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They Only Hurt Themselves with Me

The first time Grace ever threw up -- not spit up, but a full evacuation of her tiny little innards -- was all over me. In fact, the two of us were home alone.

That time she fell down the stairs and spent the night in the hospital, I was carrying her.

The day William decided to see what the inside of his forehead looks like by bashing it onto the fireplace ... me again.

No, I'm not negligent or clumsy. There's something much greater than that at work here. It's the Baby Gods. They're testing me, and I don't know why.

This past Friday was one of those days. Now that summer is here, the kids are outdoors, running, climbing, and jumping more than they have been in a long time. The end result is exhausted little bodies. Each night they sleep like the dead and I've got to wake them in the morning.

Like a fool, I've been using William as my human alarm clock. He typically wakes up at 7:00 AM and starts with, "Dadeeeeee. I want to go downstairs." It's worse than the shrill beep of any alarm clock.

Of course, that was Wintertime William. Summertime William is still motionless in his bed at 7:00 AM, something I noticed at 8:10 AM on Friday, a mere 20 minutes before we had to be out of the house in time to get Grace to preschool.

What followed was a scene that may sound familiar to some of you. The frenzied parent running around like a lunatic (or as my grandmother would have said, "Like you've got ants in your pants") with aggravated children trying to avoid said parent.

As we pulled into the preschool parking lot ten minutes late, I looked at the seat next to me. Empty. Something was supposed to be there. What was it? Ummmm....

"Am I eating lunch at school today, Daddy?" Grace asks from the back seat.

Ah, yes. That's it.

I carried Grace into the classroom, embarrassed that Circle Time had already started.

"Is she staying for lunch?" one of the clean and well-groomed aides asked. She had obviously gotten up in time. She wasn't using a 3-year-old as an alarm clock. She knew that I ought to have a Hello Kitty lunch bag in my hand.

"I forgot to make one. I'll run to Shaw's in a minute and bring something back," I said, feeling the bright flash of the neon "Loser Dad" sign that must have been hovering over my head.

Once inside Shaw's, I began to settle down. I love Shaw's. It's clean, well-lit, and tidy. The produce section is attractively arranged and the PA system plays music I enjoy, like Sting and John Mayer. It's a lovely place, Shaw's. William and I were drifting through the aisles on a cloud of comfortable consumerism, selecting bundles of cherry tomatoes, blueberries, pepperoni slices, and cheese to bring to Gracie. I even grabbed a cute Tupperware container to hold it all.

The girl at the cash register was charmed by Summertime William's wild hair tossed by salty breezes, and sandy Crocs. She placed our groceries inside the cart and I swung it towards the door.

Just then, William noticed himself on the security monitor. As I swung the cart to the right towards the door, he swung his body left towards the monitor. In an instant he was out of the cart and in the air, falling towards the concrete floor. He landed on his back with a smack like a wet cod hitting the pavement.

He started to scream and instantly went as white as a ghost. Words jumped into my head.

Head injury Spinal injury Kidney damage Fracture Break

I scooped him up carefully and called the pediatrician. "We should definitely see him," the nurse said. Once we were in the car, he had stopped crying and become very lethargic.

Concussion Hospital Admitted Tests

"William, wake up," I said, thrusting my hand in the back seat. "Hold my hand, honey." He did. We drove like that for twenty minutes.

CAT scan Skull Bleeding

Once inside the doctor's office, he began to perk up. "I don't want to be here," he said, crying, for which I was glad. He knew where we were.

She observed and examined him. "I don't see any damage," she said. "Let me observe the two of you in the waiting area with the toys. See if you can engage him."

I showed him dump trucks and dinosaurs as if we always played in a pediatrician's waiting room. After ten minutes or so, he was playing along. The doctor approached me. "He looks good," she said. "Just have him pee in this cup."

He did, to my amazement. I had to call it "a tiny potty" before he would even consider peeing inside it. I hope he doesn't generalize this new trick to all cups.

It came back negative. No blood. We were free to go.

In the parking lot, he was his usual self -- Summertime William. I don't know how kids do it. I've seen them get hurt, and I've seen them walk away from bumps and thumps that would have left me on the ground. They are sturdy little pieces of equipment, I'll tell you.

And yes, Gracie got her lunch.


The kids at the beach.


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