How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad

Giving Yourself the Death Penalty

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Parental Death Penalty

Kids are easy to hurt. Plain and simple. They’re little and tend to be uncoordinated, and compared to them we’re BIG and… tend to be uncoordinated. Look, we don’t even spank the boys in our house, so this isn’t some child abuser’s psychotic attempt at an excuse for going postal on one’s offspring. I’m talking about accidentally hurting your kid. It happens. It is awful. And in your head, you give yourself the death penalty.

A backward step, a closed drawer, a dropped spoon, a cardboard coaster being inexpertly tossed like a ninja star… I’ve discovered the ways you can accidentally hurt your little one with simple, every-day actions are nearly endless. That’s not even taking into account playing with them or teaching them something new, which increases the odds a thousandfold by the way. For me these moments are all more or less a kind of a private nightmare of shame, guilt and embarrassment.

My Most Recent FAIL

WARNING: In violation of the non-authoritative spirit and purpose of howtobeadad.com, the following is actually useful advice for parents. A friend told me (I won’t try to take credit for this) to always face a car door when closing it. Not facing away. Not sideways. ALWAYS facing the door. APPLY THIS!

This is going to sound really bad, but it wasn’t that bad actually. And I’m not just saying that so you don’t all hate me and call CPS. I hated myself more than enough for all of you and every CPS agent in the country. Here it goes: recently, I gave Lucas a re-acquaintance with pain by way of our car door. I know I know I know! ARG!!! Though it was really very mild and he wasn’t hurt badly, I wanted to put my head under the car tire and have Lizzie gun the engine.

I’ve got three boys (the oldest 13 years old) so I’ve had a good few of these awful experiences in my time. It still cuts me to the core.

Dealing with the Situation

I respond in a number of different ways. I’m talking about how I handle my child that I’ve just hurt, not about me s##ting in my pants as the Gods of Parenting flood my bloodstream with adrenaline, Tabasco sauce and liquid guilt.

I’ll pick up into my arms the now screaming lad and bounce him around comfortingly, as if to say “Heh heh! Hey there, pal, we’re alright, right? Heh! See? Look, I’m bouncing you around comfortingly!” FAIL. I’ve been the stoic hand-holder, silently seeing the moment through, as I die inside of course. I’ve done the “hug of a thousand tiny fist pounds.” I’ve teared up and stumbled away as Lizzie swoops in to deliver comfort and kisses. I’m not trying to suggest anything here particularly, or come off as a brutal klutz with no regard for my kids’ safety either. But love is always a safe bet. Love and resisting the desire to put your head under a moving vehicle.

I Will Avenge You!

I once even tried reversing the situation. I failed miserably at playing toss with Cody one day, but was a total winner at the Hit Your Kid in the Head with a Ball game. So, while he was looking at me through a pint of tears, I took the ball and tossed it at myself. (This maneuver was pretty much like taking a picture of yourself with a cellphone, except you don’t throw your cellphone at your own head). Cody’s crying slowed almost to a stop, and then… uh uh, didn’t work, full blast again.

Never Give Up! Never Surrender!

There is a very razor sharp difference between your baby crying and your baby shedding tears to an extended and wordless expression of the statement “WTF was that for, you a##hole!?! I thought you loved me!!!” Within the span of a second, your stomach can freeze solid or catch fire, a metallic taste can flood your mouth, and your testicles can purchase an immediate and non-refundable, one-way ticket to the inside of your body.

You may say to yourself “Never again! I’ll never go near my kid again!” I sure have. But then they’re better, and then I’m better, and I’m back at it with them: playing, teaching, carrying, dadding.

I’ll never give up. I’ll never surrender.

41 Comments

41 Responses to “Giving Yourself the Death Penalty”

  1. My baby is three and a half weeks old, and I had my first FAIL last Friday. I accidentally got her stoned off her head from the fumes in a nail salon. She was crying for a feed when we went in but after one minute I had to take her out and wait in the car, because she’d fallen asleep. She didn’t wake up for 4 hours. I know I’ll think about it anytime she ever does anything weird.

