Counting the Unidentified Parenting Injuries (UPIs)
I noticed the evil stares when I was being pushed through the airport in a wheelchair. I was seven months pregnant with a black eye and a leg in a cast. The icy looks were focussed on my husband but they were mis-directed; the black eye was courtesy of Aaron slamming a sippy cup into my face and the sprained ankle was from slipping on the stairs while carrying my three-year old. He, of course, was totally fine.
Once, I got a panicked call from a friend with a 9-month old, the baby had stuck his finger in her husband's eye and the those little jagged fingernails had ripped his cornea. My friend later admitted that the injury drove a temporary wedge in the relationship between dad and baby. It is one thing to know rationally that there was no motive behind the attack, but it is hard to tell your reflexes that every time that little finger comes near your face.
Pinch marks, hickeys from biting, and toys to random parts of the body are all part of parenting the under-twos. Sometimes you look down at your bruised body and you can’t even trace the origin of the injury. Remember Unidentified Party Injuries (UPIs) from your misspent youth? Well these are Unidentified Parenting Injuries (UPIs).
Parenting is a full-contact sport and it takes no prisoners. Even newborns with their wobbly heads can give you a good bonk in the chin. It doesn’t seem like they mean it and the right thing to do is obviously not to react but at 4 a.m. when your eyes are watering with the pain it is tough to pretend that it didn’t hurt. But you want to ignore behaviour that you want to extinguish so that means giving it as little attention as possible. Not so easy when you are bleeding from a head butt to the nose. But it is hard to be mad at a being that doesn’t even recognize its own image in the mirror, let alone ascribe it motivation for hurting you.
The problem is the unpredictability of the injuries. They don’t occur when you have your natural defenses up like during a wrestling match or tickling fight, you usually get hurt doing something basic and non-active like sitting with a kid on your lap (head into chin so you bite your tongue), carrying a child while they are drinking from a sippy cup (previously mentioned black eye) or my husband’s favourite: when a toddler is running towards you and their head makes contact with the testicles. There are also the passive injuries like stepping on Lego pieces when the lights are off, tripping over the doll’s crib and being tossed a Transformer while your head is turned. The sleeping injuries are also bad. Who hasn’t had a dream about being beaten up only to wake and find your kid’s feet pummeling your face or kicking you straight into the abdomen?
I don't want to tamp down his natural exuberance, yet I do want to live! Which is why I have created four essential techniques, drawn from the wisdom I gleaned during those two weeks I took tai chi:
- The Unbending Bough: When your child is hurtling her entire body in your direction, tighten your core and shoot your arms out in front of you, parallel to the ground. Grab her as soon as she reaches you. It looks as if you're reaching out for a hug, but actually you're saving yourself. And no one has to know.
- The Watchful Egret: Whether you're playfully wrestling, helping your child put on his shoes, or just sitting with him on the couch, always be aware of the location and status of each of the child's limbs. Never let your attention waver. This is especially true of the Feet. The Feet will get you. Usually square in the nose. Keep one hand free to sweep any wild or errant limb aside, before it can make contact with your face.
- The Boa Constrictor: Has your kid had one too many cookies? Did he just watch another Star Wars movie, and is he acting out all the parts at the same time? If you can't calm his flailing, squeeze him into submission. It's the only way.
- The Wincing Hedgehog: If you suddenly see an elbow coming toward a vulnerable area, curl up and cry out at the same time.
Thankfully, kids grow out of the inadvertent methods of inflicting pain on you. As they get older and more aware of their physical presence their ways of hurting you become more mental then physical.