It’s amazing how much being a parent can change your perspective on the world. I’m not talking here about the silly, sentimental fluff that ends up written in flowery cursive inside a Hallmark card. No, I mean it literally changes how you see the world.
This requires a brief mention of rule #1 in parenting. Rule #1 is simple.
Keep your kid alive.
To that end, adhering to rule #1 means that when you go into any environment- any environment at all- you are checking for sharp corners, hard surfaces, hot metal, rampaging children, turtles, and any other potential threats to said offspring existence. The world becomes a different sort of place when we take you out into it.
We are pretty good at following rule #1. Exhibit A: Hey, you’re still here! However, I will note that between the two of us, your mother is infinitely better at making sure this rule is followed than I am. To compare it to The Matrix, she is Neo. She is stopping bullets in mid air, learning kung fu in a millisecond and basically straight up killing at this whole mom thing. She sees the world in little bits of code that no one else (except other mothers of young, fearless boys) can see.
Me? I’m Lawrence Fishburn-ish. Which means that I’m not that bad, but I’m not Neo.
And Not Neo was asked to take you, once again, to the turtle pond while Neo stayed home to study for her upcoming exam. We slathered some sunscreen on your vampire white, unburned skin, packed some milk and water for the road and put you in the stroller for the short walk to the mall. Rule #1 was going to be followed.
When we arrived, you spent a grand total of a minute at the turtle pond. You pointed at them, grunted as if to say, “Yup. Those are indeed turtles”, and then you turned to the far more interesting attraction on a Sunday afternoon. The playground. The playground next door was teeming with children, more densely packed than a subway train in India. Most of the kids were twice your size. There was running. There was leaping. There was climbing.
There were about a thousand ways it was a bad idea for you to go there, so naturally, you took my hand and dragged me straight there. I tried to convince you the turtle pond was more entertaining, but you knew better. Besides, there were balloons on the playground. How could you resist?
So we did a few white-knuckled laps around the playground. For you, it was a blast. For me, it was Final Destination on rubber padding.
You can only imagine my sigh of relief when you decided to leave the playground for a bed of flowers encircling a nearby tree. It was quiet, peaceful, and Awwww! Look at that. You just reached down, literally, to stop and smell the roses.
I did as well, and as we both bent down you lost your balance, fell forward, and before I could pull you back, you charged headlong into the flowers and scraped against a row of thorns. You cried, more startled than anything else, and after a quick check, I deemed you alive and we went back to exploring. A minute later, I noticed the scratches on your knee opening up into angry red welts. My first thought was, naturally, “Oh my god. Your mother is going to kill me.”
We walked back to the apartment with the quickness. Your mother did not kill me but she was very angry. She was also a bit relieved, I think, because it was me, not her, that drew first blood.
No parent wants to be the first to let their child get injured. If it were possible, I think all parents would prefer it that their child be brave, bold and absolutely untouched. That’s the ideal, and like all ideals, it’s not at all realistic. Reality is not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when, and for you, when came at 13 months and 16 days. It was a sad, pitiful thing, Blue, seeing your pristine, unblemished knee transformed forever. And it was my fault. And it will be my fault. Forever.
And it was caused by A FLOWER BED.
Sorry man. That’s on me.