A number of years ago Emunah, a women’s organization with charitable projects including a chain of daycare centers, offered an 8-session course in child safety to its employees and volunteers. Since I had small children and worked with new mothers, I decided to try it out.
Like many programs in Israel the class started at 5 PM. My teen was willing to supervise the younger ones, including my two-year-old. But I knew things could get rowdy, and left the house with apprehension.
The instructor, a doctor who worked for the child safety organization Beterem, started on time. She raised her cell phone in the air and pointedly turned it off, instructing us to do the same. I tried not to think about what was happening at home.
To prepare for her lecture, the instructor had visited the local children’s hospital to learn about recent accidents:
- Accident #1: Because of a recent school strike, a preschool teacher brought her six-year-old to work and asked him to prepare cups of water for the children. The child found some blue “candy” that fizzed when he dropped it in the water. He thought it would be a special treat for the kids, so he added one to each cup. The instructor described the severe chemical burns in the throats and esophagi of the children who drank the poison before the boy’s error was discovered.
- Accident #2: This one was also related to the strike. A grandmother asked a 7-year-old to prepare the baby’s bottle. The little girl spilled boiling water over herself, causing third-degree burns all over her body including her chest. She would have to spend months in the hospital recovering. Her breast tissue was destroyed, meaning she would never grow breasts or nurse.
I don’t remember details of accidents 3 and 4, but they involved cars, small children and lack of restraints.
Surprisingly, the speaker gave an example of an accident that could not have been prevented: A teen injured by a falling rock while on a hike. Maybe hikers should wear helmets? Or that part of the path could have been closed off? The speaker clearly lacked imagination.
She talked about Beterem’s campaign urging parents not to let children cross streets alone before age 9, explaining that children’s visual perception is not developed enough to judge distance. She criticized parents who said Beterem expected mothers to rush home from work to cross the street with their six-year-olds after school.
The instructor also brought up the law that allows six-year-olds to watch younger siblings. Everyone knows that is too young, but lawmakers can’t agree on an appropriate age. This also affects working parents.
I learned that bananas are a choking hazard. Like hotdogs, they should be slit lengthwise before serving.
After two hours of warnings, with no trace of humor or even a smile from the teacher, we were allowed to turn on our cellphones and go home. Fortunately, my kids were still in one piece.
When I rode home with a few of the daycare center managers, the woman sitting next to me did not put on her seatbelt even after I reminded her. I guess not everyone absorbs things the same way.
I never went back to the class.