It Hurts When You're Not Your Kid's Superman Anymore

I know that the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act is a bone of contention for many, but not for me. I'm both intelligent enough to recognize that having health insurance is absolutely a necessity if you want to die on a mattress, and also self-aware enough to know that if the government wasn't making me do it I would absolutely not get coverage.

In short, my life's history is one of very poor impulse control, from a couple of years as a professional wrestler to a decade of using those same wrestling moves for spectacular death falls in Rocky Horror. I throw my fragile little form into anything and everything regardless of the danger or my physical capability of it, and when injuries like fractured wrists, broken noses, and infected cuts occur I tune it out and hope it gets better. It does, it just never gets well.

The result is a man who's able to survive a whole lot, but who can pretty much be relied upon to operate below a level considered normal for a 32-year-old man. This resulted in one of my saddest moments as a parent, a moment when my daughter realized that I was not Superman after all.

See also: Decompression: A Parent's First Night Alone in Four Years

My wife was working in the NICU at the hospital on Saturday night, which meant she wouldn't be home until almost one in the morning. That left me and the Kid With One F with the evening to ourselves, something I do enjoy a great deal.

We had a ball. We ate hot dogs for dinner, and munched gummi bears for dessert. We put together a 200-piece Disney villain puzzle my brother had got her for her birthday, then snuggled watching Doctor Who Christmas specials in the papasan chair. Then it was bedtime. Teeth, nightgown, story, and boing me.

To clarify, boing me means that I bounce her way up in the air like a spring from the living room to her bed. It's one of her favorite things. I'm the roughhouse parent. She climbs up me and backflips off. We pillowfight, we race, we somersault, and just for fun I sometimes carry her to the couch chanting in a made-up language before dropping her onto pillows as if I was a cult leader sacrificing a victim to the volcano god to ensure the harvest. Hugs and suplexes, that's me and my girl.

On Saturday I couldn't boing her. Honestly, I could barely walk. Literally nothing below my waist works correctly. The wrestling and the high heels on cement did horrible things to my knees and ankles. My hips have always been bad, and were prone to popping out of joint when I was younger. My toenails grow inward at all times, so I'm usually in pain. Lately, I allowed a fungal infection to go untreated long enough that I apparently scratched off a fair amount of skin from the bottom of my feet without realizing it. I was literally limping on open wounds.

"I can't boing you tonight, heart," I told my daughter.

"Why daddy," she asked.

"Daddy's feet and legs hurt too bad to do that tonight. I'm sorry."

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Without a word my daughter ran to get her medical kit, which was her favorite birthday present. She even has little miniature scubs to go with them like her mom's (This doesn't hurt my feelings. While writing is the coolest job in the world, it doesn't look very cool from outside. Mom's job does). My wife taught her how to do medical assessments, and the kid is really convincing at it.

"Hi, my name is Peanut and I'll be doing your assessment today," she said pretending to wash her hands. She then checked my heart, blood pressure, stuck a fake otoscope in my ears, stuck a real thermometer in them as well and accurately read my temperature, pretended to take a text on her beeper, and then wouldn't let me get up until she checked my bleeding feet.

It was weird to see such a terribly adult look of concern and alarm on her face. Physically, my daughter is pretty much an exact copy of my features, but her mannerisms and expressions are all my wife's. The look she had as she furrowed her brow and pursed her lips was kind of uncanny in its similarity.

See also: Do Your Spouse a Favor... Tell Them When You're a Crappy Parent

The kid ran to her bathroom to retrieve a Snoopy band-aid, and applied it to a large hole in my sole. Then she skipped into her room and I limped behind her to tuck her in. She jumped on the bed while I prepared her nightlight, which is a portable DVD player and a stack of Scooby Doo, Barbie, and Miyazaki films. While I was cuing up Rikki Tikki Tavi I felt her throw her arms around my waist.

"I'm, I'm so sorry that your foot hurts and you can't boing me, Daddy."

I hugged her tight for a little bit then turned off the light and went into the living room to mix a strong drink. Before I did that, though, I went into the bathroom, cleaned the wounds, applied some medicine, and bandaged them.

You know why I support the ACA? Because I know that when people get sick and hurt and can't take care of themselves they take other people down with them. Spouses, kids, even co-workers and extended family members. We're all tied together in a million little ways whether we realize it or not, and though we should all take care of ourselves anyway, that goes doubly so because your impairment or death weakens the chain that keeps society from falling into disrepair and poverty.

It's time for me to stop pretending to be ten feet tall and made of badassatanium. Not just because it hurt so much to not be that invincible person my daughter thought I was, but because I have no idea what it going to finally be the thing that causes enough damage to me to seriously put me in traction.I don't want to miss her wedding because I thought I was tougher than a mysterious lump.

I got to see my wife's look of worry on my daughter's face. I'm not sure I can bear to see the one I see in my mirror where I wonder how the hell I'm going to fix something that seems unfixable reflected under her blond hair at me.

MORE PARENTING FROM JEF 10 Tips on Picking the Right Daycare Provider So You've Accidentally Shown Your Four-Year-Old Naked, Bloody Vampires Doctor Who: The Doctor and I Explain Death to a Four-Year-Old I Tried to Explain Transgender Doom Metal to My Three-Year-Old

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

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