Monday, August 23, 2010

Angels on the Playground

The first time I remember seeing an angel was when Andrew was three and a half years old. We were at the annual October horse show in Boeblingen and Andrew was, in typical Andrew-fashion, playing on a big circle of large rocks outside the warm-up dressage ring. He was jumping from rock to rock. It looked pretty dangerous - the rocks were spaced pretty far apart for a three year old - but it was Andrew. He'd been walking - running, practically - since he was seven months old. No fear. No way of stopping him.

I'd gotten looks at playgrounds all over Germany for the things he was allowed to do at such an early age - climbing, jumping and swinging from bar to bar since he was two - but it was either let him learn NOW or tie him down and listen to him scream. I'd read somewhere that children don't attempt to do things they physically aren't capable of and so here he was, unable to string two whole sentences together in either English or German, but jumping from rock to rock like a first-grader.

And then he slipped off the edge of the rock he was landing on. I was too far away to do anything but note the location of the ambulance (always on hand at a horse show) as he fell straight back, the back of his head in perfect position to make full contact with the rock behind of him. It fell in perfect trajectory towards the rock.

And stopped, as if landing on a cushion - or a hand, just before hitting the rock itself. His head bounced off of something above the rock. Andrew was fine.

Now, the practical part of me would attribute it to good cervical control. That Andrew just raised his head himself. Except that I saw it too. And saw the height from which he was falling, straight back, and the speed with which he fell.

Sure, call it cervical muscle control if it makes you feel better.

But I knew I'd just witnessed the act of an angel.

After that, I joked that Andrew probably had not one, but two, angels keeping him from harm. Andrew just never gets hurt. In comparison to his younger brothers, and to his friends, he has never fallen or run into or tripped even a quarter as much as the rest of them. Born athlete? Maybe. Just lucky? That too.

But my guess is he's keeping those angels pretty busy upstairs. I can imagine the rotation schedule.

"Oh man, I got that Connor kid again."

"Andrew? You're in for it. That's okay though, they give you an extra two weeks off after that detail. 'Cause you know, in addition to Andrew, you have to lend a hand with a bunch of others every now and then."

And the look of sheer exhaustion of the other angel, just coming off duty, as she staggers in for a turn in the sauna and sun bath.

Once I started looking though, I realized there are angels everywhere on the playground. My guess is they have a couple positioned near the swings at all times. I witnessed another intervention this week on the Tuebingen playground. Once again, I was too far away to do anything but plan first aid procedures as a three year old ran behind an eight year old on the swing. The eight year old was pumping strong. And there was no way that swing was going to miss that little kid and not send him headfirst into the pavement behind them.

Except it did. From my viewpoint, directly opposite the swing, it looked as if the kid's head just walked THROUGH the swing. And walked out the other side unharmed.

I don't think I have to convince any parents who visit playgrounds regularly that there is something magical going on around the swings. Sure, kids do get hurt occasionally. But not nearly as much as one expects. And we all see the near misses. And c'mon, cut the angels a little slack too. They're also the ones catching the kids who fall from the monkey bars.

You really start believing in divine aid, literal divine aid, when you have one-year old twins. Ever seen a child learning to walk? With the parent right behind to catch'em? Right behind 'em on the cement stairs. On the slide. On the swings and teeter-totter.

WHen you have two going in two different directions, you generally have a decision to make. Do I get the one heading for the cement stairs or the one about to throw himself into the baby pool? You make a quick calculation - I usually did the pool-kid (Matthew) first because water was a SURE killer and cement was just a possibility. And then scooped up Aidan from the stairs. Granted, Aidan was FASTER and maybe I should have gone after him, but....they are both still here so I guess I did okay.

My twins DID bump their heads more that most kids. I guess even the angels get tired. But noone ever got seriously hurt. And I'm willing to attribute that to a little help on the side.

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