As a father of three I recall only too well that the toddler phase of each of my kid’s lives was wrought with danger from the moment they woke up in the morning to the moment they went to sleep at night. Everything was new and inviting to them – like an intriguing pot handle on a stove or the magic of shimmering water. You only had to turn your back and they were into something they shouldn’t be! This thought-provoking article reminds us that with toddlers, we really do need to have eyes in the back of our heads!
Loving families do things together. When the kids were small my wife and I once took them on a trip around rural New South Wales as part of helping them understand that loving families tend to do things together from an early age. This particular day we stopped for a rest break in the central NSW town of Gundagai where the legendary dog of yesterday’s droving culture still ‘Sits On The Tuckerbox’. We’d just pulled into a little park down by the river for a picnic when we spied a sign explaining the history of the now dilapidated wooden bridge of the Hume Highway that spanned the formidable Murrumbidgee River. So Jan and I decided we’d wander down with the kids and take a look.
The mile-long bridge with its old planks and railings was quite a sight spanning the expanse of the mighty Murrumbidgee. And we were relieved to see that the end of the bridge closest to us was fenced off by a 3m high Cyclone steel-mesh barrier. And just as well, for on the other side of the fence was a sheer 10m drop to the swirling dark waters of the Murrumbidgee, which, from way up where we were, looked forbidding indeed! So safely behind this substantial steel mesh fence little 4-year old Linda and 5-year old Felicity felt very secure as we surveyed the ‘scariness’ of it all… or so we thought.
Before I could stop him, little 2-year old Richard had found a small hole big enough for him to squeeze through and was suddenly standing on a crumbling ledge on the other side of the fence where I couldn’t get him! He was holding on to the mesh and laughing, fully primed to play the next part of this exciting game with his dad.
I spoke to him very softly. My heart stopped for I knew that one wrong move would be the end of it. If I startled him or yelled at him he would have turned and slipped, disappearing over the edge into the murky waters far below. I’d already made up my mind to leap over the barrier and follow him down if that happened… So I spoke to him very softly, mindful of the precarious state we were in. His little feet dislodged pebbles and clods of dirt which disappeared over the precipice. The only thing that prevented him from falling was his firm grip on the mesh, pent up as he was for the next step in this exciting game. Then out of sheer desperation, Jan said something that changed the situation completely.
“If you’re very quiet Richard, Mummy’s got a nice lollypop for you in her bag!” This changed his focus. His attention now on what his mum was doing, Jan began rummaging around in her handbag for something to give him.
I moved with lightening speed. Before he could realise what had happened my hand was through that opening and latched onto his arm like a vice. Startled, he let go and his little legs slipped over the edge… This time the sturdy fence came to my rescue and gave me support and leverage for there was no way I was going to relinquish my grip and let my little boy go. With him kicking and screaming and my last ounce of strength, I managed to pull him through that hole to safety.
Scratched, bruised and shaking all over, I bundled everyone into the car and we got away from that place as fast as we could!
The interesting thing is that now the kids are much older, Richard and the girls have no recollection of this incident at all – but Jan and I certainly do! If there’s a life-saving message here it’s this: Toddlers move fast and are into everything. Never let them out of your sight or assume everything is completely safe and secure. Remember they see things differently from you and will probably find an ‘opening’ somewhere that you weren’t aware of.