[3-min read] Summertime is here and that means playtime, family time, playing-with-the-family-kids time. I’m guessing that’s why references to safety are in the media. Craig Melvin and Al Roker joked on the 3rd Hour of Today show that when the mother is away and the father is left to look after the child, the credo is: You gotta keep the child alive. This, as Melvin shared a picture of his daughter at the very top of the playground climbing bars. I noticed a band-aid on her knee. “Don’t break the child!” I thought.

“Let’s go for a walk,” my five-year-old grandniece had suggested to me three days before. A walk sounded lovely. The two of us had missed out on a morning stroll with other family, opting instead for Trolls: A Cosmic Kids Yoga Adventure. (It was a blast, of course.) Now, everyone else relaxed indoors, so she and I went for a walk along the quiet country road. She wisely insisted that I hold her hand and walk on the outside so a car couldn’t harm her. We chatted and after a few minutes, she said, “Let’s walk to the stop sign.” I squinted and looked up ahead but saw no sign. “That may be too far,” I answered. “It’s not! It’s just up there!” she promised. Dubious about being away from the yard without anyone knowing, I thought, “What would a responsible adult do?” I texted her mom: We’re on a walk.

We summited the top of the hill; still no stop sign in sight. “We should turn around here,” I said. “No! It’s not far,” she said. “We can come back tomorrow,” I said. “How about we go back and get snacks and then come back?” she countered. “I don’t think I’m up for going all the way back and then back out again,” I said, adding, “But we can do it tomorrow, with snacks.” “Okay,” she agreed.

Life teaches us very early that being impulsive can end our joy in a snap. After we turned toward home she suddenly stated, “I’m going to run!” She dropped my hand and sprinted, carefree, her hair streaming behind her. Taking a picture with my phone, I looked up in time to see her (she later explained) lose her balance. “I caught myself with my hands at first,” she’d say. But then her knee met the road before her other knee and skin above the ankle scraped pavement as well.

No no no no,” I whispered, jogging up to her, focusing to see if . . . . She stood up, brushed her hands together, looked at her knees, and listed the damage while fighting back tears. She was in obvious pain. “Oh – let me see,” I said when I arrived at her side. “It’s not too bad,” I told her. “You’ll be okay.” “It hurts,” she said through tears now. “I want my mom.” I wanted her mom, too. “We’ll be home really soon. Hang in there,” I assured her. She hobbled a little, stopped, and said, “It’s getting worse!” “The blood is a good thing,” I tried. “It cleans the area so it can heal better and not get… infected.” Should I say infected? Does that sound too scary? 

It hadn’t occurred to me that she was wearing flip-flops and therefore running would be risky. I’ve never been a mom, plus I irresponsibly wear flip-flops for all sorts of activities. What could I do to make it better? “I’m so sorry,” I said. “Why are you sorry? You didn’t do anything. I was just running and lost my balance,” my grandniece explained, now consoling me.

I use humor to cope with uncertainty, so as we finally entered the front door, I waited a beat before telling her mom, “Okay, so, not really – but I want to say I broke your child.” Experienced and looking all business, she whisked my grandniece away to apply supermom skills to wounds.

A couple days and painful band-aid changes later, it wasn’t so bad for my grandniece. I, however, struggled to accept that parents regularly believe they might have broken their children so I’m probably not a negligent person. Life rewards us for bravery, and I should try again. So – anyone want me to watch their kid?

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