Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Great Escape

Two days ago, the au pair had the day off. It was errand-running day, so after breakfast the family got ready to leave. Big A was doing some last minute work at his laptop, so I alternated between brushing my teeth, putting my clothes on, packing Little A's bag and checking up on him as he watched tv and played in the living room.

We live in a first-floor flat with two terraces that open out into the building's swimming pool and playground area. On windy days, we open the French doors to let the breeze blow through the house. The living room doors are blocked by heavy blinds, and Little A knows that when he wants to get out, the blinds need to be lifted by a grownup first. Not that that stops him trying to do it himself. It was a windy morning, so one of the glass doors was open.

During my fourth spot check in five minutes, Little A was gone. I called out to Big A while checking the other rooms, bathrooms and kitchen. Big A ran outside to look there. Little A was nowhere we could immediately see, and I heard Big A asking the gardeners and maintenance men nearby if they'd seen him anywhere.

One of the men on a gondola halfway up the side of the building shouted down, "There's a child over there, by the swimming pool!" When Big A turned the corner, he saw our son walking along the edge of the pool the way he usually does while holding on to one of our hands. When Little A reached the shallow part at the corner, he heard his father calling out to him. As soon as Little A saw his beloved swimming companion approaching, he sat down at the edge and lowered himself into the water.

I know the statistics, about children drowning in less than two minutes in less than an inch of water, and I thanked Little A's guardian angel for keeping him from falling into the deep end without anyone to see it happen. What did amaze us though was how he managed this escape.

Besides getting past the window blinds, Little A scaled a fence that was taller than himself for the first time on his own. He'd previously tried climbing this fence but always made sure someone was nearby to help him, and he never climbed up to the top and down the other side, even with assistance. Clearly, not doing does not mean being unable to in this case.

Big A and I didn't know whether to scold or praise our son. I told him that what he had done was never to be repeated without a grownup present, but I know he knows that when grownups are present he would never need to scale a fence because they would always help him over it. Still, he is at the stage where climbing anything is a must-do, and his amazing balance allows him to do this at lightning speed. In two steps he is atop a table that is nearly twice his height. This means he needs to be constantly watched, not just from minute to minute but every single waking second.

Errand-running was then delayed by an hour, as Big A was forced to join his son in the swimming pool while I wondered how on earth Martha Kent survived raising a toddler who must have been quicker and more daring (though also more indestructible) than mine.

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