Cherylyn Harley LeBon

Posts by Cherylyn Harley LeBon

Bumbo Seat – Can Anyone Read the Directions??

I recently purchased a Bumbo seat for a friend who is expecting a baby.  I usually try to be diligent when purchasing baby items, so I thought I would check product reviews and recommendations for the seat.  As any parent and user of baby products knows, baby products—like strollers, bouncy seats, and changing tables—come with long lists of disclaimers and booklets of instructions for safe use. The Bumbo seat was no different.  What I found most interesting about the Bumbo seat, however, was not contained in the disclaimers or instructions.  There was an abundant amount of information and chatter on blogs regarding the numerous ways that one could misuse the Bumbo seat.

Upon first glance, anyone would judge the Bumbo seat to be a safe and useful product for infants — at least, when the product is used in the intended manner.  In the case of a Bumbo seat, proper use dictates that one place the seat on the floor. One should never place the seat in a chair, on a table, or on any other elevated surface. All Bumbo seats manufactured since October 2007 have such a warning on the front of the seat. The warning includes a safety symbol and the words “WARNING — Prevent Falls: Never use on any elevated surface.”  The company that distributes the Bumbo seat also added the warning to the seat’s packaging, as well.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission has also weighed in on this matter by issuing warnings regarding the proper use of the Bumbo seat and encouraging mothers and caregivers to vigilantly use the product.

Apparently, the additional warnings have been effective in encouraging the proper use of the Bumbo seat and reducing the number and rate of falls from elevated surfaces.  This is very important.  Proper use can save lives, since falls from an elevated surface often result in skull fractures.

The warnings that show up on the Bumbo seat reflect the same common sense one would apply to use of a bouncie seat — the seat of choice for my babies — or a car seat, stroller, or any other seat that a busy baby would like to maneuver his or her way out of.  The same principle applies to a changing table.  I remember taking a “baby preparation” class while I was pregnant with my first child.  The teacher emphasized that we should never take our hands and eyes off the baby while the baby was on the changing table.  Made perfect sense to me!

Given all of this, I was very surprised when I read a recent Chicago Tribune article that makes it seem like the Bumbo seat is dangerous.  My heart goes out to any parent whose child is injured, but we are the adults in the room.  And I can fully appreciate sleep deprivation, as many of us can, but putting your child’s life in danger is something that mothers and fathers can control.  Sleep deprivation is no excuse for shirking one’s responsibility and doing something that totally lacks common sense (not to mention the warnings prominently pasted on the seat).

We need to protect our children and take responsibility for their safety and well being, especially while they are young and unable to make cogent decisions between right and wrong (or safe and unsafe) behavior.  A large dose of that responsibility includes a parent’s diligence when reading the directions on baby products and operating those products as instructed.

Cherylyn Harley LeBon is a mother, political commentator, and former Senior Counsel on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Follow her on Twitter @HarleyLeBon.

Book Review: Mimi Alford’s Scandalous Tell-All, Once Upon a Secret

As I read Once Upon a Secret, the latest political tell-all by Mimi Alford, I imagined how I would have reacted to and handled the situations she faced. Many years ago, as a young lawyer starting my career on Capitol Hill, I witnessed all sorts of inappropriate behavior involving both men and women. Nevertheless, I was surprised by much of what Ms. Alford experienced during her time in Washington, D.C.

Alford provides many pearl-clutching, salacious details, deliberately and painstakingly taking the reader through her early life as a privileged woman who enjoyed many of the benefits of high society. She delivered a lengthy description of her home, social debut, and the education of her family members at the finest schools in this country. She describes her mother as both a beautiful and capable woman and a strong matriarch. Yet, as Alford described her later life choices, I thought to myself, did they teach this behavior at Miss Porter’s School? Ms. Alford’s actions certainly contradict what I learned in my small town public school in upstate New York.

Ms. Alford, then a student at Wheaton College, began her internship in Washington, D.C., when she is invited for a swim at the White House pool, along with several other female interns and staffers. The President joined them for a swim and made small talk with the women. Later, Ms. Alford was invited to the President’s quarters for an afterhours gathering orchestrated by JFK’s First Friend, Dave Powers. After a few daiquiris (this becomes a pattern), JFK invited Ms. Alford to tour the White House. The tour ended in Mrs. Kennedy’s bedroom, where President Kennedy and Ms. Alford engaged in their first sexual encounter—which was also Alford’s first sexual experience.

This was the beginning of an 18 month affair. As I read her details, I reflected on everything I’ve read about JFK. A number of the Kennedy relatives have reinforced previous characterizations that many Kennedy men are rapists and sexual deviants.

I was surprised by Mimi’s naiveté throughout the book. One example is a pregnancy scare which emerged during the affair. Alford claims that she knew nothing about birth control. Nevertheless, I was surprised that a person who was having sex with the President of the United States would not consider the use of contraceptives. I realize it was 1962, but even then, everyone knew how babies were made.

The affair continued when Alford returned to Wheaton for her sophomore year and JFK called her at her dormitory using the pseudonym Michael Carter. She then mets him on various trips and spent hours in hotel rooms waiting for him, instructed by First Friend Powers. Another example of Alford’s naiveté is her assumption that people were unaware of why a Wheaton College student was a part of official Presidential trips. Obviously, this was before the 24/7 news cycle, but it seems strange that she didn’t suspect that her friends from college knew about the affair.

Soon, Alford met her future first husband, Tony Fahnestock. Again, she details his privileged background and explains that by marrying him she was “fulfilling [her] destiny.” Fahnestock didn’t know he had a surprise coming. On the unfortunate day of JFK’s assassination in Texas, Alford was visiting with Fahnestock and her future in-laws at their home. When the news was announced, Ms Alford was so inconsolable that she caused great alarm and finally revealed her secret to her fiance. What followed was yet another unfortunate first sexual encounter with Fahnestock and a promise that she would never reveal the secret to anyone. So, Alford began her marriage with a secret and a husband who seemingly harbored ill-will that his wife had been the mistress of JFK. No surprise that this marriage ended in a bitter divorce.

Alford also shares details about her life post-divorce. She writes a bit about her life with her daughters as they were growing up and her marriage with her first husband. After her divorce, Alford apparently found her voice, learned to assert herself, and found fulfillment in her career.

She argues that she wrote this book because the media’s was hounding her after discovering the identity of “Mimi the intern.” She wanted her full version of events on the record, not a false narrative created by the media.

As a mother, I could not help wondering how Alford explained this to her children.

I definitely felt Alford was lonely and vulnerable during the affair. She could not confide about the secret to anyone and was isolated from a large part of the college social scene.

Ironically, it was Henry Kissinger, who served in JFK’s cabinet, who told her that “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac”—to this 19 year-old woman, apparently it was. She lost a part of herself along the way, but thankfully, she eventually got it back.

Cherylyn Harley LeBon is a writer, commentator, and former Senior Counsel,.
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Follow her on Twitter @HarleyLeBon.