Parenthood is fraught with peril. Somehow I survived my kids’ infancies and toddlerhood. Their elementary school years are going okay, mainly because I’m turning a blind eye to a lot of what they say and do. I’m learning not so much to choose my battles, but rather to pick my heart attacks.
As I work on my worrywart ways, there’s one thing that gets my blood pressure rising faster than eight kids jumping on the trampling all at once: Waivers.
I’ve been signing these since my son went to his first off-site birthday party when he was three. I hate the things. Nothing can suck the fun out of a room like creating an endless film-loop in my head of tragic what-ifs. That massive waiver holds the birthday party establishment completely blameless should anything happen to my child–like loss of life or limb, even if through the gross negligence on the part of an employee. Bite me.
Yes, I’m the daughter of a lawyer (albeit antitrust, not personal injury). My father taught me never to sign any agreement of any kind without first reading it fully and understanding it completely. Which makes me the last person anyone wants to be stuck behind in line to sign one of these waivers at the start of a party.
The best case scenarios were when parents would send waivers ahead of time; I could look them over and mark them up as I saw fit, deleting and initializing parts I found egregious. It’s bad enough to conjure up all sorts of horrid images of a broken body; the resulting medical bills caused by an employee who deflated the Scooby Doo castle prematurely? I wouldn’t go there. I’d tuck the edited and signed waivers into the bottoms of the “signed waiver” boxes and hope my son (and later daughter) would be allowed to enjoy the festivities before they’d discover my amendments and kick us both out.
I don’t have as many waivers to sign now. Birthday parties are more often at-home affairs or outings to the movies; bounce places and the like are for little kids. My children have enough hazards just sitting three to a seat on the school bus each day.
But the other week my daughter had an opportunity to go to a stable for rescued horses with her Brownie troop. I grew up around horses; I know the risks. Yet I was excited for her, until I read the waiver. It said that horses can bite and strike and cause injury or death. Succinct. Got it. I’m to hold the horse blameless.
My daughter was psyched. I was now a nervous wreck, with this waiver conjuring up all sorts of hideous scenarios in my head. Who were these horses? Were they erratic? How could I send my daughter into possible mortal danger?
Luckily, her good friend called and was having a small birthday gathering the same day and time; my daughter said no to the horses and yes to her friend. Problem solved. Nerves calmed. Waiver tossed into the trash.
I know we’re a litigious society. And we’re an increasingly anxious society. I’m thinking the two go hand-in-hand. Because those damned waivers sure make me see hazards I’ve never even considered.