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The Obvious Thing About Childhood Accidents

Dear friends: this post is for you. Whenever you are in a conversation (particularly one on a blog or, better yet, on a news site (where anonymity reigns and civility vanishes)) that involves an accident of some kind (particularly accidents involving children) and some brilliant soul feels compelled to point out that someone could have done something to prevent the accident, please point them here. Suffice it to say that accidents occur during normal, everyday life events, by definition. Unless there is gross negligence involved (you know, like putting a toddler’s favorite toys next to the pool, driving drunk, dropping lit cigarettes into a piles of crib bedding, sprinkling thumb tacks in dark well-travelled hallways, or placing open bottles of poison in enticing places, maybe — just maybe — the best responses are to learn from the mistakes (or mishaps) of others and/or show some humanity and compassion. Or whatever.

Obvious Childhood AccidentsLast year when I decided to finally share my horrific shopping cart accident of 2000, I anticipated that a percentage of people would feel a need to point out the obvious. They would need to tell me that the accident wouldn’t have happened if some of the elements were different, that the accident could have been avoided if the circumstances had not been what they were.

In order to ease these minds — and to avoid the incredible desire to scream, “DUH!” — let me tell you that I do understand this. In fact, I even know the definition of the word “accident” which actually includes this very information! Here, let me google that for you:

Accident: an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance, often with lack of intention or necessity.

So, let me list here a few ways in which this particular accident that risked the life of my son could have been avoided (to save you the trouble).

I could have:

  1. walked more slowly (how slowly would have been sufficient, I do not know (but I’m sure you do) since I’ve seen video of very slow moving carts have the same mechanism failure)
  2. carried the baby to the car instead of leaving the seat on the cart (which kind of proves my point, except note that some have had this happen in the store due to uneven flooring, floor spills, and shopping cart wheel glitches)
  3. walked sideways around the cart to see any obstacles (although this method probably has it’s own hazards for which I would be equally criticized)
  4. left my other children at karate so as to afford me the time to inch through the parking (in which case they would have been abducted, so you’d get to criticize me for not going fast enough to pick them up on time, instead of the opposite, so bonus fun for you!)
  5. refused to go grocery shopping (in which case my family would have starved, but we all have to make choices, right?)
  6. never had children (giving me lots of free time to criticize people who are trying to help others by sharing difficult events!)
  7. moved to an island that had no grocery stores and/or parking lots (hmmmm…)
  8. [fill in your favorite blame here:] _______________________________ (in your mind, not to be confused with the comment section, they are not one and the same)

If this isn’t already crystal clear, every single accident that has ever or will ever occur could be avoided, by definition. Any time a child:

  • is burned on the stove
  • is burned by boiling water
  • is burned by a campfire
  • gets a sunburn
  • is cut with a knife
  • gets a finger slammed in a door
  • falls off a bike
  • falls down the stairs
  • falls off a bunk bed
  • falls on the sidewalk
  • falls in the tub
  • falls from a stroller
  • falls from a high chair
  • falls on a slippery floor
  • trips on a rug
  • ingests medication
  • puts a bean up her nose
  • puts a rock up his nose
  • chokes on a hot dog
  • chokes on a balloon
  • chokes on a bottle cap
  • knocks out a tooth
  • gets hit by a car
  • drowns in a pool
  • drowns in a river
  • drowns in a tub
  • drowns in a bucket
  • drowns in a toilet
  • is attacked by a dog
  • is attacked by a bear
  • is bitten by a snake
  •  is bitten by another child
  • is thrown from a horse
  • ingests dish soap
  • ingests perfume
  • ingests shampoo
  • impales herself on a broken stick
  • impales himself on a chain link fence

it could have been avoided. It did not have to happen. If the circumstances had been different, the accident would not have occurred. Every single one of these things could be avoided if parents:

  1. could read the future and knew the exact second that required extra care/precaution
  2. wrapped all their child in bubble wrap in a rubber room (although suffocation could result)
  3. never went to the bathroom, checked the mail, went to bed, blinked, or did any other thing that required taking one’s focused eyes off one’s child (however, this might cause them to miss seeing the upcoming pot hole, falling brick, or the ravenous lion approaching)
  4. never became parents at all
  5. [fill in your favorite perfect-parent-who-never-has-accidents requirement here:] _______________________________ (in your mind, not to be confused with the comment section, they are not one and the same)

Now that you have purged your soul and (internally) expressed you innermost feelings, let’s get back to the point. Here it is.

