many parents take turns watching the kids get on their respective buses. Look at the amount of lead paint you and I were exposed to in our child hoods (and you're older than me). I think putting "our kids at increased risk on a daily basis" has been going on since the family unit started. It's a risk we all take when we decide to have children in the first place. Using the child bike trailer, more importantly, was a bad example for the point or your article.
No it wasn't, and my old pal Ken showed why when he wrote, "As per Doug's point, this benefit (along with instilling a love for exercise and bonding over a shared activity), to me, far outweighs the extremely remote risk of being run down..."
It's an assessment of risk. THAT's the point of the piece. Not that it's a bad thing to use one of those trailers -- nor am I saying it's a good thing, either -- but that we put our kids at increased risk, we assess the risk, and we decide if it's acceptable.
The point is simply that the suggestion that there are parents who put kids at risk and those who don't is wrong. It's simply wrong.
So when people ask, "what are they thinking?"... that's a great question. And it's one for which we have the answer. "We're thinking the risk is acceptable."
Sometimes we're wrong about that.
Thanks for the clarifying comments, Bob. The piece reads very differently from what you're explaining down here. You can imagine a cyclist's ire when he sees a description of the cougar incident followed by the phrase "deliberately put our kids in danger" and a picture of a bicycle trailer. Not until six paragraphs later, after you've cited further evidence of danger and compared the trailer to the cougar again, do you give any indication you might think these parents are acting reasonably. By that time, the article is over. Since you're the writer, I'll trust you know your own intention. But the article itself looks very different from this reader's perspective.
No, you've read it correctly. You ARE putting your kids in an increasing danger. And I make no claim that parents are acting reasonably -- or unreasonably. Only that the process by which the parent puts his kid on a fence outside a cougar exhibit and the process by which you put your kid in a bike trailer is the same thought process... an evaluation of risk and a determination of acceptability.
That's different from saying it's the same act. Obviously it's not.
The point is not to get cyclists all bent out of shape because I dared using cycling as an example. The point is that we put our children in elevated risk ALL THE TIME and asking why that is if the suggestion from the three days of debate is that they shouldn't.
The father at the Como Zoo is being considered for CRIMINAL charges. So tell me: Where exactly is the line in putting our children in increased risk that crosses into criminal behavior?
Joey, I'm an easily enraged cyclist, and I got Bob's point right away.
I once watched a guy racing down a sidewalk, pulling a trailer, jump the curb into the street and tip the trailer, which contained his probably 3-year-old daughter, onto its side. She was terrified and inconsolable, but fortunately not hurt.
I'd nevertheless place this act of idiocy on par with the Como Zoo incident.
The bike trailer is not the issue any more than the cougar cage. A trailer is only as dangerous as the person pedaling the bike it's attached to.
My 16-month-old rides with me in a front-mounted safety seat. He loves bike rides more than anything on earth right now. As I mentioned earlier, I believe the benefits outweigh the risk. But there is a risk compared to other activities, and I'd be a pretty lousy parent if I didn't realize that and compensate accordingly.
Bob's post is a good reminder that as parents (and as cyclists, for that matter), we can easily become a little too smug about other people's lapses in judgment.
HAHAHAHA!!! Front mounted safety seat??!?!? That's rich.
No choice...no chance.
Well, hey, don't take my word for it. Read the reviews for yourself.
By putting the weight just behind the steering axis, the bike handles much better than it would with a rear-mounted seat or trailer. Very important if you need to stop or turn quickly. Plus, if we go over sideways or get hit from behind, I'm able to wrap up the child and, to a degree, protect him.
We tend to worry a lot about the unlikely, but not inconceivable, scenario of being mowed down by one of our fine city's many incompetent motorists (in which case, even being in a car is no guarantee of safety), but in reality, most bike crashes are low-speed events caused by people losing control of their bike or being unable to maneuver out of harm's way.