When I was seven or eight years old, my mother tasked me to peel a bunch of carrots for dinner while she went to the basement to gather the laundry. I stood over the kitchen sink holding the first carrot in my left hand and the peeler in my right. I struggled at first. After a couple of strokes I discovered that, if I extended my index finger alongside the carrot to support it, the peeling became easier. The task then became quite mindless, and I lost focus and began daydreaming.
I was probably thinking about unicorns when I felt the sharp pain in my finger. I looked down and saw that, due to my inattention, I had used the peeler on my own index finger instead of the carrot. A single, neat strip of skin now dangled from the peeling blade. Oh, how I wanted to scream -- I could feel the scream welling at the top of my throat like pressured steam -- but I thought better of it. I was afraid to have my mother discover that, in the short moment she left me alone, I managed to flay my own hand with a kitchen utensil. As much as she loved me, or perhaps because she loved me so much, my mother was unforgiving of my self-inflicted injuries. She ascribed to the theory that coddling a child in pain encouraged the behavior leading to that pain, so each bruise or cut was met with withering reproach in addition to stinging hydrogen peroxide.
I swallowed my scream, quietly disentangled my skin from the peeler, applied a band aid, and went back to peeling the carrots -- this time, with great care. To this day, I exercise pointed caution with my peeler and every other blade in my kitchen. Looking back, I wonder if my mother's theory on parenting might be right: if you learn a lesson the hard way, you need it only once.