    • andy says:

      Oh man! I can’t go in those places. I feel your pain. I haven’t fumigated any of the boys yet, but I’ve got a long and unusual list of mishaps and accidents. (weary sigh)

  2. Jenny says:

    It’s absolutely the worst feeling in the world.

    Zipping up my sons balls was probably my epic FAIL moment. If I had balls, I would have wanted to zip them up in my jeans a hundred times to punish myself. But I don’t, so I didn’t.

    Thank heavens his berries recovered, they sure are resilient little suckers.

  3. David says:

    Me and the Wife were watching tv one day,she was sitting across the room on the love seat and I was sitting in my “man chair”. For one reason or another I decided to leave the room and relinquish the power to the remote to her. Now being 6’6″ and nearly 280lbs I decided to underhand the remote to her so I didn’t chuck it at her head by accident. AT THIS PRECISE MOMENT….my son who is sitting on the floor between both of us decides to stand up and RUN full blast towards me……Not only did I hit him in the face with the remote, but my follow through upper cutted him nearly to the celing (not really). The kid was fine, but I hated hated myself for a while after that. Needless to say I now stand up and walk the remote to my Wife when she wants it.

    • andy says:

      I’ve done EXACTLY the same thing with a set of keys, squatted down, tossing them to the Mrs.! Ugh! Awful. My keys are like a Swiss Army knife got together with a security guard’s key ring and had a baby. Worst part was that it scratched his face. So for a week I got to reminder every time I looked at him. :(

  4. Kelley says:

    We have all been there! I have, unfortunately, hurt both of my kids on accident. My oldest (7) has a scar on his cheek where I accidentally scratched him. He was RIGHT behind my legs when he was 2 or so and I didn’t know he was there. I turned around and tried to catch his fall when I saw he was there and scratched his face and left that scar! Bad mom. :(

    • andy says:

      Bad mom? No flippin way! Just don’t try out for chainsaw juggler at the circus maybe. Trust me, if that makes you a bad mom then not only am I a bad dad but the best thing I could do for the world is get sterilized and have my body destroyed when I pass so no DNA is available for any future adventuring scientist experimenting with cloning.

  5. Chris says:

    Well said, Andy. I’ve seen that wordless expression before, just like you described. It’s tough. Dad on!

  6. andy says:

    Thanks. Yeah, the worst is when they run away or cry for mom to pick them up when you’re trying to lift them up to console them. Totally understandable, of course, but totally miserable as well.

  7. Stephanie K. says:

    I was in the kitchen, about 15-20 feet away from my daughter (then about 18 months) and she asked for her pacifier. For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to throw it to her and have it land safely next to or in front of her. I you know me well you know that I have the worst aim in the world. Horrible. So I throw the thing, and of course it clocks her right in the back of the head with the hard part. It hit so perfectly dead center you would have thought I WAS aiming just there! Needless to say she began to bawl and I ran over, holding back my own tears of hatred towards myself, and attempted to console her…:-(:-(:-(

    • andy says:

      Ah jeez. Yeah, our aim is always the “best” when it’s the worst, right? Some accidental shots seem like they wouldn’t be possible if you had a hundred chances and intentionally tried to do them. Freaky and awful.

  8. Kippie says:

    I did it just yesterday. My 9 month old managed to sneak a finger into just the wrong spot as I fastened the buckle on the car seat. I got that WTF??!! look, then his face crumpled into tears…..

    • John says:

      Yeah. Haven’t used our other car for a few weeks and the little guy went through a growth spurt in that time.

      So, last week, in the dark, in a hurry, not thinking, I quick buckled him in only to hear “Papa, it hurts!” Of course I just mashed his twigs and berries in a five point harness.

      I still feel like a complete ass about it. Nice to know we have a little support group going here.

      • andy says:

        Except for the fumes in the nail salon, I’m getting to a point where everyone’s contributed stories are mentally greeted with “I’ve done that. Yep, done it. That one, too. Did it twice. Did it on Christmas…”

        Aaaaaarg!!! How are my kids even alive still!?!

    • andy says:

      Ugh! The buckle!!! Or as I like to call it: The Satanic Pinchers of Pain. Those things are like piranha.

