until you had kids.
If you thought taking a job interview was anxiety-provoking, then try having small children to put it into perspective.
From the moment they can crawl, each new place you visit turns into a haven of potential death-traps and, through some kind of sleuthian biological imperative, you transform into a hazard-spotting Sherlock.
I had my first sight of this pre-pregnancy, when a friend of mine came to stay with her two children under the age of five. As soon as she walked through our door, she was visibly scanning the place for dangers we had never thought to notice. The lampshade that was listing over to one side, almost touching a naked bulb. The plug whose wiring was exposed at the base. The collection of heavy wine-bottles arranged precariously on top of the wobbly fridge, at just the right height to render senseless any small person unfortunate to cause a bottle to fall…the list went on, and the Daddy D and I were soon cowering under our sofa in terror. Whoever knew our house could be so scary?
And these were only the obvious dangers. Even the staunchest child-avoiders would probably, with a bit of imagination, realise that stairs, and gardens with open fishponds, for instance, aren’t the safest environments to leave a tottering one-year-old unsupervised. But, since having children, we’ve come to learn that some previously harmless objects are now also potential weapons of tot destruction.
And you thought the scariest thing about children and lavatories was poo-related, right? You’re wrong. No, apparently it’s vital to keep the toilet lid down, at all times, in case your little darling decides to try and chase the brown stuff, upending themselves into the bowl.
Shudder…..this scenario fills me with such dread that I’ve been known to pile heavy scented candles and other bathroom ornaments onto the toilet lid, just in case one of the pigeons decides to lift…. and explore….
Chests of drawers
Or, indeed, any furniture item taller than about two feet. Strapping cabinets to the walls using complex systems of harnesses, bolts and screws isn’t something a non-parent would think to do when rearranging the front room. But small children are like squirrels, and before you’ve had a chance to upload the ‘first steps’ video to youtube they have a habit of swarming up the sides of bookcases, tallboys, chests of drawers…. just like Austin when he was the tender age of one. Luckily the chest in his bedroom was half-empty, and he was thrown clear when it came crashing down on top of him (the stats on fatalities are still too sickening for me to look at properly, after this incident). We were shaken enough to go round every remotely topple-able furniture item in the house and staple it to the wall. Even the vegetable rack now has a ‘no baking potatoes on the top shelf’ rule.
Grapes, blueberries, nuts….you’re thinking ‘delicious, healthy snacks’? Stop right now. No, these windpipe-sized items are well-known choking hazards. And, until you’ve gone through a whole punnet of tiny blueberries, chopping each one in half in a bid to make sure your baby enjoys the superfoods in safety, you’ve never suffered the sacrifice of true parental love (either that, or you’ve FAR too much time on your hands).
And don’t get me started on peas. As well as lodging themselves in throats, these little green menaces are, according to a recent poll by the British Red Cross, the most common items found stuck in noses and ears.
Mushy peas for tea it is, then.
For the sensibly faint-hearted: the Red Cross have just launched a Baby and Child First Aid app, with a hospital finder in case your child chokes on a button while you’re shopping in a new, unknown part of town. Or cracks their head open in a service station on the way back from Scotland, which happened to some friends of ours. Yikes.
Keep safe, y’all.