“Daddy drives with his knees.”
“Daddy drives with his knees. Isn’t that cool? Can you drive with your knees, Momma?”
“Umm, no. I drive with my hands.”
“Oh. Daddy’s gonna teach me to drive when I’m ten.
“Is that right.”
Normally I would find this car conversation with Phoebe amusing. Maybe if I wasn’t driving home from the orthopedist’s office with a purple-casted 4 year old, I would have cracked a smile. But ever since Phoebe broke her leg on the playground, I’ve kind of lost my sense of humor surrounding safety issues.
Despite being the parent on duty at the time, Phil remains unaffected.
I am not blaming him. The same thing could have happened on my watch. While I
always usually have an eye on the kids, my hands are often occupied: sending a quick text, jotting down my grocery list, rummaging through my bottomless bag for Chap-Stick.
The point is, I get it. I am guilty of multi-tasking, of not being present, of courting the hairy edge of disaster. So I did not freak out when Phil called me on the way home from the playground that afternoon.
“I have to tell you something but you have to promise not to get mad.”
Never a good start to a conversation.
I did not get mad. However…
There’s something about seeing your child’s leg in plaster that rouses your inner Mama Bear. That’s MY baby’s leg in that cast. A bone that I grew with my own body. I know every inch of that little leg – I clothe, wash, and carry it everyday. This made me fiercely protective yet uncomfortably vulnerable at the same time. It’s a little like having an infant. A 35 pound infant who screams for the IPad and gorgonzola cheese.
Phoebe took the whole thing in stride. Large strides. Running, careening, wildly unsteady strides. The minute she figured out that she could get around on the cast, she was off and running…dragging her purple leg behind her like a pint-sized, pony-tailed Captain Ahab.
Her drunk pirate routine made me drink. I imagined her flying down the stairs or slipping on the bathroom floor. I saw bloody teeth, a broken arm, potential head injury. Suddenly our own house was a death trap.
When I shared these concerns with Phil, he just rolled his eyes.
“You are being ridiculous. Yay, Phoebe, a new trick!” he said, clapping as she pirouetted around the kitchen.
“Can you please stop encouraging her?”
“Why? I’m teaching her to turn a setback into a comeback!”
“Her limb is being held together by paper mache! Looks, she’s getting all dizzy – and her toes are bleeding! PHOEBE STOP SPINNING!”
Phil is the fun parent and I am the….other parent. As Emma once said: “Dad plays soccer, but only after Mom goes to Target and buys the soccer ball.” I am fine with these roles, but Phil has a tendency to push the boundary of “Fun” and move into the realm of “Holy Shit Who Is In Charge Here?”
Like when he hung a tree swing in our yard that swings directly into the street, aka. “The Suicide Swing.”
Then there’s the time he “temporarily misplaced” Phoebe at a 5K Fun Run. She was later found on the massage table getting rubbed down by a random male masseuse.
I tried not to freak out when I discovered that his version of “giving Phoebe a bath” meant sticking her in a tub of running water before retreating to the upstairs bathroom with the sports section. I remained calm when he admitted to taking “9 Minute Chaise Lounge Naps” when taking the girls to the pool.
But this time was different. The more Phil ignored my plea to protect our daughter from a permanent leg deformity, the more pissed off I became. When he rolled his eyes, called me overprotective, or re-explained the strength elements of a cast, the anger percolated in my gut like lava.
And when I looked outside to see Phil and Phoebe doing soccer drills, I LOST. MY. MIND.
“Really Phil? Soccer?”
“What? The doctor said she could walk on it.”
“She didn’t say she could play soccer on it.”
“Ahhh, but she didn’t say she COULDN’T play soccer on it!”
“Because no one with half a brain would ever think that those words actually need to be said.”
“Don’t you understand the strength elements of a cast? You see, the way it works is…”
Later that night
after a few glasses of wine, I came up with a new strategy for getting my point across. While Phil was paying bills in his office, I left this outside the door.
Twisted? Sadistic? Lifetime movie-esque? Perhaps. But it worked.
About an hour later he came downstairs.
“Ok, I get it. I’ll stop. You’re one crazy chick, but I will stop.”
I do trust Phil. Do I trust that he will miraculously transform into a Danger Ranger armed with a First Aid Kit and detailed fire escape plan? No, and thank God. That’s not who he is. I do trust that he will back off the One-Legged Olympics. Not because he wants to, but because he knows I really need him to.
For me, trust is surrender. Relinquishing the need to be right. Going somewhere unfamiliar because it is really important to someone else. Being able to say: “I still like my way of doing things, but I am willing to give your way a chance.” To trust is to consider that maybe there is validity in the other person’s point of view.
And I must admit, the view from the Suicide Swing is pretty damn good.