“Mmmph,” I replied.
“Did you really just fall asleep?” she asked.
“Maybe a little. We all deal with stress in different ways,” I replied.
Kara was tossing and turning because a few hours earlier, our son Evan had taken some big steps towards becoming a big boy. Unfortunately, those steps sent him over the railing of his crib headfirst.
We were standing just outside his door when we heard the whump and hollering, and we already knew what had happened before we pushed his door open, holding our breath that he’d be okay. And he was, not counting a bloody nose that stopped after a moment, though Evan seemed to think that counted.
“Climb over the bed and fall on the head!” he proclaimed after he’d settled down, perhaps inventing a new slogan for a public service announcement.
The conventional wisdom is to leave your child in a crib until they won’t stay in it anymore. Of course, toddlers don’t really have a great way to communicate that they’re not so keen on staying in their crib anymore, except to fling themselves over the railing, which does get the point across, but something a bit less dramatic might be nice.
Most parenting advice is insanely cautious, sometimes bordering on paranoid. Let your child eat popcorn? Don’t be ridiculous. That’s a choking hazard. Push him around on a Big Wheels without a helmet? No, a child must be encapsulated in plastic if moving faster than 1.5 mph. Let him trick-or-treat without SPF 50 rubbed onto his eyelids to keep him from getting a twilight sunburn through his Elmo mask? That’s a trick question. He’s not allowed to wear a mask.
But letting your toddler plummet headfirst from a height that would make Greg Louganis flinch? Oh, that’s just your child’s way of telling you that it’s time for a big boy bed.
The next day, Kara ordered a toddler railing for the crib. Basically, it’s the same as the railing that’s already there, except that it’s topped with coils of barbed wire. We’re told that this should keep him safe, as long as he doesn’t have access to a spoon and a poster of Rita Hayworth.
While we’re waiting for the rail to get here, we’ve piled enough pillows and down comforters around the crib that Jackie Chan could fall off a scaffolding and enjoy a fluffy landing there.
Of course, once Evan’s crib is converted into a bed, we’ll be thrust headlong into yet another new phase of parenthood, the phase where the child is no longer caged for half of his life. The idea is frightening. If given the choice between having a toddler or a hyena roaming our house at night unattended, I’m not sure which we’d pick.
The first round of baby-proofing we’d performed over a year ago assumed that a parent would be in the room with the child. Now, we have to assume that Evan will have access to some areas of the house while we’re asleep, a prospect that is keeping us both up at night, some directly, some indirectly.
“Our room is a deathtrap!” Kara declared last night in the darkness, picturing Evan scaling every unsecured piece of furniture.
“Mmmph,” I replied.
“Really? How can you sleep?” she asked.
“I guess I can’t,” I said.
Round 2 of baby-proofing the house has already begun. I’ll be spending the next several days bolting and strapping every loose item in the house to our walls. By the time I’m done, you’ll be able to open all of our doors and windows, pick our house up and shake it, and nothing will come out.
You won’t really be able to do that, of course. The doors and windows will be nailed shut.
You can drop Mike Todd on his head at email@example.com.