Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Striking a balance without dropping the ball--or the baby

My husband and I are perfect complements in our child-rearing practices. He's the laid-back, easy-going parent and I tend the be the high-strung, neurotic one.

He thinks it's perfectly okay to let our six-year-old watch our four- and two- in our unfenced yard on the street, while he ducks inside to catch a few holes of golf on TV, whereas I'm the one who's always hovering and shouting, "Not too high!", "Get away from the road!", "I'm not going to push you as high as Daddy does, I don't want your head to hit the playset!", or "You know our doctor said to never let you guys on a trampoline so I would appreciate it if you would get off now!"

I know our neighbors think I'm wound too tightly (especially because of the trampoline paranoia--the contraptions are ALL over the neighborhood and most of them don't have the netting on the sides!) when it comes to our kids, but I can't help it. I just want them to be safe. Not that my husband does not, he just feels that they will be fine, because he did the same things when he was a kid and nothing bad ever happened to him.

He's perfectly comfortable taking all three out to a crowded event. He always leads the way, paces in front of the kids, surveying the scene, looking at everyone and everything but our children while I'm pulling up the rear with my internal BPS (Baby Positioning System) keeping track of all three kids at once. It's exhausting for me, but it's my job.

Whenever I venture out by myself, I always say a little prayer that God will keep them all safe long enough for me to run and get my hair done or to do an unencumbered trip to the market. (And I'm not ragging on my husband--he is a GREAT father and he loves the kids and I trust him and all--I just cannot reiterate enough that I am NEUROTIC when it comes to my kids!) This past Sunday, I went to the grocery store and left the kids with their Daddy. They were in the basement playing and my husband was in his Man Cave in the next room watching football.

Better shut the garage door just in case Carly tries to make a run for it while Daddy's shouting at the Redskins. And better lock the front door just in case someone attempts a home invasion while I'm at Martin's.

When I came back from the store about an hour-and-a-half later, the garage door still was closed, so I opened it and began unloading the groceries. I was heading out for my second trip when I heard Sophie yelling outside, followed by Carly just wailing. I ran outside and Steve had Carly in his arms and the other two were in their wagon.

"What happened?" I yelled.

"Carly fell out of the wagon...oh, God, she's bleeding!" Steve exclaimed.

"I want my Mama!" my little one cried. Then I looked at her and saw blood all over her face.

I quickly grabbed her and ran inside to survey her injuries. Big fat, bloody lip, blood gushing from her nose (that nose has hit the pavement so many times my Mom has told us to start saving for rhinoplasty in her teen years), scraped up cheeks, tears streaming down her face, sobbing uncontrollably. I got a towel and started cleaning her up.

I could hear Sophie and Max giving Steve the riot act.

"I told you to stop the wagon, Daddy!" said Sophie. "Carly was trying to get out!"

"I know," he said. "It's all my fault."

Max started yelling at Steve, "You hurt my baby sister! You made her bleed!" and then he started crying. Steve was tending to him, all the while taking all of the blame.

They all came in to the kitchen to check on Carly, who, at that particular time wanted nothing to do with her father. Steve felt horribly and I know it was the last thing he wanted to happen. No need for accusations or I-told-you-so's.

Carly was a little beat up, but from what I could tell from reading every child-rearing book on the market, she did not require any stitches. She fell asleep while I held her and watched her nose swell up, telling myself if the right nostril closes completely I will take her to the ER. Are her pupils dilated? Hard to tell with her eyes closed. Should I wake her up to make sure she doesn't have a concussion? When she woke up a bit later, she didn't seem to be in any pain, but still wanted nothing to do with Daddy.

Now, mind you, this was an accident and it could easily have happened to me (except I probably would have made all the children wear their helmets in the Radio Flyer--might need to look into one with a face mask for Carly...). I just wish there was some way to strike a balance between mine and Steve's parenting know, so I can loosen up enough so that my kids don't grow up thinking I'm no fun and that they wouldn't think Steve somehow irresponsible because this accident had occurred on his watch.

I had hoped this would not have a lasting effect on Carly, nor the other two, for that matter.

My fears were put to rest yesterday morning. Carly had woken up in an especially good mood. Steve took her in to her room to get her dressed. She has this morning ritual of lying on her changing table while we change her Pull Up and get her dressed. She always stands up and turns to the mirror and starts putting on the "Carly Crowder Show."

This particular morning she had a different greeting.

"Hi! I'm Carly Crowder," she said as she turned to face the mirror. "Hey! What happened to my nose!

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