Today’s news:

Smartmom floats a lead balloon

The Brooklyn Paper

At first, Diaper Diva didn’t know what to say. What do you tell your 3-year-old when you have to put her favorite birthday present in the garbage?

That’s right. Ducky received a Dora the Explorer Bath Set from a guest at her Dora the Explorer birthday party.

Cooties. That toy had cooties, and Diaper Diva didn’t want it in the house.

She wasn’t even sure if that particular toy has been recalled. But she felt compelled to throw it out just the same.

Out, out, out you disgusting toy!

Even the Oh So Feisty One was afraid to go near the possibly tainted toy. She told Diaper Diva to take it back to the store as soon as the party was over.

But Bro-in-Law had already removed the packaging from the gift and it was too late to take it back to Little Things.

So Diaper Diva put it in a shopping bag and brought it to the garbage chute in the hallway. Gone.

Birthday parties have gotten very complicated since Aug. 2, when Mattel recalled 967,000 toys, due to use of lead paint. Sadly, 300,000 of them had already been purchased for — and quite possibly licked by — young children.

On Aug. 14, just two days after Ducky’s third birthday party, Mattel recalled 19 million more toys sent from China, including toy cars based on the movie “Cars” that had have “impermissible levels” of lead.

Everyone knows that you’re not supposed to use lead paint in the manufacture of children’s toys — so how did this happen?

Who can we trust nowadays?

Certainly not greedy corporations that manufacture goods in countries where there are zero labor, heath and environmental regulations.

The day after her party, Ducky looked around the apartment for her missing gift.

“Where are my bath toys?” Ducky whined as she searched high and low.

At first, Diaper Diva rehearsed some possible answers in her head — “I lost them on the way to the bathroom”; “Dora the Explorer came by in the middle of the night and needed them back”; “What bath toys?” — but Diaper Diva knows that honesty is always the best policy.

So as Ducky got increasingly apoplectic, Diva got up her nerve.

“I had to throw them away,” she told Ducky, who was crying insistently now. “The people who made them used a very dangerous material called lead. It can make you sick.”

“But I want my toy,” Ducky screamed.

Diaper Diva tried to explain about tainted toys, world trade, corporate greed, and even Arthur Miller’s play, “All My Sons.”

But that was no help to Ducky, who is completely enamored of all things Dora. But even as Ducky wept, Diaper Diva knew she was doing the right thing, the only thing any self-respecting smart mom could do.

At the same time, she wondered what other products in her apartment were tainted with toxic materials and would her child be harmed by any of her other playthings. Her dishes. Her clothing.

It’s a terrible feeling to think that you’ve brought things into your home that can harm your children. Smartmom won’t be buying her children or her niece any more Chinese-made toys or merchandise. And so much for all that fun, cheap clothes she gets at Target for OSFO.

This is a wake-up call. It’s time to spend a little more money and buy locally made toys and clothing from well-paid, trained people who use safe materials.

The upside is that this crisis could be a real boon for local toymakers and craftspeople who make imaginative toys like sock monkeys, stuffed animals, and wooden games and cars.

Who needs all those action figures and plastic movie merchandise that just end in a big box at a stoop sale with a sign that says, “Free stuff”?

The truth is, parents buy too much for their children anyway. Less is more. Buy quality, not quantity. The kids will be better served, anyway.

Smartmom will shop for Ducky’s next gift at the Brooklyn Indie Market, Lolli’s, Orange Blossom or online at onegoodbumblebee, which sells these adorable gnome cuddle babies. Even Little Things has plenty of terrific non-mass-market toys.

Sure, it’s more expensive than the stuff made in China. But at least they’re not made with lead.

Ducky still asks Diaper Diva about her Dora bath set from time to time. But a few years of therapy and she’ll get it out of her system entirely.

Louise Crawford also writes “Only the blog knows Brooklyn,” a Web site that is not affiliated with The Brooklyn Paper.

Louise Crawford, a Park Slope mom, also operates “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.”
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Nov. 7, 2007, 11:19 pm

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