A soccer dad asks why I hold my 12-year-old girl out of header practice, where her teammates head dozens of balls, ostensibly in order to head more safely the two or three they'll actually have in games.
I tell him I don't want to get into the unsettled science of concussions, which is laypersons' liar's poker. I just tell him I figure the bare minimum requirement of being a parent is protecting your kid's head.
There is a pause. I fill it, by adding:
My outsize psychological influence will inevitably have mixed emotional results, because I'm full of mixed emotions myself. Neither am I going to offer her a perfect diet intellectually; she'll inevitably know more than she needs to about the aesthetics of automobiles, and less than she needs to about how they work. (She will either curse me for this, or tell funny stories like the ones I tell about my dad, and how his whole set of tools fit into an old can of Pringles potato chips.)
I can't even protect her physically. She plays sports, and she plays them aggressively, and I've always encouraged that.
But there are limits. No, there is one limit. The head.
If she blows out a knee—even loses a leg!—I know her head can take her the rest of the way in life.
Whereas, if she gets brain damage on my watch I can't very well counter, "But she's strong as an ox!"
My dad used to say his motto was, "Take care of the babies."
I try to be more realistic. I say, "Take care of their heads."
The final whistle blows, and the soccer dad seems relieved.