With the advent of age eight has come a new wealth of independence. We spent two hours at the local pool on Sunday, and Claire, who had never really had much freedom there due to the strict-but-purposeful regulations about kids under 8 requiring additional supervision, suddenly found her freedom. With her non-kid wristband, I tempted her with that freedom, and she took it… which led to her successfully passing her deep swim test (a lifeguard watches you swim a length and draws a happy face on your arm)… which led to her jumping off the diving board about a half dozen times… which led to me swimming a couple of laps, relaxing in the steam room and chilling in the hot tub while she went off and did her own thing rather than hanging off my neck and forcing me to entertain her. I think I’m gonna like Swimming Version Two. I think we both are.
I don’t usually cross-post this stuff, but I wrote this piece for another blog and it’s getting a bit of attention. So, in lieu of the fact I’ve been neglecting some of my other topics, here is a little parenting post for your enjoyment…
She is in her room, supposedly putting on her pajamas and getting ready for bed, when a blood-curdling scream erupts from her bedroom. “Daaaaaa-deeeeeeee!” She yelps at the top of her lungs before loudly barking out a percussive shouts of of “help me! help me! help me!” from a short distance down the hallway.
Thankfully, she hasn’t yet learned to curse.
Thankfully, she hasn’t yet learned to curse.
Five seconds later I’m standing in her doorway trying not to laugh as I’m watching her writhe around on the carpet, buck-naked save for a pair of underwear around her ankles. Blood is dribbling down the arch of her foot, and spattering on the light-toned carpet. “What the heck did you do?” I ask.
She’s hyperventilating, and barely able to answer. “I… I… hit my… f… foot… on the… b… b… bed!” She stutters, implying by the acrobatic nature of this injury that she was goofing around and that the tiny slice on the sole of her foot had been entirely preventable.
I don’t push that particular issue. Not now, anyhow.
“Well, get your pants on and I’ll get some tissues.” I say, deliberately too casual over the droplets of blood on the floor and the obvious pain.
When I return to her bedroom with a wad of tissues, a bandage and a glass of water, she’s sitting up, underwear where it should be, and trying to twist the bottom of her foot into her field of vision.
“Are you going to live?” I ask.
She glares at me and says in a voice still trying to gain its full composure a weak little “yes.”
“Then let’s get into the bathroom,” I say placidly, almost coming across a little too indifferent, but reaching down to help her upright and walk her to the other room. “I’ll wash it up and put a bandage on it, ok?”
set an example for handling emergencies: keep calm and carry on
One of the toughest things I had to learn about being a dad with a kid who has a world of opportunity open to her, is that sometimes that opportunity has a sharp edge. She’s going to get scrapes and cuts and bruises, and so long as there aren’t too many of the kinds that end up with a trip to the hospital, I’m probably doing my job. I still feel that hurt every time I see it, but I’ve made a conscious effort to keep calm and just play out those situations with a calm demeanor and a little humour.
Not over-reacting to those injuries is tough, but a valuable example to set. A level-headed response to minor wounds or simply not panicking when blood is dripping onto the bedroom carpet undoubtedly leads to practiced parallel responses when lives are actually on the line and when a “freak out” could cost valuable response time. As a parent, we’re important role models for how to handle emergencies, and doing so in a calm, deliberate way can’t help but build a kid’s independent nature in encountering the inevitable sharp edges of life.
It is finally nice enough outside to escape the bonds of home. It being my flex day yesterday — and also in the mid-twenty-cees — I think it would be a fair calculation to say that I spent more of my waking hours yesterday outside than in. Lovely.
Claire and I enjoyed the backyard for about an hour and a half after breakfast, she continuing the effort of breaking in her swing set while I made sure that every plant in the backyard was sufficiently soaked. The little girl was absolutely fascinated by (a) the water, trying to help out whenever she could, (b) the flowers, which I’ve finally convinced her not to paw and pluck, and (c) the spiders, who require her protection as they are “seepink” (sleeping) on the shed, a ten foot wide perimeter from which quickly became off limits to both dad and the plastic bunny garden ornament.
Around ten-thirty we loaded up the stroller and hiked over to the library. Round trip, including a stop at the library, the bakery, Safeway, and the playground — for both play and an impromptu picnic — was three hours. I think I burned my neck a little, but the girl with the over-sized sunhat did just fine.
Another two hours out-of-doors in the afternoon included more swinging, a little girl who (though reluctantly and after some whiny-crying calls for assistance) learned to use her slide all by herself, and dad plucking weeds from the flower-bed and garden. (Yes, it took two hours!) Sparkle spent most of that time in the yard, too, baking her little brains in sun.
Of course, that might have wrapped up the father-daughter part of the day, but I did find myself outside for most of the evening too: I had my running clinic, the dog wanted a walk, and the flowers in the front yard needed some TLC. I hobbled back in when the sun started to set and went to bed. All that fresh air… y’know?