Once upon a time in Texas my sister got stung by a tree asp. Never heard of it? Yeah, before that visit to the ER, neither had we. It fell off a leaf on to her arm and caused horrible, wrenching, unmedicatable (sure, it’s a word for now) pain for hours, a tree asp-shaped mark, and a lingering phobia of brushing against tree branches. Have you seen yards in Austin (as another sister says, Austin, Texas, the only town where you can be totally broke and still have two yards?) There are a LOT of tree branches to avoid.
Fast forward to this trip to see the LDGrandparents. MLP is walking, and next to chowing down on potting soil, poking at ants, and trying to climb in to the hot tub (hey don’t panic we employ all kinds of pool safety tactics), enjoys most of all following the border of the yard, which involves lots of potentially close contact with trees.
Of all the potential hazards of a neighborhood yard: the sidewalk itself, the sharp pointy gravel bits of the driveway, the street (the street!), all I could think of was that damn tree asp. Steer the child away from the trees or all hell will break loose. Possibly. Not very likely. The asp happened before the landscaping ever happened, as LowDramaGramma’s house was still under construction. Probably the tree it lived in was trimmed or moved or was just a plant that was removed for not being a native plant. Or the asp was a traveler.
All I could think about was the asp. All I could do about it was herd MLP in the general direction of not brushing against plants and trees. You ever tried to herd, wrangle, guide, influence, direct, or boss around a toddler? Yes. None of those things work so hot. Our approach as of late is to give other options for the playing. Hey look how these leaves crinkle. Peekaboo between the slats of the porch rail! No, don’t chew up those strips of newspaper, look, let’s crinkle it up and bounce it around. No, you cannot put that phone in a tea cup but look you can pick it up and put it on the table. No, you- ha! Scratch that, there is no way to get your knees to bend if you don’t want them to. Go ahead we give up with the standing in the bath tub. That’s what suction mats are for. We can reduce risk. We cannot remove risk. And it is seeming infinitely better not to try to remove risk, anyway.
We let MLP go off in whatever direction works for all of us. Just not right under the giant prickly pear. Oooh and maybe don’t hug that big maple. Other than those scary plants, it makes no sense to be scared about the rest of it. There are too many big things in the world about which we could all be terrified, all of the time. Best we channel our anxieties in to panicky miniature daydreams about tree asps and then get our eyes back on to the little person. Less drama on the outside, more compartmentalization on the inside, and we and our kiddoes will have an easier time negotiating obstacles that are bigger than sidewalk cracks and more likely to sting than tree asps.
We can be firm and consistent, but we can’t keep kids from unavoidable hazards. Hence, the only option is to keep your eyes open for pretty furry moths and DONT’T TOUCH THEM.