He was about eighteen months old when he learned how to climb out of his crib. Seriously, no extremely curious eighteen-month-old kid needs to be wandering around the house unsupervised in the wee hours of the morning. Or while the momma is taking a shower. Or trying to pee.
My husband was across the country on a business trip when ThingThree perfected the art of scaling the rails of his crib and hoisting his body over the side. I had a newborn baby and was afraid to sleep, afraid to shower, and just a wee bit emotional when I called my husband to tell him we had to do something to contain this monkey-boy!
I ordered a crib tent that day. The day I installed it, little Houdini figured out how to reach through the rails and unzip the thing. Within two minutes, he had unzipped it and climbed out, looking pretty proud of himself. Fortunately, the crib tent designer had anticipated a Houdini-toddler and fashioned a little pocket to tuck the zipper into. I lifted ThingThree back into his crib, zipped the tent, tucked the zipper, and hid around the corner to watch. Bless his little escape-artist heart! He nearly hyperventilated when he realized he was really stuck, that the zipper was hidden away and he couldn’t get to it. He screamed and cried and threw the biggest tantrum of his life, but I was smiling because I could finally take a shower without worrying that I’d find him on top of the fridge when I got out.
Because I did actually find him on top of the fridge one day. I had gone to pee. For like two minutes. And the little opportunist toddler pulled out a drawer, used it to climb his way onto the counter. Then he opened a cupboard, climbed onto the bottom shelf and hoisted himself up on top of the fridge. There, he found some medicine, opened the child-proof lid and gulped some down.
Oh, he loved to climb. He would climb onto the rails of his crib or the back of the couch or the top of an old wooden desk and then free-fall to the ground, putting out his hands at the last minute to catch himself. Or sometimes he forgot the catching part. For a long time, he had a constant scab of rug burn on his face.
When he was about three and a half, I came out of the bathroom to find him on the kitchen floor with a mixing bowl. In it, he had cracked an egg, added some salt and sugar and whatever else he could grab from the cupboard by the stove (that he had climbed up to). “You’re not going to eat that, are you?!” I exclaimed. “It could make you sick!”
He looked up at me as if I had lost my ever-loving mind. “Ummmm, that’s why I was going to microwave it first.” He calmly replied.
Yeah, this kid wore. me. out! He created elaborate booby traps with string or yarn or dental floss all over our house. I lost count of how many times I nearly broke my neck. He was determined to build a Duplo creation that would float, so he was often in the bathroom overflowing the sink with water, testing the buoyancy of his creations. He loved making us laugh, so he perfected the art of pratfalls before he was three. He was the reason I had TWO child-locks on my refrigerator door! And the only reason he couldn’t open the fridge then was because his handspan wasn’t long enough to reach the buttons on both locks at the same time.
That I kept him alive during his toddler and preschool years is quite amazing. That I did so and gave birth to two more babies within the first thirty-seven months of his life is either amazing or entirely insane.
This crazy red-headed monkey boy will be twelve next month. He builds the most incredible LEGO creations without a pattern or instructions. He just envisions it and builds it.
He still hasn’t outgrown his love of climbing and free-falling. So he’s taking diving lessons. He LOVES jumping off the ten-meter platform. I try not to throw up as my stomach does flip-flops watching him. He’s also fascinated with parkour. I think he was just happy to find out there is an actual activity with an actual name for what he had already been doing since he learned to walk.
And last night as I was driving home from dinner out with some girlfriends, my phone dinged that little ding that tells me I have a new email. When I checked it at a stoplight, I saw this email from ThingThree, “I love you!!!!!!!!”
I’m so glad I didn’t sell him to a circus when he was a preschooler!
Mommas of little ones, those toddler and preschool years can be absolutely exhausting. It can seem like simply keeping your child alive takes up every bit of your physical and emotional energy. I know. I remember. But hang in there. Really, before you know it, that child will be a responsible eleven-year-old, earning an honorable mention ribbon on a science fair project he did completely by himself. That child will be begging his teacher to let him be in the reading group that’s tackling the 500-plus page book about a dragon. That child will find ways to channel all his energy and curiosity and love of high places and fearlessness, and he will become a person who actually energizes you with his personality and sense of humor! Yes, this same child who zaps every ounce of your energy just to keep his bones intact will energize you when he gets older. It’s true.
And some day, out of the blue, with no ulterior motive, your kid with stinky feet and shaggy hair will send you an email to tell you he loves you. And you’ll be glad you used up so much energy to keep him from breaking his neck as a toddler.