A wise person once said that having a child is to forever know what it is to have your heart walking around outside your body.
What they failed to add is how anxious it makes a parent to have your heart hanging upside down from the monkey-bars shouting “Look ma no hands!”
Hidden side. The hidden side of parenting is how fraught with anxiety it is. The thrills, the chills, the spills and tumbles. The high fever and mysterious rash at 4 a.m. This generally happens on a long holiday weekend when every last pediatrician in the free world has gone on vacation and the pseudo-doctor on call does not speak English.
Then we have the mysteries to contemplate. Such as how a child can slip and fall in a carpeted room completely devoid of any hard surface and still, inexplicably, harm himself in such a way that the flow of blood is greater than you imagined a person could have in their entire body.
Sometimes you have the dogs you were assured repeatedly “Wouldn’t bite” – but did. And oh, so much more. No one warns you about that.
Forget insisting that you will be a better parent than this. More vigilant. More careful somehow. Just as sure as little boys climb trees, and more surely as you snort derisively when you heard of an injured child and say “Well where were the child’s parents? That would never happen to any child of mine!”
So will your own progeny manage to make a fool out of you on that front. That’s what children do. They take all your preconceived notions about the kind of parent you will be and turn it right on its head. Or, better yet, their own.
At least that’s what they do if they can’t find anything to lodge up their nose, in their ear, or swallow outright. My 3-year-old would likely recommend a nickel. Tasty, yet less filling.
Who needs an evening out with friends when you can spend your time in the emergency room awaiting some “change” in your child’s condition? (Pun intended – and free. The X-ray, however, will cost you $1,200).
My son waited mere days after his birth to convince me I was a defective parent. Almost as soon as we had our brand-new tiny human home from the hospital we received the call that he was jaundiced.
Now, veteran parents know jaundice is as common as dirt and generally just as harmless, but as a brand-new parent I just fell apart. Surely it was something I had done that made my baby less than perfect.
It was probably that half a can of diet soda I had enjoyed in the third trimester, my insistence on carrying my own groceries right up to the very end, or the fact that I didn’t do the pregnancy workouts like the stack of books by my bed said I should (although I think just lugging all those books around at all should count for something fitness-wise).
Since then this child has leapt from more high places than my heart can handle, shattered a glass bottle and ended up with a 3/4-inch shard embedded in his chest, and gotten stung by something – we still don’t know what – causing his entire foot to swell up like a balloon.
I don’t remember any of this being mentioned in those warm and fuzzy parenting books I had read while first facing parenthood. It’s like the dark underbelly of parenting – this propensity of children to harm themselves.
Nearly six years later it hasn’t gotten any easier. Nor has having multiple children done anything but multiply the parenting trepidation.
Although, to be sure, there is a plus side to all these spills and chills. You get a lot more confident about how high a “high” fever really is, and your skill at stopping the flow of blood with a kitchen towel is immeasurably better.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt should own stock in Band-Aids. She welcomes comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)