Here's a fun fact no one ever mentions before you have kids: They have terrible balance. Or maybe it's just my kids who can't seem to put one foot in front of the other more than twice before crashing into something either sharp or expensive.
Other parents have tried to sympathize but I've seen their kids, and they look eminently more comfortable with the laws of gravity. My kids look like this newborn elephant...
...With one glaring exception: I'm not nearly as helpful as those two lovely elephant parents. In fact, a few weeks ago, the four-year-old was watching "Daniel the Tiger." Daniel got hurt -- probably slipped while trying to help someone, that smug little do-gooder -- which prompted this conversation:
Four-year-old: Daniel's dad is not like my dad.
The wife: Oh yeah, how's that?
Four-year-old: His dad doesn't get angry when I get hurt. My dad gets really angry.
Related: Daniel's dad wouldn't make it a week with the four-year-old. I'd conservatively estimate that the kid falls down 25 times a day. I once saw him pretend that his mini-soccer goal was a spider web only to see him get his foot stuck in the net, trip, and fall face-first onto the corner of our deck. Fat lip, blood everywhere, a lot of screaming (mostly from me, obviously), and no rational explanation for why anybody would think that trying to intentionally trip themselves would end well.
There have been times (yes, times, plural) where I've seen the four-year-old walk directly into a wall. Don't even know how that's possible but, well, it is.
Then there was the time, this summer, when my wife got the bright idea to go on a family walk. Sounds innocuous enough until you remember what we're dealing with here. Things starting off well enough but about 30 minutes into it, the four-year-old, who was on his scooter, decided to go ahead on the path.
He made it about 30 feet before disaster struck. I didn't see the accident but I sure as hell heard it: a loud crash promptly followed by that easily recognizable cry that something has gone horribly wrong. Instinctively, my wife runs ahead to see what happened. I, knowing full well what happened, walk.
When I turn the corner I see the spectacle; a red-faced kid, sobbing uncontrollably, half-covered in dirt and grass. He explains, between full-body heaves, that he came around the corner, made his way down the hill, hit a hidden bump and went flying over the handle bars. Based on the looks of him, he broke the fall with his face.
The upside: I got to carry him the mile back home. Luckily, he cried the whole way. Added bonus: I also got to carry his scooter.
To be fair, the four-year-old was pretty banged up though, incredibly, he was back to his free-wheelin' ways a day later. It was almost as if he had no recollection of his life flashing before his eyes 24 hours before.
Also worth mentioning: Not a week goes by where the four-year-old doesn't get hurt at the bus stop. Every morning starts the same: I'll line he and his brother up at the door and give them the speech: "Okay, please don't run at the bus stop today or I'll (idle threat that no one -- me, them, the dog -- believes). Got it? Great, let's go."
And then, two minutes later, we're at the bus stop and guess what? They're running around. And guess what else? They fall down, usually with no one within 15 feet, which further fuels my suspicion that they both suffer from some form of pediatric vertigo (don't know if that's a thing; just came to me and it seems fitting). And while the eight-year-old doesn't get hurt nearly as often, it's a near certainty that if the four-year-old goes down, he's going cry.
At some point, the four-year-old will grow out of this, but it probably won't be anytime soon. I say this because just last week the eight-year-old fell down a flight of stairs. No idea how or why. All I know is, I'm sitting on the couch pretending to hear the television (let's be honest, if your kids are awake, you're literally "watching" the TV because you're sure as hell not going to hear it) when out of the corner of my eye I see a furry blur crash into the wall at the bottom of the stairs.
I glance over, make the "REALLY, AGAIN!? face and go back to "watching" television. My wife rushes over and I overhear the eight-year-old explaining that he has no idea what happened. Like he hasn't gone up and down those steps a thousand times.
He's fine, by the way. Can't say the same for me.
So, to recap:, Yes, I'm not as patient as Daniel the Tiger's old man. But tell Daniel's dad to walk a mile in my shoes -- with an angry four-year-old on his shoulders. Then we can talk.