Our first three children, all boys, were pretty easy. We made sure to teach them, even before they could speak, all about danger areas, gently warning them off outlets, etc, with a "no no", and stuff like that. Well, children don't like pain any more than adults do, and so we never had any problems. From a very young age, long before they could really speak, they could understand what danger was, and they almost always would avoid what we'd warned them about.
Then we had our fourth child. He was a very stubborn boy. I did all the same things I did with the first three, but it seemed to make no difference. And one of the special causes of concern was Enoch's habit of running wildly into any road, totally oblivious to any traffic. As it happens, it only takes one escape from a hand and any kid is off, so it's unrealistic for folks to say, "just always hold his hand". Not only did I try to hold his hand constantly, but I actually got him one of those Euro child harnesses so he wouldn't kill himself. It was that bad.
But as I said, it only takes one slip-up, so I would warn Enoch over and over about roads, cars, pain, bleeding, broken limbs, etc. But still, every once in a while when his truck would roll toward the street, I'd still see him start to run full blast toward the street, and I'd have to bark to get him to stop, and then I'd go over the whole thing again, maybe put him in time-out, etc., he'd say "okay" - and then some weeks later, it would happen again.
So finally all the boys and I are at a park one day all playing baseball. Enoch was five by that time, and as usual wanted to just potter around by himself, so he's behind the big chainlink backstop watching us and fooling around with a tennis ball. We hadn't had an incident in a while, and after my increasingly stern and graphic lectures, and his advancing age, I'd figured he'd finally gotten the message (By the way, the field is sunken so it's actually a steep hill and maybe ten yards up to the road from the base of the backstop).
Anyway, as I'm about to pitch to one of my kids, I glance up and see Enoch running full blast after his ball - he's scrambled up the steep hill and is about to run into the road, again. So in that instant I bark, "ENOCH STOP!", and he freezes as a car whizzes right past. So I'm totally exasperated and shocked, and can no longer imagine that any of the other attempts to deter suicide I'd tried, which had included being benching him, time-outing him, Vince Lombardi-ing him, etc., could be relied on to work in his particular case. What was I supposed to do - keep him locked in a car seat everytime we went out? Sooner or later the kid had to stop nearly killing himself. I'd never had a child with a deathwish like that. Even my three year old got it, but not Enoch.
So I run up there and I say, "Enoch, WHAT are you DOING?! You almost got killed!". And this is no lie, he looks at me with that stubborn look and says, "the cars really aren't going to hit me". So I think:
That is it.
I load all the kids up and drive home. I put him in the laundry room time-out and go in to talk to Tracy. I say, "Listen - it happened again. This is nuts. The kid is going to kill himself one of these days, if not around here then at school or something. He actually said to me, 'the cars won't really hit me'."
So Tracy says, "What do you think?" And I say, "Well frankly, I've been trying to get this kid to not kill himself for like two years now, and he still seems to think we're all lying to him, and I've started to think one good smack on the butt of a lifetime might actually save his life."
So Tracy says, "I don't want you to spank him, I really don't". So I say, "No problem - you tell me your alternative and I'll do it - all I care about is that it works. Just make sure that whatever your idea is, it will work once and for all, because I am really scared that if it doesn't, he's gonna get killed".
So ten minutes go by. Enoch's still in time-out, and Tracy can't come up with any alternative. And neither can I. But she's adamant she doesn't want him spanked.
After two years of every non-spanking approach I could think of, I was totally out of ideas. But finally - perhaps it was the Holy Ghost now that I think about it - I think of something to try, that I think has some shot at achieving the goal of keeping our stubborn son from killing himself.
A few minutes later I'm ready. I go get him and say, "Okay, Enoch. Let's go for a ride in the Cherokee". He seems puzzled. My three oldest boys jump in back, who know what's going on, and I stick Enoch right in the front passenger seat.
At the time we were staying on my dad's property in his guest house, and the country lanes on two sides adjoin with the driveways on his property, and form a big squary-kind of circle. So I leave the parking spot in front of the guesthouse and go left, past my dad's house, out on to the country lane. I say, "Isn't this a nice drive?". The boys in the back are whistling and saying, "Wow, this is great! What a nice drive we're going on. Dummm de dummm...la la la", etc. So I turn right on to the lane adjacent to my dad's property on the west, and then turn right on to the lane bordering the property on the north, and then turn right again on to his driveway heading south back down to where we'd just left from. And as I pull on to that dirt driveway, I accelerate fast, and we start shooting down the gravel driveway -
And then, in a split second, I and the older boys in the back all let out a BLOODCURDLING SCREAM just as I jam on the brakes - and Enoch looks out the windshield just in time to see...
A very good (if I may say so myself) depiction of HIMSELF, drawn with a magic marker on to the side of a big freezer box that had been in the garage and which I'd snuck out and placed in the middle of the driveway, holding his hands up screaming with a terrified look on his face, with a bubble attached that says, "AAAAAAAAUUUUGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!". And RIGHT in that instant, we SLAM into the box/depiction of Enoch as we're skidding on this gravelly dusty road and completely smash it.
The car stops - there's dust flying everywhere - Enoch's upset and hyperventilating, and I say, "Come on out right now, Enoch". So I get him out and take him around and say, "DO YOU SEE what will happen to you?". Where his face was on the box was under my front left wheel - the body part on the box was crumpled and sort of wrapped around the axle. It was, in a word, totally gross, even though it was just a picture on a cardboard box.
Enoch starts crying. I repeat again, "Do you believe it now? Do you get this? What will happen to you if you run into roads and get hit by a car?!".
And he said,
"I will die".
And I said, "yes, you will die. And I don't want you to die. No one wants you to die, Enoch. Do you understand that? We don't want you to die. We love you, and we want you to LIVE. So Enoch...what are you never -- ever -- going to do again?"
And he said, still crying, "Run into the road".
I gave him a hug - and he never did again.