On Sunday I took LM for a makeup swim class, and FD (Foggy Daddy) came along. Since LM hates the water and had been screaming in my ear for half and hour, I was pretty stressed out by the time the class was over. I decided to take advantage of having help, so I changed LM out of his swimsuit and then gave him to FD so I could change in peace.
Swim class is at a local college in an older building that is not exactly kid or stroller friendly. I was expecting FD to wait with LM at the bottom of the stairs so we could carry the stroller up together, but as I emerged from the locker room and looked around I saw no sign of them. I waited a few minutes, then took out my cell phone and called FD. No answer.
You might be thinking that this was the possible tragedy – not being able to find my son. It wasn’t.
I went up the steps – hard, concrete steps – turned at the landing and went up again. At the top there is a metal railing all the way across the opening for the large staircase – one bar across with only one other horizontal bar underneath. Plenty of room for a little person to run practically right off the edge down a 12-foot drop to concrete.
Near the steps – I’d say about 10 feet away, but FD says 15-20 – is a lounge area. This is where I found FD and LM, who was not in his stroller but instead was running around. When I realized he was loose I grabbed his arm and publicly called out FD for what I saw as a major lapse in judgment. “He could have run right off the edge!” I yelled. “I was watching him,” FD said. “That’s why I didn’t answer my phone.”
Suddenly, the tragedy that didn’t happened fully formed in my mind. In a horrible irony, FD would have looked down at his phone to see who was calling – me. And in that split second, LM would take off. FD wouldn’t be able to catch him, and he’d run right off the edge. Standing below, I would turn to see him falling, falling to his death. I’d scream, onlookers would gasp. “Call an ambulance!” I would yell, but it would be too late. Instead of spending the rest of the day purchasing baby proofing products and an Easter outfit at Buy Buy Baby and Target (which is what really happened), I would be sedated and hospitalized. Returning home, I’d see the last remnants of our family life: toys strewn about, a half-eaten yogurt on the table that someone forgot to put away, pot tops on the kitchen floor where LM was playing with them.
This scene played in my head throughout the day until I let it all out on FD later that evening. He defended his parenting, but I was positive he had put our son’s life at risk. FD is only human after all, so why, I asked, would he have gotten himself into that situation? Why not wait at the bottom of the stairs, instead of the top? It turns out that he had taken LM to watch a basketball game that was going on upstairs, and had come out to see if I was ready.
The incident highlighted for me the difference in our parenting styles. He is laid-back; I am, well, not. I am a super worrier, in part because of my personality and in part because of some sort of post-traumatic stress from my losses. I am terrified that I will lose LM, too. No child is replaceable, but LM is literally irreplaceable. I’m not physically able to just have another baby.
So I see danger everywhere. In some ways I think this is a good thing – I do as much as I can to prevent the worst from happening. I am fully up-to-date on car seat safety. When LM was little, I knew all the SIDS risk (no bumpers for us, thank you very much!). Upon entering a new environment, my eyes do a sweep over the place to identify and neutralize any potential hazards. My situational awareness definitely doesn’t suck (movie reference, anyone? A Perfect Getaway).
But at what point does it become overkill? At what point does it cross over from life-saving precaution to life-altering anxiety? I am cognizant of it, which is the first step, right? I still don’t think it was a good idea to play near that dangerous drop. But the worst didn’t happen, so I should have stopped imagining that it did. I need to just let it go. FD now knows how I feel. Hopefully in the future he will be more aware of my risk-averse nature and not take any chances – and even if he doesn’t think something is taking a chance, if he think I’d think it was taking a chance, I’m hoping he won’t do it.
After all, the world isn’t baby-proofed.
Does your imagination run wild when confronting dangerous situations for your child, too? Tell me about it!