There are no recalls so far this morning, which has given me the chance to reflect on something that's been on my mind lately: the psychological and emotional effect of the toy recalls on kids. I know that it's taken a big toll on my daughter. She's sensitive anyway. She's suffered some trauma in her short life that most kids don't have to face, including the death, less than two years ago, of a sibling who was very close in age and her best friend.
Toys, particularly dolls and stuffed animals, have been Tara's consolation throughout her childhood. She plays out scenarios with Barbies and Bratz and baby dolls and works through things that upset her. The fashion dolls are beautiful, feisty and popular. They don't have to worry about bad things happening, except for the occasional wardrobe malfunction. (How DO you get those pointy little shoes to stay on Barbie's feet and that bikini bottom would even be banned in Rio, I'm thinking.)
The baby dolls need love and nurturing, which is good practice for being a healthy grownup female. The stuffed animals surround Tara every night with soft, reassurance. With typical Tara honesty she says, "Any monster would have to get through a lot of animals before it got to me."
Now, since the recall that forced us to deep-six Barbie's accessories, playtime has changed at our house. At least once a day, Tara comes to me with a toy and asks if it has lead paint on it. Even when I reassure her, she's skeptical. Like she says, no one knew that the other toys had lead paint on them until after millions were sold. So how do we know that this little dog figure from a vending machine doesn't have lead paint on it?
Tara questions what's in our food and wants to know where it comes from. She scrutinizes every candy bar, every can of seltzer and every package I put into my grocery cart. (We're going to have to start shopping from mini-lists so that we have time to read all the containers.) It's not a bad thing for kids to know where products come from or for them to be concerned about product safety. But for a ten year old to be this obsessed is not good, especially when she's already a little anxious and sad and uncertain about life.
So, I have yet one more reason to curse the people who make the toys and the people who allowed this to happen. They've not only threatened my child's very life, they've also taken away a support system, second only to the one our family gives her. It's like a horror movie or a bad dream, where familiar, beloved objects or people change into monsters.
Toys aren't just fripperies in our house. My kids don't have that many and they love the ones they have. Or they did until they started suspecting that the things they loved could hurt them. Like grinches, the toy manufacturers who skimped on safety have stolen more than toys. They've stolen a part of our kids' childhoods. We remember hula hoops, silly putty and Barbie and Ken's wedding. What will our kids remember from their childhoods? The day Mommy tested Dora for lead paint? Taking Thomas the Tank Engine back to Toys R Us? It's sad and very, very wrong. It needs to stop.
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