Want to know why mommy is so foggy today? Because someone figured out how to climb over the gate to his bedroom, and came bounding into his parents’ room — scaring the sh*t out of them — at 2 a.m. I didn’t hear a thing on the monitor. The kid is like a ninja.
So what could I do? I couldn’t put LM back in his room, knowing that he couldn’t be contained in there. It was lucky he chose to come into our room instead of one of the other rooms upstairs — or instead of trying to climb over the gate at the top of the stairs (hmm, maybe we should remove that in case he figures out how to climb over it, too?).
LM can open the doorknobs on our doors unless they have a child lock on them, which his bedroom doesn’t (yet). Foggy Daddy thinks it would be cruel to close his bedroom door, effectively “locking him in.” I suppose that does conjure up images of neglected children in some Dickensian novel or Jane Eyre or maybe even Harry Potter being locked in his cupboard under the stairs. But if it’s the safest thing for it, doesn’t that make it OK? Let me know if I’m in the wrong here, but I don’t see much difference between that and his gate — both are supposed to keep him from escaping.
Because I can just see him making his way down the stairs. Someone has left the gate at the bottom open too (not that it’s much of an obstacle for him anymore). Someone has also forgotten to close the child lock on the door to the mudroom. And because you’re not supposed to put child locks on an outside door (not sure why — fire hazard?), LM makes his way outside on some freezing winter night.
I wouldn’t put it past him.
There are other hazards inside the house, too. The hallway on the second floor has a half-wall overlooking the staircase that LM has tried to pull himself up on. That freaked me out. We have all the furniture in his bedroom and the family room bolted to the wall, but the spare bedrooms are less child-proofed. I bought child locks thinking we could just shut those doors, but then LM might be more tempted by the stairs, which is the bigger danger, I think.
We are in an in-between stage of LM’s life where he doesn’t understand danger but is very much capable of getting himself into it. I try to teach him what is and what is not OK to do, but I don’t want to gamble his life on his following those directives when I’m not around.
This child is terrifying me.
So last night after he made his way into our room and I realized his was no longer safe, he came in bed with us — although he wasn’t much interested in sleeping. He nursed constantly, an annoying toddler nursing that involved him constantly switching from side to side and contorting in weird ways and twiddling. Dear God, the twiddling. In so many ways I want LM not to grow up, to stay a baby. And although I will miss nursing, his constant grabbing, his dire need for it, the tantrums he throws when he doesn’t get it make me think I really might be OK if he wanted to stop.
But middle-of-the-night nursing is not the norm anymore — this was really a one-time thing. Still, I didn’t get much sleep, leading to a very foggy day indeed for me.
As the fog in my brain finally lifts (at least a little), I wonder, what am I going to do tonight with our little climber?
Moms of climbers, how do you handle the challenge?
Last summer my family visited some relatives in Virginia. One day, my husband, sister and I went for a hike in a state park with our babies in carriers, while my parents went to the lake there. After our walk, we had to call my dad to come and get my sister and her daughter, because we only had one car seat in our car. While we waited with my sister, my husband started our car to let it cool down, since it was a 90-degree day, and came to sit on a bench in the shade with us and the babies a little ways away. Then, a couple emerged from the wooded trail and walked to the little parking lot. They stopped and peered into our car. “What are they doing?” I asked my husband. As they continued to look in, cupping their hands around their eyes so they could see through the windows, I head the man say, “I don’t see a baby in there.” My husband, holding our son, walked over and asked them what was up. Having noticed it was running and seen the car seat, they were checking to make sure there was no child in the car. “We were just cooling the car off,” my husband informed them.
OK, so they were just looking out for a child who might have been left in a car alone…while his parents went for hike (who would do that?). But at the same time, the incident made me feel watched and under surveillance. Even though I wasn’t doing anything wrong, it made me feel like a potential criminal. I know, these people didn’t know me. I wouldn’t leave my son – especially to go on a hike, wtf!? – but maybe some parents would. But it unnerved me, that strangers were looking out for the welfare of my child. I felt like it was, honestly, none of their business.
My feelings probably stem from a deep-rooted fear that my child will somehow be taken away from me – I blame post-traumatic stress from my losses. Anyone who dares to intervene, even on behalf of my child, brings out my mamma bear instincts. He is my responsibility. No one else needs to look out for him. This is my job, and strangers have no right to take it away from me. I’ve got this.
