During a recent drive into town, my husband pointed out the hack job that our local road commission did on a tree which had the misfortunate to have grown perilously close to the road. “Look at that tree! Why would they do that? I know I’m just going to end up careening off the road at some point and getting decapitated. That would be just my luck.” My husband is much luckier that he likes to admit (aren’t we all?), but he has a point about the tree. It is very strangely cut, as the road commission left the tree otherwise intact but for a very large branch – perhaps 6 feet in length and about 8 inches wide – which now dangles into the shoulder of the road. The road commission lopped off the end of this branch, so that it no longer hangs into the road itself, but they have left the severed appendage hanging there, like a giant hand-less Ent. (My apologies. A little of my nerd just slipped out.)

I passed the same tree coming home from work last night with my young daughters in the back seat, and I immediately began with my internal ODAI (offspring death avoidance imaginings). If the acronym doesn’t give it away, this is something I do quite a bit. If you were to slip inside my crazy brain pan for a minute while I was actively engaging in ODAI regarding the tree branch, it would sound like this:

Brain: “You know, if the road was slippery, and conditions were just right (i.e.: wrong), you could slip off the road and into that branch. It would be on the passenger side though, so you would probably live, but your eldest child would not. Maybe you should teach the kids to DUCK on command, so that in case of such a scenario, you could tell them to DUCK, and they would thereby narrowly avoid a tree branch decapitation. The question is: How would you teach them to DUCK on command? It’s not like you’re a headmaster at a school for bad children where they have to learn to immediately obey or risk a flogging. You’re not a despot. You could make a game of it and throw soft tennis balls at their head as a funky parent/child trust exercise, but that might be construed as child abuse, so you’d probably better not. Then again, if we talked about it ahead of time and they had plenty of warning…”

Look at this garden hose. Just lying in wait for some poor unsuspecting child.

I could continue. I DO continue. But for the sake of my reader, I won’t continue here. I have no excuses for the weird and often horrific places that my brain goes when I think about the things that COULD-POTENTIALLY-IF-EVERYTHING-WENT-COMPLETELY-WAYWARD happen to my offspring. Active imaginations are highly regarded when you are a child, useful as an adult, but as a parent, they become an unfortunate mixture of: “Boy it would be fun to do __________!” (and it generally is) and “Oh crap, my child is going to slip on a misplaced Barbie shoe, fall down the stairs and impale themselves on a bendy straw.” Parenthetically, this is undoubtedly why I’m a very upbeat and happy in person; I’m always thrilled with the fact that my children haven’t yet died of a freak garden hose accident.

On the other hand, working in a legal field, this propensity for the Chicken Little Life often comes in handy. You consider the worst, best and typical case scenarios, factor in how likely each of those scenarios are, and prepare accordingly. Typically these machinations don’t involve things like rogue tree branches impaling our clients, but you see where I’m going with this. Consistently preparing for the worst, while hoping for (and working towards) the best – make sure that we are equipped for any outcome. I imagine this is much the same for all fields – legal or otherwise. I also imagine that I am not alone in my eccentric offspring death avoidance imaginings. In conversations with friends, this does seem to be the norm. It’s encouraging to know that mass insanity is alive and well..

But even if it weren’t, I can take heart in the fact that at least one of my children escaped this genetic propensity. Here is an excerpt of a recent car ride to school, wherein we were discussing why it is so important for everyone to be buckled in and safe while the car is in motion:

Elder Child: (From the backseat) Mom, what if sissy’s door was like BARELY hanging on by a thread, and then it just fell off? And then – sissy didn’t know that, and she unbuckled her car seat and then the wind ripped her out of the car, and she got run over? That would be bad, right?

Younger Child (Also from the backseat) That makes my knee bleed.

Save your fancy words. No need for a five minute recap. Let’s just keep this real shall we? Certain death by accidental car evacuation makes my knee bleed. Every family needs at least one realist.

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