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When Our Children Get Hurt On Our Watch, We've Failed

I had only turned away for a second, but that was enough to almost seriously injure my daughter.

10/23/2017 11:18 EDT | Updated 10/23/2017 11:21 EDT

"I only turned around for a second."

I used to think those very words, in the context of either losing a child or a child getting hurt, were uttered by parents or babysitters who failed at protecting said child. I was always under the belief that it was lazy caregiving that led to a kid being harmed.

Truth is, even after my own horrible experience, I still feel that way.

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Our daughter is a late bloomer when it comes to mobility. She's 14 months old and still just 14 pounds. She's really little, and she skipped the crawling phase, going from stationary to walking with my fingers, to where we are now: scooting and walking with my fingers.

And boy, can she ever scoot.

We live in a converted studio space; a modern, urban-style home in the middle of rural Ontario. The house itself used to be a small oats factory and still adorns the company name on a retro sign hanging on the outside façade. I spent my first 20 years on this planet in the Toronto suburbs, the next 20 years in Toronto, so moving to the sticks needed to be balanced by something that made me feel connected to the modern world. This house is my solution. It allows my partner and I to feel connected to nature while living in a place that remain faithful to our mutual semi-urban identities.

The space has polished wooden floors throughout. The floors, combined with the cotton material most onsies are made out of, afford a kind of speed normally reserved for curling stones or zambonis.

I'm making excuses. I shouldn't do that.

I had only turned away for a second, but that was enough to almost seriously injure my daughter.

My daughter was about 15 feet away from the top of the staircase, a harrowing 14 wooden steps leading to the concrete floor in the basement. She was looking up at me with her perfect little face, her four front teeth exposed as she gave her Daddy a wide, perfect little smile. I looked towards the couch where I saw my son drop a fork drenched with maple syrup onto the leather couch. I looked back down at my daughter who was still stationary, then quickly walked to the couch, grabbed the fork, tossed it in the sink and told my son to be more careful.

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That's when I heard my wife scream.

I also heard three loud thumps — the sound of my daughter's head bouncing off the steps as she began rolling down the staircase. My wife, who should just wear a goddam cape at this point, heroically leaped up the staircase, stopping my daughter's fall roughly halfway down. I materialized at the top of the stairs, looked down and saw my wife holding by crying daughter. At that moment she was also looking at me as if I had failed.

And she was right. I had failed. I had only turned away for a second, but that was enough to almost seriously injure my daughter.

It's as simple as that... it has to be.

I know there are some parents reading this and thinking, "He's being really hard on himself." or "He's being really unfair to parents whose kids have been hurt on their watch." I disagree. We have one job — ensuring the safety of our children. When our children get hurt on our watch, we have failed at doing our job. It's as simple as that... it has to be.

Even before this ordeal I was always a bit of a helicopter parent. That's the irony. It's a running joke between me and my wife and friends; I'm the guy who babysits his niece and makes sure we have little to no fun because I am always so worried of her getting injured on my watch. I'm paranoid of children getting hurt and, perhaps unhealthily, use a constant stream of horrific mental imagery to inspire me to make sure kids are always safe in my care, even if it means having virtually no fun whatsoever.

fotostorm via Getty Images

I wasn't always like this. As a kid and young adult I barely ever flinched at taking risks. My own safety was never really a concern. But my daughter suffered a mild concussion, and now I'm constantly on high alert, trying to strike a balance between allowing her to develop normally and keeping her out of danger. She's relying on me to, oh, I don't know, not let her tumble down a flight of wooden stairs. And I owe her the promise that it will never, ever happen again.

At night I sleep beside her. I wake up several times to adjust her blanket, check her breathing, hold her little hand and sing softly to her. Sometimes she opens her eyes, let's out one of those impossibly adorable little girl sounds, extends her hand to my face and falls back asleep, her fingertips resting on my cheek.

I have one job.

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