A Game of Clue for the Clueless Second-Time Mama

Recently I wrote about how my kids almost died at a Vermont swimming hole. Or, it felt like they almost died. In the course of the story, I’d said, “At that point it felt perilous to yell at them to stop.” And as I wrote that line, I went looking for a post about one of my favorite J-as-a-baby stories, except I realized that I’d never told the story. So here it is.

When M was an infant, I felt like I was a completely incompetent mother who was pretty much failing the whole taking-care-of-my-child thing. I was wrong.

Then, when J was an infant, I felt like I was a fairly competent, experienced mother who had babyhood all figured out. Hmm. . . wrong again.

With M, just the idea of leaving the house was so intimidating that it took me quite a while to muster up the energy and courage to go anywhere. A couple years later I believed strongly that I could handle outings, and I took teensy baby J out and about with me everywhere. Next thing you know she was exposed to a virus and admitted to the hospital for a high fever, effectively shutting down my overconfident wanderings.

M had been a pretty challenging, high-maintenance baby. She’d wanted to be held all the time, she was colicky, she screamed whenever she was strapped into a car seat, and she was a terrible, horrible sleeper (speaking of which, I recently heard from some new parents who were raving that Newton’s Colic Drops were life-changing for them). When J came along, we figured that she’d have to be more easy-going (hooray! she was) and a better sleeper (actually, she was far worse). But there were all sorts of other issues that hadn’t ever occurred to us.

It reminds me of a story that I believe came from Mr. Attachment Dr. Sears. He said that they’d spent their first several children congratulating themselves on never having an issue with children scribbling crayon on the walls, and they attributed it to their good parenting. Later they realized that they just hadn’t given birth to an artist yet.

With J, I gave birth to a climber.

I hadn’t really noticed that M wasn’t a climber, but in her 2+ years of life prior to J’s arrival, I’d been able to take it for granted that no child-proofing was necessary for anything above M’s head. My kitchen counters looked very much like the counters of someone who didn’t have children. And didn’t always tidy up promptly.

One day, I was typing away on the computer, just outside of our kitchen. It was near Easter, and a (not necessarily watching) grandparent was nearby, too, as she roamed around the open living room and kitchen area. I figured that between one somewhat-attentive grown-up in the room and me roughly 12 feet away, 18-month-old J was unlikely to get into too much mischief. I glanced over at one point and noticed that she’d pulled a chair over to the counter, and I was impressed by her industriousness. Two more minutes, and she was standing on the chair, and I realized the attraction: there was a whole pile of brightly-colored plastic eggs to examine. Man, she was cute! I mused as I turned back to the computer. Two more minutes, and what was that she had in her hand?!?

It was J. . . in the kitchen. . . with a knife.

She a big chef’s knife in one hand and a tomato in the other hand. And, yes, she was completely absorbed in cutting the tomato with the chef’s knife.

Imagine, if you will, my terror.  The knife was roughly the size of her forearm. She was actively poking and sawing away at the tomato.

She could cut off a finger tip or pierce that meaty part at the base of her thumb or drop the damn thing so that it landed point down in her foot.

But I also didn’t want to startle her, so yelling or gasping or even loudly approaching her seemed potentially perilous. I tiptoed up to her, a feat made easier by how engrossed she was in her work. Before she even realized I was there I was grabbing each hand and taking control of the knife.

But of course, she was completely fine.

I didn’t know it yet, but J wasn’t just a climber. She was also a chef.

J that same week, engaging in less hazardous cooking activities with two beautiful, fully-intact little hands.

J that same week, engaging in less hazardous cooking activities with two beautiful, fully-intact little hands.





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