Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Free Fallin'

Nearly three years ago, back when Jennifer and I were able to go places without an extensive checklist and spare set of clothes, we had dinner with some friends in North Carolina.  As we ate, their first child, who was just two at the time, decided to turn their china cabinet into his very own rock wall.  Before reaching the summit, he ran into a little trouble with gravity.


After a brief moment of silence, the two-year-old, now face-down on the floor, started crying.  His parents tended to him quickly, lifting him up, giving him a hug, and then placing some ice, wrapped in a towel, on his bruised forehead.

"No," said the kid, to our surprise.  "The other kind."

"Oh," said the dad, as he rose from his seat, taking the ice with him.  He walked to the kitchen and quickly returned with the ice, this time wrapped in a surgical glove.  The boy smiled and took it from him, pressing it to his head.  That's when it hit us: this is our future.  This is what life is like with a little boy.  The fall didn't jolt me.  Neither did the cry.  No, my rude awakening was the realization that the boy had done this sort of thing so often, he already had a preference for the way he receives his ice.

Kyle is now just a couple months younger than that boy was when he took that spill.  He has yet to fall off our own china cabinet, but I really think that's simply because we don't have a chair near there to help him up.  If we did, there's a good chance Kyle would try to climb as recklessly as possible.  That's because Kyle loves to fall.  

(Above: Kyle "falls" at the YMCA.
As you can see, he is in much pain.)
Falling is Kyle's new hobby.  Just as other kids learn to play catch, sing songs or build things, our son has taken to tumbling to the ground and saying "uh-oh" as if he did it by accident.  He trips over things that aren't there.  He falls off the couch.  He turns church pews into professional wrestling rings.  So far, he hasn't been seriously hurt, though if you do happen to respond to Kyle's "uh-oh," he will follow it up by saying "boo-boo" and pointing to a part of his body he supposedly hurt, even if he fell onto a pillow.  Anything for a little sympathy, or a cookie.

I did stress the word "seriously" in the last paragraph because I would be lying if I said Kyle never hurt himself.  Sometimes certain things get in the way of his act, like crib rails.  On more than one occasion, during a fall or a wild jump, Kyle has smacked his jaw into his crib, cutting his lip.  And, wow, do lips bleed.  Normally this sort of thing happens at bedtime, so, instead of softly putting him to bed with his blankets by his side, I am rushing him to the kitchen sink, his face wrinkled more than a pug's as he's breaking new decibel levels, with a red river flowing over his mouth, teeth, tongue, and chin.  After I go through a dozen or so napkins, tossing them to the floor looking like they mopped up a surgery, Kyle's lips heal, and I put him back to the crib... where he pretends to fall again.  He has yet to master the concept of "cause and effect."

So, my hopes and dreams for the little guy are changing again.  Instead of becoming a professional athlete/President who wins a Nobel Prize in physics while his paintings and sculptures are on display at the Louvre, Kyle might become a stuntman instead.  I think I will be able to accept that.  There are worse professions.  At least he hasn't taken an interest in journalism.  Still, I'm holding out hope that all this falling is, like many other things, just a passing phase.  It has to be, for my own sake.  The thing that Kyle loves most of all is falling on me, especially after 9:30 am, when all the energy I had for the day is used up.  I often have to absorb, without warning, a fast-moving head to the gut, shoulder, or chin.  A successful block will only lead to another try.  If it continues this way for much longer, I will be the one requesting a favorite type of ice pack.

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