Be careful out there

Summer can be fun—if you don’t read the fine print


Cindy Richards

Summer fun So we’re thinking about summer, right? And we’re trying to come up with a list of fun stuff to do with our kids—things you might even want to do with your kids, too.

You know. Fun like we had when we were children.

But fun is a relative thing today. Inside every outing or plan lurks the potential for problems. And if threats are everywhere, how could we simply sit back and tell you to let loose?

Or maybe we can, as long as we include the requisite warnings.

So we decided we could put all the warnings before the fun. But we have to warn you: Reading the information below may dampen your spirit, cause parental angst, inspire sweaty palms and result in extreme consternation. Therefore, you may skip all this and go directly to the fun. But if you do so and someone gets hurt, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

You mean outside?

Let’s see, how about taking the kids to see fireworks? What were you thinking? Not only can these be very scary for little ones, fireworks are noisy. So, bring the ear protectors. And don’t even think about giving them bright but quiet sparklers. Way too many burn victims show up at the emergency rooms this time of year.

How about a bike ride? It’d be fun, not to mention a good way to get the family in shape, right? Only if you plan to put on the helmets and the pads. We don’t even want to get started on the bike accident statistics.

We spent many hours climbing trees when we were kids. But stop right there. Don’t even touch that branch. It’s how our niece broke her arm. And don’t even get us started on what damage it does to the poor tree.

So maybe a walk around the forest preserves instead? If you like Lyme disease. Ticks, which are carriers, have come to Cook County. And did you forget about the mosquitoes that might possibly carry West Nile virus? OK, even if West Nile isn’t a problem for children, there just is no such thing as a simple walk in the woods anymore. Cover yourself from head to toe. Who cares if it is 95 degrees? And coat yourselves in bug spray (is that DEET really safe?) or better yet, drive to the parking lot and look at the trees through the car window.

Drive-by beach

And while you’re at it, drive by the beach. Because unless you know the latest E. coli count, don’t go in the water.

If, and only if, the readings are safe, start packing: water wings (to keep the little ones from drowning), sun screen (to prevent skin cancer), the sun hats (see sunscreen), the sunglasses (to protect fragile eyes), the flip-flops (to prevent burning the soles of their feet) and the coolers (keep cold foods cold to prevent food poisoning).

By the time you’re ready, the storm clouds will have moved in and the kids will be in front of the television (watching only violence-free, educational programming).

The sprinkler in the front yard, old fashioned fun and no danger, right? Although it will turn that barren patch into a mud puddle and pretty soon you’ve got a neighborhood mud fight or a perfect venue for parasites—the ones lurking in the dirt—to get under your kid’s skin.

Oh, what the heck. Summer in Chicago—and life in general—is too short to spend so much time worrying. But since we’ve done it for you, go on, have some fun.

Cindy Richards is the senior editor and travel editor of Chicago Parent and the laissez-faire mom of Evan and Tess.


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