Sunday, November 23, 2014

Unsupervised Babies Sleeping in Cribs and other Bizarre Cautionary Tales

I have a week off from school and am back at the homestead, or at least in the general vicinity of such. I went to babysit my Godchild this morning because he kept his mother up most of last night and she is exhausted. I held the baby and played with him for an hour or so, but he eventually fell asleep, so I swaddled him (it's a new technique all parents must learn now; it's amazing that I survived almost twenty years without ever once, to the best of my knowledge, being swaddled; I don't think my mother could properly swaddle an infant if her very life depended upon it) and put him in his bassinet in his mother's room.

I then went outside to help my Uncle Scott with his
recycling. He told me to fold up the cardboard box in which the baby's crib had originally been packaged. As I was folding the cardboard so that it would fit into the city-provided recycling bin, I noticed the following statement printed in moderately bold black letters in the center of one side of the box:"Do not leave baby unattended in crib."

Exactly what sentiment did the manufacturer wish to convey with the message? Is the implication that even when a baby is asleep in the crib, at least one sober and responsible adult should be standing guard and watching the child every second of every minute the child is in the crib? Are parents required to take sifts during the night even when the baby is asleep in order to accomplish this? Since they already must take shifts when the baby is awake, this would result in both parents getting zero amount of sleep every night at least until the kid outgrew his crib. Is there something inherently defective with this crib in particular, or are all cribs, regardless of make or model,  equally hazardous to babies? 

It seems that people (although perhaps quite naively) assume that a baby can safely remain in a crib in a state of sleep or, for shorter intervals, even in a state of wakefulness. Does this particular crib my aunt and uncle selected for their baby possess something akin to a trap door with a trigger that even a newborn baby can manipulate, thereby escaping said crib/prison? If so, is Ralph Nader aware of this function or malfunction? Or are all cribs by definition unsafe unless an adult is directly supervising whatever infant has been placed in the crib?

Or does the crib's manufacturer intend to convey that the supervisory capacity of its cribs is not without limits, as in a parent should not leave the child in the crib without another adult in the house to supervise the child while the parent attends mass or goes off to play putt-putt golf at a miniature golf course five miles from his or her home?  The company makes good cribs, but not cribs with superpowers. One should not expect even this manufacturer's  crib to detect and remedy choking, fever,  wet or messy diapers, hunger, loneliness, or other hazards of infancy.  Under this interpretation, a parent could conceivably go so far as to drift off to sleep with his or her child sleeping on one of the manufacturer's cribs in the next room. 

But how are we to really know this is the correct interpretation of the manufacturer's disclaimer? The box said:  "Do not leave baby unattended in crib." Call me anal-retentive if you wish, but I'm not sure I'd be comfortable leaving a child to sleep in the crib that came packaged in that box unless I was prepared to sit and stare at the baby until it was time to remove him from the crib. What if the crib has a secret sensor that alerts CPS if a child is not properly attended in the crib? Is it really worth risking having one's child caught up and possibly even lost in California's dismal foster care system over a failure to heed a what would seem to be a clear directive?

I pointed this out to Uncle Scott. He told me that I and not he will be the one to be arrested for child endangerment, as it was I who put his baby to bed before coming outside. I reminded him that I had placed the child in the bassinet next to his mother, and not into the crib in the adjoining nursery. As far as we know, the box the bassinet came in bore no similar warning.

I wish I'd taken a picture of the threatening package label before I folded the box multiple times, jumped on it in order to compact it, and shoved it deep into the recesses of the recycling bin. The box is now ensconced in the filth of recycling, and I have no intention of digging it out.

My Uncle Scott mentioned that when his family got their first computer -- one of those T-Rex colossal desktop models -- when he was a kid, he was reading the directions aloud to his father as his father was assembling the thing. In the instructions, right in the middle of reasonably important content about what cables to attach where, in bold print inside a text box appeared the warning: "Do not operate computer in a shower stall with water running." Scott asked his dad why the directions would say such a thing. His dad answered that presumably at least one idiot had done that very thing and had probably sued the manufacturer either for damage to the computer or for injury (or loss of life, which would have been a mere technicality, as the person who did such a thing must already have been brain-dead). To prevent future similar lawsuits, the company inserted the disclaimer into its instructions. Anyone stupid enough to operate a desktop computer in a shower stall with the water running (I can imagine a drunken or drugged-out frat rat taking his laptop into the shower with him, which is still quite stupid in its own right, but a desktop?) is probably too stupid to read the instructions telling him not to do that very thing.

I googled "stupid instructions" to see what the Internet had to say about the subject.  A frozen pizza offered the warning, "Always bake with the crust side down." It never occurred to me to bake a pizza with the crust side up, but I cannot imagine that the end result would be good.

