He couldn’t have been more than 2 years old, a golden-haired cherub in a superman outfit, hopping, skipping, jumping and taking flight in his imagination. From our vantage point on a bench outside Morrisons, my friend and I watched his antics with that soppy look certain women of a certain age tend to get when kittens, puppies or persons under 3ft tall drift into view.
Within seconds, however, those ‘ahh how cute’ expressions disappeared and strangled cries of terror took their place!
“Stop!” I cried, my eyes focused on the kerb to which the tot was hurtling. “Little boy, stop! STOP! STO-O-O-OP!” By now he was travelling at warp speed, oblivious to the traffic, and I leapt forward hoping against hope I could make the kerb in time.
Whether he heard me, or perhaps had a supersonic radar system built into his brain, the boy stopped - millimetres from a rapidly approaching Range Rover. I started breathing again and flopped back onto the bench just as Daddy sauntered by, with nothing to burden him besides his plastic Morrisons carrier bags. He turned towards me briefly with a bemused smile on his face, wondering no doubt why this strange woman had been shrieking at the top of her voice. By the time he joined his son at the kerb, he’d obviously forgotten the incident and strode purposefully across the road, leaving the boy to follow in his wake.
Now, some Dads will wonder what I’m rabbiting on about. If that includes you, ask a Mum. No mother I’ve ever known would let a toddler either run ahead or lag behind. Even if loaded down with bags, trolleys or other youngsters, the average Mum will try to keep her children by her side, either by holding their hands, putting them in reins, or gluing them to the pushchair.
Take holidays, for instance. You rarely see Mum with her nose in a book, or snoozing on a sunbed, texting their friends or going for a solitary walk along the sands. Don’t believe me? Next time you’re on a beach, watch how Mums stay focused on their children. “Don’t go too far” she’ll warn if they’re paddling in the sea. “Don’t wander off” “Put your hat back on, you’ll burn” “You need more sunscreen” etcetera. Constantly on the alert.
Then watch the Dads. See how relaxed they are. It’s not that they don’t care, you understand, or that they’re not prepared to lend a hand when necessary. After all, who pumps up the rubber arm-bands? Or gets the gas-stove working? Or catches fish for tea?
And, of course, Dads love their children. It’s just that, unlike Mums, they’ve no imagination. They never seem to see the DANGERS! (It’s the same when driving, but that’s another blog)
Whenever I see a Dad out with his children, there’s always one who’ll be running ahead, out of sight, skipping on and off the pavement, wobbling perilously near busy main roads, tumbling down river banks, climbing up trees or over railings or balancing on walls. Activities that give Mums mental breakdowns are mere adventures where Dads are concerned.
So Dads, if you ever feel Mum is being over protective, just remember this proverb: “Shrewd is the one who has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself”. In other words, think ahead, assess the dangers and please, please, please keep an eye on the children!