Watching him was not unlike observing a goose – more waddling than walking with high steps in between. But unlike a goose, he had bursts of speed. If our eyes glazed over with exhaustion or we looked elsewhere sometimes we’d hear a thump.
And then our goose-like child would be on his ass, stunned that the furniture did not yield to his momentum.
He was our mobile 18-month-old toddler, a child who packed enough muscle to lift a playpen straight over his head. The plastic enclosure was circular and on good days he just pushed it around from one side of the room to the other. That lasted a week. When he figured out how to lift and get under it, we knew the sh!t was about to get real.
Secure the baby gates! Plug up the electrical outlets! Batten down the hatches and order a case of wine for evening consumption!
“Red or white?” My wife asked.
I responded with an evil glare. She knew better. “Malbecs and cabs. Come on, you know better!”
We had a bigger challenge awaiting us – in less than two months, the wall between our kitchen and living room would not exist. Our plan was to open up the floorplan so our 1950’s home would resemble something from the 21st century.
The result would be a large area for our toddler to roam free.
My wife discussed the circumstances with her mother. She shared her wisdom with me. I then received a phone call from my mother-in-law and she shared her suggestion. Every husband/dad knows how this story ends – ‘Kendall, here’s what you’re going to do.’
But my mother-in-law is a saint and she raised three kids. When you’re raised by a single mother, you learn pretty quick when to shut up and listen. So I did.
Her suggestion: “Teach Connor about the dangers in the house. He’ll learn.”
Whenever our son walked around the fireplace, near the glass-door enclosure, we barked out, “Get away from the fireplace.”
The walls came down and soon thereafter the kitchen was operational. The goose waddled near the stove. “Stay away from the stove. Move.” He waddled to the other side where it was safe. Then he opened the knife drawer. “No!” He pulled on the electrical cord tethered to a lamp. “Connor, look at that… if it hits you on the head…ouch!”
He went back to the fireplace. “NO.” Then he went over to the microwave which was installed within the kitchen island. “Don’t play with that.”
This went on for months. My wife repeated the word ‘no’ at least a thousand times. My weekends were ‘no’ weekends when I was around full time and not many weekends were enjoyable… except for my evening glass wine.
Okay, I’ll be honest, I was up to three glasses by the second month. We were bat-sh!t crazy with all the no’s, the warnings, pointing out consequences, getting him away from pots of boiling water on the stove, yanking on the cord to the coffee pot… my only source of consciousness!
And then it worked.
By the time our son was two-years-old, he could roam freely around every room on the first floor. If he was in one room and we were in another, we had zero fear of a glass-panel cabinet door being broken or lamps crashing to the floor. We could set him up with toys in one room and my wife and I could watch TV in another. We obviously had baby gates on the stairs, ensured there was nothing for him to choke on and closed off the bathroom.
And then we were able to breathe. I give all the props to my wife who bared the brunt of this process and love my mother-in-law for the wisdom she shared. And no, we rarely spend long periods of time away from our child. But every parent deserves a break.
So educate your kids as soon as they can walk, and before you know it, you’ll feel like a rockstar parent.
Sometimes, when you’re a brand-new dad, you involve yourself in a project to educate your child but the net result is you get an education yourself.
Embrace these opportunities.