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Better to be Safe Than Stupid

As a parent of three young children, I’m saddened whenever I hear of an accident that kills or injures a child. I try to imagine what the child’s parents are going through. And I ask myself if anything could have been done to prevent it.

In some cases, the accident could certainly have been prevented. In other cases, the child was just unlucky that he or she happened to be born to stupid parents. Well, a few of them were stupid; others just didn’t realize that the gun contained real bullets, that the swimming pool had a deep end or that the pet snake would bite.

Let’s face it, we’ve all done stupid things at one time or another. Just the other day, I answered the question “Does this dress make me look fat?” Needless to say, I spent the next 10 minutes untying the dress from around my neck.

My wife calls me “moron” so often, my children think it’s a term of endearment. I may be a moron, but I try not to be moronic when it comes to my children’s safety. I try to take as many precautions as possible. I know how precious they are – more precious to me than all the curry in the world. (Yes, even Ann Curry.)

That’s why I can’t understand parents who endanger their children by doing stupid things. But instead of just criticizing them, I’ve decided to help them by offering some important child safety advice, beginning today with a few car-related tips:

—Do not let your 4-year-old child drive your car. This may seem like common sense, but not to some parents, including a man named Vijaykumar in Chennai, India, who taught his 4-year-old son Kathiresh to drive. “Three months before, out of his own interest he told me he wants to drive,” Vijaykumar said proudly to a television reporter. “Next day onwards I started training him. … He can drive anywhere or everywhere without anybody’s help.”

I’m glad he said “anywhere and everywhere,” because one of these fine days, Kathiresh may drive the car straight into the river. But don’t expect proud papa to come to his senses. He’ll just be even prouder: “He is very intelligent boy, very smart. He was conducting experiment to see if car could be turned into boat. Next time, he will take oars.”

—Do not leave your children alone in your car for longer than it takes them to say, “I wonder what will happen if I push that thing sticking out of the floor.” Some parents have even left their children alone in the car with the engine running! Stupid people – don’t they realize how expensive gas is?

So many things can go wrong when you leave your children in your car. Extreme temperature can kill them – and so can power windows. If you’re gone too long, they may die of boredom. Or they may just disappear.

Man: “Officer, I just came out of the bank and my baby was gone. Someone took my baby.”

Police officer: “Your baby? Where did you leave your baby?”

Man: “I parked it in the first row. A brand new Lexus SC. And it had a full tank of gas, too. I knew I shouldn’t have left the engine running.”

Officer: “You left your engine running?”

Man: “Yes, I didn’t want the children to get cold. … Oh $#*&! I forgot about the children.”

Officer: “How old are they?

Man: “Twenty-three and 21. Oh $#*&! I knew I shouldn’t have left them alone with my baby!”

—Do not let your children go loose in your car. Trust me, this is NEVER a good idea. Children need to be buckled up or strapped into their safety seats, depending on their age and weight. This not only keeps them safe, it keeps their hands off the radio. They’ll be protected from injury, you’ll be protected from Britney Spears.

I’ve seen so many parents neglect this simple rule. One mother said she didn’t strap her daughter because “she cries when I do that.” If I wanted to keep my children from crying, I’d never brush their teeth, never change their clothes, never give them a bath. They’d be the happiest, stinkiest kids in the world. If anyone complained, I’d say, “I don’t want them to cry. Besides, a little dirt won’t hurt them – they’re already brown.”

A couple of years ago, a man came with his large family to buy a used crib from us. He placed it in the middle of his van, where the seats were. I asked him where his children would sit and he said, “They can stand in the back.”

“Is that safe?” I asked, somewhat rhetorically.

“Yes,” he replied. “The windows are tinted.”

The police and others would not be able to look into the van and see what was obvious to me: the children had a very stupid father.

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