My sons are smarter than me, better looking than me and know more than me. (Ed’s note: not true, though they do have more hair!)

These aren't the author's children. The author's children would be writhing in agony somewhere beneath this play equipment. Pic: Liam Driver

I’m still puzzled as to what I actually contributed in the baby-making process, considering my wife is slightly smarter and slightly funnier than me. I’m not arguing on the looks. She is the female Benjamin Button.

But there’s one thing I can lay claim to (if you don’t count the dimples) and that’s my irrepressible clumsy gene. The boys never stood a chance.

There are entire days where they brain themselves on objects and bend their bodies into shapes which would make them contenders for a revamped series of Human Tetris.

When the eight-year-old gets sick, he puts on a Royal Command Performance which tricks every alarm and concerned look from nurses and staff alike in any medical centre. He jumps queues with his ability to capture attention.

I am concerned, of course, but when the medical centre is a stone’s throw from your house and your child is on the backseat coming out with lines like: “Get me there quick, I’m dying. I’m not going to make it!” - It’s important to stay calm.

My wife is clumsy too. Only when she stubs her toe, her entire foot goes black for a week. She gets bruises and has no idea where they came from. The boys never stood a chance.

When I get up in the morning, if I bang my head on the cupboard door in the kitchen, I turn around and immediately go back to bed. Otherwise, it would be all downhill from there.

Thankfully, my boys haven’t seen a lot of emergency rooms (touch non-splintered wood), but I’m dreading the day when that clumsy gene takes hold and really shakes them up a bit.

I don’t want them to get despondent, nor do I want them living in fear that one day their parents may be ushered away for questioning while a panel of doctors interrogates them.

I want them to be kids - to experience every bump and bruise I did without fear; to learn from their mistakes and build up enough common sense to ultimately work on a cure for the clumsy gene and eradicate its existence.

So it pains me to hear of a new report from the Federal Government’s Australian Institute of Family Studies advising child protection workers to classify children who repeatedly hurt themselves as “high risk of neglect’’ even if the injuries are minor.

There are simply not enough oxygen tanks to accommodate the Bubble Boy lifestyle. The price of cotton wool will only rise following the Cubbie sale.

What am I to do as a clumsy parent with clumsy kids? In the old days, we’d just tell them to get back on the horse. Now, I’m going to have to take the horse out into the paddock and shoot it.

Parents cannot be everywhere watching their kids. And to be honest, the stuff that they’re into, I’d rather not have to watch them bash their way through thirty levels of Super Smash Bros.

We have kids on such a tight leash these days, they’re starting to get neck welts.

Having rules in place which say if Timmy has five hospital or medical centre visits in a year, for example, he needs to be in foster care is ludicrous (unless, of course, those five visits turn out to be dodgily explained away),

Child protection workers need to listen to the community, make informed decisions and monitor situations based on as much feedback as possible. 

Child abuse is a very real and worrying part of society. More needs to be done to protect Australia’s kids.

Often there is enough evidence from reports by concerned relatives and friends to make quick decisions to step in and protect kids. Sadly, sometimes not enough is done before it is too late.

Alarm bells should be ringing if a child becomes a regular at any hospital. But the situation needs to be handled with care and investigated delicately to avoid any unnecessary trauma for the children and parents.

Let kids be kids. Let them live their stories and tell them in their own words. Let them build histories. Let them trade scars in the playground and tell their children about the time they fell on a rusty steel bar and had to take six weeks off school.

Don’t take that away from them. And don’t take away our kids due to their clumsiness.

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    • thatmosis says:

      07:32am | 08/09/12

      This looks like a cas of so called experts trying to justify their pay and conditions. Its just what we need, not, more Government intervention in the lives of people whether it is justified or not. Here’s and idea, to save all the hoopla lets just hand all the babies to the Government at birth and then take them back when they have finished Uni or have a job, just think of the great times to be had not encumbered by screaming little hubdubs at every turn.
      Sounds like a joke, but that is what is virtually happening today although its the parents who are the targets of so called experts and this Governments fascination with wrapping children Chinese owned cotton wool.
      Let kids be kids, let them scrap a knee of break an arm doing kids stuff, its all a part of growing up and realising that their is a big bad world out there where you can be injured if you are not careful.

    • Austin 3:16 says:

      06:12pm | 08/09/12

      When the parents fail - one way or the other the Government is usually the one that gets to pick up the pieces. All while being asked “how did this happen” or “why wasn’t more being done” etc.

