By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
No one could have ever prepared me for how scary being a parent can be. Our baby recently reached a milestone – he can now open, and knows he can open, all of the exterior doors.
We’d replaced the door handle on the back door with a spherical doorknob shortly after he started walking. That old door handle was very easy for him to open just by hanging from it, and he quickly figured that out.
We got almost two years out of that doorknob before he discovered he can open the exterior doors just as easily as he’s been opening the interior doors; easier in some cases because there is no carpet to provide friction. Locking them didn’t really help either, because it didn’t take him any longer to figure out how to turn the lock latches, on both the doorknobs and dead bolt locks.
We’ve caught him outside a few times now, playing with his sandbox toys or water table in his formerly clean, now soaking wet and dirty, pajamas. He’s never been out there long before we notice, less than a minute usually, he just gets that dirty that quick.
But on a recent Friday morning, while I was getting his clothes together for daycare, and his mom was on a conference call, I came out of the bedroom and he was gone. He wasn’t anywhere to be found indoors. I couldn’t see him in the front or back yard, and he wasn’t answering my calls. I rushed immediately to the pool, knowing it was unlikely, but not impossible, that he’d climbed the ladder and fallen in during the short time he’d been out of sight. Breathing a sigh of relief when I realized he wasn’t under the water, my anxiety nonetheless continued to rise as I heard his mom and brother calling for him from the front of the house. I was ready to take off into the woods, towards the creek – another of his favorite places – when he came around from the field side of the house, trotting happily toward me and piping up, “Here I am!”
I can’t rightly explain the feelings that flooded through me; joy, relief, gratitude for an answered prayer, and mixed with that, anger and frustration. He knows he isn’t allowed outside without a grown up. Yes, he’s three, but he’s old enough to know this is the rule.
He received an admonishment and a half-hearted smack on the tail for going outside without permission, between hugs and copious kisses on the head.
That afternoon, before picking him up from daycare, I stopped into James Do-It-Best for a chain lock and pair of in frame locks that he won’t be able to reach and unlock on his own until he’s a teen.
By then, I’m sure, I’ll have a whole new list of things to worry about. But, for now, I’ll take it.
Jeremy D. Wells can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org