My Anti-Bucket List

ImageI learned very quickly at the children’s hospital that we all had a list of “Things my (future) children cannot do.” These lists always corresponded to specific incidents we had seen or been on call for. I remember talking to a child life specialist as we waited in the ED for a child to be flown in. It was kind of like a game of go fish to see if we had the same list. I offered up jet skis, she countered with unfenced in swimming pools, so far we were in agreement. I added knives sticking point up in dishwashers, which she agreed was wise to add and upped the ante with donkey rides. I didn’t ask.

I’m pretty sure we all play the same mental game though. I think everyone in life plays it at some point or another. We read about a tragedy in the news, and we ask ourselves if that could happen to us or our loved one. We can “brush it off” so to speak if it was an act of stupidity, but sometimes it just was an awful accident. This was especially true at the hospital. My best friend once told me that she could work in an adult ER but not at a children’s hospital because adults do things to themselves but children, for the most part, have things done to them.

So back to my anti-bucket list. I will admit that by the end of that summer my future children were going to be reduced to sponge baths and would probably require intense therapy, but Lord help me, they would not drown. And yes, this view was excessive. Hyper controlling a child’s environment will not protect them from all ills and will make for a scared and possibly scarred child, on the other hand, some actions just need to be thought through, and anecdotal evidence does not make up for solid research when it comes to child safety.

It is beyond heartbreaking to see children brought in for the oversights and mistakes of others — ammonia left in juice bottles, infants held by toddler siblings and dropped, children left unattended in and around water — the list goes on. And now I am in the in between space — I have been in the hospital and am now preparing to go back. I have seen things that are frequently restricted to medical personal, and it has left its mark, and it has left me in quite a quandary.

I see people in Target with their baby carseats perched on top of the cart and want to go warn them. I see children at parks near ponds with no parent in sight, but those aren’t the hardest. The hardest thing is seeing children I know and love in or around something harmful. And it’s super rare, the children I am around have caring, well-informed parents. I do not have close proximity to any neglected children, so it’s usually small things. But I can’t decide if I’m ready to be the person at the playground who points to a child climbing something they shouldn’t and says, “I’ve seen children who have fallen from that height. Depending on how their head hits can determine the damage done — they could be fine, but are you willing to risk it?”

I have no answer. I really wish I did. I sometimes feel that I have seen too much and have not found the balance in how to share experience without spreading fear. I don’t know how my parents did it exactly — we were not raised to be fearful, but our environment was pretty safe. So, sometimes I know I get one comment, a whole lot of prayer, and whispered plea, “Dear Jesus, I don’t want to get that page,” because I’m not sure how I’d handle the fact that I’d seen the possibility and could do nothing to stop it.


One thought on “My Anti-Bucket List

  1. Excellent reflection, Katie — one that I share with you. As a cognitive/gehavioral gerontologist I tested older adults’ mental status (memory etc) for 35 years. For many, many years we have known that head trauma -AT ANY AGE- is correlated with the development of Alzheimer’s Disease and frontal lobe disorders. For that reason I have been trying to get parents to NOT allow their children to play soccer (with the heading of the ball) and football. What do you think parents’ responses have been when I’ve cited the data? TOTAL ignoring of the facts. Even my own grandgirls are avid soccer players (including the older one with ADD!) So, I have no advice to offer you, except to let you know that I understand how enormously frustrating it is to have the kind of information that would prevent some disaster, with no one listening! Carry on!!!! Jane

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