Saturday, 22 September 2012

Liaisons dangereuses

My daughter is now at the age where everything is ripe for investigation, tasting, testing and exploration. Long gone are the days when you could safely deposit her on the bed, sort out the washing and then change her nappy. Deposit her on solid ground nowadays and she is likely to race off in any direction, and usually the one you least want her to - towards the cooling steam iron or the bookshelves (once again!), for example. Last Saturday was Food Saturday in this house. Today is likely to be Child Safety Lock Saturday, as I haplessly screw devices to the inside of cupboards to prevent our little safe cracker from getting out all the pots and pans! It can be quite cute of course when you see a small pink dolly being pushed across the floor in a colander. But adult laughter should never, never ... well ... hardly ever, come at the expense of a child's socialisation. I probably shouldn't worry so much!

But there's the rub. How much is too much worry and how much is not enough? My wife and I consciously try not to get too concerned. 'Only get up from your seat if there's blood' is our latest counsel of wisdom. That said, since I started writing this blog post, I have had to remove bits of paint from my daughter's mouth and was horrified earlier to find that she had slyly picked up the Metanium nappy cream after her nappy change and was casually sucking the end of it - with a mixture of dribble and sodium trioxide running down her chin. Cue panic? Or cue forced water consumption over the next half an hour? In my case, it was both: I panicked and she was made to drink the water (it's usually harmless by the way, as I have since found out).

There is some curious correlation between insouciance and braving risk, which goes in tandem with the correlation between anxiety and risk avoidance. Intellectually, I belong to the former tendency; emotionally, the temptation is to belong to the latter tendency. In the concrete I'm normally of the former tendency until something happens - like Metanium ingestion - at which point I become a fervent adherent of the latter for a few brief moments.

The risks are potentially huge but passing at this point in our daughter's life. I don't suppose she will be absentmindedly ingesting Metanium when she's fourteen. Currently, I'm most concerned about the unforeseen consequences of parental inattention - mostly mine. I read with horror a few months ago about the Milanese dentist who forgot to drop his daughter off at nursery and left her in the back of his car all day ... in Milan's heat ... she didn't stand a chance. Usually, these things are rare, but then when they happen, there's no foreseeing them. It's guardian angel territory.

Just to sketch in some detail for the long term, I bought this week Anthony Esolen's Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of your Child. I'm not planning to destroy her imagination, honest! Nor am I trying to frighten myself. But it all makes one wonder whether those old German imaginations were not right by basing all their stories in dark forests. The world is a wonderful, joyous place, except when it's not ...

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