On Wednesday night, our 5-year old took a flying leap off the back of the couch. Seems she was leaning over trying to grab the kitty's tail, and as she tells it, "kicked my leg over and went BAM!"
It was one of those moments when, since she's FIVE, you think you can turn your back for a few minutes. And of course, she knows better. She's been told on numerous occasions not to stand on the couch. Not to jump over the couch. Not to lean over the couch. But any of us with kids know how much of that stuff goes in one ear and out the other.
So, boom goes the 5 year old, up and over. All I saw was feet. Hardwoods, meet the right side of my daughter's face. The thwack and resulting ear-piercing scream were sickning. You would have thought that The Wiggles just spontaneously combusted right in front of her.
Good thing is, she's fine. BIG goose egg on her forehead. Right AND left eyes are swollen and are icky shades of black-blue-green. Like a bruise rainbow. She's had fun, though, milking it for extra treats and attention.
So why is it that I feel that everyone I encounter at the daycare is giving me the stink eye? You know, head slightly cocked, eyes a narrow slit, lips thin and tight. I tell the story. My daughter offers her take in great detail. Everyone laughs. Kids, they say. That kind of stuff just plain happens.
So again, why is it that I can't shake the feeling in my gut that people are judging me? Secretly wondering if I gave my daughter a swift backhand for spilling her milk. It's not an overwhelming feeling. I'm not franticly looking over each shoulder wondering when Child Protective Services is going to show up on my doorstep. But it gnaws a little. Sort of like when you have an early lunch and know you're aren't going to get to eat until after you get the kids to bed. It gnaws.
Truthfully, I understand that as a childcare worker, you almost have to react this way. I've known these people for more than three years now. They know I'm a good dad, and they know her mom is a good mom. But there are too many tales of good moms and dads gone bad, or teachers ignoring the signs and little ones then later end up even more bruised and beaten.
But what does that say about us as a society that, when it comes to our kids, we must assume guilt before innocence? I guess the answer is the same as above. Too many horrible stories of innocence lost at the hands of, unthinkably, their own mother or father.
But why do I feel that I have to justify, almost defend, what happened? I had a rough childhood and was exposed to domestic abuse, so I'm keenly aware of the impact that has on a child and a family. And I have never, and will never, lay a hand on either one of my girls in anger.
Maybe it's not the world at large judging me. Maybe I'm judging myself. Giving myself the stink eye, if that's possible. I did nothing wrong, save for turning my back for a minute or two. I should have been there. I should have stopped her from taking the big dive. I mean really, she looks like she walked straight into a Hank Aaron home run swing. Bless her little heart.
I know I shouldn't blame myself. But I do. And her angelic smile bracketed by two black eyes is a stark reminder that I won't always be there to protect my precious little girl.
Better to learn that now, I guess.