By Feature Writer Rebecca Nelson Lubin
A few weeks ago, one of my childhood friends posted a picture of her three year old on Facebook. The lovely little boy was smiling, laying in a sea of feathers, having taken apart his pillows while his Mother, a surgeon, tried to sleep in past dawn. I laughed and posted a comment,
“Reminds me of the three year old I watch.”
Why is it that some children are hell bent on destruction? My older brother was required to be on lockdown. Every door in our childhood home, including the one to the bedroom that we shared, had a high hook that only our parents could reach, therefore giving them the piece of mind that the little terror they were raising would stay in the room that they had placed him in – and stay in the house and not wander the streets of Fresh Meadows, Queens, dragging his protesting little sister (me) along. I had always thought that this level of security was completely unnecessary, and that my parents must have been amiss in their duties. Until my own charge turned three and became determined to escape, pillage, and destroy.
The first time it happened it was not on my watch. It was a weekend night, and a few hours after putting the children to sleep, Mom Boss went up to Dad Boss’ home office – a separate structure on the property - to check in on how his work was coming along. She heard a rustling in the dark by the big gate that separated their property from the street…and found her three-year-old son. On the street side. He said that he had woken up and decided to say hi to Daddy. A high hook immediately went up on his door.
My problems with him began during the day. I would have him all set up with an activity and tell him, “I’m going to go and put your clothes in the dryer. Stay right here.” I would race back to the kitchen / playroom / his bedroom after the fastest laundry change in history and find him gone. There is nothing quite like the heart in the throat moments when you race all over the house calling the name of your charge. You picture him floating in the hot tub, poised over an outlet with a screwdriver, or heartily eating the dog food. I found him that first time by the bare garden. It was April. He said, “Where are all the blueberries?”
“It’s April,” I said, “There are no blueberries yet. What are you doing outside?”
“I wanted blueberries,” he replied.
Over the summer my employers moved to a new house. One of my first calls was to Home Safety Services to baby / toddler proof the entire house. I ordered the works - including window latches and high hooks on all doors. I had to replace the basic latches for better latches after one week when the three year old undid his, and leaned far out the window to call to his older brother and myself in the yard below just after I had put him down for a nap.
“What are you guys doing?” He yelled from the second floor window, half of his body visible.
I took him with me to the fruit bowl in the kitchen, grabbed a papaya, and brought him back upstairs to his window. I held him tightly and said,
“Watch what happens to the papaya when it falls out a window”, and hurled the fruit down to the yard below. We both went down to inspect the remains.
“Wow.” He said, “It got all smashed.”
“That would be you if you fell out the window.” I said.
“That would be my head.” He said, impressed.
He got the point about the windows, but there still was some work to be done about the doors. We, the grown-ups, had to remember to keep them hooked, for example. One recent evening, just after the time change, I left the front door un-hooked after a late delivery from UPS. I was clearing the dishes from dinner when I suddenly noticed that the three year old had slipped out. I ran to the front door. It was hanging open. I ran out into the street and found the boy en route across the cul-de-sac, in the dark.
“Where do you think you’re going?” I asked him.
“I want to visit the neighbors.” He said.
“Three year olds are not allowed to leave the house by themselves.” I reprimanded.
“I’m three and three quarters!” He argued.
It could be worse. One of my favorite websites is called Shit My Kid Ruined, which is completely devoted to posting pictures of things children have destroyed the moment the parent’s back is turned. For now, I have been holding my charge back on his destructive and wandering ways by threatening the consequence of losing his trains for 24 hours for any further infractions. If that should fail, I am going to call back Home Safety Services and see if there is some sort of GPS chip they could put in his neck that I might monitor from my cell phone. ________________________________________________
Rebecca Nelson Lubin is a writer and Nanny who resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. You may read more of her articles at http://www.abandofwives.ning.com/