By Nicole Paitsel, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)
When my husband, Duane, and I discussed our dreams and worries as parents-to-be, keeping our baby safe was never a topic of concern. I was too busy worrying about the responsibility of molding my child’s moral character while my more carefree husband imagined what it would be like to teach his son how to play baseball.
We both assumed that safety was one of our easier duties.
We were wrong.
Duane was the first parent to experience a safety scare when he tumbled down the stairs holding 2-week-old Brody in his arms. Frantic, he ran upstairs — where I was supposed to be napping — and shouted over top of Brody’s shrieks that he’d fallen.
“Did you drop him?!” I shouted back, two inches from Duane’s face.
He had, but no harm was done. The on-call nurse didn’t even think it was necessary for us to take him to the doctor.
And aside from bumping his head on the wall once — maybe twice — when he was strapped tightly to my chest in a Snuggie, we went six months without any fuss.
Then he started walking.
The bumps and falls he experienced then were no different from any other toddling child, and Brody and I took his missteps with a chuckle and an “uh oh!”
But recently, my little monster — as Duane and I affectionately call our constantly growling boy — has become a magnet for disaster.
It started when he shimmied up the stairs and bounced back down. He’d performed this stair exercise hundreds of times before with parental supervision, but this time, he’d started the climb too quickly. I left my starting block a few seconds after the gun, and before I made it over to him, he’d fallen.
That was the catalyst that convinced Duane to comply with the confined space standards acknowledged by parents worldwide — baby gates. I purchased the wooden gates months ago, and nagging grandparents, aunts and uncles continued to wonder why they weren’t installed.
So Duane — keeper of the household tools — finally put up the gates. Two minutes later, Brody tore them off the wall.
Discouraged, but not deterred, Duane reinstalled the gates using screw anchors, and danger was averted once again. We both sighed with relief when our son teetered toward the stairs, and we were able to watch from afar.
But this time, we didn’t have a six-month breathing period before the next disaster. In fact, Brody’s first goose egg appeared less than a week later when an unsuspecting adult opened a door and hit him square on the forehead.
I spent three days hardly taking my eyes off my little boy as I worried about brain swelling.
In the meantime, the little guy took a face dive into an open suitcase, ran into our large Weimaraner as she was chasing her tennis ball and slipped in the bathtub, dunking his head under water for a brief second.
By week’s end, he had a circle bruise on his cheek to match the knot on his forehead and various scratches up and down his arms and legs.
I didn’t really lose my cool, though, until he was attacked by a bird.
I’d been trying to convince my mother-in-law to take Brody to a local petting zoo for months. That August morning wasn’t quite as sweltering as recent mornings, so she and Brody headed out for an adventure.
As she tells the story, a rogue guinea hen approached the pair and she shooed it away. When they turned their backs to look at the penned-in chickens, the hen shot over to Brody, knocked him down, and clawed and pecked at his face.
Scratched from forehead to chin, Brody definitely looked the part of a loser in a cockfight, so I left work to head to the doctor’s office.
Eyeballs intact and disease-free, we survived that disaster feeling OK. The guinea hen, on the other hand, was exiled to a local farm, I was told.
It’s been a few days since Brody has suffered any head injuries or animal attacks, though he did sport a large, red spider bite on his right cheek for a few days following the hen incident.
And, so far, we haven’t had any encounters with hazardous materials or unusually dangerous combustible gases.
But I will no longer scoff at stories of preventable childhood accidents.
Chances are, I was just breaking a sweat trying to prevent one myself.
Nicole Paitsel can be reached at email@example.com. Next week, Mark St. John Erickson has another adventure with his son Owen.