Monday, April 9, 2012

Just When You Thought It Was Safe ...

My daughter didn't sleep through the night until she was six months old. Even after that though, I would wake up multiple times to check on her. I'd tiptoe into her room, bend over her crib, lightly kiss her tiny forehead and whisper "I love you." But, most importantly, I would check to make sure she was still breathing.

(Remember crazy mother Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment? Yep, that was me.)

When you're a relatively new mommy — and a fairly stressed out individual anyway — there are so many things to worry about. Crib death, electrical outlets, choking on grapes or Goldfish crackers. The world is very big when you're suddenly in charge of someone very small.

Having a baby is one of the bravest acts you will ever commit. Truly, you have to do your best every day just to "keep calm and carry on."

Soon enough, my daughter learned where and when to cross a street. How to climb up and down stairs. Not to consume cleaning supplies. Not to touch a hot burner. Of course, I still worried about her, but the constant, exhausting vigilance relaxed a bit. I realize that there are grownup dangers waiting: unprotected sex, alcoholism, drugs both legal and illegal. But, we've already started talking about them (as have years of Health Ed teachers) and we'll navigate those terrifying waters when we get there.

What's on my mind now are stupid things. I don't mean it's stupid for me to worry. I mean that teenagers do some really, really (really, really) stupid things.

Teens drink ├╝ber caffeinated drinks like Red Bull and Monster and 5-Hour Energy. These are not difficult to get; in fact, they were giving out samples at the base lodge the last time my daughter skied. They can help you stay up late to study or finish homework. And, they do indeed boost energy. But, they do so at the risk of the user's health. In fact, more than one teenager has died recently as a direct result of drinking too much of this so-called "lifestyle in a can."

Teens find new, but certainly not improved, ways to use everyday items. Did you know there are more than 1,000 seemingly harmless household supplies that can be inhaled? From magic markers to nail polish remover to aerosol whipped cream. And, along with the rush a teen may experience when he or she sniffs correction fluid, comes a host of toxic chemicals that can cause serious harm.

The latest stupid thing is called, "The Cinnamon Challenge." In fairness, there are plenty of adults participating in this stupidity, but, my worry is teens and tweens. In case you haven't heard about it, the trick is to ingest a heaping tablespoon of ground cinnamon in under a minute. This is virtually impossible without water and the person attempting it ends up spewing the spice all over themselves in an eruption of coughing. Apparently this is very funny to witness. And, if you go on YouTube, you'll find nearly 35,000 videos of it. One particular challenger, GloZell, has over 12 million hits.

Here are the perceived consequences of taking the Cinnamon Challenge:
• You'll cough and you'll have to drink a lot of water asap
• You'll crack your friends up
• You'll get lots of hits on your Facebook page

Here are the actual potential consequences:
• You'll choke and before you reach the water, you'll die
• You'll vomit
• You'll black out, get pneumonia and wind up in the ICU

If your middle schooler is anything like mine, she or he will demand to know, "So, who died?" No one that I know of, yet. But, several students all over the country have been hospitalized. The same characteristic of cinnamon that makes people practically explode when they try to swallow it makes it particularly dangerous if it's inhaled. It doesn't dissolve once it's in your body, so it can do permanent damage to your lungs.

Cinnamon-raisin bagels? Okay. The Cinnamon Challenge? Not okay. Really not okay.

Teens and tweens are adrenaline junkies. Their need for speed is through the roof while their impulse-control is pretty much zero. They don't think about consequences. They don't worry about the future. (Sometimes, I think they don't worry, period.)

That's why we have to worry for them.

"Lions and tiger and bears and now, cinnamon, oh my!"

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