It’s skinned knee season in our home, with two girls riding bikes of the two and four-wheeled variety, and a third toddling along just behind – ready for far more than she’s capable of.
And I’m not one to stop someone who’s trying to make progress, even if that progress might be dangerous.
So we’ve been through lots and lots of boxes of Band-Aids for hurts both real and imagined. And we’re quick to wash out wounds and make sure that we keep them looked after.
But no matter how well we wash and watch, some of them are going to leave permanent marks. Like the time Ani discovered that you can’t make a ninety-degree turn on a bike. Or the time that Teagan realized, in a most unfortunate way, that you cannot stop a tricycle like Fred Flintstone could stop his car. Quinn forgets, sometimes, about “down.” She’s still kind of new.
Each of those moments hurts. But hurt can have an upside. In fact, some would tell you that hurt, or pain, has an evolutionary advantage. It tells us when we hit a limit of some kind.
And those marks will help them remember the stories of the injuries one day. They’ll proudly show the little scars and blemishes that never quite go back to normal and explain that they rode a bike early, or took a chance on a curb or wrestled with a cat or went head over handlebars in a moment of panic.
But hurt, like fear, well, it just hurts. And to know someone you love is hurting is the worst kind of pain, a pain of helplessness and empathy and doubt.
Oh, how I wish I had a suit of Nerf and armor that I could force my children to wear when they go out into the world, or want to wrestle that cat. To be able to ensure the safety of my children, be they walking to school or traversing a steep hiking trail along the edge of a narrow cliff, would make my sleep come much easier.
But I don’t. And the marks and memories would be hard to accumulate from inside an impenetrable shell of foam. I also suspect it’d be mighty difficult to hear with all that Nerf so close to one’s ears.
There are plenty of days I want to say “Today, let’s stay here, where cars and cats and cliffs and sticks and stones and words can’t hurt us.” But I can’t. Because that’d be parental malpractice. As a dad, it’s my job to listen and bandage and help my children to be brave, to not stop when it’d be a whole lot easier and may well hurt a great deal less and be more safe to just stay still. Being brave? It’s important. And I hate it. Oh, there are days I very much dislike that job.
As a teacher, that’s my job, too.
I hope you’ve got a kit full of peroxide and Band-Aids with you as you take your charges out into the world. I hope you, and they, are being very brave.