I had just left the park with the Little Girl the other day when I was stung in the temple by a bee.
The two immediate thoughts I had were that I was glad it was me and not her, and that this bee really had put a hurting on me. For a while, the sting affected my jaw and my ability to talk.
My daughter, an empathetic kid, asked me if I was O.K. Self-pity drained and the dad thing kicked in, as I tried to minimize the incident so my daughter wouldn’t be scared for me.
“I’m fine,” I said with slurred speech. “Bee stings aren’t so bad.” The child lives on a farm with her mother half the time, and I didn’t want her fearing nature.
Maybe I should have been more honest and told my daughter that it hurt like crazy. But even in a diminished state, a parent wants to spare his child the anguish of seeing her super-strong protector injured. It could only kick off insecurity and worry in the kid.
When I was a child, my father, who was a bricklayer, came home from a construction site one day in so much back pain that he couldn’t walk up the stairs. I watched him sit on the bottom step, then push himself up each step on his backside until he got into our apartment.
I never forgot the grimace on his face, how he looked sweaty and red and miserable. But he told me not to worry, that he was fine. I was shaken to see this powerful man laid so low. It was frightening to know that the world could get to even our heroes.
And that’s precisely the feeling I tried to prevent in the Little Girl.
Still, her sweetness shined through, and she reached up to kiss me on the side of the head. “Feel better, daddy?” she asked.
She had actually pushed the stinger in deeper, making me see stars.
“Much better, sweetie,” I told her, my head spinning. “Thank you so much.”