There are moments when I wish my children didn’t provide such a rich supply of material for this column. This is one of those moments.
A couple of nights ago we went to the home of some friends, along with several other families, for an evening of food and fellowship. It was wonderful. We ate well (in terms of both quantity and quality), we discussed a wide range of topics, we laughed, and the three amigos had a blast with the other young ones in attendance. After we finished eating, the kids and a few adults went outside to play hide-n-seek and tag. It was a cool but beautiful evening, and there was plenty of space to run around on our hosts’ four acre lot.
By the time we began the outdoor festivities, it was already dark. I warned the kids to be extremely careful and in no instance were they to approach the pond toward the back of the property. Everything proceeded swimmingly for the first half-hour or so—lots of giggles and good-natured taunting (mostly at my expense, which was warranted. My 51 year old legs don’t move as quickly or nimbly as they used to). According to my internal clock we were just a couple of minutes away from loading up the kids and returning home when I heard Abby screaming somewhere in the murky distance, perhaps 30 yards away.
“What? What’s wrong?”
I could see her approaching slowly, her hands pressed to her mouth. “Abby?” I continued. “Talk to me. Use words. What’s wrong??”
“DAD! I’m not sure!” she bellowed. “I hit my mouth and I think I knocked my tooth out!!”
I saw her pretty clearly now and she looked like a pre-teen zombie, a young girl walking deliberately toward me with blood pouring out of her mouth. She began to weep, stimulated by both pain and fear. I brought her into the house where we sopped up the blood with paper towels and inspected her mouth a little. Sure enough, there was now an empty space dripping crimson where once there had been an upper bicuspid.
As I tried to calm her, Krista retrieved the boys. We had a slightly testy exchange about the best course of action and placed everyone in the van. During that minute or two, one of our fellow guests took a flashlight and inspected the area where he thought Abby’s mishap occurred. Miraculously, he found the pearly white intact, with nary a scratch on it. Our friends solicitously dropped it in a plastic cup filled with milk and we sped away.
As we attempted to reach one of our dentists by phone, I shook my head and mused: Of our three children, Abby’s the least likely to experience such an accident. Luke? That poor boy is a walking billboard for the Darwin Awards. He’s at least 50 times more likely to injure himself as Abby. And Daniel, as cautious and circumspect as he tends to be, is also impulsive and naïve—traits that frequently cause him to encounter unpredictable (and sometimes entertaining) misfortunes. But Abby? Wow. I never dreamed she’d bust up her face a bit and knock out a permanent tooth.
We got in contact with our dentist who instructed Krista to place the tooth back in its socket as best she could and meet him at his Arcanum office. Once there, he numbed Abby’s gum, slid the tooth into its slot more precisely and connected it to other uppers with wire brackets. By the time we put her to bed, she looked and felt like she’d been in a prize fight. And lost, decisively.
Amid the obvious and soon-to-be-shamelessly-employed-metaphor, a few lessons emerged: (1) It’s impossible, and probably not advisable, to protect one’s children from all conceivable dangers. On the other hand, injury under these circumstances was a clear possibility and I should have exercised better judgment. Better to be Dr. Killjoy than to require an emergency trip to a dentist—or worse; (2) Abby’s tougher than I thought. This is good to know, because there will no doubt be accidents and difficult times down the road;(3) Brothers often require a bit of assistance in the “Let’s Show Some Sensitivity Department”. I’ll resist the temptation to provide specific examples, but let’s just say that Daniel and Luke need a bit of remedial help here; (4) Moving in the dark is inherently risky business. We need light to stay on the proper pathways, rumble strips to warn of impending jeopardy. This is true for children playing games on a fall evening, and adults navigating all of life’s highways and byways.
Timothy Swenson is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at email@example.com. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.