"Careful!" "Be careful!" "Careful, now!" I don't know how many times I say one of these phrases in a day but it must be somewhere around two to three thousand. At present, I have the worst of both worlds. I have an almost-two-year-old and a three-year-old to look after, both of which are of a prime age for hurting themselves in a myriad number of ways. "Careful", "be careful", and "careful now", along with their more specific companions, "slow down" and "watch your fingers", are such frequent utterances in my house that I've seriously contemplated recording them and playing them over a loud speaker on a continuous loop throughout the day as a constant reminder of caution to those who are, by nature, cautionless. This would probably work rather well since there is never more than a minute or two throughout the day when at least one of these warnings, if not several, are appropriate. At the very least it would save the strain on my vocal chords.
My-almost-two-year-old (Mackey) can get around pretty good. As an almost-two-year-old she is walking, running, climbing on things, and generally doing whatever a real person can do as far as locomotion is concerned, but in an unskilled, uncoordinated, clumsy, falling down a thousand times a day sort of way. She slips on the kitchen tiles. She takes turns too quickly and falls. She trips over things. She runs into things head on. She misjudges distances and heights. She careens around the house like a drunken uncle and generally falls off of, out of, into, onto, and over everything you can possibly imagine including, in fact especially, her own two feet. Trying to prevent Mackey from falling down and hurting herself takes up approximately 45% of my day. "Careful!"
My three-year-old (Kiley) is generally past the overly clumsy stage. As she so often reminds me, she is now a "big girl". As a "big girl" she now has a "big girl's" abilities and coordination. She is steady on her feet, nimble and agile, and though she is not immune to slipping and tripping, she is far less likely to do so than Mackey. Added to this, she also has a "big girl's" reflexes. Mackey trips and falls right on her face, whereas Kiley instinctively puts out her hands to catch herself and, thereby, prevent injury. Unfortunately, as a "big girl" she has the one great vulnerability of all "big girls" - overconfidence.
Ability without experience can be a recipe for disaster. Having the ability to jump, for instance, is not the same as knowing when to jump. Not all jumps are equal, and having experienced landing from a one-foot jump does not prepare you for landing from a two-foot jump. Similarly, running on grass is relatively hazard free for a three-year-old, but running on concrete is another story. Kiley will gain the experience and the accompanying restraint she lacks in these regards, as we all do, with some pain. It is to be hoped that it will be the pain of skinned hands and knees and not the pain of chipped teeth and stitched lips. "Be careful!"
As you can see, both girls have their own individual shortcomings, their own "style", when it comes to a propensity for potential injury. That's bad enough. But when you put the two together, that potential, and the resulting strain on my poor nerves, is magnified exponentially. It's like the Richter Scale. An earthquake with a Magnitude of 5.0 is not just a little stronger than one with a magnitude of 4.0. It is ten times stronger. A 4.1 is twice as strong as a 4.0. So too, the injury potential, as measured on the Nanny Scale, of a "Mackey Accident" is only one tenth the potential of a "Kiley/Mackey Accident". We could delve into the science behind this phenomenon but I don't want you to get lost in the math. Suffice it to say, when you combine Mackey's lack of coordination with Kiley's lack of restraint, the resulting mayhem can go off the Nanny Scale chart. Mackey running is hazardous on it's own, but Mackey running with Kiley running behind her is a sure fire recipe for at least a Mackey booboo and quite possibly a Kiley booboo as well. Having a three-year-old and an almost-two-year-old in the house, running and jumping and careening about, is like living on the San Andreas Fault. You have to constantly worry about what's going on in the "subduction zone".
All of this, of course, will run its course in due course. They won't be small and accident-prone forever. In fact, they won't be small for long. Isn't that what we always say? That "they grow so fast"? Time will turn things around the way it always does and, eventually, our roles will be reversed. They will grow up and I will grow old, and then it will be they who are worried about "poor old Nan" hurting herself again with her brittle old bones. The old are like the young in one respect. They are often clumsy and don't know their limits. Having experienced landing from a two-foot jump at fifty does not prepare you for landing from a two-foot jump at eighty. I can hear their worried voices now. "Slow down, Nan". "Watch your hip!" I probably won't listen any more than they do, thinking that they worry too much. What is true at three is true at ninety-three: we all have to learn by experience and hope that the lessons aren't too painful. Careful, now!