When I became a parent for the first time, several years ago, I promised myself I wouldn’t attempt to live vicariously through my children’s exploits like so many parents do today.
I had no idea how difficult that could be.
I know an overwhelming majority of parents feel this way, but I’ve got some pretty cool kids. They’ve done some pretty cool stuff. And, every once in a while, I get the feeling I’ve witnessed something pretty spectacular — something most other parents have yet to experience with their own kids — when my kids do something exceedingly well.
I acknowledge that is part of the human condition. To be proud is to be a parent.
But that’s not why I’m having such a hard time not living vicariously through my kids right now.
Last weekend, Sharla and the kids went with one of Sharla’s friends and her kids to a “family fun festival” hosted by a church in Pella. The event featured horseback riding, painting pumpkins and a balloon sculptor.
Fun stuff, for sure, but the highlight for Jayden was “the train.”
In reality, it was a garden tractor pulling a line of 55-gallon drums converted into “cars” in which the kids sit while someone drives them around. My son is a locomotive nut — even more so than I was at his age — and so he took off in a dead sprint as soon as he saw it.
He’s nowhere near as clumsy as other members of his family, but for some reason, he lost his footing on the gravel and took a tumble. That’s probably not unusual for kids; they fall all the time. But this time, he landed awkwardly, and for the next couple of days, he continued to favor his arm, so we took him in Monday for a medical evaluation.
Sure enough, he has a broken arm.
Jayden got a temporary cast and splint Monday afternoon. He will get his rigid cast today. But, by the end of the night Monday, he was already asking for autographs on his temporary wrap, which brought a flood of memories from my own childhood.
No, I never broke my arm — or any bone in my body (knock on wood) — but that’s precisely why it triggered memories for me. And why it’s so hard to not want to live vicariously through him right now.
I remember, when I was in school, the long lines that would form up whenever someone broke his or her arm, waiting to sign the cast. (ADHD Moment: who came up with that “tradition” anyway?) I also remember being envious of the attention it created for the person whose arm was broken.
I mean, nothing “cool” like that ever happened to me. I didn’t even get braces in middle school. I got mine in the fourth grade after a sixth-grader knocked one of my teeth out with a baseball bat on the playground and an oral surgeon re-implanted it.
Braces were “cool” in middle school. In fourth grade? Not so much.
I eventually figured it out, though. Broken bones hurt — a lot — and “itch” like crazy when they’re healing. It’s not very comfortable, even painful at times, and most folks who break a bone aren’t looking forward to the next one.
And braces are worn by folks who have teeth that are horribly out of alignment. They hurt almost worse than a broken bone, they limit your dietary choices and they could be detrimental to one’s social life. Not to mention they’re horribly expensive.
So, not being cool was, in fact, pretty cool.
I’m pretty sure there’s a lesson to be learned from that. But right about now, I’m having just a little bit of fun with Jayden as he picks out the color for his cast. We didn’t have colored casts when I was a kid, and that’s pretty cool.
What parent wouldn’t want to share in the fun?
Change of Plans
Well, an audible got called on our plans for hiring a replacement for John Jennings, who will retire in about a week. We’re working on our “Plan B” scenarios, and I’m sure I’ll have some more information for you in the coming days.
If you’re reading this, thank a teacher. If you’re reading this in English, thank a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.
Bob Eschliman is editor of the Daily News. He may be reached at (641) 792-3121, ext. 423, or at firstname.lastname@example.org via email. Common Sense usually appears each Monday and Wednesday.