by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
October 10, 2003
THE PARENTS' CURSE
SYRACUSE, Ind. -- One of the greatest things about being a kid was the overwhelming sense of invulnerability. I was charmed. I was lucky. I was invincible. Nothing could happen to me, because I was Erik Deckers, Super Kid! And nothing bad ever happened to kids.
Even when I was riding my bike in a grocery store parking lot and got hit by a car, I was still convinced of my invincibility. I figured that if I survived, my winning streak was still intact.
Of course, my parents had different feelings on the subject. To them, I was just another accident-prone kid whose short-term memory blotted out the time I broke my arm, broke my collarbone, lacerated my wrist, ran into a mailbox with my bike, or received countless scrapes and bruises. I never believed I could be seriously injured, even though these incidents - and many others - happened over many years.
My parents did though. Mothers and fathers are keenly aware of the dangers the world poses to their children. But they don't have the same fears kids do: There were no monsters in my closet, alligators under my bed, or sharks in hotel swimming pools.
Instead, parents were, and still are, afraid of scarier things like accidents, injuries, and kidnappers. But we never thought about those things when we were kids. We had our minds on more serious matters, like how far we could go if we jumped our bike off a ramp made from a log and some plywood.
But parents worry about their children's safety, especially when their children put themselves in mortal danger. Understandably, my parents would get angry when I did stupid things like crossing the busiest intersection in my hometown or go ramp jumping on a paved road. Of course, when you're an awkward, gangly 10-year-old, getting out of bed is usually the first step in a whole chain of trouble. The rest of the day would just go downhill from there.
So whenever I would report my latest wacky escapade to them, sparing no detail of how I narrowly escaped a gruesome death (again) they would lecture me endlessly on how I needed to be more careful. I assurred them that no harm would ever befall me - I was a kid, so I was invincible -- and that they didn't need to worry. They didn't buy it.
Fast forward 26 years. I have two daughters, age seven and three, and I've been afflicted with the Parents' Curse ("I hope your children act just like you, so you can see what I went through!"). So, my daughters now believe they're as invincible as I did.
They run, jump, and climb with reckless abandon, not even thinking of the dangers that await them. They think nothing of racing up to a balcony railing, and my oldest wants to pet any dog she sees.
"Look, Daddy, a big dog. He has a lot of teeth. What's that foamy stuff coming out of his mouth? Can I pet him?"
Needless to say, I have serious nightmares involving injuries, dismemberment, or worst of all, dating.
And true to the Parents' Curse, my children don't believe me when I try to make them understand they're not as invincible as they think. So whenever I discuss personal safety, they just stare blankly at me, like I've grown a nose out of my forehead, and it's talking to them. My voice is just a low hum to them, and they only recognize certain words like "pizza" or "Disney movie."
A few weeks ago, my youngest daughter was standing on a milk crate in my office. I could tell by the gleam in her eye that she wanted to see if she could fly.
"Watch, Daddy. Watch me!"
"Be careful, honey. I don't want you to fall."
"I won't, Daddy."
While her optimism is adorable, how do I tell a three-year-old with visions of flight that not only can she not fly, but that I have a crippling fear that she'll be horribly injured on impact? Unfortunately, I can't. She has to figure these things out for herself. Besides, the room is carpeted, so it's not like she's jumping onto jagged rocks.
So while my youngest daughter chases her big sister down the slippery slope to imagined immortality, I'm following close behind, to kiss the boo-boos and chase away the alligators.
But if they want help with the sharks in swimming pools, they're on their own.