Gravity, an invisible constant keeping us all alive on this fragile, blue ball hurtling through space, provides humanity with many wonderful things.
How much fun would it be to throw a ball if it never returned to Earth? Birds would be entirely unimpressive without gravity. Airplanes? More like who-cares-planes. Pick a sport. Any sport. It’d be lame without gravity.
This potent force tugging on the International Space Station is the same potent force tugging on my 4-year-old son as he climbs a tree. In the great cosmic battle between gravity and a 4-year-old, gravity often wins.
“It’s not broken. It can’t be broken. He didn’t fall THAT far,” I asserted confidently.
My wife disagreed. In my defense, there was no visible bruising. Not even a scratch or a bump. The swelling was very minor. I felt confident a little ibuprofen and a good night’s sleep would fix it. “Father of the Year” nominee, right here.
The next day, my son had a sling. Day after that, a cast. A week after, my son was sitting in my lap as the doctor explained he would need surgery and pins. This was during the appointment where they were supposed to tell us everything was fine.
From this point, things began to accelerate. The doctor was sort of talking out loud, musing about his schedule, “We could do it today. Has he had anything to eat?”
I got a little flustered. “It? As in ‘surgery’? Today?” I said.
I think my son was processing it all better than me. Ultimately everything went fine. It was stressful and expensive, and everything took too long, and the doctor was late, and on and on it went.
No secret to this parenting trick
I’ve often wondered how I’d handle an emergency with my kids. Up until The Great Tree Fall of 2021, we had made zero trips to the emergency room. It’s been pretty smooth sailing, but with active and adventurous kids, the looming threat has always been there. Waiting. Stalking. This time, it was our turn.
Every urgent care trip isn’t life threatening, and every surgery on a 4-year-old isn’t worthy of a tense documentary. Worrying about what the first emergency would be like was far worse than the event itself. As moments played out, there was no panic. No freak out. My wife and I methodically and calmly navigated each situation. Not because we are particularly special (well, she is, anyway), but because that’s life. We handle it as it comes. From this great realization, I’ve learned a powerful secret, an epic life hack, the ultimate parenting trick, and I’m willing to share. Ready?
The trick is: There is no trick.
I have three children. People often say, “I don’t know how you do it.” I usually feel a little silly because I don’t know either. But every day they all get fed, bathed (usually), and go to bed on time (mostly). The next day, we do it again. That’s how we do it. I suspect this is how all great challenges are overcome. One small task after the next until it’s all gone. That’s the trick. That’s how we do it.
My son fell. I picked him up. We got him water. We got him ice. On and on the tiny tasks went until eventually my son arrived home from the hospital after his surgery and immediately began to act as if nothing had happened. Worrying probably shaved six to eight months off my life, but my boy was running around the house eager to show off his fresh, blue cast. Kids, man.
I wish I had a secret. I wish I had a special parenting trick. I wish some wizened sage had bestowed upon me great wisdom I could share with you. Instead, I’ve learned none of us have any idea what we’re doing. Not at first, anyway. And those who do have a clue, only have a clue because they blindly bumbled their way through the first trauma and have made it to the other side. As one of those formerly bumbling, clueless parents, let me encourage you with this: You’ll figure it out.
And remember, no matter how bad you may feel you’re screwing up, you once read about some guy who sent his son to bed with a broken arm. Surely you’ll do better than THAT guy.