August 24, 2010

How Did I Survive Childhood?

I read stories all the time about child tragedies. They break my heart. They make me want to put a bubble around my son and protect him the best I can. Today, I read the story about a little girl that died while playing on school playground equipment. My heart goes out to her family... I simply cannot even imagine their heartbreak. Of course, the playground equipment is being blamed for this tragedy regardless of the fact that it was not faulty or broken. She fell off and didn't get out of the way in time. It is the worst kind of accident- one that no parent ever needs to experience. But if this one piece of equipment is unsafe, what about the rest of them? I've seen some pretty tall slides- how easy would it be to fall off of one? What about swings? I can recall countless times where I've been crushed by someone on a swing simply due to my bad timing. My kiddo plays on a toddler playground at school- I have signed countless incident reports of him climbing up the stairs to go down the slide and slipping and hitting his face. I witnessed kids not taking turns and going down the slide before the other gets off and getting kicked and hurt. This is just kids being kids. When they are at school, we put our trust and faith in those providers and pray that they will be as close by as we would be should they fall off and be there to pull them to safety before getting hurt any further.

I'll be the first to admit that I am a paranoid mommy. I purchased an Angelcare Monitor for my son when he was an infant because I was so terrified of SIDS. I was terrified to give him a blanket and pillow. I follow him around the house to make sure that he isn't getting into anything or climbing too high on the furniture. Even the perfect paranoid mommy can't completely protect- just last night we were sitting on a recliner together and he decided to take a swan dive off the side. I was able to keep him from cracking his head on the end table, but his cheek still found the recliner's lever. At daycare last Friday, he had an incident report that said he "woke up from his nap with a red mark under his eye and a red mark on his arm". They blamed it on the cot he was sleeping on; however, that red mark under his eye turned into a full-blown black eye. A black eye from a cot? Really? This was one of those moments where I questioned what his two teachers doing that they didn't see what happened. His lead teacher seemed distressed about this when she saw how bad his eye looked yesterday- I can only hope that they'll take better precautions in the future. Just because my kid didn't cry, doesn't mean he didn't get bonked in the head with a toy by another kid or fell into something. My tough cookie doesn't really cry when he gets an owie which in some ways is great and in others, I worry that it might be something a little more serious even if he doesn't think it is. I don't want my kid to grow up and be a wuss or anything, but geez, it would have been nice to know where he got a black eye from.

Growing up, my parents definitely gave us the freedom to be kids. To take risks. To be adventurous.
We climbed trees as high as we could and hung like monkeys from the limbs.
We built forts out of as many hazardous pieces of equipment out of the garage that we could find.
We slid down the stairway in pillowcases.
We rode our bikes down the street and through parks without helmets.
We built a Pitfall adventure course in the unfinished basement complete with a rope hanging from a pipe over chalk-sketched alligators.
We did gymnastics on the furniture.

All this and more and I am still here today. I will do everything I can to protect my son, but not at the expense of his childhood. Placing blame on the equipment or even on someone else for that matter isn't going to change an outcome. An accident is what it is: an accident. I know this seems like a harsh statement, but I simply am not going to live my life in a bubble and I won't make my son live that way either.

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