** warning to my sister... this post involves child injury. I'm not saying anything, but you know what you're like... **
Raising children is a scary thing, isn't it? They want to do all kinds of things of which they are not physically capable and learn by getting bumps, scrapes, bruises and the occasional broken bone if they don't bounce particularly well.
And I have never been affected by watching other people's children 'learn from their mistakes'. Whereas my sister has always been particularly weak in the stomach when witnessing a wail followed by an egg-shaped bump and I have never understood. I was there when Captain Underpants tripped and launched himself headfirst on to his train table, splitting his head on the way down and although there was a bit of instant drama, I could see that he would be okay. My sister dealt with this remarkably well and didn't vomit on this occasion, although she turned a shade of pale green for the rest of the day.
She wasn't so lucky when my young cousin, years ago, gained an eggshaped bump on his forehead in the middle of a country pub after tripping over a chair leg and headbutting the ornate wooden carvings placed at small child level. She had to sit in the toilet for at least an hour. Or the time when a young girl from the restaurant table next to ours whilst we were on holiday in Tenerife created a similar egg-shaped bump on her forehead after falling off the stage. My sister was irreconcilably clammy until she had barfed up her pre-dinner drink all over her sandals. What a waste of Baileys.
And yet I was unaffected by witnessing these events, but now I realise that the only reason for my sense of calm was because a) there were always other adults around and b) I was not responsible for the injury.
Yesterday changed all of that. I visited a friend - Hen Lady - who has 17 month old twin boys. We took them to the park to play. They clambered on slides, narrowly avoided swings, came too close for my liking to metal steps at tooth level and generally had a whale of a time. Despite a constant "I can barely watch - are you sure that they don't need my help?" sense of panic, they exited the park unscathed.
We put them back in 'The Trolley' and headed to the local organic shop. The trolley is a one-behind-the-other three wheeled pushchair. It is about as long as - and handles like - a limosine. I have had frequent heart attacks steering this thing in the past as it tends to tip a little when going down kerbs, but it's okay. I pushed it to the shop.
Hen Lady heads inside and I line up the trolley to swing in through the narrow doorway. And as I do so, for a split second I notice that I can see little Jolly's face in the front seat. But it is a split second too late. As I swing the front of the trolley round, I realise that the reason I can see his face is because he is standing up in his seat, and the momentum topples him out backwards.
He lands on his back with a splat. I am sure I have killed him. He starts to cry and I dash to pick him up, expecting to see half of his brains left on the kerbstone. There are no brains. There is no blood. Surely a landing like that is enough to do some serious damage? I felt sick. I imagined all of the consequences of rendering a friend's baby brain-damaged.
Hen Lady remains remarkably calm and takes him in to the shop. He wails for ten minutes solid, but then he stops. There is no bump, there is no bruise. Did I really get away with it?
Apparently so. Despite my attention throughout the rest of the evening (when everyone else had well and truly forgotten all about the incident) he showed no signs of sleepiness and wasn't sick. He played nicely in the bath and continued biting his brother as though nothing had happened. Even so, I woke up this morning certain that I wasn't yet off the hook, fearful of getting a phonecall to tell me that actually, I had ruined a poor boys life.
I called round again this evening. He was still fine, even though he had recently taken a forward tumble on to the patio from his baby climbing frame. Then at tea-time he scared himself silly by standing up in his high chair and losing his balance. And that was after trying to come down the big kitchen stairs forwards, and toppling backwards in to the Aga. Which again came after falling in through the playhouse window when his brother decided not to let him in through the door.
This is a child who likes to do his own stunts.
When he was a baby he was known as Houdini - you only had to take your eyes off him for a second and he would be over the other side of the room pulling on a table cloth or stuck behind the lounge door. Nowadays he is more likely to be on top of a table or hanging from a ledge.
Hence the reason for Hen Lady's calm - he does this stuff all the while and he bounces every time. Just as well, really... with me around...