You can't help but take mental notes about these things. Here are some of those notes as well as an incident with actual scarring.
1. Keeping your mouth shut on the sidelines of youth sporting events.
2. Not showing your surprise when they figure something out on their own.
3. Sharing your phone.
4. Not vomiting when they vomit.
5. Giving up and tying their shoes for them for the rest of their lives.
6. TIMING WHEN TO HELP A CHILD WHO'S READING AND STUCK ON A WORD.
And now #7 Stools.
You'll trip on stools. You'll stub your toes on stools. Yes, I know about stepping on legos. I know that old hilarious trope. And, yes, it's true. Some days you'll have feet made of small toys. A pectin of callouses will form absorbing plastic parts like a Jell-o mold. But try to remember the stools. Your toes are not prepared for a frontal blow, and stubbing your toes is the tongue biting of your southern climes. But it's biting your tongue with the blunt force of an entire leg swinging your helpless foot fingers into a solid object.
The stool is important to children. Once they figure out how to use it as a tool, it will lurk in every high traffic area. In the early days with our first child, we hadn't yet employed actual child-sized stools. He went after our barstools. And since he was shorter than the stool, all you'd see is wooden seat appearing to move by itself. It looked like a dorsal fin scooting towards the kitchen. It was scary, not so much in a horror movie way, but in an oh-god-it's-going-to-eat-all-our-food reality that's far more terrifying.
I should know that stools are dangerous. I'm kind of an expert at this. Peter...hello, Peter Ewy, my dear elder brother! I'm calling for you so that you can go down memory lane with me. Do you remember my stool in the old Gould house? This house that we lived in as kids didn't have running water, so we had to fill up jugs at our neighbor's place and heat it on an old cookstove. This all sounds quaint and wonderful until you actually live it. Live at 9000 feet in an 800-acre meadow with snow drifts ten feet high. There were days we couldn't get out of the house. Usually on those days we were pretty cool with not going outside.
It would be on a pleasant summer day when the stool would strike.
Peter and I were the family dishwashers. He washed and I rinsed. That meant we had to heat water and pour it into two tin bowls. They were bigger than bowls. They were basins. You don't hear that term wash basin much any more mostly because everyone has discovered technology.
My brother was the bigger of us so he handled transporting the water from the stove to our wash basin station. That's where my stool was. And like all children stools, it was way down below any place anyone would ever look. It's not until you're in your forties when you scout the area around you before you move. You can't afford to fall. But this was 1982. Peter was 12 and I was on my way to 8 when he made his move with the boiling water. As responsible as any youth could be, Peter moved slowly and with two big oven mitts holding the hot rinse. He focused on the counter where he needed to land it--far above that goddamned stool. It's a stool we still have today. It's a small Indian drum/stool that my grandfather built for his grandkids. I never met my you, grandfather, but I must say that I appreciate your craftsmanship, your attention to detail, and raising my mother, who was an extremely comforting presence after Peter would trip over that stool.
I was watching him, not intently, just lackadaisically awaiting my fate as rinse boy, when something appeared to grab him. It was a fast descent. He tangled with the stool and went down, and as he went down, he doused me with approximately three gallons of boiling water.
There's that question. That weird quandary. "If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" Yes. The same way when a boy gets part of his body burned off and he and his brother are the only two people for miles, people are going to motherfucking hear it. I ran out of the house howling, and somehow my brother had presence of mind to tackle me and pour room temperature water all over me. While we lacked many modern conveniences, we did have a phone. Now, granted, it was a party line, so that meant you had to quietly pick it up and give a silent listen to see if anyone was on it. Yes, this lead to a lot of eavesdropping, and mostly by Earl at the Trading Post (he'd fall asleep and snore and we'd have to shout over the phone to wake him up). On this occasion, it was just dumb luck that someone from the KOA was already on the line. That was the campground where my mom was working. While I lie wrapped in wet towels and moaning, Peter described the horrors that had just taken place. Minutes later my mom was barreling down our dusty driveway in her 1974 CJ-5 Jeep. Anyway, it was the summer of gauze. Layers of my torso had been melted away and I had to rewrap myself every day with a homegrown body bandage. And it was all due to a goddamn stool.
Anyway, by Sarah and my second child we'd conjure some shorter stools. They're always in areas where you're looking up at some cupboard and you're feeling a light sense of accomplishment for doing whatever requires a cupboard and then crush, all of you collapses around a tiny toe. Your height, your prowess, your commanding distance from the bottom implode into a screeching flamingo that hops around the house saying terrible things to inanimate objects. You don't want your kids to see you this way.
So be careful with the stools.
and come back for more important parenting advice accompanied by the beautiful litter-ature of redneck hippies coming of age.