Let me just preface this story by saying that everyone involved is just fine.
It was just after 6 pm, bath time in our house. I left the boys downstairs in their playroom for a minute while I ran upstairs to the boys’ bedroom to get their towels.
I emerged from the boys’ bedroom, towels in hand, probably less than 30 seconds later, to find R, aged 11 months, sitting at the top of the landing. He had climbed 10 stairs all at once and in no time at all. He took one look at me and dove headfirst down the stairs. I am sure I will never get the image of his little body tumbling down the stairs out of my mind. It is playing on an endless loop, keeping me up at night and tying my stomach in knots at every opportunity.
His feet tumbled over his head, and then he began to roll, all in slow motion. His twin brother was sitting at the bottom of the stairs, watching. R landed on top of him, which is probably what saved him from serious injury.
R screamed bloody murder. D was fine, just scared, so I ignored him for the moment while I checked R for injuries. Amazingly, he had none that were obvious. I grabbed the nearby phone and called my husband. My hands were shaking, so I accidentally dialed the wrong number. Some poor man was treated to the sound of a screaming baby and a sobbing woman telling him that R had fallen down the stairs. Eventually I did call the right number. When I got J on the phone I could barely get the words out, I was so hysterical. He came straight home, of course.
I like to think of myself as the kind of person who is pretty calm in the face of an emergency. And usually, I am. But it turns out, when it involves one of the boys, I am a total wreck.
Within minutes, R had stopped crying, and was crawling around, playing with his toys, and babbling; back to his usual self. He had not a scratch or a bruise on him, probably because our stairs are well padded and carpeted, and because he wasn’t standing up when he fell – he just kind of rolled. And, of course, his brother broke his fall at the bottom.
We installed gates at the top of both sets of stairs in our house weeks ago. We moved the crib mattresses to their lowest position. We installed cabinet and door locks. We even put those little corner cushions on some of our sharp-edged furniture. And while we had purchased a gate for the bottom of the stairs, we hadn’t yet installed it, because neither of the boys had shown even the slightest interest or ability to climb just one stair, let alone 10 all at once. We thought we had it covered.
And I have been humbled. Because my friends have long been telling me the stories of their toddlers’ antics – climbing on top of dressers and jumping off, getting into the bathtub and nearly scalding themselves with hot water, running out into traffic – and I would self-righteously think, “How? Aren’t you watching them?” Well, this is how. They are quick. And not every skill comes gradually, sometimes they just figure out how to do something – like climb stairs – and that’s that. Parenting a toddler, as a comedian once said, is like being on 24-7 suicide watch. They are always finding new ways to harm themselves.
So, needless to say, the gate is now up. And I am on the lookout for the next perilous situation my boys will get themselves into. All I can think of is what could have happened; how lucky we are. I just hope this knot in my stomach goes away.