Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Safe and Sound

In Every Life We Have Some Trouble

As a parent, one of your primary objectives is to provide a safe and secure environment for your children, being constantly vigilant to try and keep them out of harms way.  Gestation of baby itself conjectures up the image of the mother providing a safe environment for her baby to grow.  Once that baby is born, his/her first few months are spent typically being held by a parent or other loved one or placed in an acceptable, pediatrician-approved baby holding device - swaddled in a bumperless crib lying on their back, snugly strapped in a car seat that's installation was approved by local law enforcement, never in a corner, etc.

Given that we recently celebrated Independence Day in the US earlier this month, a day when we tend to wish for it to be equally happy and safe, it seems like a good time to touch on kid safety.  Please note that if you are looking for any tips on how to keep your kids safe from harm or better baby proof your home, you can stop reading now.  I won't be divulging any of that information, because quite frankly I don't have much to divulge.  If you are interested in reading about, and presumably laughing at my own misgivings in attempting to keep my kids safe, then by all means continue.  It will likely make you feel better about yourself as a parent, or a personal in general if you lack offspring.

I've mentioned before that considering all the perils of the world was an excuse I often used in my pre-parent days to deflect the notion of having kids.  A quick pick at the news headlines can often make any parent want to apply a not-so-thin layer of bubble wrap to their children as soon as they can move, and not allow them to leave the house until age 18.  Of course we all know we can't keep our kids in a bubble, but after that first, or most recent, major "owie" there is a good chance we've considered Googling "child safety bubble".  I remember the first time our oldest had an injury that drew her own blood, cutting her lip after she fell of a bed she had been jumping on, as being a substantial threshold crossing in my parenting experience.

Over the years, we've (probably more so I) since had countless experiences where we've questioned what sort of irreparable damage may have been done following an incident that left one (or more) of our children in tears.  Just a few weeks ago, I had one of my most recent "wish my kid was wearing a helmet at all times" moment, when Gus, our youngest, was standing up in the basket of a shopping cart^ that tipped on his side, sending him crashing backward to the ground.  Despite assuring the various store employees who came to check on him that he was okay - he really did seem okay considering - I did spent a few minutes frantically searching the internet for symptoms of traumatic brain injury.  While the van was in park, turned off and the keys where in my pocket of course - no distracted operation of a motor vehicle for this guy.

As parents, it tends to be innate to assume the worst whenever your child suffers an injury.  If we didn't find ourselves overreacting at least a little bit, we'd likely question our level of empathy toward our kids.  And most certainly our fears are certainly justified on some level, considering that about 25% of kids will sustain a broken bone at some point before their 18th birthday.  Personally, my biggest fears regarding my kid's health center around things that I may have accidentally contributed to.  A few years ago, after mindlessly picking at some bubbling paint in our nursery, I subjected my kids to likely unnecessary blood draws  at the doctor's office after I was certain I had exposed them to lead paint and all the nastiness that can go along with.

But of course we can't put our kids in a bubble, or force them to wear helmets all of the time (unless advised by their pediatrician of course).  At times it takes the kids inquiring about my various scars to remind me that I sustained a number of injuries (mostly minor) during my childhood and turned out (questionably) okay.  In that respect, I've tried to stop telling my kids to "be careful".  To me, it seems like a vain piece of advice that they most certainly won't heed.  I've tried to be more specific on what I think might be the outcome if they continue to engage in certain suspect behavior, without getting too grotesque.  "If you touch that hot pan, your hand is going to get burned." Leaving out the part of how your skin will bubble and puss and you'll have to wear a huge bandage and may even loose a digit or two.  .  

Sometimes we also just have to accept the fact that experiencing those unpleasantries first hand is the best way to learn.  Not that we ever wish ill will on our kids, but instructing them to ride their bike carefully won't resonate as much as that time they are trying to ride without hands and face plant into the pavement, as happened to us earlier this week.  I've commented before on how an aptly timed fall from a playground structure can hasten an overdue exit from the playground.  It can hopefully also better demonstrate the fact that climbing up the outside of a covered slide maybe isn't the smartest decision.  After getting the tips of her fingers burned a couple of times, our oldest realized that she could use a tongs to safely remove a piece of toast from the toaster, thus making her able to procure breakfast and her younger siblings and allowing me to get a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning.

It is inevitable that our kids will have bumps and bruises and cuts and maybe even broken bones.  This certainly doesn't mean that we shouldn't adhere to some basic safety guidelines; wearing a helmet when biking, always wearing a seatbelt, lifejackets in a boat, not playing football, etc.  And as parents, we have to consider that if we are expecting our kids to follow certain safety requirements, we should lead by example.  Think you're too cool for your bike helmet, think again.  Your kid will likely take your instructions more easily if you are following them too.  

We also have to recognize that kids build confidence by taking risks and doing things they might be afraid of, or we might be afraid of letting them do.  We might not always be able to catch them if/when they fall, but hopefully they eventually won't fall anymore.  This doesn't mean that we won't worry about them, and likely overreact a little bit when bumps and bruises come their way.  But we can't keep our kids away from all of the perils of the world, nor can we discern when a jump from an elevated surface that has been landed hundreds of times before ends with a broken leg.  Bobby McFerrin's is absolutely right that in every life we will have some trouble, and your kids will have their fair share too, which will presumably become your own trouble.  His advice to "don't worry and be happy" may not always be reasonable, but try not to get too bent out of shape when it happens.   Lift them up and show them love when they need it, and hopefully everyone will stay moderately safe and sound.

You never know when dinner might get out of control.

True, you may not be able to bubble wrap your kids.
But you can bubble wrap their drumsticks to try and prevent premature hearing loss.
(for them and you)

^A place the directions on the cart specifically indicate you are not supposed to put children.

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