There are some dangers that can be avoided easily if we actually know they are dangers. Propping a car seat atop a shopping cart seating area is obviously precarious because:

  • it is heavy and makes the cart topheavy
  • is one slippery surface on another
  • makes it hard to see what is in front of the cart
  • etc.

It only makes sense to use this method if both of the following conditions are met:

  1. the car seat actually attaches firmly and securely to the cart
  2. doing so does not damage the seat for safe use when attached to a car or stroller

Because they are not met, meaning:

  1. car seats do not attach securely to shopping carts
  2. using car seats in such a way can damage the mechanism making them unsafe to use in car bases and strollers

choosing to use this method of transport — knowing the truth about the unmet conditions — it’s probably not a wise solution.

I have actually presumed (of all the nerve!) that parents who engage in this unsafe practice — just as I and dozens of people who commented on the other post did —  simply do not know these facts. I have actually presumed (of all the nerve!) that at least some parents who learn this information will change their behavior because of it.

To you, dear reader, it is left to choose what to do with this information. I am satisfied that the purpose of the post — to inform parents who are willing to listen without defensiveness or obfuscation of the facts — has been served.

Thanks for reading and sharing the car seat/grocery cart fail post!

{ 10 comments… add one }

  • Holly March 20, 2014, 1:47 pm

    Alison, I’ve been reading your posts here and elsewhere for a good while and I really enjoy what you write. But most importantly, I LOVE that you are actually articulate and logical! I am completely blown away by the inane comments you get so often. In reference to another one of your posts (the one about not teaching cursive anymore) I know exactly what useful thing we could all do with our time if we stopped teaching cursive. We could teach logic! Then maybe I wouldn’t feel like banging my head against a wall when I read comments on the internet! ( : Keep up the good work.

    And I for one am glad you shared your shopping cart experience. When I had my first I’d read something similar and never have put my baby up on top in a car seat. I just lay it across the back of the cart and stash stuff underneath. Or use a baby carrier. No big deal AT ALL.

  • Carlie March 20, 2014, 2:13 pm

    Thank you! Yes!

  • Alison Moore Smith March 20, 2014, 3:55 pm

    Holly, your comment totally made my day. I don’t think I could ask for a nicer compliment. :) I’m glad you finally commented.

    Thank for reading, Carlie!
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Pocket-Sized Safety Device Crowdfunding DiscountMy Profile

  • mama of 4 March 21, 2014, 9:25 am

    Just wanted to add, you could always wrap your child/children in bubble wrap, too! That has been (jokingly I hope) recommended to me.

  • VirginiaJ March 21, 2014, 2:45 pm

    I am not sure where I heard a similar story, but it did change the way I shopped with a car seat. So thank you for sharing the story for every one who wants to defend their practice, there are several other who change.

  • Becky March 21, 2014, 9:48 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing. I admit that I have put my child’s carseat on the top on occasion when I’ve had a bunch of.groceries to buy. I will, from now on, NEVER put his seat on the top of the cart. And I appreciate your honesty and willing to be upfront about everything because at one point in time, I think we have all thought “that will never happen to me.” This just helps me to remember that it could happen to me and that I can never be too careful with my little guy!

  • Rachael March 22, 2014, 9:04 am

    Hello! Very eye opening story! I’m pregnant now with my first but I can’t tell you how many women I’ve seen put their child’s car seat on the cart and I havnt even thought twice about it. Scary thought! One solution I have in mind is a body wrap. I think they are the best for times like these. The baby stays snugged up close to you and you still have two free arms to shop :-)

  • karat March 22, 2014, 4:07 pm

    I like this to the moon and back. Reading the comments in the other post just made me want to kick some stupid ass. What is wrong with people?

  • Lisa B March 27, 2014, 4:10 pm

    Getting to this late, but awesome post. Tears of laughter. I needed this today. Thanks.

  • Alison Moore Smith March 27, 2014, 6:00 pm

    Lisa, thank you. That’s the second super “made my day” comment I’ve received on a blog post today. :)
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Career Inequality No More – Obama Will Pay You to Be a Super Model!!!My Profile

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