Overthinking, as a Parent

Today, Sophie was swinging her legs, sitting in a Bumbo (which was precariously perched on our ottoman) and watching Finding Nemo when she said, “Remember that day when Daddy came home and I was upstairs and I wanted to see him so I came downstairs but I fell down the stairs?”

“What?” I asked.

“Remember that day when Daddy came home and I was upstairs and I wanted to see him so I came downstairs but I fell down the stairs?” she repeated.

“The time you fell all the way down the stairs and landed face first on the carpet?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“And we were so scared and you really hurt your face?” I asked. (Sometimes I say things before I think, like when she asked why I had to hold her when she used an adult potty and I said, “Because otherwise you’ll fall in.” That statement, by the way, did not go over well.)

“Do you remember?” she asked again.

Of course I remembered. I’ll always, always, always remember. She basically fell down five hardwood steps and landed, face first, onto our hardwood floor, which, at the time, was only covered with a jute rug. The pattern of the rug was on her forehead the rest of the day. I screamed. For days Andy talked about how upset he was that he couldn’t get to her in time to catch her. We kept her awake, and constantly asked her simple questions and rooted around her hair, watching her (several) bumps get bigger. I can still vividly see her falling and still, it makes me sick to my stomach.

“I remember,” I said. “But that was a long, long time ago—many months ago. Why are you thinking about it now?” I asked.

“Because I want to do that day over again,” she said.

What?” I asked, totally confused.

“I want to do that day over again! Can we?”

“Why would you want to do that day over again? You hurt yourself really badly that day. Why are you even thinking of that day?”

“But you gave me milk and lemonade and water and made me feel better.”

That was true. Well, sort of. We gave her milk (but not lemonade and water). And we (tried) to make her feel better.

“We did give you milk,” I said. “And we loved you and gave you lots of kisses and hugs.”

“So can we do that day over again?” she asked again.

Cue the parent freak-out. I had no idea why my daughter was suddenly remembering what was, to me, a terrifying day. And I had no idea why she wanted to relive it. Had she been having nightmares about it (which explained why I had been up with her all this week)? Was she upset that Andy was at work? Did she only remember the split second of when she probably felt like she was flying and not the face-planting part? Was she on track to become a stunt woman? Was her months-ago injury somehow resurfacing and only now was the brain damage taking place? And worst of all, I thought, were we not showing her enough love on a day-by-day basis?

“Sophie, I don’t know why you would want to relive that day! You know Daddy and I love you very, very much and we will give you hugs and kisses and make you feel better and good any day, every day—you don’t have to fall down the steps to make that happen.”

I gave her a huge hug. And kiss.

“OK?” I asked.

“You also gave me milk and lemonade and water,” she said.

“Yes …” I said.

“And a Popsicle.”

“What?” I asked.

“You gave me a Popsicle, to make me feel better.”

I thought back to that day. We had given her a Popsicle.

“Sophie, do you want to do that day all over again just so you can have a Popsicle?”

Her face, literally, lit up.

“YES!” she said.

“And that’s why you brought up that memory, because you want a Popsicle?”

“YES!” she said.

My thoughts of Daddy abandonment, stunt-woman career paths, lack of love and permanent brain damage faded as I walked to the fridge to get her a Popsicle. She ate it, in her Bumbo, still perched precariously on the ottoman, smiling the entire time.

“Insanity is hereditary—you get it from your kids.” —Sam Levenson