Touch of spice

Tipping the scales in the school of hard knocks

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A semi-intent cleaning of some hidden corner in the office and all of the sudden a dusty, but nearly new copy of the 1970ish "A Parents' Guide to Child Safety" landed on my desk with a thump and a laugh.

"Thought I might find it interesting, giggle, giggle."

Thumbing through the first chapter I glance at "children are not fireproof."

Uh, ya think?

Starting with "Discipline prevents accidents" and ending with "Don't play with bugs," I was glad to read that bumps and bruises and falls are "necessary signposts on the path to growing up and learning."

Because my children are learning.

They're learning so fast that I'm so glad swimsuit season is over and it's time for long pants.

There's always this dread when you walk through the grocery store with a child who's got a straight line of bruises down each leg. Although the story is told when you see Katie attempt to climb from the cart onto the shelves and up toward the cookies on the top shelf.

For the entire summer, Katie sported matching bruises on each side of her forehead. It started when she was trying to climb out of the dryer and ended when she ran smack into the car door.

"Protect, but don't overprotect your children," the guide states.

That's a fine line and requires stealth and speed I'm just not capable of.

As the car-door incident faded to a yellow smudge with traces of purple, Katie renewed the color when she smacked into a rail on the deck while trying to fit her head through the bars and got some new ones on her leg while trying to ride the laundry basket like a scooter.

My little tomboy wanna-be is a little too much of a sissy at this point to really carry it off.

Then again, she may just be pretending when she's wailing on the floor because the baby just absconded with her book. I'm not sure if she's really upset or she's smart enough to know her screams slow Nikki down enough for Katie to catch up and gain the upper hand.

Those "tears" dry pretty quickly.

Nikki is just entering her learning stage. I think dressing her as an ape for Halloween stigmatized her. She can't walk, but she can clamor to the top of anything.

"Protect, but don't overprotect."

I was struck dead with amazement as I watched my little girl work her way to the top of the coffee table and then couldn't stop my smile in response to hers when she made it. It took a lot of upper body strength because her legs, with the exception of some last-minute assistance from her toes, weren't helping at all. She grinned, sat up and then fell backward off the end, with my dive making it just in time to grab her on the bounce.

With a carefully positioned pillow, she can make it on to the bed in about four minutes and then back to the floor in less than a second.

There are consequences tears for example to her hurried descent.

I caught her balanced with one leg on Katie's chair and the other on the crib. She couldn't go up and wasn't sure how to get down and, being the sweetheart she is, just resigned herself to waiting.

And then, there's the sister dynamic and that provides its own bruises.

We take apart the stairmaster when it's not in use because Nikki loves to climb in between the steps. Unfortunately, she can't get out and because the baby did it, Katie had to try, only she couldn't wait for Nikki to get out.

There were tears. There was screaming.

It wasn't pretty.

So we unhook the steps. Unfortunately that leaves two dangling bars, which Katie aimed at Nikki because Nikki was doing something like breathing in the wrong direction.

Growing up is rough on a body, but you make it despite the scrapes and bruises.

In fact, I think they only way you make it is because of the scrapes and bruises.

It's a hard knock life balanced by a few kisses and nice gestures to make the pain go away.

As I tucked Nikki into her car seat, Katie ran and got her bottle, tucked it in with the baby with a few pats and then leaned over to kiss her on the head.

As we were heading out, I ran the three of us into the door.

Balance. That's all I'm going for.

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