  9. MotherDuck says:

    Andy, take the gun away from your head (mainly because the image of my friend with a gun to his head freaks me out). We have all been there and we have all had it done to us. I have 3 scars from my parents misjudgements. I’m sure you can think of a few mishaps with yours. I wonder what crazy crap our grandparents did to our parents and what about our great-great-great grandparents before $500 strollers, fancy hipster baby sacks, or even before the slaves they used in their place (Sorry, but true). No wonder families had 15 kids. They were probably nearly disposable back then. So we feel the guilt of not just our own unintentional transgressions but for that of our forefathers. You are an amazing dad and friend so again I ask, take the freakin’ gun away from your head!

  10. Oh God. I feel your pain. I’ve had these moments – who hasn’t? Pretty awful. And I recall a few from my own childhood – my dad cried once when he slammed my finger in the trunk of a Duster round about 1975.

    I hate the header photo. Andy dying is so not an option, it’s horrific!

    Thanks for the honest to God advice, too. It’s very good. I don’t know that I’ve ever thought of it, but I sure will. Same thing goes for doors on a house when little people are around!

    • andy says:

      Fingers in car doors are aaaaaawful. ARG!!! Sorry about the header graphic. It was the only image I could think to use at 4am. ;)

      You are most welcome. Even though I’m breaking our own rules by actually posting something useful.

      • Desiree says:

        Aside from the testicle bit, I agree completely. If anyone is going to invent the time machine, it’ll be a parent who just accidentally boo-boo’d their kiddo. You’d do ANYTHING to take it back.

  11. Manda says:

    I hit my daughter in the head with the corner of the car door. While I was holding her. I’m still not entirely sure how that happened…….

    But, my dad did the ultimate, stereotypical baby fail. When I was three weeks old, he tripped and dropped me down a flight of stairs. My mother thought for sure I was dead because I was so stunned when I hit bottom that I wasn’t crying! He had fallen after me and I think that if it weren’t for the fact that he was hurt as well, she would have gladly stabbed him.

    I ended up just having a couple of bruises and he sprained an ankle. But now I have an interesting reply when I do something stupid and someone makes the comment “You must have been dropped on your head as a child.” Well, now that you mentioned it…….LOL

    • andy says:

      Oh my God! You win. Man oh man! Your dad must have been stabbing himself inside for years! But it’s kind of amazing how indestructible kids seem to be. Good for you for being a super baby in that dire situation. Thanks for writing in! ;)

  12. beta dad says:

    You MONSTER!!!!

    I opened the front door right onto the head of one of my girls. It was kind of her fault though. She was right in the way. Of course, she couldn’t see the door coming because she was facing me. Riding in the Ergo. When she was 3 months old.

  13. Shirley says:

    I’ve been a mom for…a long time. I can’t even count the number of unintentional harms I’ve caused my kids. Number one was Leora. Four months old. Lying on our very large bed. She had not yet rolled from side to side. I was primping in the mirror (HOW VAIN!!) and saw her begin to roll and roll right off the bed onto the hard wood floor about 2 feet below. Could not turn and reach her in time. Thud. Scream!! I was toast. I called the pediatrician who said, “I hear her crying. She’s probably fine. Call me back when you’ve calmed down.” Hmmm. Called hubby at work. This is before, way before, cell phones. He “reassured” me with, “Oh my gosh. She WAS perfect.” Crying. Much grief stricken, guilt ridden crying. She is now 28 and she IS fine. Sort of. Now to the real stuff for all you young parents. I work with children with disabilities. Guess what? Some of those “disabilities” were caused by their very same parents and are called, euphemistically, “non-accidental trauma.” Translates to “BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF THIS BABY!!!” Give yourself a break. Seriously. Take a break. Get help. Have someone come in and babysit. You are awesome. Don’t hurt your child because you need some rest. Sorry..I know all of you really haven’t hurt your kids on purpose. Just please recognize when you need some adult “time out.” Sorry to be a bummer. Like I said, those of you who posted here are fine. But learn to recognize when you’re not feeling fine. It can happen. This has been a public service announcement from an old broad who loves kids. Hers, and everyone else’s.