"Do not drive with sunshield in place," was included in the instructions on one of those cardboard windshield covers intended to keep temperatures down in parked cars. The sad thing is that with the way some people around here drive (I've had two ridiculous accidents that were not my fault) it really wouldn't make much difference whether or not they left their sunshields on their front windshields while driving.

"Use care when operating motor vehicles until you know how you react to medication" was printed on a prescription bottle of dog's pills. That's what I always tell The Pope whenever I give him his pain meds.

"Do not eat toner" was included in a print cartridge's instructions. For most of us, this is simply silly and a non-issue. The problem here lies in the fact that someone with Prader-Willi Syndrome (mild to moderate retardation in regard to everything else, but subjects are absolute savants at acquiring food and will eat non-food when food is unavailable) probably couldn't read the warning label. An individual with pica (an uncommon urge to eat things that wouldn't ordinarily be considered edible) probably wouldn't really care about the warning if it were toner that he or she craved. (Usually it's something more like dirt, chalk, or Play-Doh that pica sufferers would choose to eat.) Hence, the warning is a waste of print except perhaps in the instance of litigation.

On a motorcycle helmet-mounted rear-view mirror, the following disclaimer was offered: "Remember, objects in the mirror are actually behind you." Where else might anyone smart enough to operate a motorcycle (which, granted, isn't saying a hell of a lot, but still . . .) think they could possibly be?

A label on a package of peanuts contained the following advice: "Warning! May contain peanuts!" I understand both the pervasiveness and the seriousness of peanut allergies, but wouldn't the contents of this label be considered slightly redundant, particularly if the primary label on the front of the package said "PEANUTS"?

This disclaimer, sort of the antithesis of the disclaimer on my Godchild's crib packaging, was found attached to a double stroller: "Remove occupants before folding stroller."  I would ask if, in all seriousness, anyone really needed to be told that were it not for the large number of people who cannot remember to take their children out of their cars before going to work or about other business. I'm not intending to be funny here because there's absolutely nothing funny about it, as we all know.

In order to end the list on a lighter note, I'll share my personal favorite disclaimer, which was found on the packaging of a digital thermometer: "Do not use orally after using rectally." Really?

For your own peace of mind, I will share with you that my Godchild and his mother are both now awake. He isn't in his crib, so the point of crib supervision or lack thereof is moot, although since he's being fed, I would suppose one would say the child is under supervision.  CPS will have to find another candidate to lose in their system today. *****

***** I'm being somewhat facetious in my criticism of CPS. From what I've been told by mandated reporters to the system, which includes basically everyone over twenty-five who is related to me, CPS is far more likely to stand by idly without adequately investigating a case of child abuse or neglect than to wrongly remove a child from his or her home.

FREEDOM!  I have a week off from school.


  1. Wasn't swaddling mentioned in the Bible? Seems like I remember that word being used as Jesus was being placed in the manger.

    I think your Uncle Scott is right. There are a lot of idiots out there who do dumb things and then expect to sue and get a pay day. Kind of like that woman in Texas whose pitbulls got loose and killed a beagle in his own yard. Now the pitbull owner, claiming mental distress, is suing the beagle owner for not having a proper fence (her dogs got through a hole). Never mind that the pitbull owner didn't properly restrain her dogs and they trespassed on someone else's property.

    As for CPS and their level of meddling, it depends on where you are. I

    1. Yep. Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. it'ss apparently an old technicque that's found its way back to modern practice.

      As far as the pit bulls, I'd say the owner should not only be sued but charged with animal cruelty as well. He (or she) is responsible for what the dogs do when they get out. People have been found guilty of second-degree murder for losing control of their Presa Canarios (which make Rottweilers and pits look like kittens) which then killed a woman (aq soccer coach at St. Mary's in northern CA) in her own apartment hallway. Kimberly Guilfoyle prosecuted that casse. it's the only thing she's ever done right in my opinion.

      Regarding CPS, i'm sure it can vary regionally, but the general word is that they do a whole lot of looking the other way because they're in some cases legtimately overworked, and in other cases, God help the child who is being beaten during coffee break time because no one from CPS will help him. On the other hand, if a child actually makes it into a CPS's system, it may take an act of god to get him or her out. Files are lost. Caseworkers don't turn in reports or show up to hearings, delaying the process. Foster care is often dismal, and meanwhile the kid languishes in a substandard home because a parent made as simple a mistake as forgetting to properly secure an external door when she went to the bathroom, accidentally allowing a toddler to wander into a street and be found by a stranger. the kid might not be reuinted with his mother for a year. it's like totally arbitrary in terms of which cases are dealt with and which ones -- often much more ominous -- are totally overlooked "for lack of evidence" or because it's coffee break time.

      you know all this of course because of your MSW.

  2. Really great piece - very funny! I love your writing. X

    1. Merci beaucoup! I'm not bilingual, but my dad's first language was French, so I know the greetings and polite phrases (and a few impolite ones as well).. Any compliment from you is high praise.