There are few things more traumatizing than watching your child get hurt. Every time he has a bump, scrape or bruise, it's another stamp on your too-overworked and tired and probably needs preventative botox forehead that says, "I just turned around for TWO seconds," "I couldn't get to him in time," or simply, "I just goddamn wasn't paying attention, ok?! What do I have to do? Watch him every single f-ing second?! I admit it...sometimes I leave him in another room while I take a sh-t! Sue me!" That last one's not anything I've ever...ahem...experienced. It's just what I think some parents experience when they haven't had a moment away from their children in three hours. It's a guess anyway.
The blame game with new parents begins the second the two of you disagree on how to handle sleep training or calming the screaming baby down and eventually, when the child is mobile, couples will disagree on whose fault the injury (however minor) is. Just spend a minute around a group of kids and parents--at a park or any kind of gathering--and at least one fight will ensue that goes something like this:
MOM: "Hank, this is what happens when YOU'RE in charge. You DON'T WATCH HER."
HANK: "Excuse me but I was the one who just caught her as she fell off the top of the slide. Where were you for chrissake?!"
MOM: "Me?! Oh ok, I'll tell you where I was. I was making sure that she didn't leave her snuggly bear here and that we had her sippy cup and that we said goodbye to everyone...oh wait...that's right...I was making sure that everything gets done because that's what I ALWAYS do. I'm in charge of everything so no wonder she fell off the slide!"
The first time that Max ever really REALLY hurt himself, we were at the park on New Year's Day (with a hundred other hungover parents). He slipped and bashed his forehead on a metal bolt that was used to attach a piece of the play space thing together (btw--park paraphernalia isn't safe...let's just be honest...you actually have to play alongside your kids at the park or they'll, like, basically break their skulls). I stood there and watched the whole thing happen...in slow motion. The incident occured on my watch, of course, but the first thing I did was look at Mike and say, "I told you his shoes were too slippery for this thing!"
I promptly burst into tears, grabbed Max and acted as if Mike had hit the child himself. My new "bad mommy" tattoo was being etched into my forehead..."Lack of attention to detail. Lets child run too fast on dangerous jungle gym ramp. Probably shouldn't let child go to park, or anywhere, for that matter. Should keep child in bubble. Like the bubble boy."
But of course, it was Mike's fault because anything bad that happens to my child can't possibly be my fault. It just can't. Nope.
Luckily, our local West Hollywood park is surrounded by LA's hottest gay bars and clubs (no joke) and New Year's Day drunk bruch is a major fest in the gay community. The Abbey next door supplied us with a ton of ice, plastic bags and sensitive looks that said, "Too bad you're over there and not having brunch with us."
After we all calmed down and it was clear that Max's massive hematoma wasn't going to be permanent, we all went home wishing he could live like the bubble boy. Or maybe I was wishing that I could live like a bubble woman...floating through life in a tunnel, never seeing the hurt that my child would experience as a part of this all too cruel world...and, apparently, as a part of my life because he's constantly getting hurt whether I pay attention or not.
The other night, Max was climbing in and out of a scooter toy thing that's really designed for kids who are learning to walk, but that was yet another thing that Mike hasn't taken down to the garage (anyone have this issue with their husbands? Can I get a holla back on this one?) In fact, Mike had stalled on this so much that he left it by our back door in our kitchen (which is halfway down to the garage) and when he saw that Max was loving getting in and out of it, he declared, "Hey, not such a bad idea that we didn't get rid of this so fast, huh? Look! It's his new favorite toy!"
Two days later, I (sigh...big sigh) TURNED MY BACK FOR ONE SECOND and SPLAT. He was almost in the seat of the stupid thing, he missed a step and BOOM...he was face down on the floor and I mean...face down. Like, he literally fell on his face. I grab him, check him (he's so hysterical that he's turned purple and he's silent, which means...wait for it....WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH). And he wails and he wails and when he finally gets to a calm place, I notice that his nose is bleeding and lucky for Mike, he walks in right at that moment.
MIKE: "What happened?!"
ME: "Take that (and now I'm spelling this out) f-u-c-k-i-n-g t-o-y that you think is so f-u-c-k-i-n-g great because you're too l-a-z-y to take it out of the house into the garage RIGHT THIS MINUTE. I never want to see it again."
I'm really good, and fast, at spelling out loud btw. So this time, it might actually have been Mike's fault (even though it, once again, was really my fault) and I wasn't going to let him forget it.
I spent the whole night checking the video monitor to make sure Max wasn't bleeding his brain out all over his crib, all the while giving Mike dirty looks.
MIKE: "He's fine."
ME: "I know. I know. I pressed his nose, like, really hard about 10 times to make sure it wasn't broken"
MIKE: "Did he cry?"
MIKE: "Then it's fine."
That's really the very scientific, very medical "parental gauge" (except when they have concussions...that's a whole other story but let's not even go there). If they're not crying and they're laughing in the bath with a bloody nose and they don't lose consciousness...then I gues they're fine. I just had a glass of wine and told myself to get over it. Needless to say, when he woke up, he had a bruised nose bridge and a smile on his face.
So in all of my panic about trying to protect my son from the oh-too-scary universe, I started to think of all of the things that he may get into or may do while I'm not looking or while I'm not around. He spends a lot of his time with our beloved nanny, but god only knows what the hell happens when they're out together. For all I know, instead of heading to gym class, they could be taking the bus to Disneyland or the Hustler Casino. Now that Max loves to walk on the sidewalk like a big boy, I'm terrified that he's going to let go of my hand or that I'm going to have spontaneous paralysis and let go of his, and he's going to sprint into the street.
Now, I know I blame my husband for every one of my child's missteps but when I complain to Mike, when I articulate my paranoia, he just says matter-of-factly...
"I'M GETTING HIM A LEASH."
ME: "Oh please. We're not going to be those people whose child is their dog. We...we used to make fun of those people."
MIKE: "Yeah, we also used to not have kids.
And later that day, Mike came home with a stegosaurus backpack replete with inconspicuous leash. He promptly put it on our son (who loves it and almost never wants to leave the house without his backpack) and headed out for an evening stroll.
Now, it was all cute for five minutes until I started getting paranoid again. What if this leash prevents him from ever learning to walk like a normal person? What if the leash makes him thing he's a dog? What if the leash causes him to be one of those people who can't follow rules? What if it gets him kicked out of school and he can never hold down a job and he becomes some kind of transient?!
I didn't go off on that tangent to Mike. I was worried he'd divorce me so I just let the feelings fester and fester until yesterday afternoon when I decided to take Max out for a walk with the leash myself...just to see what it was all about.
As we approached the end of the block and I was about to step off the curb, he squeezed my hand, looked up at me and said, "Wait. No cars coming?" He looked both ways and decided that it was time for both of us to go. "C'mon mommy."
Ok so maybe the bubble is a little much...a leash will have to do. Yup, I'm that mom. Make fun of me at an amusement park, snicker at me at the mall, judge me. Judge me. But if it takes a backpack to prevent me from obsessing myself into a tizzy, from blaming my husband for breathing, from taking a bottle of pre-park Xanex, from packing an entire emergency medical kit in my diaper bag (ok that's not a bad idea...maybe just a bandaid or twelve), then...so be it.