    • andy says:

      “Call me back when you’ve calmed down.” Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Have you ever spoken to your pediatrician again!?! Ha ha! Someone needs to let that guy know that calming down just never happens once that baby arrives. It’s just a new scale from mildly stressed to freaking the f##k out. Kidding of course.

      Whoa. That’s gross. I never really allowed myself to think of that level of aftermath from child abuse. I’ve never hurt my kids in anger as a punishment and don’t believe that is ever acceptable. It is a good point though that we must watch out for pre-disposing ourselves to the klutzy harm we do.

  14. Joe says:

    This story is great my kid is almost two and I already have more stories with him then I care to count. He is just like me always getting into something. I feel your pain man.

    • andy says:

      Ugh! It’s awful. We all take so much care that it’s crazy how many times it happens. But it’s life. There are going to be bumps and scrapes and mistakes and everyone just needs to learn as best they can from them. Good luck and good parenting, man!

  15. Simon 'Fail Faldo' says:

    Man, I couldn’t count the amount of times I’ve hurt my boy if I had a calculator and an accountant – they’re so ‘hurty’!!

    One of the worst – I had him out in the garden playing and I picked up his plastic golf set and got in the stance to chip the little plastic ball. I hit it, it bounced off the wall of the house and ricocheted him in the nape of his neck under his ear. He shrieked and a golf ball sized welt came up. Needless to say I wasn’t flavour of the month for a while with mummy bear…. Felt like the ground should open up and swallow me!

    • andy says:

      Great comment! Awful. Keep on keeping on! Your kid is lucky to have a dad who plays with him. I think that’s so so so so much more important than being uninvolved or “being safe.”

  16. Tina Reher says:

    How is this for an attempt to soothe a hurt? ‘walking home on a broken ankle?’ Ida and I had a slip and fall on the bike this winter. She was thankfully strapped in and wearing her helmet. (yep I have once gone on a ride and forgot to strap her in and it still haunts me to think what could have happened) Ofcourse the fact that we fell down had her crying bloody murder because of the surprise of it all on top of the fact that her favorite pink elephant landed in the street and THEN; she discovered a TINY and actually old scratch on her hand so yes she clearly was the hurt party here. Which meant in order to calm her down we turned right back around home to find a bandaid – with me walking on a factured ankle… A tiny part of me actually felt like it was due punishment for me for having scared her like that.

  17. the worrier says:

    i’m so showing this post to my hubby because last night was the 1st time our one and a half month old daughter got hurt on his watch i went to do the dishes from dinner i was half way throw the dishes when heard the baby cry(scream) i went the room to see what happen and i found my hubby cry saying i’m sorry repeatly. you see my daughter has almost mastered the whole holding her head up on her own thing but we have to be careful because when she gets tired she just lets her head drop well this time when it dropped her jaw hit her daddy’s collarbone i knew the baby was ok she had already stopped crying but her dad was really shaken by it

  18. Steve says:

    Well we had quite the snowfall a few days back and my son wanted to go tobogganing. We went to this big hill near where we live, for the first time. a few trial runs from the middle went quite well and (he is 3 btw)decided to try from the top. The slop was a bit awkward in a way were if we went down the intended lane, we would have been fine. But a quarter of the way down, we started to slope and slide uncontrolably towards this big jump at the bottom….i hate this!! We hit the jump and went flying into the air. My son landed and hit his face on the very nicely snow…. He screeched in terror…. but was fine in 5 minutes with little to show but a slight red mark on his forehead.
    Its been 2 days now and I’ve been quite broken up about it. “I am sooo sorry Son, for that stupid, stupid accident!!!” Needless to say, I’m still having a tough time with it and trying forgive myself. Its very hard bc I love him so much and will always keep him safe. But this time I didn’t and it could have been very bad.

  19. Kat says:

    Oh gosh, well I was on the other end of this one. When I was younger my mom was putting me into the car… she was smoking a cigarette and was distracted by my cousins, and (I don’t remember every detail of this) somehow the cigarette burned my neck! 15 years later I still have the scar. She felt so horrible but eventually it just turned into a funny story.

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