By now, you’ve likely heard the story of a little girl in Calgary who ended up in critical condition after accidentally strangling herself with the scarf she was wearing while playing at recess. It’s heartbreaking and I can’t even imagine what that family is going through while they hope for a full recovery.
But, really- a scarf. Something that they likely put on her that morning in order to protect her from a more likely threat in the cold weather (I know I’d worry about the cold far more than I’d ever envision something like this happening). Something that she’s probably worn a hundred times before. Something that we wear in our daily lives as a fashion accessory, so don’t really think twice about it when we put them on our children.
I know I have them for my daughter. I bought her first two infinity scarves off of Etsy when she was only two years old. She got cheap fashion jewelry in her stocking (including many, many necklaces) when she was two and a half. She was gifted cute cowls and fuzzy scarves the first winter she was going to be able to actively play outside. I bought a fashion scarf at Winners the other day to go with one of her tunic dresses.
After reading this story and thinking about it, I’m beginning to see the irony in buying safety blind cords that break open with any pressure (and then tying them way up high to be extra safe) but wrapping an infinity scarf around her little neck and sending her out in to the big world.
Kids? They’re clumsy. They trip over nothing. They climb things that were precarious without an unpredictable 30-lb weight on them. They go for everything with gusto, not really concerning themselves too much about their limbs or clothing. Once, my daughter got her belt loop caught on a random hook and ended up hanging there until we came and untangled her. Yes, you read that right. Her belt loop. It’s seriously no more than 3cm long!
Then, there’s also the matter of other kids. Another thing I’m learning about young children is that it’s basically fight club with them. They are still learning how to appropriately express their really big emotions, and sometimes it makes for dangerous situations.
For example, my daughter really likes to compete. Wait, no. That’s wrong. She really likes to WIN. So when she’s racing her brother and he gets ahead of her, she doesn’t hesitate to grab on to his hood and start pulling. We’ve explained to her about how sensitive our necks are and that they are important so we can breathe, but in her moment of being upset, she can’t quite regulate that piece of wisdom.
I’m not really sure what the right age to let them wear a scarf is (and in fact, I wouldn’t have batted an eye at a school-aged child wearing one), but I’m definitely questioning the layers of fabric that I have in my daughter’s closet to wrap around her neck in the name of fashion. Because, let’s face it. The ones I have aren’t about warmth. They’re about cuteness.
But… what if? My daughter is pretty rough and tumble. She loves to go bushwacking through the forest. She climbs up and down everything at the playground. She’s pretty creative in how she uses what she’s got for play. And as a pre-schooler (or advanced toddler as far as I’m concerned), she lacks the full understanding of things around her neck. She also lacks the strength and dexterity to get herself out of a potentially life-threatening situation. And even though I’m never far (or her teachers, babysitters, etc), a quick trip to the bathroom could be all the time it takes.
I think all those cute little fashion scarves and necklaces are going to get put away for now. She has plenty of cute clothing and simply doesn’t need this accessory if it might be a danger to her. I’d rather let her be little and take a few risks without the worry of the one around her neck.
Brianne Zwambag is a full-time boo-boo healer, snack artist, janitor, referee, master storyteller and child stylist in Fort St. John, B.C. who sometimes gets a chance to sit down and write about life, mommyhood and the issues that surround it.