Warning Labels, warning.

If I had to do parenting all over again, I’d tell my children: “Not everything comes with warning labels.”

In 1991 I spent my days shouting at my preschoolers. “Don’t touch the stove, it’s hot.” “Yuk! Spit it out…”

Then in 1992 everything changed. Stella filed a $3 million dollar lawsuit against McDonalds because they failed to warn her that the coffee in her cup was hot.

After that companies started sticking labels on everything and I became lazy and complacent.

But looking back, I realize there should have been a warning: Relying on warning labels will severely limit your common sense.

My first clue should have been when I handed my child a chicken wing and before I could say, “What are you doing?”

He had eaten half the bone.

I grabbed for the bag. Where was the warning label? No where was it printed:  Supervise small children. Bones not meant for consumption.

And of course children don’t come with instructions, so I began to read all warning label to my kids. I put plastic tabs in all the outlets, child latches on door knobs and cabinet doors and pasted Mr. Yuk stickers on anything that might be potentially dangerous.

After my kids learned to read, I stopped repeating:

  • Remove the plastic from the fruit roll-up before consuming.
  • Do not use the hairdryer in the bathtub.
  •  Do not iron your clothes while they are on your body.

Whenever they asked: Can I watch it? Can I wash it? How long do I cook it?

Instead of parenting, or turning over a magic eight ball, I’d say read the label.

  • “What’s it rated?”.
  • “Look at the laundry label.”
  • ”Cook it for as long as the box suggests.”

Then one day I walked into the kitchen. Sparks were shooting through the microwave and my children were standing there watching the light show.

I pulled the plug on the microwave. “What are you doing?”

“Making hot cocoa,” they replied.

I opened the microwave door. My silver travel mugs now had melted plastic handles. “What are you thinking? You can’t put metal into the microwave.”

“It doesn’t say that.” My son pointed to the appliance.

Searching the appliance, the only warnings I found was:

  • You shouldn’t use the appliance to dry pets.
  • Only trained personal can remove the back cover.

“But,” I sputtered. “Everyone knows you don’t put metal into a microwave.”

“How do you know that?”

Because I grew up without a reliance on warning labels, I just know things:

  • you don’t lick a metal pole in winter
  • or lick an ice cream cone, on a hot summer day while driving down the freeway with your windows open
  • or lick the top of a 9 volt battery
  • you don’t drink hot soup through a straw
  • Ice on the front steps is slippery,
  • curling irons are dangerous,
  • beach balls have never been a life saving device and
  • rocking a vending machine may not dispense free merchandise, but if you do it just right, you might be able to shake loose the item you paid for.

And I know not everything comes with warning labels:


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