Sunday, May 16, 2010

Parenthood and the padded room

“I think we need to go the emergency room,” my wife Kara said as she burst through the bedroom door, carrying our howling son Evan.

There are worse ways to wake up from a nap, like getting stepped on by a horse, for instance, or having a tear gas grenade skitter across the floor, but I sure haven’t experienced any of them lately.

“I was holding him as he stood beside the coffee table, and he just lunged for the remotes all of a sudden,” she said, in tears herself.

Babies are born with an innate appreciation for remote controls, as if they can sense the great potential of the devices to enable a lifetime of sedentary splendor.

In our basket of remotes, Kara and I know what about two percent of the buttons actually do, so to keep Evan from linking our cable remote to the neighbor’s garage door, we spent fifteen bucks to get him his own Sesame Street remote, in which he shows zero interest. He can tell it’s a placebo, maybe because none of our regular remotes go “Me want cookie! Yum yum yum yum.”

Evan’s zeal for our remotes, coupled with his previously undocumented ability to lunge, caused him to smack his head on the coffee table, one of the few remaining unpadded surfaces in our house, resulting in a small cut behind his ear.

Before this event, it would have seemed impossible for a baby to get hurt in our house. Kara had plugged every outlet, padded every corner and forced me to put up more gates than Leavenworth.

"Anybody got a cake with a nail file baked in?"

But one can never underestimate the primal drive of human beings to clonk their heads on things. We once thought our house was babyproof, but “babyproof” has proven to be a relative term, like “non-stick”, “interest-only” or “fair and balanced.”

You’ll never forget your kid’s first step or his first minor laceration, which, if our experience is any indication, is likely to follow shortly after that first step. Having a baby who’s just figuring out locomotion is like being stuck permanently with your drunken roommate from college, all wobbles and weaves and no fear, with a fair chance of peeing their pants at any moment.

Three hours and one stitch later, Evan seemed to have forgotten all about the trauma of the morning as he scooted about the floor, searching for new inedible things to stuff in his mouth, though his mother wasn’t so casual about the whole thing.

“That’s it, I’m padding the entire house,” she said. There are times when you think parenthood might cause you to live in a padded room, but I didn’t see it happening quite like this. Kara disappeared to Babies ‘R Us and returned with a three-foot receipt, several bulging bags and enough foam corner protectors to babyproof your highest-scoring game of Tetris.

That evening, she knelt beside the coffee table, mummifying it.

“We could just swaddle Evan in bubble wrap,” I suggested, and she paused for a moment, considering.

“What about a giant hamster ball?” she asked.

Part of having a kid is learning to manage his risks without denying him the opportunity to explore and learn, but doesn’t anybody else worry that with all this foam everywhere, we might be raising the first generation of kids who think there are no consequences to slamming their heads into inanimate objects? Back when I was a kid, a concussion was considered a great learning tool. Parents seemed to want their kids to have them, like the chicken pox.

Anyway, if you decide to visit our house now, please feel free at any time to just close your eyes, spin in a few circles and start running. You’re pretty much guaranteed a feathery-soft landing, but watch you don’t stub a toe on Evan in his new suit of armor.

You can put safety corners on Mike Todd at


  1. Holy crap...Evan has punk rocker hair....soooooo sweeeeeet

  2. His first birthday party is going to have a "Sex Pistols" theme.

  3. Awwww...very sorry to know that he had to receive a stitch but glad it wasn't worse.

    Apparently, the worry lessens with the more children you have. By the time the ninth child arrives, a parent's attitude is pretty much if the child is still breathing they're not too badly hurt (at least that's what my Grandmother always said).

    P.S. Have to ask if the coffee table is okay. lol

  4. Loon -- Thanks for the kind thoughts. I think the coffee table is okay, but I can't see it anymore. It's wrapped up like the little brother from Christmas Story.