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February 21, 2010

What A Pain

Buggs fell from his crib yesterday. He's been climbing out for about a month now. A loud thump brought me to consciousness, followed by the inhalation delay, then the moan. Amy and I were concerned enough to get up and go help him, but barely.

Kids fall and get seriously injured all the time. I'm sure you know some story about the kid who fell horribly off something much lower than a crib. I haven't heard that story, but I should consider it. I definitely do not take it lightly.

Buggs has been warned about falling. He has looked as us and laughed as he jumped down from the railing. He regularly leaps from coaches, stairs, and any thing else that proves merit to his brothers. The only other option for Amy and I is to "hover." That's not an option in this house, even if we thought it was beneficial.

I wonder what kind of parenting is responsible for all the launching and tumbling of Olympians at ridiculous heights. What patterns would emerge if we dug into the upbringing of extreme athletes? I bet mom hovered and dad pushed baseball (or any traditional sport) on them. Some chose to altogether get away from athletics while others became Redbull Winter Olympic people.

"No no, little Johnny. You be careful now."

I don't know. I just doubt that mom and dad said "cool, go ahead and go as big as you want." How do you rebel against wow that was awesome?

Nothing taught me not to run with glass jars like a glass jar full of bumblebees slicing into my elbow. At about eight I remember feeling my spine crack as a huge slam wave violently drove my face into the sand. I saw double for ten minutes after Dan White fell on my head while wrestling during recess. I ran my dads Ford Tempo into a split rail fence and 5 months later shot a huge bottle rocket into my left eye at point plank range. I've dropped weight plates on my big toe and repeatedly split my shins open with mountain bike pedals.

This is relatively nothing. We all fall down. And this has nothing to say on the emotional pain inflicted on me and, even worse, what I've suffered by accidentally or intentionally inflicting it on others.

Considering all this on behalf of the kids scares the hell out of me. I fear the merciless, cold, seemingly random physical forces that fracture bones and minds. I simply cannot accept "oh what are you gonna do" resignations.

For some reason it helps me to weigh my worry against the practical gold standard of risk assessment: getting in a car. Plane rides and bike jumps, sharks and the flu; driving a car gives perspective to all the relative risk, probabilities predicted, and statistics crunched every time we make a move. Every day, at least 2 or 3 times per day, we accept a certain amount of risk, and simply get in the car.

So how do I reconcile being both a worrier and a nonhovering parent who really didn't feel too bad when his son fell from the crib?

Is it not good for the children that I get out of the way of their very own best teacher? Yes-pain is possibly the best teacher, in every way. A little pain now goes a long way for saving it later; the possibility of freak accidents are duly noted. Common sense means that we don't allow Ben to toboggan down the stairs holding a steak knife and cup of scolding hot coffee.

The Scriptures say that God has given us a spirit of courage and not of fear. CS Lewis expands on this and points out that God uses pain to arouse our attention. I believe these truths. Yet honestly, it's still a fear that moves me to act. Or, to not act, whichever it takes to allow the kids to fully live.

What about the risks involved in missing out on age appropriate lessons that only pain can teach? It hurts me to think about it, but it's really the only way. Laying around the living room when they're my age, yelling toward their mom to fetch them another sammich - now that's a scary vision. But isn't the comfortable, safe, "appropriate" life also worse than a broken bone?

If we want to encourage and inspire and teach and love, then we must accept some risk. My job is not to protect the kids from everything at all costs. Still I hope they take in the wisdom of those who go before them. I hope they don't take in cycle cross.

Go ahead Ben. Right now, in this instance, go as big as you want.

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