Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Counting casualties, forging ahead

Since Sonny's tumble (see 'A frightening fall'), we've been looking back on our six and a half months of caring for the little fella and trying to compile a casualty list. The idea was to show how parenting has its cost - yet we nearly missed out on the most glaring injury of all.

The fact is that, in this span of time, we'd gotten off lightly, though Sonny managed to scratch himself near his eye ('First blood') and Pa injured his leg in a drain ('The blunderings of a frazzled dad'). As it turns out, the only lasting damage was done to poor Mac, our trusty stroller: We had to hand him over to airline staff before entering the aeroplane cabin with Sonny, and by the time we retrieved him after the flight, a good chunk had been gouged out of the material in the handle. His wheels are also now pockmarked and scarred, the legacy of our time in Pa's home town: We had trundled Mac about - Sonny strapped securely in - along rutted roads. A predisposition to veer to the left ('Stroller: Danger on the left') has become more marked, though for all that he remains a dependable carrier.

What we might take away from our bout of self-examination is a reminder that we can never be sure what sort of damage we are doing as we barge our way around the world. We might try to ensure that persons A through X are not affected by our actions, never realising that there is a Y or Z that suffers blowback. To take a broader example, in these environmentally-conscious times, we are constantly aware that our every deed has ecological consequences, from hiking the carbon count to releasing greenhouse gases.

Of course, if we dwell overmuch on potential harm, we might end up whimpering in our beds and never get any good done. To stick with child-rearing: Our child could be absorbing our every action, comment, attitude or raised eyebrow, perhaps to his detriment, but if we try and control every factor in a bid to be a perfect parent, we'd fall apart. Every course of action would be so full of potential pitfalls that we would never be able to pick an option.

This should not drive us to take refuge in being blase and simply 'doing whatever comes naturally'. Rather, in making decisions and then following through, we should consciously take into account potential fallout or collateral damage (we should always maintain civility in discourse, say, and try to keep Sonny from picking up unsavoury habits). But we can avoid paralysing excess by remembering that we have a safety valve: It is important to keep track of how the young 'un develops. Kinks that emerge, whether through some fault of our own or not, can be spotted - and can probably be put right with early intervention.

As for poor Mac - we'll probably spring for a nice handle upgrade at some point.