The great outdoors is a dangerous place for kids.
There’s cancer from sun exposure, Lyme disease from ticks and the ever-present risk of losing an eye to a sharp stick.
There’s electromagnetic fields from power lines, telegenic child predators from scout troops and hallucinogenic toads from the Republican Party.
And who can forget, Chupacabra, Sasquatch and Baristas.
But screw it, my kids are the starchiest of couch potatoes as it is.
The other weekend, my parental guilt overwhelmed me just as six yards of snow overwhelmed our region. So, after indulging in a rib-sticking feast of mac and cheese (supplemented by three extra slices of Kraft American and a hint of paprika), my 6-year-old son, one of his classmates and I went sledding.
What kid doesn’t love sledding? While growing up, my sister and I would rush out to our yard soon as it was an inch-deep in flakes, armed with my Dad’s ancient wooden Speedway or these blue plastic roll-up sheet-sleds from Caldor, the Northeast’s most dreadful discount store of its day. (One time we used some old metal TV trays. That night, and it was night, I got airborne and ker-splashed into our backyard pond. In retrospect: Best. Ride. Ever.)
In recent winters, I’ve taken my kids to the nearby public golf course. It’s a popular sledding spot for obvious reasons — several good hills of various pitch and length, wide object-free slopes and a 19th hole that’s open Sundays year-round for post-sledding pints and fried cheese sticks. This time, though, we went elsewhere.
We tried the back hill of a swim club near our house. Though not crazy-steep, the sun the day before and the subfreezing temps the day of made for an icy ride that packed thrills, chills and, as you can see in this amateur video, close calls with death-by-road-sign:
(Yes, that is me girlishly gasping “Ooo, jeez!”)
Thing 2 survived that run and a few dozen more once I made some adjustments to his course and technique. Can’t say the same for his friend.
Right at the end of a rather good long ride in which he managed not to go flying off after hitting an unseen bump and doing a 360, he started to veer sharply to the left. Sensing doom, he hit the brakes.
Or rather, his face did:
He fought back the tears as I made sure his teeth and tongue were intact. He laughed when I asked how he got hurt on that run considering he twice survived tandem rides in which Thing 2 — who has 25 pounds and four inches on his friend — bellyflopped on top of him. When I told him the girls in first grade dig scars, he looked like I had force-fed him a 24-pack of lemon Warheads. Eh, someday he’ll thank me.
I packed up him and Thing 2. When we got home, My Love made the boys hot chocolate — heavy on the marshmallows. I cleaned our guest up and asked about his parents’ history of litigation. Maybe, if he was still a little dizzy from the spill, I could convince him that — in a Twinkie-engorged fit — he broke into our utensil drawer and started nuzzling the cheese grater.
“Don’t worry about it,” the boy’s father said when I brought him home. “He’s accident-prone.”
“He’s been to the emergency room five times in his life,” his mother said. “Always with his face.”
Later that week, I saw the boys’ teacher at school. She told me they were the hit of “Share Day” with their tales of the defying death on the frozen tundra.
That settles it.
Next playdate, we jump Snake River Canyon on motorcycles.