Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Protective Custody

I was born in the seventies. Back when asbestos were eaten as a snack, served with a side of lead paint chips.  Black mold was a wall pattern, and a child learned the hard way not to play around the kerosene heater. 

We played with rocks and sticks, in creeks with dirt and mud.  Our playgrounds were merely large jagged shards of rust and our big wheels had built in ash trays. It was a different time, when a car seat was a lap, and seat belts were something you found while looking for spare change.
And yet most of us made it, wearing our scabs proudly and comparing our scars as we swapped stories involving barbed wire, nails, and on more than one occasion, bb guns.  But now I'm a Dad, and everything has changed...

bubble wrap

Maybe it comes with being a first time parent, but I can’t help being an overprotective dad.  I want to line the wall of the house with bubble wrap. I want to banish all pointy edges and sharp corners.  Suddenly everything needs to be rounder, softer, safer.

My wife has taken to calling me Marlin, the coddling parent from Finding Nemo.  But what does she know about protecting a child?  Just last night I caught her torturing our son. Well, she called it "bathing" him but I’m not quite sold on the way the whole thing went down.
I’m relentless, even telling my own mother--who has three children and now three grandchildren-- to be careful with him.  As if she would get the sudden urge to punt him like a football.  Visitors have to pass through a rigorous bio decontamination process before clearance to hold him is granted, after which I hover like a hawk, ready to swoop in if things get messy.

I’m sure I’m not the only first time parent who's gone a bit overboard with the safety concerns.  It's just that he’s so fragile, with his newborn smell and little neck that can’t hold his head up.  He has no way of protecting himself from the infinite dangers around him.  But that's okay, he has me. 
Hopefully I'll relax over time.  I certainly can't follow him around all his life, walking in front of him with Clorox wipes and a dust mask, whipping out safety glasses before allowing him to shoot a spit ball at a classmate.  After that I'm holding his hand until college, when things could get really awkward.


  1. "Relax over time"? I'm not sure. While I've loosened up a bit with child #3, the end is NOWHERE in sight. I'm still paranoid that my 7YO will be kidnapped at any given moment I'm not staring at her playing in the front yard (thank you media). I think we HAVE become more aware, and in some cases overprotective. I guess better that, than pitting them against each other in a blend of Hunger Games, Judge Dredd and Thunderdome. Keep the faith fellow dad. We're a rare breed.

    The Cheeky Daddy

  2. Thanks Jason, great points, and I appreciate the insight. I may not relax, but hopefully I'll adjust!

  3. They are a lot tougher than you think.and more toughness is learned whether it be physical,biological or other challenges. Focus more on vaccination and less on Clorox! Although I'm with you on the sharp edges. Maybe that's the trick as a parent. Don't remove the obstacles, just smooth out the edges a bit.

  4. Thanks Wouter, and the first time I drop him I'll remember that!

  5. The roll of bubble wrap will come in handy for running the office chair over to make machine gun sounds. That is what my husband's friend had my son doing. He also taught him to take a drink and then fountain it out while sitting on the kitchen floor. Watch your friends. Don't rely on the Clorox too much. They develop immunities if they are allowed to be exposed to germs occasionally. Better to have immunities than to suddenly get sick from never having been exposed to them.