It’s all fun and games until the spout of arterial blood

Too a certain degree, I agree with some of the things that America’s Worst Mother&#153 has to say about our ability to destroy children’s (in her case: Pharisee Jean, Leitmotif, Abbazabba, and Speculum Bob’s) fun and freedom in the pursuit of absolute and perfect safety. Recently I made Casey wear her Full 90 headgear (which she hates) in a tournament after receiving her second concussion in the past three years. That has gone along with the separated shoulder, the broken finger, the cracked rib, and tearing her right hamstring twice… all within the last three years. As it is, she goes to a physical therapy rehab once a week and sees a chiropractor once a month. I mention all of this because it is easy to say that we want our kids to have the freedom to run, jump, fall and possibly even hurt themselves because that’s a part of what being a kid is. We all say this…but that’s before we spend the evening in emergency after a certain child smacks her head (crack!) on the basketball court floor after fighting for a rebound. Then, after the bad thing happens, you start thinking about your kid and maybe, just maybe, you want them to dial it back a bit.

Which brings us back to Meghan Cox Gurdon.

This week she writes:

I don’t want to sound unpatriotic, and I realize that this is not a wildly original point, but there is something creepy about how risk aversion has become a kind of unofficial American creed.

It’s creepy in the way that it has crept stealthily into our national life, and creepier still in its sinister, innumerate, fear-fanning, joy-squashing effects. There have been days lately when I have caught myself wondering aloud, “Can we really be the people who settled the Great Plains?”

Spend a few hours at the park and you’ll hear the endless gull-like cries of fretful parents and nannies: “Don’t climb so high! Watch out with that stick! No running! No pushing! Don’t get on the slide until everyone’s off it!” Of course children can get hurt, but really, they usually bounce. Go to a swimming pool and it’s all, “No running! No diving! No jumping! Stop splashing!”


It seems a no-fun approach to life to me, but then I come from a generation that knew not the steel-reinforced child car seat, the bicycle helmet, or that antibiotic gel that conscientious mothers rub on their toddlers’ hands when they’ve been playing in a sandbox.

Hmmmm. It seems like only yesterday…. (cue wavey lines):

“Aagh! Mummy!”

I am not quick to leap out of my seat. People are constantly yelling, “aagh, Mummy!” around me, and usually they have stubbed their toe. But when Paris’ voice rises sharply, so do I.

“Aaaagh! Mummy!”

Paris is standing atop a little earthen hut in the children’s garden. He is flapping his hands and something dark is spraying and spattering across his white shirt and bare arms. I race to grab a handful of napkins from our picnic and run to him, aware that I too am flapping my hands, with the same expression out of Edvard Munch.

“Oh, God, sweetheart, oh, no, what’s happened? Here, clamp this over — ” The expanse of white napkin blooms bright red, and I tighten my hands over it. Paris looks up at me, his face white under streaks of dirt and tears.

“I forgot. I cut towards — “

Later, in the car, as we speed along an unfamiliar road following those large blue “H” signs that you never notice when you are not desperate for an emergency room, I find myself babbling to Paris how sorry I am that this happened, and how brave he is, when he interrupts me.

“No, Mummy, I’m sorry,” he says, “For interrupting everyone’s day.”

The emergency room, when we reach it, is apparently staffed by lotus-eaters. Let a blood-spattered mother and son step through the automatic doors, and the indifference is so thick you can cut it with a pocket knife. Indifference is an exaggeration; it is as though we are not there.

We need to let the kids play, but sometimes a spoonful of caution keeps us from becoming an Edvard Munch painting in a hospital waiting room.

No matter how bold we try to act when the bloods not a-spurtin’

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