It just wouldn’t be Christmas in our house without someone getting hurt. It’s sort of an unintentional family tradition, one that is inevitable given all of the wires and lights and greenery (yes, greenery is dangerous. I’ve proven that).
This year the ouchy came by way of those cardboard tubes that are at the end of every roll of wrapping paper. The ones that look like they were made specifically for impromptu sword fighting. Which is what my daughter and I were doing in the living room.
It was a mostly benign affair in the beginning, and I will say that she started it. I was walking by, and she tapped me on the leg. And since I’m one of those fathers who won’t allow his kids to one-up him, I grabbed the other empty tube and tapped her back.
She tapped me.
I tapped her.
It started like that. It ended with the two of us whacking away at each other like extras in Pirates of the Caribbean. The laughs and giggles and threats ended when our heads collided and we sprawled onto the floor.
My daughter had the benefit of youth and a harder head. She rolled over and got up immediately, ready for more. Then she saw me still on the carpet. The miniature mommy inside her kicked into gear.
She dropped her piece of cardboard, raced over to me, and said, “Don’t move!”
“Why?” I asked her.
“Because you might be hurt. We learned about this in school.”
So I didn’t move. Partly because I wanted to see a bit of what she’d been learning in school, and partly because lying on the carpet really felt good.
“Okay,” she said, “first, what happened?”
“You whacked me with your head,” I told her.
“Can you move?”
“Do you see stars?”
“Do you know who you are?”
“I think so.”
She nodded. “Okay, then you’re supposed to get up.”
So I did just that. She said I was supposed to ask her the same questions she’d asked me. I obliged. We both arrived at the conclusion that we were fine and so should resume our cardboard-sword fight.
We flailed our arms again, this time careful to keep a bit of empty space between us. Then the thought occurred to me that what my daughter had just asked me would be pertinent to more than the body taking a tumble. It could work when your life takes one, too.
We’ve all been knocked on our backs a time or two. Losing a job. Losing a love. The routine visit to the doctor that turns out to be something serious.
And sometimes things aren’t that dramatic. We don’t always land on our backs with a thud. Sometimes it’s just the constant weariness that goes along with being alive or the apparent ordinariness of our days.
If that’s you, you’re not alone. But it’s time to do something about it. So in the spirit of my daughter, I ask you these questions:
What happened? Identifying the problem is an important first step. Knowing what went wrong can help you make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Once you figure that out, Can you move? Is this something that’s paralyzed you with fear or sadness? If it has, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Counseling can do amazing things. I speak from experience.
Do you see stars? This isn’t a good thing when your body takes a tumble, but it’s a necessity when your life takes one. Looking down on yourself seldom improves anything. Better is to look up to God.
Do you know who you are? Always an important question, and one that will likely take most of your life to figure out. But you’re doing well as long as you’re trying.
Pretty simple, huh? Simple enough for me to try it out the next time my own life takes a tumble. I’ll ask myself those questions and answer them as honestly as I’m able. And after all that, I’ll do what my daughter said and what we’re all supposed to do.
Because life is not for the faint, and this world is no home for the weary.