As a parent, nothing can prepare you for the first time you drop your kid. Not even when he shifts in your arms while you’re walking through the store and almost takes a faceplant onto the tile but you reach out with your Spiderman reflexes and snatch him out of harm feeling like a hero and a heel at the same time.
When I was a kid I spent a lot of time with a fat lip thanks to my dad. We did a lot of roughhousing. I did a lot of flying up into the air and back into his arms. I did a lot of missing the ball as it flew through the air towards my face. I also did a lot of laughing, gasping with joy and hollering for more.
But being a kid, in particular, being a little boy, is about being banged up. My son has a big purple bruise on his forehead from smacking into his cousin as they ran around the house. His shins are constantly black and blue. The perfect soft gossamer skin on is hands is becoming rough and calloused, just how my wife complains I am: one big scarred up blister in a beanie.
But my son has a long way to go before his shins are the saw-toothed wrecks mine are, and a long way until his hands are as scarred up, burnt and roached out as mine, and my dads. A long way until he reaches into the fire to move logs with his bare hand, like I just did, and pulls back a seared paw. A long way to when he smashes his hand with a hammer.
But I’m a long way off from falling on my face every day. I’ll never learn to ride a bike or ski again, or learn to keep my head down while fielding a ground ball or learn to tuck and roll when I jump from the top rung of the fence. Soon will come the time when he’ll not go a month without a fat lip from missing a catch, a scabby nose from face-planting off his bike or a band-aided finger from cutting himself on who knows what.
My dad loves to tell the story of how he was pushing me in the swing, and I kept saying, “higher! Higher!” Must have been somewhere around the age my son is now, 2 – 4: that narrow band of time when I was old enough to hold on to a swing, but too young to pump it myself. Dad kept pushing me higher and higher until the swing came back to him empty. He found me in the bushes, scraped up, bruised, dirty and grinning from ear to ear.
Looking back, Dad caught me far far more often than he dropped me. But I wasn’t a china cup and he never wore kid gloves. But here I am, with a dirty bruised up boy of my own and a penchant for fun things that lead to falling down.
It was snowing the other day when I climbed up on top of a load of firewood in the back of Dad’s truck. I hooked the strap to secure the load and pulled hard to tighten it, leaning back over the edge of the truck, knowing, from years of experience, that my dad was behind me with his hands up in the fairly likely event that I came crashing down upon him. Yet again.