I Can’t Protect My Kids From Stairs

A significant portion of being a parent to little kids is trying to stop them from hurting themselves. I make sure they don’t pinch their fingers in drawers or bang their heads on tables. What feels like a hundred times a day I tell them to be careful. I remind them of what happened to all those monkeys that jumped on their bed. I think I do a pretty good job making sure my kids don’t flop around the house with complete disregard for their personal safety, and for my efforts all three of my kids have fallen down the stairs.

Before you ask – yes, we have a baby gate and it is almost always up. It was actually up when my one year-old feel down and gave me the neglectful parent hat trick. To be fair, he has the physical make up a fire hydrant. The baby gate was no match for his mass. He sat down on the floor with his back to the gate, leaned back, and down he went. At least this is what I pieced together in the Fall Scene Investigation, because of course it happened when I left the room for one freaking minute.

I climbed over the baby gate to go down stairs to move a load of laundry from the washer to the drier, and bring what was in the drier up to be folded. No good deed goes unpunished, right? It took me no time at all, and as I was approaching the bottom of the stairs, I heard it. The snap of the baby gate giving way, the bang of the gate as it hit the stairs, the thud and the wail of the baby that followed.

I threw down the laundry, leapt up the stairs, dodged the falling gate, and got to the little fella as he laid on his back three steps from the top. Three steps, not bad. Could have been worse. When my middle daughter was about his age, maybe a little older, her tumble down the stairs made both her lip bleed and me feel like the worst parent in the world. So I can live with three stairs and no blood.

Although, she fell down the stairs because she was trying to climb up them. I have no idea how high up she made it before tumbling down, because – shocker – I wasn’t there. I had to run upstairs to take a work call. How’s that for some guilt? I choose work over my kids and one of them immediately falls down the stairs. I put her older sister in charge, but apparently she was really slacking on her literal only job of keeping her sister away from the stairs. Free tip – never put a three year-old in charge of anything. While she did nothing to actually prevent it, she was more than willing to run and tell me that her sister fell down. Thanks kiddo.

What I really find ironic, is that the stairs is pretty much the only thing in the house that we baby proofed. We didn’t put latches on cabinets, or rounded corners on tables. We did an ok job of putting the plastic plugs in the electrical outlets the kids can reach, but they quickly learned how to take them out. If a kid is that determined to zap themself, what are you gonna do? But we did put the baby gate up. And I have climbed over that thing hundreds of times, because I’d rather leave it up than take it down for even just a minute while I run and get something out the basement. And what happens? My bowling ball of a son plows right through it.

I get that you can’t protect your kids from everything, but is it too much to ask to actually protect them from the thing you are protecting them from? I suppose the bright side of this is that they are all fine, and few bruises and bloody lips never really hurt anybody. And it doesn’t make me a bad parent. Does it? No, it doesn’t. But does it? Is the fault in the act, or in the result? I’ve always been a firm believer in “no harm, no foul,” and I think it applies here.

Though I am sure it will burn in their memories and stick with them forever. Nobody carries a mildly traumatic experience with them like a little kid. When my oldest daughter was still learning how to run, she tripped, fell, and scraped her knee while we were out for walk. For the two years since that happened, every single time we walk past the spot where she fell she reminds us how she fell there. Sometimes forgets that she is already wearing underwear when she goes to put a new pair on, but she always remembers the exact spot on the sidewalk where she bit it.

I hope that stairs are just my Achilles heel and this isn’t the start of what will be an ongoing trend. Does it start with falling down the stairs on my watch and escalate from here? Just to be safe, I’ll keep them away from escalators. Moving stairs is just asking for trouble.

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