It’s happened before, so who’s to think it wouldn’t one day happen again? The girls are getting older and, as such, I’ve been more comfortable leaving them alone in the house for short stretches of time. Not like in the kitchen playing with a set of knives, mind you. But you know, watching TV– I mean, uh, reading books– while I throw on my make-up or something. But this week I lost ten years off my life, all in the name of beauty. First I heard the rhythmic “thump thump thump” and then the screams. My heart stopped and I literally flew down the flight from my bedroom to the living room. There stood one child, her eyes wide with shock, staring down at the ground floor landing.
Taking in the scene, I raced to the bottom, crying, “Ssh, ssh, it’s okay!” The victim lay at the bottom of the stairs, eyes wide open but unfocused. “Are you okay?” I called, placing my hands on either side of the patient’s head. The staring child had by this time recovered enough to follow me downstairs. “Check the airway,” I instructed. “Make sure the breathing and circulation are okay.”
My assistant being barely 3, she nodded and then patted the poor darling’s ears. “Good,” I fed back, approvingly. “Now make sure there aren’t any obvious injuries or fractures.” She solemnly nodded and then walked away, her attention already lost. “Get some bandages!” I hollered, trying to reignite her interest in what I hoped would be a valuable lesson. Grinning maniacally, she raced off and return seconds later with several boxes of Band-aids.
“For Pete’s sake, Eva!” I hollered back up the stairs at the child who was still sobbing. “He’s fine! Look!” I carefully picked up our trauma victim and carried him gingerly back up to the living room. “But it could have been a lot more serious, right? That’s why we don’t play on the stairs, do you understand Mommy?”
Wiping her tears, I set the two of them back on the sofa to soothe and cuddle their little friend. Locking the baby gate firmly behind me, I returned upstairs to scrub away the streak of mascara that ran from the corner of my eye across the bridge of my nose. Yes, of course I was relieved. Better him than my child, right? As beloved as he may be. Oh, right. Forgot. Here’s a photo of our patient after Zoe had finished tending to his wounds:
Yes, the girls have him dressed in socks and a baby doll shirt. Who am I to argue? Back to the point. I will fully admit that the scene played out with a bit more shrieking on my end than I might have indicated above. Mostly me yelling about being carefully on the stairs and how Mommy just lost 10 years off her life. And it got me thinking about how little kids believe that injury and illness are punishment for being bad. How could they think anything else? How many times have I said, “Yep, and that is exactly why Mommy said you shouldn’t run across the room wearing silky socks while Mommy is mopping! Isn’t it?”
We can’t help it as parents, although I do try to remember this little developmental fact. It’s not fair to have them think vomiting is punishment for messing around at bedtime, is it? As for the scene on the staircase, it played out exactly the same way about 3 hours later. Only this time the victim was my medicine ball (you know, the weighted ball used for working out, or in our case as a door stop?). Left the gate open again racing for the phone. Guess some of us will never learn, eh?
Then again, they are 3. When do I take the gates down? When they are 5? 10? My usual advice is when a kid learns to crawl over it or open it. But mine seem oblivious to the concept of over. And most adults struggle to open these gates. So what should I do? What did you do?