Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Bites and Bombs

Jack’s second birthday is fast approaching. As an August boy, he’ll always be one of the youngest in his school year. He’s bright enough and doesn’t exactly lack self confidence, so I’m sure he’ll hold his own. But he is small.

The other day he was knocked over by a friend’s much bulkier two year old boy at one of the playgroups he attends. They were both holding the same toy at the same time, as often happens with two year olds. Jack gave a cry of pain and the bigger boy, who was on top of him, was pulled off by his mum. We dusted Jack down and dried his tears and forgot all about it. Only later at bath time did we discover that Jack had been bitten. A neat oval of pink tooth marks scarred his little shoulder.

I guess the marks will go. Jack probably won’t remember anything about it and it probably won’t happen again. I’m sure the boy’s mum was mortified to hear that her son had bitten ours. I don’t blame her. I don’t even blame the boy who did the biting. It’s just a thing children do. Jack nipped my shoulder once; he got a telling off and he hasn’t done it since. Children are no different from little tiger cubs or chimps, testing the boundaries, seeing what happens, seeing what they can get away with.

But the bite does make me feel very sorry for Jack. I guess it’s the start of a long process for him of discovering that not everyone in the world cares about you and wants you to be happy.

As a dad, it makes me feel very protective and at the same time very powerless. I can’t wrap my son up in cotton wool. How will I feel if he’s bullied at school? Or gets involved in a fight? Or gets caught up in some other random act of violence?

Maybe I’m just feeling a bit vulnerable. After the recent bomb attacks in London, I’ve had a couple of worried calls from my mum, wanting to hear that I’m OK. Although I work in central London, I’ve been nowhere near the blasts. The worst I’ve suffered is the inconvenience of having to walk across town.

I know that the chances of me being caught up in anything are remote. Millions of people use the tube every day. But the randomness of the attacks and the prospect of instant death does make you think. What would happen to my family if I got wiped out? What makes people want to die like that, and take other people with them? What kind of a world have I brought my children into?

I can understand why my mum wanted hear that I was OK. Because, at the end of the day, as a parent that’s all you can do.

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