I was terrified of the day my baby would start crawling. Our house, which, prior to having a baby seemed a perfectly reasonable place to reside, now resembled a Field of Danger and Bad Things and I couldn’t imagine any other way of keeping him safe than camping out in the garden.
I responsibly consulted my baby book, nearly fainted with shock and anxiety at just how lethal the average home appeared to be, tried to throw away our plants (poisonous, who knew?), and was eventually told by my husband to calm the hell down; so instead, I hid the bleach, bought a couple of stair gates, and crossed my fingers.
Then the strangest thing happened – he crawled – and everything was fine. Yes, we had to keep an eye on him. Yes, he had a weird obsession with the toilet; but actually we found life with a mover and shaker was so much easier than with a static one.
After months of needing pretty much constant attention, our little human mostly lost interest in us once he was on the move, with cupboards to raid, remotes to break, and doors to crawl into; he had his hands and head full of fun missions to complete. I used this to my advantage, cooking, tidying and even managing to straighten my hair once or twice, whilst he
wreaked havoc and broke stuff worked on his sensory development and coordination skills, and learnt about cause and effect.
Cupboard and toilet locks were so effective they worked on me too – I couldn’t get to the beans for two weeks or use the downstairs loo – and the top stair gate allowed me to have a quick shower or sort the washing whilst my son crawled back and forth across the landing, repeatedly, whilst gabbling ‘Rah, rah, rah, rah, rah’ – code I think for ‘This is wicked!’
Things were surprisingly easy, and we all enjoyed the freedom his new skills brought us, despite warnings from various people on how:
‘You can’t leave them for a moment!’
‘You need eyes in the back of your head!’
‘Don’t let him out of your sight!’
I of course took these heeding’s very seriously, listening intently whilst making dinner, checking my email and packing the changing bag, as the baby banged together some spoons and tried to climb into the washing machine. I had just started to wonder what the big deal was, when he learnt to stand.
Oh Dear Lord.
We were very proud. For about half an hour.
All of a sudden, nothing was out of reach. Shelves were scrambled up and pulled, DVDs tossed around, TV screens smacked, and lamps upturned. Not to mention the fact that, although he stood very tall and proud, he was not so efficient at the sitting back down. His methods of retreat being:
The Spectacular Collapse
Or, my favourite: the ‘I’m stuck’ wail.
It went something like this: ‘Waaaaahh Ah. Ah. Ah. Waaaahhhh’.
At which point, I would help him to sit down, he would smile a brief thanks, and stand back up again.
So things did get a bit hairy and I finally understood the warnings. Moments I am least proud of in those early mobile days are:
• The time he fell out of bed
• The time he climbed the stairs unattended
• The time he pulled the hoover on top of him
Remarkably, he was completely unharmed by any of these incidents, seeming more like a nine-lived cat than a baby. I, of course, rotted in Mummy Guilt Hell for an eternity (or a week or so), tried to persuade my husband to move to a bungalow with padded floors, and haven’t vacuumed since. We had established that our baby was a thrill seeking parent terroriser with super human strength (does milk really do that?) and we clearly needed to up our game in the safety stakes.
It just seemed impossible though that as parents we could prevent every potential tumble or mini disaster, yet still allow our son to grow and explore, build his confidence and learn about consequences. I started to wonder if we were already doing what we reasonably could, and if any more would be overkill. This may sound like the slapdash theory of one lazy mother, but I have found so often that by attempting to save him from one thing, I lead him to danger with another. Like most days when I put down my tea to stop him raiding the bin, pulling the cat’s tail or shimmying up the radiator, it results in a mad dash and squabble to reach my steaming, hot mug before his cunning little hands do. In fact, this happens so often that I am starting to wonder if he plans it, or if maybe I drink too much tea.
I of course supervise him, and don’t intend to stop, but I don’t want to hover (or hoover) either. Is it so terrible to hope that he will learn, eventually? As he races along, we are understanding that there are some things we can teach him – when he’s in the mood – and some things we need to remove, hide or swallow. I’m not convinced that the padded bungalow would, after all, be right, and of course would never prepare him for the dangerous, dirty and fun things outside of it that the world has in store. Maybe all we can do is learn from the knocks and near misses, whilst safeguarding against the big stuff as much as possible.
Slips and falls are in their own way essential to life and surely shouldn’t stop us, or our babies, from getting stuck in and having a good explore. Except where the licking of garden slugs are concerned. I really can’t get down with that, baby.
How did you manage with an active tot and only one pair of eyes and legs? I would love to hear any words of wisdom or, failing that, any confessions to make me feel a bit less rubbish!
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