Safety first, after the fact: a father’s journey
Note: This column appears in the 4/12 issue of The Glendale Star and the 4/13 issue of the Peoria Times.
There has been some discussion in our household concerning how often our daughter gets injured on my watch.
To be specific, my wife believes our daughter has gotten injured way too frequently on my watch, and that I am somehow responsible. I, on the other hand, while conceding I would certainly like to see her get injured less often when I am watching her—or, ideally, not at all—believe these occasions to be the random result of an active childhood.
Ignoring previous instances of injury, let us say for the purposes of this column that it began two weeks ago. We were at our friend’s house and I was pushing our daughter on the swing outside. Mind you, because she is a thrill seeker, she was laying on the swing on her belly, like in a flying motion. I want to specify that my wife bore witness to this and did not pose verbal opposition. Unless she voices her disapproval, I can only assume that what I am doing is awesome and acceptable.
As I was swinging her, I was repeatedly reminding our daughter to “stay still, don’t move, just let me swing you.” This she understood as, “move at the worst possible moment,” which she did, and which caused her to land on her head. (I am as surprised as you are that talking rationally to a 2-year old did not attain the desired outcome.) This resulted in me carrying a crying girl through a house that isn’t ours while briskly passing curious onlookers. One of those onlookers was my wife, whose immediate look of concern was quickly replaced with a look that said, “I knew I should have voiced my disapproval.”
But then, as if to really test the issue, we went to Phoenix Children’s Museum last weekend. When you first walk into the museum, there is a giant, obstacle-course type climbing contraption. Because our daughter is too young to traverse this thing on her own, I, as usual, would accompany her. I would like to point out that this thing is made for like, 7-year-olds, at most. I am 6-foot-3. Last summer while trying to follow her on that thing I almost got stuck. One of my great fears in life is getting stuck in that thing to the point where the museum is shut down and the fire department has to come lift me out with a crane and the Jaws of Life. If that should ever happen, I am telling the helicopter pilot to fly to Spain because I am leaving the country forever.
But there I was, contorting my body in all kinds of ways to follow our daughter while my wife took pictures from below with her iPhone, which is quite a gig. We made it through unscathed. As we were coming down the stairs, my wife asked me a question, and when I turned to answer, our daughter fell down the remaining steps. It was, thank God, the most graceful fall on metal stairs I have ever witnessed, and she was much more scared than hurt. Also, this was my fault.
Later on, I was waiting with her so she could send a toy car down a ramp. Sounds safe, right? In her typical independent and oppositional way, she began telling me that she didn’t need my help this time, but as she looked up at me to tell me this—remember, I am 6’3”—she lost her balance, fell backwards and hit her head on the small steps she was waiting near. This, for my wife, was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I was relegated to the sidelines for the rest of the morning.
I don’t know. Maybe all the incidents together don’t sound great, but I think a valid explanation lies behind each one individually. I mean, if she’s just falling down when I’m standing near her, I’m not sure what else to do, short of tying two pillows around her body with a string at all times. All of this has made her one tough cookie though, which is something I plan to highlight on my Father of the Year application.