Saturday, May 28, 2005

Safety rail, hah!

Inspired by Mir's Friday Flashback on Woulda Coulda Shoulda:

When Mermaid Girl was a six or seven months old, we signed up for a service where someone would come do a childproofing evaluation of your home-- for free!--and then sell you the stuff to make it happen. So the Childproofing Lady came into our lives. She roamed around our house, lecturing us, for about an hour and a half. Who knew there were so many hazards? When she left, all three of us collapsed, exhausted, and slept for the rest of the afternoon.

Then RW and I set about fixing all the dangers she'd pointed out, without using any of her expensive and space-wasting products. (I think we bought the outlet protectors. Boy were they a pain.) RW and her dad put a Plexiglass gate over the ship's ladder to the attic. We put latches on the liquor-and-chocolate cabinet and the cabinet below the bathroom sink. We moved all the cleaning supplies to a high shelf. We padded all the sharp corners with rags and duct tape. We looped up the string for the window blinds so no toddler could reach it. We stopped using the fireplace for the forseeable future. We did everything we could think of to make sure that our precious tiny helpless baby would be safe, even after she started to crawl and walk out of our arms and into the big dangerous world.

Never mind that she didn't start crawling until her first birthday, or walking for another four months after that. We were ready! Nothing was going to get to our baby.

When MG was two, we moved her out of her crib and into a toddler bed. We got the bed at a thrift store, as we are thrifty. It was a sweet little white-enameled metal bed with a railing along one side. You know, so she'd be safe and not fall out of bed.

I think I've mentioned before that MG has never been what you'd call a willing sleeper. Even as a baby, she'd be up for an hour or so after we put her to bed, sometimes crying, sometimes playing. As she got older, we started trying to put her to bed earlier, figuring that she just needed the time to settle down and the earlier she got started the more sleep she'd get. We also tried to keep her room relatively dark, hoping she'd get bored with the lack of visual stimulus and conk out. All that happened then was that she was less tired when she went down and spent more and more time in bed, awake, just hanging out and playing.

We were used to this state of affairs by the time we got her the toddler bed, and didn't give much thought to the reality that now she could get out of bed.

Which is how it came to be that one February night we were upstairs watching The West Wing when we heard a horrible, bloodcurdling scream from MG's room.

We rushed downstairs to find MG standing in her bed, screaming from pain and panic, one hand clutched to her right temple, blood everywhere. We cleaned her up and found that it wasn't quite as bad as it looked, though it could easily, scarily easily, have been much worse: she had a big gash about a quarter-inch from her eye; it was bleeding copiously and looked like it would need stitches, but nothing else seemed to be wrong. We washed it and bandaged it and pieced together the story from MG, between calls to the nurse hotline and the emergency room and packing for what we were sure would be a long sojourn in the hospital waiting room.

What had happened? Apparently, our girl got out of bed to fetch something she wanted to play with, aimed for the stepstool getting back into bed, missed (since it was so dark), fell, and hit her head on the one un-childproofed item in the entire house: an exposed screw securing the toddler bed's safety rail.

Then there was the drive to the hospital, the surprisingly entertaining waiting room (it was a children's hospital, with crayons and coloring books and cartoons on the TV), followed by the endless wait in the little examining room (couldn't they have just kept us in the waiting room?) , the examination with Jeremy the Nice Nurse, the horrible irrigating spray (she still remembers that one painful detail over two years later), the clueless intern who quizzed us about MG's biological father, and finally the stitches, during which her drugged-up conversation amused us all: "I don't have a dad...or a bunny...I have a kitty...he's shy...my mommy is kissing my hand! It tickles!"

So it was that the child we were going to protect from all harm came to have a scar on her temple. It was a striking, angry red for a while, then it faded. The doctor assured us that by the time she's grown up it will be barely noticeable. But I don't think it will ever disappear completely.

We didn't throw out the bed, but we did go over every inch of it with duct tape. And we started putting MG to bed a little later. And got her a stronger night light.

And we started to reconcile ourselves to that big parental truth: you can duct-tape everything in sight, instill bedtime routines, put the Clorox up on the highest of shelves, get an expert to install the carseat, limit candy, brush their teeth every night, teach them to stand up for themselves and use their words, move to the best school district.

But every kid ends up with scars of one kind or another. With luck, they'll fade with time. And your kid will have a good story about how they got 'em.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Achilles comes to mind.

Take the d**** safety rail off, and then you can snuggle her in bed! (Ok, that's counterproductive, but what the heck)

e wein

2:16 AM  
Blogger liz said...

Oy.

5:32 PM  
Blogger PPB said...

....and it will be a great story. ..

6:08 PM  
Blogger Kate R said...

my kid's best friend has a big scar on his temple (he's 14) I asked him how he got it. He gave me a Look and the half-shrug which meant an embarrassing story -- so of course I dropped it.

And of course I asked his mother later.

He got it while watching Barney. He was on the couch, sitting quietly watching television and just fell of the couch and hit his head on the table. Bunch of stitches and he's got a scar that looks like he was in a knife fight.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Noorster said...

I baby-sat a 10-month-old girl two years ago. One day we were hanging out in the living room. I was sitting on the couch, she was standing by the coffee table. I had her shoulders between my knees and held her arms. She was perfectly static. Then she decided it was a good idea to headbutt the coffee table. After about 2 minutes of screaming, she was fine. I was a wreck for two days.

3:29 AM  
Blogger ALG said...

I love this part! I am sending your post to my friends who have a 10 month old who just learned now to crawl...

"And we started to reconcile ourselves to that big parental truth: you can duct-tape everything in sight, instill bedtime routines, put the Clorox up on the highest of shelves, get an expert to install the carseat, limit candy, brush their teeth every night, teach them to stand up for themselves and use their words, move to the best school district. But every kid ends up with scars of one kind or another. With luck, they'll fade with time. And your kid will have a good story about how they got 'em."

When I was three, my five year old sister was playing the fun game of spinning, spinning, spinning until gloriously dizzy. I decided to do the same thing. I got so dizzy that I fell against an armchair (with wooden arms) and split open my lip. I still have a scar on my lip (22 years later). At the time, my mother just iced it. Actually, we had no ice in the house, so I held a frozen orange juice can onto it. Now, she says that she would have brought me in for stitches.

My little sister, who has the nearly-universal-under-the-chin scar, has a nice story to go along: the boys in her class were saying that girls couldn't slide around on the frozen patch of ice in the playground. My sister said, "Can, too!" and did. Then she split open her chin, needed stitches, and all the boys gave her the respect she deserved forever more. Or nearly.

10:21 PM  
Blogger elswhere said...

ALG, that's a great story!

11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had no idea the scar under the chin was so universal. I have one myself, and no idea how I got it. My parents don't remember how, either. (It was the 60's, so nobody remembers much from then.)
- Renaissance Woman

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I burned my right wrist on a waffle iron when I was five. Good thing or I still wouldn't know right from left. Crazy that after 35 years there's still scar tissue there. Of course, MG can hardly consult her temple as someone is yelling "no! Turn RIGHT!"

--Angela

5:28 PM  

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