Because I Said So! by Ken Jennings

imgres-1So, this does not happen often because I am not an absolutist, and I totally respect that some parents want to practice attachment parenting and some parents want … not to.   (WTF?  What’s the opposite of attachment parenting?), But I’ve thought this over carefully and I am firmly of the opinion that every single family household must have a copy of this book.  Why?  Because I Said So!

I mean, there’s the whole co-sleeping debate, but this stuff is not only serious, it’s universal.  Case in point: The Five Second Rule.  Universal, right?  Every single last one of us has handed back to our children an item of food that has fallen on the floor and told them it’s ok to eat it, invoking The Five Second Rule.  And every single last one of us know it’s bullshit, but we do it anyway.  Well, you have Ken Jennings to thank for finding the hard science behind the Five Second Rule, and, guess what?  Not bullshit.  Unless you have pre-treated your floor with E coli, you’re safe.  (Disclaimer: If you have pre-treated your floor with E coli, even one second is too long.  99% of the bacteria will transfer to the food in one second.  Someone spent time and money testing that.)  So, you can keep being gross and now be guilt-free!

Ken Jennings has compiled about 100 myths, tales and warnings that every generation passes down to its children, then he has gone out to investigate their validity.  He writes a passage about each one, assessing its scientific cred, then gives it a true or false rating.  He is also very funny.  (You can read some excerpts here.)

Here is a sampling of things I took as given and passed on to my kids in the last week alone:

“Take off the Band-Aid and let the cut air out.”

“Those are just growing pains.”

“If you crack your knuckles, you’ll get arthritis.”

“Swallowed gum sits in your stomach undigested for seven years!”

“Stay out of the cookie dough, you’ll get worms!”

“You need eight glasses of water a day.”

“It’s too dark to read in here, you’ll hurt your eyes.”

“Don’t touch its wings or the butterfly will die.”

“We only use 10% of our brains.”

“It’s OK, even Einstein flunked math.”

“If you are mad, just go let off some steam.”

False.  False.  All of it false.  This book was mind-altering.  I’ve accepted these things as truth. I can tell you that as soon as I read the passage about raw cookie dough not being dangerous, I made a batch of cookies and we all ate the dough.  This is actually not unusual.  What’s unusual was that I did not say a silent prayer to ward off food poisoning because, thanks to Ken, I now know that there is only a one-in-twenty-thousand chance that my egg will be contaminated with salmonella, which means one bad egg once every 84 years for the average person.

The moral, I suppose, is that everything in life is a risk.  Lightning kills about as many people a year as egg-borne salmonella, and there are some lightning precautions we think make sense (don’t hold the five-iron aloft as thunder booms above the golf course) and some that don’t (never go outside if there are clouds).  To my mind, licking the beater and/or mixing bowl when Mom or Dad makes cookies is one of the purest joys of childhood, and maybe even worth the once-every-eighty-four-years case of food poisoning.  (97)

I loved every minute of reading this book.  I like it when someone alters my perception of the world, and reading Ken Jennings made my world feel an awful lot safer, actually.  This did not come up in the last week, but I can tell you that come December, when we buy the obligatory poinsettia, I will not look askance at the thing as a possible harbinger of tragedy.  Not poisonous.  Not even to cats.

This week, 4 Mothers will share some of the myths, tales and warnings we have passed on to our children.  We will end the week with a hilarious tale of an invented cautionary tale.

What are some of the warnings you pass on to your kids? 


5 thoughts on “Because I Said So! by Ken Jennings

  1. Hold requested at library! The cookie dough one is a relief. I am far more protective of my children’s health than my own–I eat the raw stuff copiously, but this involves a fair bit of sleight-of-hand with little helpers underfoot. It will be so much easier to be able to dig in without hiding it, even if it does mean sharing.

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