      Most child protection departments in this country are overwhelmed by their workloads which is a pretty strong testimony to the lack or ability of parents.

    • CD says:

      08:19am | 09/09/12

      Or simply not enough staff for the numbers. Add more staff not more rules. Problem solved.
      You’ve got a very weak and specious argument.  I hope you don’t have children. They’re probably padded up for safety.

    • Austin 3:16 says:

      06:13pm | 09/09/12

      Hey CD,

      Rightio so parents are doing such a great super bang up job that the answer is to increase the staffing levels in child safety departments. 

      How does that run against the grain of what I was saying exactly ?

      If you have kids I sincerely hope that they are safe and loved.

    • Justme says:

      08:39am | 08/09/12

      Agree. Except that I have a girl and a boy, my kids have the same issues yours do - faulty coordination genes. Both of mine (under ten) have had serious broken arms, requiring surgery in one case. And last month we beat our own record by attending emergency twice in the same week for suspected broken ankles (one for each kid).  We have more bags of frozen peas in the freezer than actual food. (I must add that fortunately for our parenting reputation both of the broken arms occurred at school.)

    • nihonin says:

      08:39am | 08/09/12

      But Andrew, the government (via the PS) know what is best for all us plebs, ask them.  They understand how life should be lived from all the committees and advisory groups they consult, filled with members of the academia and their students, who’ve lived a full and fruitful life through the lectures they’ve given/attended and books they’ve studied/read.

    • barcoo says:

      11:02am | 08/09/12

      You must have been reading my mind, nihonin. There seem to be more and more committees, groups and panels sprouting their garbage, every day. What is more, the “protective measures” they come up with are just accepted and forced upon us. Who is the decider here? Who actually approves something like the above scenario?  Great read Andrew, by the way.

    • Don says:

      04:25pm | 08/09/12

      Totally agree, this is merely a manifestation of the outcomes that people can expect when everyone is continually shouting “the government has to do something about this and this and this and this…....” Government is a blunt instrument - this is what you get when you ask too much. Enjoy.

    • Rose says:

      09:52am | 08/09/12

      When looking for signs of Child abuse you leave no stone untouched, and repeated visits to doctors or emergency rooms are no exception. As well as the injury, doctors, nurses and social workers are looking at other things as well as the injury. How is the relationship between parent and child? Does the child appear scared of their parent or flinch when some one goes to touch them? What is the parent’s level of concern? Is the injury consistent with the way the event was described?
      If a child repeatedly turned up to emergency and no one checked into why. there would be an absolutely justified outrage should something serious happen to the child.
      Parents who just have clumsy kids have absolutely nothing to worry about.

    • Parent of Active Kids says:

      11:30am | 08/09/12

      And therein lies the problem, Rose - looking for child abuse where this is none by ‘leaving no stone unturned’ in managing simple cases of kids being kids. The fact that a child turns up at A and E a certain number times per year with what are clearly accidental injuries should not be enough of a trigger to cause the stress and harm that an official record of being a possibly neglecting parent creates.
      Where is the line drawn? Do we count sports injuries in these figures because we left our children in the care of coaches and referees for 40 minutes? What about injuries at school? Will schools be recorded as being potentially neglectful. Or, is a parent still neglectful because they sent their child to school where they might get bumped in the playground.
      Perhaps these boffins would be better off looking at what it means to be a kid, to learn to take risks and to become resilient from experiencing life’s knocks. Perhaps they could also do with some lessons in the reality that the large majority of parents are loving and caring and doing the best they can. To assume the worst of everybody, which is what a policy as this advocates, is a sad indictment on those who create the policy and the society that tolerates it.

    • Cynicised says:

      11:57am | 08/09/12

      Nailed it, Rose.

      Child abuse, including Munchausen’s by proxy, is not taken lightly by health and welfare professionals. Those same professionals (operative word) understand that accidents happen. It’s all a matter of proper assessment and judgement. Thanks goodness for education and experience, huh?

    • Fiona says:

      12:46pm | 08/09/12

      Scraped knees, bruised shins, the odd break is not necessarily going to ring alarm bells. Repeated fractures, bruises on the back, injuries inconsistent with the parents explanations have always come under suspicion. Let’s hope not a lot changes as result of this report,. Clinicians have been vigilant, maybe child safety will finally become vigilant too.

