Heather O. over at Mommy Mormon Wars has a posting about “Another Mother of the Year moment” (which involves her toddler daughter stuffing her mouth with holly berries). The comments (be sure to read them all) have similar “I can’t believe I did that” parental moments.
In fairness to Heather O. and the rest, however, many of these moments are less the parents’ fault than simply the consequences of having children. I think that many of my mom’s gray hairs come from my own actions — and I started young. Here are some examples:
1958 (age 5, living in Imperial Beach, California):
— The street we live on has (as I recall) no sidewalks — just yards that go right up to the street. After a heavy rain, there are wonderful large puddles in the worn depressions along the shoulder of the road. As I go out to play, my mom tells me, “Don’t play in those mud puddles with your clothes on.” A while later, she gets a call from a neighbor who says that I’m playing stark naked in one of the large puddles — with my clothes carefully laid out on the neighbor’s lawn.
— There was an abandoned workshop or garage across the street; I thought of it as a “barn”, but it was far too low for that. I used to climb up to the roof and jump off. In fact, I very much loved jumping off of high places until I was about 9 or 10. Then I suddenly developed a fear of heights. I don’t know if that was just a realization of what I was doing, or the result of an unpleasant jump whose details I’ve blotted out completely.
1958-1960 (ages 5-7, living in Naval housing outside of Subic Bay, Philippine Islands):
— I used to leave the Naval housing area (West Kalayaan) and wander in the surrounding jungle. On at least one occasion, I took the first aid kit from my house, and a friend (same age) and I wandered into the jungle, found a nearby Negrito village, and tried to ask them if they had any cuts that needed band-aids. (They spoke no English.) It’s been nearly 50 years, but I remember the warm (and, in retrospect, probably amused) smile on the face of the native — an older man not dressed in much more than a loincloth — who tried to talk with us and who offered us coffee in a tin cup.
— I was crawling around an abandoned pillbox (probably Japanese) in the jungle and cut myself (on a rusty piece of rebar) on the inside of my thigh. Rather than tell my mom when I got home, I just put a large band-aid on it. Luckily, I was wearing shorts; she spotted the band-aid, asked me about it, took the band-aid off, and then transported me to the Naval hospital, where I got two stitches and a tetanus booster.
— On a regular basis, a truck pulling a trailer would wend its way through the Naval housing area. The trailer had a DDT sprayer that would emit dense clouds of wonderful-smelling DDT fog. We (the neighborhood kids) would play tag in the DDT fog.
— My older brother Chip and I would go down to a construction area on the outskirts of the housing area near sundown to throw dirt clods at the fruit bats. Chip and I also used to capture large beetles and make them fight each other.
— I remember on a few occasions walking from the Subic Bay base itself to the naval housing area and noting with keen interest the signs along the side of the road saying, “Danger! Quicksand!”
1960-61 (ages 7-8, Astoria, OR):
— We lived in Naval housing again, with the (moderate) rain forests starting at our back yard. I used to wander through these woods at will — alone or with a friend — and capture snakes. My friend Paul and I once captured 26 snakes in one day. I kept large numbers of snakes in two unused trash cans behind our duplex. Somehow, in all this, I never once caught or encountered a poisonous snake.
And so on. Your own stories? If you need some different inspiration, here’s a post over at thisisby.us made two years ago in response to some school banning tag; the comment thread is still going. ..bruce..