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Look Ma, No Helmet!

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The Meanest Mom writes: Forget cars and swimming pools--the biggest threat to your child's safety this summer is himself. At least that is what many would have you believe.


Last week, I took my kids on a bike ride around our neighborhood. A friendly wave to one woman sitting on her porch was returned with a scowl and "tsk, tsk, tsk" finger shake. "Where's your son's helmet?" the woman barked.


Bike helmets--like all of the safety gear that we pile on our children--aim to prevent injuries, but at what cost? Parents have become so fixated on the small possibility that their kids might get seriously hurt playing outdoors that they forget that the odds are greatly in their favor that they won't. By insisting that our kids suit up in full body armor (knee pads, elbow pads, mouth guards, etc.) when they ride their bikes, rollerblade, and skateboard, we are depriving them of the pleasures of unmediated play. More than that, we are sending them the message that the world is a scary place and that doing normal "kid stuff" is to risk serious bodily harm.

Bike helmets were not mandated by law in most states when we were growing up in the '80s and '90s. Yet miraculously, against all odds, we survived to adulthood. Sure, my son could crack his head open if he fell off his bike, but as I learned a few days ago, he could just as easily do so by tripping on the leg of a coffee table.

Lest you think I am an uncaring parent, I want to assure you that I have taken measures to prevent similar injuries from occurring in the future. From now on, all three of my children are going to wear helmets inside the house, and, to guard against nighttime accidents, even to bed.

next: 10 Preservatives to Avoid
6 comments so far | Post a comment now
momof9 June 22, 2008, 8:22 PM

I guess the level of safety equpment you decide on for your children comes down to what you know in your heart you are prepared to live with. I make my children wear bike helmets. When my daughter was about 10 she took a tumble from her bike and her head hit a rock and her side hit a pole. Her head hit the rock so hard that it actually cracked her safety helmet. The pole caused internal bleeding. They said in the ER that an impact hard enough to crack her helmet like that would probably have cracked her skull. I am glad I made her wear the helmet because it helped protect her but also because I know how guilty I would have felt had she actually cracked her skull when I knew a helmet could have prevented it. I know we can’t protect our children from everything but the world really can be a dangerous place and so I do what I can. I also do seatbelts, carseats, and knee pads for skating etc. You are right that probably nothing will ever happen to your child I have nine and so far only one has had this type of wreck…but sometimes it does and the question is can you live with it if your son cracks his skull?….will you blame yourself?….if so maybe that helmet is not such a burden after all…

Melanie June 22, 2008, 10:21 PM

There are so many reasons that helmets are required by law in a lot of cities. They weren’t required when we were kids but if they were one of my sisters best friends might still be alive.
Our son has been wearing a helmet since he got his tricycle at 10 months and before he gets on his bike he pats his head and says helmet daddy! He is only 2! We believe in safety first but we also don’t shelter him.

Katie June 22, 2008, 11:18 PM

I believe in helmets, but maybe not all that extra padding that some people add. My daughter is 7 months old, and will definitely wear a helmet when she gets her first bike.

Tara June 24, 2008, 3:40 PM

My brother crashed his bike and flew over the handle bars into the curb when he was 5. The helmet he was wearing (thank goodness) was completely demolished, but he sustained only minor injuries (scraped knees and such). The doctors said had he not been wearing that helmet he would have been critically injured or killed.

No one ever PLANS on getting hurt, it just happens. Do you make your kids wear seat belts everytime you get in the car? Because you probably won’t get into a wreck, but when you do, you will be happy you taught your kids to buckle up. The same should go for helmets. I’m not saying wrap your kid in bubble wrap, but preventing life-threatening injuries seems like a no-brainer to me…

jackie June 26, 2008, 7:24 PM

I agree with safety precautions even when they’re inconvenient but I’m also partial to letting life happen to us and realizing that we take away a certain essence of our childhood when we cover ourselves with a ton of body armour before we get to play. That takes the spontaneity out of playing and being kids! When children are made aware of their surrounding and the potential dangers, they’ll most likely choose to be safe. I think of my own childhood and remember how I took some risks that I’m sure frightened my mother but I also remained aware of potential dangers. My brother and I never owned helmets and we wrecked all the time on our bikes because we were having so much fun! We were the kind of fun-loving kids that jumped from our housetop to the trampoline, rolled down hills inside of barrels, played tennis inside the living room when no one was home, rode our goats like horses through thickets of briars and weeds, and sledded from the steepest iciest hills during the cold winters of North Carolina. I definitely flew over the handlebars on my bike on more than one occasion and, as a 10-year-old girl, went airborne onto our unpaved (aka GRAVEL) road face down, arms and legs spread wide, and I only have one scar on my knee to show for it. The only other scar on my entire body is from diving to close to the side of our pool and scraping my leg on the rounded concrete border. That really hurt!! During all my childhood calamity…(and thanks to many blessings from heaven) I have never even suffered a broken bone. And I have always had a great mom who cared about my big brother and I enough to worry about us when we were off being Tarzan and Wonder Woman, but also understood that her own stories of young Tom Sawyer-like adventure were no less than inspirational to two eager country kids embarking on our own outdoor journeys. I fondly recall hearing her voice from the back porch calling for us as we battled the woods surrounding our 13 acres back home for dinner and then afterward ran the other direction when she expectedly approached us with the notorious bottle of rubbing alcohol and salve to aid the wounded warriors. Thanks mom.

Beth June 26, 2008, 8:46 PM

It’s humor people- don’t take it so seriously.

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