My daughter loves to tell the story: her near death experience when I allowed her unattended stroller to careen down one of San Francisco's steepest hills. It's in the same mythic category as narrowly missing a toddler with a one-ton anvil, or leaving an opened bottle of Tylenol at baby level after a night out drinking. Okay, I did that, but she didn't actually eat any.
Here's what happened. I walked my then three-year-old daughter down the two flights of stairs outside our Potrero Hill condo. I strapped her into her stroller. We were set to go to her favorite playground. Then I realized I didn't have my wallet. Shoot. What if we needed to buy a snack? I looked at her, happily playing with her stuffed animals. I looked up at the two flights of stairs. I made my decision.
I need to tell you about the stroller. It wasn't one of those $500 turbo-charged models with built-in bottle warmer; the kind our nanny used to say made her peers so nervous it'd be stolen that they'd spend more time watching the stroller than their charges. This was a $30 Costco umbrella stroller. No cup holder, no skid-proof wheel system, nothing.
I turned the stroller sideways against the steep hill. I set the brakes. I ran up the stairs, unlocked the door, grabbed my wallet, ran back down the stairs. And she was gone. Strangely, I looked up the hill. She wasn't there. I looked down the hill, into the street. I couldn't see where she went. I started down the slope. That's when I saw a few men running up the hill towards me; one of them had my crying daughter in his arms. They'd been gardening a few houses down when she'd flown by in her stroller, before toppling over. I grabbed her from the man, thanking him. One side of my daughter's face was scraped from her scalp to her chin like a skinned knee. Other than that, and the shock of what had happened, she was fine.
My daughter turns ten this month. When she tells her friends this story, she's full of pride, the center of attention. She doesn't see me as the dad who seriously messed up. I'm the dad who was taking her to the park, who did something stupid, maybe now with a few years distance, even funny. Like all dads, I make mistakes. I'm just grateful that my daughter laughs at them.