When my husband’s coworker (and fellow guildmate in Warcraft) told us he and his wife were expecting a little girl nearly a year ago, I got ridiculously excited. It’s probably because the majority of our guildmates/my husband’s coworkers have boys. I was so excited, I took an old diaper box and put in a bunch newborn essentials that our daughter had already grown out of or we’d wished we’d thought of while buying baby things. There were mitts for the unexpectedly sharp fingernails, a couple of packages of newborn-sized diapers we obviously no longer needed, etc etc.
Along with all of it, I included a card that read the following:
“Being a parent is like taking up the longest and toughest escort quest of your life. There’s no ‘abandoning’ the quest and restarting it. Once you accept, that’s it. No redos, no breaks, no second-guesses, no sudden AFK’s, nothing. You only get one chance and you have to get it right the first time.
On the other hand, being a parent is the most rewarding escort quest you’ll ever find. Your rewards won’t be immediate and they may not be frequent. But when it happens, the feeling isn’t just epic. It’s legendary.”
The wife doesn’t play WoW but she knows enough about it from all of us to understand. (She’s also the same person to encourage this blog, by the way. If it weren’t for her, none of this would be here!) Parents are in for the long haul and there’s no turning back.
Fragile NPC: A Lesson in Childproofing
Those familiar with video games know just how mind-bogglingly frustrating escort events are. The thing you’re trying to protect may walk straight into a room of enemies, or into a pit of molten lava and any number of things that make you scream, “NO! Don’t do that!!” while you stave off a heart attack.
Coincidentally, those with babies and toddlers experience the same exact thing and often scream the same exact words– especially once the child starts learning mobility. Almost every parent knows about electrical outlets and utilizing covers. That’s the easy part. You remove all of the breakable objects and sharp objects from kid-reach. Some parents even go so far as to remove the coffee table from the living room and place it in storage.
What no one seems to tell you is that you have to keep the floors ridiculously clean at all times as a means of childproofing your house. Not just picking up things that you’d dropped or cleaning up messes. No, no. Absolutely debris-free. Perhaps this was something obvious that I’d missed up until I realized my daughter was finding the one thing on the floor I had failed to vacuum or sweep up. Constantly. And, of course, anything a baby finds immediately goes into the mouth for a taste test. Yuck. I had to forbid any shoes from ever touching the carpet (which is a little hard to do since we have no actual foyer or front-door staging area). Try as I might, my little Jawa always managed to find something of interest on the seemingly barren floor.
On the upside, I’ve taught my daughter what’s alright to touch and what isn’t. She even knows the proper response to, “No, don’t play with that. Bring it here to Mommy,” now. The other day, she found a straw wrapper that somehow missed the garbage receptacle and ended up on the floor. I told her to stop and give the trash to me… And she complied immediately! She dutifully stopped, crawled to where I was sitting and stood up to gently place the wrapper in my hand. Then she went back to her toys. Victory!
As I wrote in “Anthropologist Mom,” most of my “stare at baby” time was observational. The other side to that was my idea that I couldn’t let my daughter out of my sight for even a single moment. While it sounds a little (well, okay… maybe quite a bit) neurotic, this was probably my best– not to mention cheapest– method of childproofing. I was always there to correct her mistakes and make sure she never came to any inadvertent harm.
Now that she’s a little older and more self-aware, I don’t always have to be there. The time I spent being a sentinel, keeping my daughter in line during play, has actually paid off enough that I can just put up the gate by the stairs and let her play in another room by herself. The transition has been gradual, like most things with babies, and she’s beginning to enjoy her budding independence more and more.
I remember my daughter’s first smile. Then her first giggle. And when she started sitting up in her crib, expectantly watching for me to come get her in the mornings. And then watching a big, gummy smile light up her face when she finally sees me. Or when she started standing and now scrambles to her feet so I can pick her up.
I love seeing her hold up her arms in the “Hug me?” sign. I love hearing her laugh, especially at the delight of finally figuring something out so she’s clapping with glee, too. When she’s upset and can’t be consoled by anyone or anything but a hug from mommy, I feel like I must have done something right in the journey so far. When she lays her head down on my shoulder and tucks her arms in, I feel oddly at peace with everyone and everything.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from the past year and a half, it’s that the little things– the ones that give you joy and merriment– do matter. And the little things that don’t go according to plan or whatnot, those don’t matter as much. Your child’s smile is more effective at wiping away worry and anger than a hunter’s tranq shot, after all. So as tough and frustrating and completely harrowing escorting a baby through life can be, the little moments that make up all of the good times are more than worth it.