Kids are fragile.
This is one of those truths that’s so obvious and terrifying that we try not to think about it too much lest we go insane with worry. Naturally, as Mom and Buried and I await Detective Munch’s new partner, I haven’t been able to keep it out of my mind.
The impending new addition has me stressing out about many things: having enough space, having enough money, having enough sleep, having enough quiet, having enough diapers. But mostly I’ve been fixating on how ridiculously easy it is for children to get hurt.
But in a few months we’ll have a baby around, and babies be tripping. (Not literally; they can’t even walk! Toddlers be tripping literally.)
I am fond of pointing out how stupid young children are (and how sometimes that’s a good thing!) They don’t know enough to be careful, and so it’s up to us to make sure they’re safe. With babies, stupidity doesn’t even factor. It’s impossible to tell if someone who can’t do anything but poop, cry, and sleep has any intelligence; you need at least six months before you can have any idea, and even that is pushing it. Thankfully, what babies lack in perceptible brain function, they make up for in total helplessness and soft heads!
Yet, in a weird way, protecting a baby is easier than protecting a five-year-old. Babies can’t do anything alone. Their safety and survival is 100% on you. There’s no independence, no decision-making, no “I’m gonna see if I can climb that thing.” For the first year of their lives, they are either in a crib or in your arms. There are things you need to be careful about, of course, like supporting their heads when you hold them, and buying enough Butt Paste, but they are seldom out of your sight. So long as you’re on top of things, it’s kind of hard for your baby to get hurt.
Your toddler, on the other hand, is actively trying to be injured. Toddlers aren’t just flirting with disaster, they’re standing outside its window with a boombox.
During Detective Munch’s birthday party, I chatted with a mom whose three-year-old had fallen into an open sewer. I can’t believe that sentence even exists! The kid is fine – his mom told me he actually got more scratched up when she pulled him out than when he fell in, so: THANKS, MOM! But this is the kind of stuff you have to deal with when your kid learns to walk, because he literally hasn’t learned anything else! It reminded me of the time my kid almost broke his face because I wasn’t fast enough.
In both instances, the kids were oblivious to how close they’d come to tragedy, then immediately toddled off to another opportunity for pain while the parents immediately sprouted several new gray hairs and a desperate desire for alcohol.
That most kids even survive their first ten years of life would kind of be a miracle if it weren’t the way things usually go. That’s why I take solace in the idea that what we do as parents is overrated.
Children survived quest-for-fire cavemen parents; they survived dark ages, he-has-a-cold-let’s-put-leeches-on-him parents; kids even survived cigarette-smoking, nonstop-drinking, sexist, racist, “Mad Men” parents! Kids are survivors, plain and simple, like Kelly Clarkson.
A few wonderful people responded to my allergy post by suggesting we should run with the “survival of the fittest” theory, and they make a good point. Not when it comes to advocating exposing our children (or other people’s children, since that’s invariably who they mean) to life-threatening foods because if they can’t handle it LET GOD SORT ‘EM OUT! but in the sense that letting go a little bit is a good idea.
Kids are fragile, but they’re not that fragile. I have this friend who lives states away, and even though I haven’t seen him in weeks, I can tell you without a doubt that he currently has no idea where his car keys are and his smartphone has just fallen into a public toilet. But his kids are doing fine. Ours will be fine too.
Ironically, thanks to constantly watching over and protecting and worrying about our kids, we parents are the ones who have the tougher time surviving their childhoods. Somehow, knowing that makes me feel a little better.
Not better enough to stop waking up in the middle of the night irrationally freaking out that having another kid somehow increases the odds of injury and that I should have quit when I was a healthy four-year-old ahead, but a little better.