Sometimes when you’re carried away doing something fun with your child, you – or worse yet, your child – is struck by the Law of Unintended Consequences. And I mean that literally. This was vividly and viscerally brought home while watching some poor father with his toddler daughter at the amusement park recently.
We took the kids and some of their friends to a local amusement park for the day. This particular park has a large "Boardwalk" section composed of multiple water rides that range from high and long water slides to a "Lazy River" ride in which the rider is gently propelled via inner tube along a long, circular concrete river. There’s also a large wave tank for older folks and in this particular situation, a smaller wave tank for children.
There were any number of component water toys and fountains as part of this kiddie wave pool and with the brilliant colors, it resembled something brought to life out of Dr. Seuss’ imagination. As kids and parents entered the wave area, they passed by and under daisy-yellow pipes that rose out of the ground to a height of seven feet before re-entering the ground several feet away. Suspended from the pipes were large cone-shaped buckets which swung back and forth and into which water streamed from the pipes overhead. When the buckets filled with water, they tipped over and would spill water onto the people who walked underneath on the way to the wave pool. This particular father, who I watched from about thirty yards away, held his little girl in his arms and wanted to get her a little wet before entering the pool. He stood under a bucket as it slowly filled with water and chatted with his little girl awaiting the tip-over. He unfortunately misjudged the amount of water the bucket could hold and when it finally tipped, his baby girl took a large volume directly on her head. Yes, she cried and I pitied the guy as I watched emotions flash across his face that ranged frrom sheepishness to horror and finally, to disgust. He immediately took the girl away and sat down to console her and apologize profusely.
I felt for the guy because I’ve been there. Fathers throw their kids, wrestle and swing them and create all manner of mayhem that the kids love. But the downside is that there will be accidents and mishaps and while you want to die, it doesn’t make you a bad father. It does however, make you take a longer and harder look at what can go wrong so that you better appreciate the risksof playing with the kids.
One of my hardest lessons was dislocating my preschool daughter’s elbow while swinging her like an airplane in the backyard. The game was to simply hold her hands while swinging her in a circle so that her feet were off of the ground and in this, I was wonderfully successful until she cried out that her elbow hurt. After icing the elbow and still finding her in pain, my wife contacted the pediatrician who saw her within the hour. This doctor labeled it as "nursemaid’s elbow" and was intimately familiar with it since he’d had to reset his own children’s elbows after similar play in his backyard. Unlike this physician however, I never played the game again. Period.
The guilt of inadvertantly hurting your child is severe. Bur the point is to learn to assess the risks and then adapt so that you either minimize them or avoid them entirely. But don’t let the fear keep you from playing with them because they both love and need it.