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Accidents, Schmaccidents!
by Francesca Biller-Safran
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

Award-winning Investigative Journalist and Columnist with experience reporting breaking news, longer features and op-eds about race, politics, business, socioeconomics, arts and culture, ethics and parenting issues for newspapers, magazines, radio and websites. Awards include The Edward R. Murrow Award, two Society of Professional First Place Journalism Mark of Excellence Awards and two Golden Mike Awards for Excellence in Hard News and Best Series Reporting.

Accidents, schmaccidents! If anyone should be crowned Ms. Reigning queen of tripping on her own feet, even if at times just for comedy's sake, I'm your girl.

But what isn't so funny is the following line I continually heard as a child, "There is no such things as an accident as long as you are just careful enough."

This was told to me even though I happened to be the accident-prone child in the family, with visible strawberries and on my knees as I donned Marsha Brady dresses from Sears in early 1970's.

So far, I have managed to get through life with little therapy, no recommendations, please, even though I continue to bump into walls and spill cups of coffee on my shirt at least twice a day- but who's counting?

My mother seemed perfect when I was a little girl- she still does. Moving gracefully through life with her serene movements, I long to be just like her; never spilling a thing, with designer stain-free blouses.

But thankfully, I have learned to accept myself and my bruised legs, and I now know that accidents happen to all of us and often cannot be avoided. I still have never told her about the time I nearly cut my thumb off when chopping a tomato, or when I landed head first in a large potted plant at the mall. The shame I would cause!

Accidents happen to the best of us, and most of us live to tell about it, with both the mental and physical scars we often bare with pride and bravado. And we are all the stronger for it, add character in places we never knew existed, and hopefully can boast that we have not experienced the most horrific accident of all, that of not taking the risks we know that we should have.

Woody Allen said, "You can live to be a hundred and give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred."
On the other hand, he also commented, "I'm astounded by people who want to know the universe when it's hard enough to find your way around Chinatown."

Surely, geniuses like Allen, Einstein and Picasso didn't let fear stand in the way of attempting lofty and even dangerous feats, albeit fears of flailing miserably, thank goodness for the rest of us.

Growing up I lived in fear of failing as my mother lovingly warned me about dangerous pursuits and how there was no such thing as an accident, having children not included.

All kidding not aside, in order to fearlessly go where not many guilt-ridden adults get to travel, I often say, "A few accidents never hurt anyone," and I attempt risky endeavorshowever normal they may seem to others. Wild escapades such as driving at night or reading too much history about the Egyptians, two things my mother cautioned extremely dangerous.

I have however avoided blatant dangers such as swimming with sharks or learning how to play Beethoven's Fifth on the bassoon and can say without much medication that I have faced life with great fervor, and sometimes even with a fever.

Becoming a parent myself, however lends a different perspective to the subject, leaving me sympathetic to my mother's cause or curse. With my first child I admit waking her as a newborn just to hear her cry so I could be sure she was alive. Let's just say that continual breastfeeding replaced roller skating as my favorite sport.

I soon realized I too feared accidents around each corner, even though I hardly left the house. Even worse, I instilled this fear in my first child; worrying incessantly she was too cold, too hot, getting too much sleep or not enough- it never ended. And I wonder today why she needs a little space from me.

I suppose this is what I could expect from being raised by a Japanese, Hawaii-born mother and a Russian-Jewish, Irish, Beverly Hills-born father. And you think you've issues with guilt? Let's just say that my weekends aren't exactly filled with wishes of "mazeltov" over plates of sushi.

At least I now have the courage to admit, "Yes, I come from a long line of worriers," and can do something about it. No twelve steps about it, I'm attempting with one fell swoop to take the "fear of accident gene" out of my DNA, proclaiming to my girls that diving into the pool of life is where it's at, hopefully without sharks in the water.

Admittedly, having three daughters can make you want to draw up plans to build a bomb shelter and only hope for rescue. But alas, the rescue never comes, except in the realization that a life is only worth living if lived freely from one's own fears, dangers and all.

Mark Twain wrote, "Accident is the name of the greatest of all inventors."

Parents can chose to be an inspiration, ailment or some mentor in between when it comes to a child's adventuresome spirit lasting through adulthood.

Children are naturally prone to curiosity but all too often this is replaced by nurture that cautions against the unknown, leading ultimately to a life ultimately not much worth knowing about.

Each year I hope to get better at parenting as I try to say more along the lines of "Way to go, kid," rather than "There's no way, kid." And interestingly, the more adventures I support, the braver I too get along the way, sending me on voyages even my mother never warned me about.

Tonight I plan to drink a glass of Merlot, listen to Stan Getz and Bobby Darrin, and even dance with my kids. I might even spill some wine by accident, but how can you put a price on your kids knowing the lyrics to "Mack the Knife" or "Girl from Ipanema?" Life doesn't get much better than that.

The great writer and satirist Art Buchwald said, "The buffalo isn't as dangerous as everyone makes him out to be. Statistics prove that in the United States more Americans are killed in automobile accidents than are killed by buffalo."

This brings to mind that my mother doesn't drive because she thinks it is too dangerous. Come to think of it we never had a buffalo roaming the house when we were kids either.

Buchwald's words are music to my ear, because now I know that buffalo's aren't nearly as dangerous as I might have thought after all, and for those of us who now prefer to roam the wild blue yonder rather than stay inside, this is a good thing.

Published: Sep 15,2008 18:37
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