Monday, May 30, 2011

The One by the Swing Set

Our job as parents is to teach our children how to live - what's right, what's wrong, and all the tips we've gleaned during our decades of experience living life.

Some of the lessons are simple:

Don't talk to strangers.
Wear your seatbelt.
Use a napkin.

Others are a bit more complicated:

Look both ways before crossing the street.
Give it some gas with your right foot while letting the clutch out with your left foot.
Lather, rinse, THEN repeat.

And still others you never imagined you'd have to teach:

Don't use your safety scissors to cut off the cat's whiskers.
KY jelly is not for polishing dollhouse furniture.
You don't want to win a game called, "How many kernels of corn can fit up my nose?"

Perhaps nothing strikes guilt into the heart of a parent more than realizing you haven't taught your child a basic safety rule before it's too late. Case in point: when my daughter was just two years old we attended a birthday party for a five-year-old. All the kids were older save for my kid and the birthday girl's little brother. It was an outdoor birthday party, and there was a swing set. You see where this is going? My husband was busy helping kids into the bounce house, and I was across the yard when I looked up to see my tiny little girl getting kicked in the head - not once, but twice - as she walked right in front of the swing set as an older child was swinging.

Ever since, I've tried to avoid playgrounds.

But yesterday I took the kiddo to another backyard birthday party. From my vantage point in a patio chair next to the refreshment table I didn't notice the swing set at first, but the world went into slow motion as I watched her make her way towards it. I sprang from my chair and got to her while she stood contemplating the slide. I crouched down to her level and told her to be sure to walk around the swings when someone was on them. Then I took her hand and showed her the path she should take to get around safely. I breathed a sigh of relief when she decided to try the bounce house instead.

Later, while I was chatting up some of the other parents, I saw her out of the corner of my eye. I held my breath and white-knucked the arms of my plastic patio chair while she edged her way around the front of children's swinging feet on her way to the slide steps. A dramatic sigh left my lips, and my heart pounded.

For the rest of the afternoon she carefully navigated her way around the swings, and I sat watching her, amazed and grateful that she took this lesson to heart. No sooner did I let my guard down than she came running towards me, tears streaming down her face. She hadn't walked in front of the swings. In fact, she had gotten on a swing by herself, but she forgot to hold on to the chains as she took her first big swing forward. The poor thing toppled backwards onto the ground like a weeble-wobble. (Wait, "weebles wobble but they don't fall down...") Well, anyway. You get the idea.


Add "hang on to swing chains at all times" to the list of lessons I've yet to teach her.

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