I remember staring with adoring eyes at my first child immediately after she was born. It was the most amazing thing in the world to experience. Then a scary thought hit me, “Where are this baby’s parents?” It soon became apparent I was now a parent! I frantically looked for the owners manual, but found none.
Don’t get me wrong, I was excited about being a father, but I also knew I would soon experience the same fear and worry I put my parents through. Let’s just say I was accident prone in my early years, but at least I wasn’t as bad as my cousin. When he was in high school, he hit a horse and a train with my aunt and uncle’s car and lived to tell about it. My accidents weren’t that extreme, but I still gave my parents plenty to worry about.
Take the time I was run over by a car when I was five years old. It was my fault for ignoring one of the oldest cautionary phrases known to parents around the world: “Look both ways before you cross the street!” I think that phrase was invented when the Romans built their vast network of roads. I imagine a Roman parent warning their kid about this new danger called a road with fast chariots: “Look both ways before you cross.” But I had no excuse for not looking both ways. Roads weren’t exactly a new invention when I was a kid and neither were fast cars. (Contrary to popular belief, I was not born in the Roman era.)
To understand why a kid would disobey the oldest parenting instruction in the world, you have to understand the one-track mind of a five-year old. There I was with an ice cream cone in one hand, standing across the street from the playground. “Look…” was all I heard my mom say, which translated in my head as, “Look at the swings!” I immediately bolted for the swing set right into the path of a car. Before I knew what happened, I was underneath the car staring at black grease caked on the floorpan. Lucky for me it was a big car on a short street in a small town. The car was going slow and had lots of clearance underneath.
The next thing I remember is being in my mom’s arms crying while she tried to comfort me. I was confused. I couldn’t figure out why this strange man was standing next to us shouting, “Oh my God! Is he okay! I never saw him!” I responded between sobs, “My ice cream cone!” To a five-year old, that was the real tragedy. My ice cream cone was now splattered on the pavement. “We can get you another ice cream cone,” my mom reassured me. That made me feel better. It was a rare treat to get one ice cream cone, but getting two in one day was epic.
Of course now as a parent I am horrified as I recall getting hit by a car. I have a totally different perspective on the whole event. I feel awful that my carelessness caused my mom to see me get hit then disappear under a car. I feel terrible that the driver, who I found out years later was the church organist on his way to practice, had to see me under his car. This was the panic, the worry I started to feel when my first child was born. I knew I was about to learn what I put my parents through — like the time when I was seven or eight years old and they came home from a night out and found me in bed with my head wrapped in a bandage — but that’s another story for another day.