Think of raising a baby as a game. A game in which you must always remain at least one step ahead of a little human who is insistent on offing his or herself with things we would otherwise see as non-threatening in our day-to-day, pre-parent lives. Outlets need to be covered, cabinets need to be locked, stairs need to be gated, loins need to be girded. So you baby proof your home as soon as your tiny overlord is mobile, leaving no stone unturned or choking hazard left out.
It’s an ongoing process that is constantly evolving to match whatever new-found disasters in the making you have managed to walk in on after taking a minute to pee or go get the mail. Your baby that once was content bouncing and listening to Mozart’s greatest hits (that Sonata in D is a real bop) is now scaling the framework of said bouncer as if she were clutching a teeny tiny little Naomi Watts. But all things considered, it is safe to say you feel your baby is safest at home.
But the season is upon us where we pack up our tiny tots to go stay with family for the holidays. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Not without a mother who is one step away from having a stroke at the idea of her child being a mere two steps away from being burned.
For example, I brought my 10 month and 2.5 year old to my parents for Thanksgiving – a place which my mother took time to baby proof in light of the swarm of children that would descend on the house on Thanksgiving Day. I was put at ease knowing that cabinets were locked and stairs were gated. It was the next best thing to being in my own home.
However, in coming around the corner from changing my youngest which took no more than a couple minutes, I see my toddler has somehow bypassed the extra tall baby gate and stuck his head between the banisters.
My life in that moment looked like a bad slapstick comedy. There were talks of greasing his head with butter and trying to slide him through, but after multiple attempts at varying levels I didn’t think there was a chance. My own mother looked as if she were about to faint and had to excuse herself to another room. My father ultimately went and grabbed a hack saw that looked as if belonged to some Civil War doctor and had enough rust I felt I needed a tetanus shot just looking at it. One cut at the bottom of the banister and my child was free.
The event from discovery to resolution probably lasted no more than 5 minutes, but it shaved years off my life. Is my son some kind of Spider-Tot that could make his way over the gate without making a sound? It took nearly a week for me to finally realize my crafty kiddo probably slid his body through, making all the drama unnecessary and likely being able to slide him right back out. I guess I was blinded by panic, resulting in the banister having to take one for the team.
So I might have lost this round in this never-ending game of trying to anticipate whatever self-destructive activities my children can cook up in their little minds. But the good news is I know one more thing my toddler is capable of and I know what I’m getting my parents for Christmas. A bottle of wood glue.