Last night as we were clearing up from a spontaneous neighborhood BBQ, I suddenly heard screams coming from Søren’s room. I walked in and saw that his leg was stuck at an awkward angle through the bars of his crib. He was wedged up to his thigh and his body was contorted on the mattress, face red, tears soaking the bed. I tried to pull his leg back through the bars but his plump little knee woulnd’t fit. I rotated his body so he wasn’t at such a knee-dislocating angle and started calling for help. Søren screamed louder. Huzzybee ran in and the two of us extracated him from the crib while our BBQ guests waited, wide-eyed in the kitchen.
Fifteen minutes later, soothed with some time in the rocking chair and a good book, we tucked him back in to bed (after tightening and readjusting his baby bumper), shut off the light and continued to clean up. Fifteen minutes after that I again heard cries coming from his room. He was stuck between the bars again, but this time it was just his foot. I disentangled him, sang him a song, tucked him back in, and turned off the light.
A half an hour later his foot was caught again and I glimpsed a sly smile on his lips as I picked him up. And then it occurred to me that the last two times hadn’t been accidents at all – he’d been playing me like a ten-pound bag of quarters in a cheap Vegas casino. After putting him to bed he would wait a few minutes, lay on his back in a comfortable position, daintily slip a pudgy foot between the bars of his crib, take a deep breath and start wailing.
I’m not scared of much – spiders, earthquakes, and now toddlers. Manipulative, ill-mannered, lacking in personal hygiene and basic social graces, toddlers are adorable little dictators whose sole occupation is finding how to get into trouble…and then getting into trouble. They have hours of free time to think about ways to thwart their parents and injure themselves. I think I can handle the injuries, but because I’m a pretty trusting person I can’t handle the thwarting.
Thinking about all of this is making grey hair spring from my scalp and digging deep wrinkles under my eyes.