Death by a thousand paper-cuts. Nickel and dimed to death. The straw that broke the camel’s back. I feel like someone rolled up all these tried and true cliches like pennies, put them in a sock, and beat me over the head with them.
And I’m not just saying that because my head hurt, although it did.
To start with, it seems like the kids have been a little sick for a month. Not a lot sick, mind you; just enough to keep you on your toes.
Then last night Cheryl’s mom flew out to New Hampshire to see her (Cheryl’s) grandfather in the hospital, and we began to discuss when it might be time for the rest of us to fly up.
And then we get to the meat and potatoes of this entry: Adam’s little head injury.
The first law of parenting states that no parent really knows what the fuck they’re doing. Alright, maybe that’s a little harsh. Maybe this evening has darkened the view.
Maybe I have a bias born of relativism, but (I was going somewhere with that, but I don’t know where anymore) More and more, it seems that life can be a series of decisions, and success often comes from finding an extremely narrow middle path.
I don’t want to be a parent that hovers, who feels they must protect their child from every possible harm awaiting them. Kids need to experience some things for themselves. It’s how they learn. Even in play (perhaps especially in play) there’s much they can learn. Some decisions are easy, like not letting the three year old have access to the cutlery, or letting your ten year old ride her bike up and down the sidewalk unattended on a quiet neighborhood street.
The killer is when you think you’ve made an easy decision… like letting the kids play a little rough (not overly so, and not mean spirited), and the improbable happens.
Adam seemed fine for an hour. Then Cheryl came home from work and he started to get a little irritable. Then we went out for a little Friday evening take-out and he started to whimper. Then we got home and he became inconsolable. Then we decided to make a phone call to find out who, if anyone he should see… his doctor, an after-hours clinic, or the ER. Then Cheryl left for the ER, only to get stuck in traffic (due to an accident). Then Adam began throwing up. Then traffic didn’t ease up. Then Adam kept throwing up. Then traffic still didn’t move. Then Cheryl called me to check for traffic alerts online. Then Adam stopped throwing up and became lethargic. Then Cheryl wondered if she should call 9-1-1. Then I sat at home, on the phone with Cheryl, and went to the bane of hypochondriacs everywhere: WebMD. Then traffic began to move. Then I read about, and lived through (in my imagination) several worst case scenarios. Then she got to the ER with Adam and they did a CT scan. Then Adam perked right up and acted like his normal self.
Then I felt like I needed to go throw up.
I think about this afternoon, and I don’t think I would have done much differently… except maybe alter my positioning so I could have been there to catch. But guilt can be funny sometimes. Not ha-ha funny, but kind of quirky, in a way that’s in no way cute. Somehow I have the capacity to feel guilt, without feeling fault. Maybe that’s really just a sign of rationalization, of a mind working really hard to find an out. Maybe the really important thing is that Adam’s most likely o.k. Maybe today was just one bad parenting day, out of hundreds (maybe thousands) of pretty good ones. Maybe it all doesn’t matter if it only takes one bad one to make the rest seem insignificant.
There may be a more subtle, or creative way of putting this, but I don’t think it’d quite capture the kind of self loathing I feel.