Once upon a time, my little girl broke her face. Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but there was definitely blood and an ER visit. I shared this story previously HERE, and, should you check that story out, you will see that it absolutely scarred my wife more than my precious oldest daughter. While I won’t retell the story here today, it will serve as the theme for today’s message. While I can’t help but giggle about the photo we snapped in the ER (pictured above), I alsocan remember a few mixed feelings of guilt and embarrassment following Eliza’s big spill into our coffee table. How do we as parents deal with these emergencies? Should accidents affect how we parent? Who is to blame when these things happen? Is my wife’s dream of bubble wrapping our toddler and raising her in a padded room realistic? How long should fathers wait before laughing at the ordeal (or is that just me?)?
Allow me to share a story submitted to me this week on Twitter…
This is an exceptionally skilled primate…err, I mean child. I can definitively say that I have never been able to perform anything as remotely athletic or acrobatic as climbing the hallways such as this. If this was my daughter, I’d be snapping photos of this phenomenon constantly and probably envisioning her one day capturing a gold medal in gymnastics. While I’m sure her ascension into monkey-status came alongside several falls and missteps, she is clearly pretty accomplished at this point. Unfortunately, her mother didn’t birth her, decide she was the most perfect thing ever created, and immediately stop reproducing. A younger brother came. An awkward, crawling, still-developing little tyke was now prowling around her marked territory…completely unaware of the dangers from above.
Well, I don’t think it takes an Einstein to figure out how this may have occurred. The flying, whirling dervish accidentally slipped from the heavens and descended upon the unassuming toddler to the tune of a broken tibia. OUCH.
If you’ve ever had kids, you know it’s a miracle to emerge through years 0 – 10 without a half dozen of these incidents. I cracked my own head open 7 times by the age of 9 (which probably explains a lot) and my daughter has clearly followed suit. So, as a parent, how do you move forward when unfortunate fates collide and your child’s relentless energy intersects with their abundant clumsiness? If you’re like my wife and I, you may immediately trend towards the guilt-ridden feelings these accidents can inspire. When Eliza cracked her head, we (perhaps my wife more so than myself) felt guilty for allowing her to roam through the living room unattended while we got ready for work. Ultimately though, as parents we had to come to terms with the fact that kids will be kids and there is nothing we can do to protect the little ones all day. Not only can we not protect them in every moment and every environment, but attempting to do so often impedes their transitions throughout childhood. Feeling guilty about the inevitable bumps and bruises is misguided; what I should be feeling guilty about is the mullets and mohawks I’ve combed into my daughters’ hair, the fact that my daughter knows the Rocky theme song but not the alphabet, or even that I use both of my girls as excuses not to be social. On second thought, no, no, no…no guilt for that either!
Once we have established that maniac rugrats will eventually harm themselves through no fault of our own, the next challenge following an accident is encouraging the kiddos forward. While some rugged renegade little humans bounce back immediately, many others may become apprehensive about returning to their playful state. While busting her forehead open during her first few months of running didn’t stop Eliza from walking altogether, she does have a tendency to shy away from other children, activities, and actions where she’s previously endured an owwie or two. The hardest part of minor accidents—for her, at least—is to quickly sweep them away and encourage children to keep on exploring without trepidation. Sometimes you fall down. Sometimes coffee tables attack. And sometimes sisters fall from the ceiling like meteors. Life goes on.
There are even more challenges that spin off from childhood accidents, such as entertaining a fully-casted victim or keeping the spirits of a fallen acrobat high, but the reality of all these incidents is that these are the memories that tend to stick. These are the moments that reside in our mind several years and decades later. Embarrassingly enough, for the life of me I cannot remember my daughter’s first steps; I can, however, vividly recall each and every moment from that fateful morning she took her tumble. I remember her mother’s reaction (priceless…in retrospect), her whimpering bottom lip on the drive to the ER, and even the stickers she selected after her forehead got glued back together. Even in my own life, I’ve probably forgotten 95% of all the sweet moments from my childhood, but I can absolutely still give you the play-by-play of the time I bit it in the baby pool on 4th of July weekend when I was 6 years old. Back to our gymnast and her victim…if your sister fell on your head when you were a kid, would you ever let her forget it? Conversely, if you ever crushed your baby bro, would you ever let him forget about it? I can already see, 8 years from now, a pesky little brother interrupting his sister’s sleepover with friends and the sister yelling “YOU WANT ME TO RAIN DOWN FROM THE CEILING LIKE FIRE AND BREAK YOUR TIBIA AGAIN YOU LITTLE PEST! Well, that’s how it would have worked in my family. There’s no story like an accident story and there’s no memory like one with a little bit of pain… 🙂