I saved my kid from impending doom, but am I a hero? A discussion

OPINION: Do motivations or outcomes matter more when it comes to parenting? I suppose like all things in life, it depends.

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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Nap time isn’t exactly my favorite time of day, but it is a time of day I look forward to. Let me explain. I have four kids, and three of them (my 13-, 7- and 5-year-olds) are all in school. But the youngest—my 1-year-old—is at home with me and my wife or her or me every day. This means that no matter what happens, at some point every day, either she or I have to do our jobs with a 1-year-old present. Now, he’s a pretty fun little fellow. Typically he roams around our top-floor playroom in search of everything and nothing at the same time, leaving toys strewn about while watching Cocomelon, Encanto, Bel-Air or, now, Atlanta with me as I run these nouns and verbs for a paycheck.  

He also likes to use us as a jungle gym when he’s bored, tired, hungry, or any combination of those things. Or when he just feels like using me as a chair while watching the aforementioned shows. He’s a cuddly little chap; this kid loves to hug and love up on his parents, and that’s wonderful, except when you’re trying to do some work, which is usually Monday through Friday during office hours; ya know, 9 to 5 p.m. I’m sure you’re familiar. Shouts out to Bird from the Midnight Falcons

Well, every day between 10 and 11 a.m., my guy starts to do that thing babies and toddlers do to let you know that they’re tired: He starts crying incessantly for no apparent reason and getting extra clingy. Sometimes, on his own, he’ll flop down on a pillow that he’s tossed on the floor and just goes to sleep, but most of the time, he hops in my arms and falls asleep there. If the house is quiet, there’s a solid two hours that he’ll stay asleep, allowing work to be done and chilling to be had. 

When he’s good and asleep—parents know what I’m talking about—I usually lay him on the couch in the playroom and place some pillows on the floor directly below him in case he somehow rolls over without me knowing. The drop from the couch to the floor is not substantial, but I imagine being woken up from a good sleep by falling onto a hard, carpeted floor would suck. 

This one particular day, I do not know why I didn’t put the pillows below him on the floor. I was doing my work, in a Zoom meeting, meeting about something or other that I’m sure was very important, when I noticed him start to stir on the couch. That’s usually a sign that he’s waking out of his sleep, which I absolutely did not want him to do; I was looking for at least another 30-45 minutes of peace. And then he started moving, still asleep, but still moving, and I saw the sign. He started to shift his body weight a little, lifted his head, turned it in the other direction rolled his entire body in the direction of his face, except he ran out of couch. 

Mind you, I’m still on a Zoom call. 

I saw it happening in slow motion. He hit the edge of the couch, and his tiny body missed the edge, and his descent to the floor began. 

Now, I’m getting slower in my old age, but my reflexes are still razor-sharp. My work desk is maybe three feet from where he lays on the couch, so I hopped up out of my meeting and caught him RIGHT before he hit the floor, which would have most certainly woken him up, which I didn’t want; 0/10 stars. Do not recommend. I caught him and scooped him into my arms in a cradle-like position that he likes to sleep in and kept him asleep. I held him for a few seconds just to make sure he was still asleep and laid him back down on the couch, and threw some cushions on the floor. All of this happened in maybe 10 seconds. 

I returned to my Zoom call and alerted my meeting participants of what had just transpired. One of the participants said it was daddy to the rescue and said I was out here being a hero. I pondered that for a second only to realize that actually wasn’t true. My entire motivation for saving him from hitting the ground was rooted in wanting to eke out as much sleep time as possible. I didn’t want him to wake up because I would lose some baby-free time to work without being a jungle gym. I was told I was still a hero anyway, though my goals were purely selfish. And do you know I actually spent real time thinking about if that were true? 

Like, I saved my kid (in the loosest sense of the word save; he’d have been fine if he hit the floor; there are entire songs dedicated to the practice, so I’m sure it’s OK) but only to save myself. It’s like giving my kids an iPad to play with, not solely so they’ll be happy but because that means I get some downtime. I suppose this is parenting in a nutshell. You do the things that need doing even if the motivations might be murky. In the end, everybody wins, or at least nobody loses and maybe that’s the point. We all live to see another day and can smile and love one another because parents find ways to keep their own peace by doing things that benefit their kids in one way or the other. 

Am I a hero? Probably. When I tell him stories about saving him from falling off the couch, I will only ever mention the parts about being a hero. The rest is unnecessary. 

And that, my friends, is good parenting.

Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).

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