I know my reaction probably isn’t rational. But I have seen other people, specifically moms, who seem very quick to judge the parenting of others, as if they know what’s best for other moms’ kids better than the moms themselves do. So when it comes to child safety, when is it OK to intervene? A debate on one of my FB groups arose the other day when a mom observed another woman leave a child in a parked car while she returned a shopping cart. The observer waited until the woman got back, and then took to FB to complain, saying that because the cart return area was far away and the woman had eyes off the car for a couple of minutes, it was not safe for the child. It was unclear from her post whether the car was running or not. The responses from other moms were mixed – some said that they strap their kids in first, start the car and then lock it while they return the cart. Others said they just leave the cart by the car. Others said they unload the groceries, return the cart, then carry the kid back to the car. Some moms argued that the kids were way safer inside a locked, running car than being carried or walking across a parking lot where they could be hit. Some moms were afraid someone would abduct their kids in the few moments they were alone.
We all know that leaving a child in a hot car is not acceptable. But what if the car is locked and running, or if it’s a cool day? How long is OK? Or is it never OK? I was haunted by this story of a mom who left her four-year-old in the car on a 50 degree day to run into a store for five minutes, was reported by a “good samaritan” and subsequently arrested. It seems we are all at the mercy of do-gooders who believe it’s their duty to police parents, all in the name of the safety of children.
I don’t agree with this. Yes, there are instances of immediate danger when action should be taken. But peering into car windows? Posting complaints about other moms on FB? Calling the cops after the fact on a mom whose kid was OK? I think we’ve gotten out of hand. Not only are we now supposed to be helicopter parents, but we are supposed to be helicopter bystanders as well. I support (to some extent) free-range parenting. I don’t believe the world is as scary as we think it is – it’s the media and the overload of information that’s done that to us, because statistically the world is safer than it was when we were growing up. I don’t live in fear of child abduction – I fear more likely occurrences, like car accidents, a lot more.
I’m sure I shouldn’t take offense at the well-meaning stranger looking out for my child at the park that day. Now that summer is here again, we do have to be mindful about children in hot cars, and maybe that guy was honestly just concerned. But I also don’t want to feel that my parenting choices are being judged by some unseen Big Brother who’s going to report my every move. There are a lot of gray areas between what’s OK and what’s not OK. I feel that it’s my right to judge where that line is for my child.
What do you think about strangers looking out for your children? Are you grateful or defensive about it?
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!
OK, so much has been said about Nationwide’s “dead kid” Superbowl ad, in which a kid recounts all the things he’ll never get to do – because he died in a household accident. The controversial ad was meant to stir up conversation and make people think about kid-proofing their home. Mission accomplished.
But for those of us who’ve suffered the trauma of losing a pregnancy or child, I’d argue that this ad was in extremely poor taste. Since holding my miscarried baby in my arms, the death of little ones is too often at the forefront of my mind. Everywhere I go I see danger. Sometimes I even get a touch of agoraphobia and feel safe only inside my home. Maybe, I think, we shouldn’t ever leave…
And then I think about the TV falling, or the bookcase. I think about electrical outlets and dangling cords and loose wires. I think about the bathtub and the toilet and the stairs and the million other ways my child could die in my own home, even though I’ve done what I can to protect against it.
I wish I could be one of those moms who say, “Whatever, our parents didn’t worry about all this stuff when we were young and we all turned out fine.” My response to that is usually, “Uh yeah, except for those of us that didn’t.” But then again, I’m a super worrier.
I do long for those days when we didn’t worry so much – but the problem with those days is that there were more deaths from preventable accidents than there are now. So I suppose I should be glad we live in a world where we try to be super-vigilant about danger. But I’m already hyper-sensitive to it – I don’t need a Superbowl ad to remind me.
As soon as it aired, I caught my breath as if I’d been sucker-punched. All of a sudden I was back in that hospital room with Samantha, holding her tiny body. Then I was back to the present, with an overwhelming sense of panic that something would happen to LM.
I literally had nightmares that night – children being murdered, blood splattering everywhere. I woke up completely freaked out about what my warped mind had come up with, but I know that it was a reaction to that damn ad.
Losing your child is every parent’s worst nightmare. LM is all I have. Not that one child can ever replace another, but I don’t have the ability to easily have another. Having him was a hard-won battle for me. It makes the idea of losing him all the worse – especially if it were my fault because I didn’t anchor the TV to the wall.
My husband says he tries not to think about it. But I can’t help it. I feel like no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try to guard against something happening to him, one day he’s going to go off into the world and I won’t be there to protect him.
In the meantime I guess I’ll be getting some furniture tethers.
Did you hate that Nationwide ad, or did you think it was a good reminder about child safety? Are you hyper-sensitive to danger, too?
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