Two days ago, Ellis fell off the bed. Ellis is 17 months old and this is her first bed tumble. This should be your fist clue that she is a cautious baby. She doesn’t like to get near the edges of things. Her climbing is restricted to couches, where she will politely ask “hep peas” for a boost and then sits with her hands in her lap and smiles. I pour her a cup of tea and we chat about men and Downton Abbey.
The first time we sat her on her little bike, she refused to let go of my hand and said, “OH NO! OH NO!” Which is baby speak for, “I cannot believe you all would place me on this unsafe contraption without the proper safety equipment. Where is my helmet? Why are there no seat belts? Someone should call CPS.”
This is where I should also mention that she asks to be buckled up in the car. And I know she’s escaped her buckle because she will say, “Oh no, buckle!” when she wiggles her arm free.
This is my child. And I get it. When I was 10, I saw footage of Greg Louganis hitting his head on a diving board during the 1988 Olympics and to this day, I refuse to jump off the high dive. I took an aquatics class in college, where the instructor, the football couch, was bound and determined to rid me of this fear. “You can’t live in fear, Baranowski!” He yelled.
“On the contrary, I can.” I told him.
“Baranowski! You gotta pony up and get up there.”
“No, I do not. Fear is normal. I embrace it.”
I still passed the class. Barely.
What I am trying to say is, two days ago, while I was getting dressed Ellis fell off my bed. I rushed over to where she lay on the floor. Stunned more than hurt, she clung to me, rubbing her face in my shirt. “Bonk!” She wailed. “Boooooonk.”
“Oh baby,” I said, “let’s go get a treat.”
“Treaaaaaat!” She wailed nodding her head. “Treaaat.”
I got her into the car and drove her to one of our favorite coffee shops, where I ordered a large coffee and chocolate muffin. All the couches were taken, so I sat Ellis on a tall chair and plopped the muffin in front of her. Together, we munched muffin, and sipped our drinks. She talked about the fan on the ceiling and the lights on the wall, while the drying tears left little salt stains on her cheeks.
“Hello baby!” Said a friendly woman ordering coffee. Ellis turned to wave and wobbled a little in the chair. Immediately, she gripped the table and her eyes opened into large blue circles of fear. “Oh no!” She said. “Mommy, oh no!”
“You’re not going to fall, Ellis.”
Her bottom jaw jutted out and her little knuckles turned red. “Oh no!”
Part of me wanted to leave her there. I wanted to insist that she stick it out. She should learn to handle her fear. You can’t live in fear from one little fall, I wanted to tell her. But all of me understood exactly what she was feeling. The aftermath of a tumble. The anxiety of failure. I remember crying for a week over my first A-. I will never skydive and I’m completely okay with that. So, I scooped her up and sat her in my lap and together we polished off that muffin.
Twenty minutes later at the Library, she again, got her post-fall-stress sitting on the chair playing with the puzzle, I picked her up again, smooched her and set her down on the ground.
Some of us are just all too aware of our humanity.
When I picked her up from the sitter’s, J told me that Ellis had been barrel rolling on the bed.