    • Rose says:

      01:52pm | 08/09/12

      I’ve just done a stint working in child mental health and am also the mother of 6, and spent my fair share of time in doctor’s offices and emergency getting my kids stitches, plaster casts etc. You clearly didn’t read what I wrote, the injury itself is not the sole thing looked at to determine abuse, and trust me, it often only takes a few minutes to clear up suspicion or to raise alarms, sometimes a bit longer. Most of your post is absolutely ridiculous and shows complete ignorance of what goes on. Injuries consistent with sports and other normal childhood activities are 99% of the time very obvious and raise no concern. Occasionally a parent may describe an accident which is not consistent with the type of injury.
      I know a lot of these ‘boffins’, and suppose I could now be considered one myself and let me assure you, they know more about kids and normal behaviour than you apparently do. They have lived it, have researched it, they usually have their own children or at least have children in their lives and they meet and deal with hundreds of families every year and they become very good at what they do. There are unfortunately a minority who are ideologically driven and who aren’t in touch with reality, but the huge majority of them are right most of the time.

    • Pina says:

      04:34pm | 08/09/12

      Ordinary parents have nothing to worry about: medical staff are already aware of the non-clinical social signs that a child is in a risky situation: dysfunctional mothers, absent fathers, new ‘boyfriends’, multiple kids to the one mother all with different surnames/fathers. Then there’s the clinical stuff: recoiling behaviour, unexplained bruises, slow development, burns. It’s shocking, but we need to realise we can’t be everywhere: while you don’t need any qualifications to have a kid, there’ll always be child abuse, and there’s a limit to how much responsibility society should take for parents because the trade-off is a police state where interference in the family unit is the norm. I can’t stand the confected outrage that screams ‘child protection authorities failed….’ whenever a case of abuse is not uncovered. Firstly, the child protection authorities didn’t inflict the abuse, bad parents/relatives/boyfriends did.  Child welfare workers have an extraordinarily tough job, can’t be everywhere at once and have extremely difficult decisions to make - mistakes will always happen. We should support them, understand they won’t get it right every time, and stop beating ourselves up as long as we learn from mistakes.

    • Eskimo says:

      11:08am | 08/09/12

      Who ARE these people who come up with these studies and reports? From what generation? Boomers or X-ers? Have they really so much times their hands that they can start generalising about kids being kids and make it into an issue that requires government intervention? Children who have been abused can show signs of physical injury (and these children certainly need our help), but that does not mean that children with physical injuries have been abused. Or that ordinary parents of ordinary children need the govnment intervening or the threat of the government intervening.  This is yet more of the First World Problems brigade’s attempt to justify their existence. Perhaps if ordinary folk were left to get on, the effort and expense used in producing such inane reports could be diverted to a more worthy subject?

    • Cynicised says:

      01:36pm | 08/09/12

      I am completely sure that those complaining loudest about child protection policies which emphasise supervision and caution would be the first ones screaming outrage if professionals missed the signs of child abuse. Guess what people, you can’t have it both ways. I’d prefer authorities to be a tad over-zealous and perhaps make innocent carers uncomfortable occasionally than for one child to be subjected to habitual abuse without it being discovered. This is about child safety, not parental or carer comfort. Get real.

    • pa_kelvin says:

      03:54pm | 08/09/12

      Cynicised…..You nailed it with your first sentence. I would prefer being over cautious than not cautious enough…......

    • stephen says:

      03:05pm | 08/09/12

      Classifications of everything help the half-smart but full-hearted from making mistakes ... short term, that is, but way down the track they’ll find that marking boundaries to describe things, whether is be as percentages for the absolution of injury and misadventure, to making holiday itineraries, avoids the advantages of time ie. experience.
      Children learn this way, by making mistakes and then learning the how and why of it all.
      Adults do too, even the ones who can edit Euclid.

      But I reckon that all this safety stuff only protects the child officers, which is kind of a pure form of self-interest eg. forbidding another party from an act which may or may not put themselves in a bad light.
      Children may not love pain, but there may yet be a need for it, rightly or wrongly.

    • Sickemrex says:

      05:31pm | 08/09/12

      I’m happy enough to be one of the 99 “needlessly” questioned to find the 1 neglectful or abusive parent. We’re not talking about bumps and scrapes but broken bones, burns and bruises inconsistent with the parent’s version. Surely that’s to be expected of health authorities?


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