Sometimes, I am astounded that there are actually any human beings left on this planet.
Many times in a day, I ponder the activity that E is currently engaged in and I can’t help but play a future scene in my head, involving one or other of the emergency services or medical professionals.
Ambulance man, crouched over my prostrate son:”So, Mrs N, let’s run though this again, shall we?”
“Well, you see, what happened was… well. E was scooting round the dining room at high speed and must have mis-steered, and he cracked his head open on the corner of the table and sort of fell over. I guess…”
“Yes, well, I was in the next room.”
“The next room?”
“Yes. Well… no. I was upstairs.”
“This is not getting any better, Mrs N.”
“No. So probably best not to mention that was actually in the shower singing along to the radio?”
“No, probably not.”
The Casualty doctor: “Tell me, how did E come to dislocate his shoulder?”
“Well, my husband was just swinging him around… and then…”
“Well, it must have happened then…”
“Ellis was being swung round…by his hands?”
“Well, by one hand, if I must be precise.”
“Have you heard of Social Services?”
Policeman, pen poised above notebook: “So, just talk me though this again, Mrs N.”
“Well, E was by the sea defence wall throwing stones. And he sort of…toppled in…”
“To the freezing cold sea?”
“Well, it wasn’t actually, technically, freezing, to be fair.”
“And Mr N was?”
“Erm…collecting large stones to throw into the sea.”
“Right. And you were?”
“Ahem. Building sand castles.”
“For E to knock down.”
“Fifteen foot away from your son.”
“You make it sound a long way…”
None of these scenarios have actually happened. But some of them very, very nearly, heart-stoppingly, sphinter-looseningly have, proving that every few minutes, E’s wellbeing spins on the flip of a coin. Scoot right past the kitchen table or smash his head into the edge? Sit on the arm of the sofa then get down, or fall backwards and knock himself out? Jump off the garden bench and kick the football, or stumble awkwardly and break a leg? Hold him down in a torso-lock out of sheer desperation to try and get him in the bloody car seat whilst he is mid-tantrum and succeed, or accidentally break one of his ribs and then try and claim he tripped over a squirrel?
Having a child seems to be a constant recalculation of risk versus freedom. It’s a tricky equation and I am pretty crap at mental arithmetic at the best of times but I reckon it goes something like this:
R / F x PC = IP – Risk divided by Freedom multiplied by Parental Competency equals the Injury Potential.
You just can’t be there doing what you feel you should to prevent the coin flipping the other way. Sometimes, you can foresee the potential risk. Blimey, sometimes, I can see it playing out in my head in glorious Technicolour with full squelchy sound effects and state-of-the-art CGI. He reaches up to the kitchen surface to get a piece of cheese and knocks the knife off, which plummets into his foot. Oh no, it’s okay, look…it has actually fallen on my foot instead. But foreseeing it doesn’t mean you act on it. After all, stuff gets in the way, like making cheese on toast, or finishing that phone call, or PA (which stands for Parental Apathy, but you don’t get to do that equation that until the advanced class).
So what do I do about the risks that could befall my precious son? At best, I calculate it, cross my fingers, shrug my shoulders and hope for the best. Who’d have thought that I would have ended up with the same approach to parenting as I have to maths?