Are we irresponsible parents?
We live in a small village, across from a meandering river. If you follow that river, you’ll get to a little sandy patch that we like to call ‘the beach’. It’s no bigger than a table-tennis table, but on a sunny day the kids love to go and paddle, skip rocks and attempt to swim to the other side of the river. There’s even a rope swing tied to a big tree up on the embankment so that, should the water be deep enough, the rope tight enough, the child brave enough and the parent relaxed enough, kids can swing off and drop into the refreshing (okay, freezing cold) water. Well, yesterday, I think P and I learnt that we might just be a bit too relaxed.
It was boy A who started it all. He decided he wanted to try it. So he confidently swam across to the other side, deftly climbed the embankment, swiftly grabbed the swing and then stood there … for quite a while. Then he ran to the edge and ran back and ran to the edge and ran back. And this went on for some time. When he finally got the measure of things and had psyched himself up sufficiently, we heard him yell, ‘are you filming me?’ before throwing himself off the edge, swinging rather lopsidedly and dropping awkwardly into the water – face first! When he came up out of the water he was semi-smiling so we figured no harm was done. Sure, he was complaining of a mild headache but he wasn’t crying and there was no bruising so, we let him do it again … and again. Well, this was enough to spur on his older brother, so like boy A, boy B climbs the embankment, grabs onto the swing and spends a good 40 minutes just getting a feel for things. Finally, he builds up his courage, runs to the edge, swings over the water and drops rather gracefully into the water. This entry was significantly better than his brother’s face plant. And we tell him so. And, with this bit of encouragement he decides to do it again. Again, we wait an interminable amount of time, but off he goes and this time … this time … he lets go and his entire body slaps the water in a horizontal position. It’s not a belly flop; it’s a full-on body flop.
A chorus of ‘oooowwwww’ rings out around the beach. Strangers look across at us to gauge our reaction. P and I, not wanting to look completely horrified in case boy B looks up at us, and not wanting to totally destroy his self-esteem in front of the others, clap and say ‘good effort’ and then, a bit more quietly as B approaches, ‘are you okay?’ B, however, does not answer. He’s clearly fighting back the tears. He grabs two towels, one to hide his face and one to cover the bright red patch stretching the length of his right side from his armpit to his waist. I ask calmly: ‘do you think you’ve broken a rib?’ P asks me: ‘should I get the car?’ We wait for B to speak. In the silence, boy H says ‘don’t worry, B, I’ll put it on Facebook tonight. It’ll be great!’ B perks up, throws the towel off and says, ‘ooh, get a picture of this then.’