The problem with stairs, early walkers, and TV

After reading holeycheese’s response to the kid room post, I realized how aggravating having a second floor was.  I grew up in Arizona, and for a long time, the vast majority of houses were single story.  Until twenty or so years ago, I would say that nearly every house was a single story in the city I grew up in.  Due to the heat, second stories are not practical; they become too hot and take lots of money to keep them cool.  When I was a kid, I dreamed of a second story house.


Until I had babies, I loved climbing the stairs to the second story.  Wait, scratch that.  It was when I was pregnant that I first started hating second stories.   In my first trimester, I remember the desperate need to vomit when I was half way up the stairs.  I only made it to the doorway of the master bedroom.  Then in my third trimester, I hated heaving my bulk up the stairs like Jabba the Hut.  Then with babies, I became dependent on the pack-n-play and the baby monitor.  We rarely played upstairs.


Evan was an early walker.  I don’t say this to brag but to point out the colossal stress this caused.  At ten months, he was walking around with no problem.  (He began walking because he realized our friends’ kids didn’t crawl when they played chase.)  I was not ready.  I was in desperate need of him to stay in his pack-n-play and be content.  Or in his swing or jumper or anything that kept him immobile.  Ha.  Evan was determined to move.


At this time I was desperate to keep that vile TV from polluting my son’s expanding mind.  I took my showers during to morning naps; I cooked simple, quick meals with a baby on my hip; I desperately tried to remember every song and nursery rhyme I was ever taught.  I was blissfully unaware of the world around me; Evan was blissfully unaware of damaging influences like the Tellytubbies, the Roadrunner, Mickey Mouse, Sesame Street.  I thought I was making in roads to being to perfect Mom with a genius kid.  Just think what his un-television mind could achieve: brain surgeon, Supreme Court Justice, Nobel Prize winner.


Then one day I decided to make something a little more complicated at the stove.  I don’t remember what.  Maybe it was spaghetti or fried chicken or stir fry.  Whatever it was it was too complicated to keep Evan in my arms as I worked over the stove.  I placed Evan in the family room surrounded by his favorite toys, believing he had enough to entertain him for ten minutes or so.


About eight minutes or so, I heard a baby whine over the sizzling stove.  I turned around to find Evan was not in the family room.  Worry filled me.  I was now the worse mom in the world.  I followed the whines up the stairs, into the master bedroom, into the bathroom, to find Evan sitting in a sink that was filling with hot water as he tried desperately to get himself and his monkey out of the sink.


My eleven month old son walked out of the family room, crawled up the stairs, and walked into the master bathroom.  He climbed the steps up to the bath and climbed from the bath to the counter.  He sat in the sink with his monkey and turned on the water.  All because his mind grew bored of his toys.


I was defiantly the worse mother in the world.  As I pulled Evan out of the sink, I realized that he was crying because he couldn’t get out, not because the water was burning him.  Thankfully I had turned down the water heater temperature when we first brought Evan home.  I still dropped him into the bath, running cold water over him, just in case.  That poor monkey was never the same as he does not howl like a howler monkey should.


That’s it I thought.  I need to keep Evan safe.  Because our stairs are plain weird, we couldn’t put a gate at the bottom or top.  I tried gating the sunken family room, but that little stinker figured out in a week to haul himself up and through the banister that separated the rooms.  He hated anything that kept him from being mobile.  So I turned to the one thing I swore I would never turn to, I turned on the television and found an age appropriate show, which held his attention for ten minutes, enough time where I could salvage dinner from the mess I left it in.


From that day forward I used TV sparingly as a babysitter.  Evan was (and is) a mobile kid, and he never watched any show for more than ten to fifteen minutes.  But that was enough time to get the trickiest part of the dinner done or get some chores taken care of.  Today I use the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse show to get ready for the day and make my list of chores or groceries.  PBS entertains the boys while I make dinner.  When I was pregnant, I started DVD time, which calms Evan down for bedtime and gave me an hour or so to clean the kitchen and start laundry as I was too tired to stay up for more than an hour or so after Evan’s bedtime.


Now my husband disagrees with this approach of parenting.  Granted he’s never watched the kids by himself for a full day.  He’s never had to clean the house, do any chores, or cook a meal when he was watching the boys.  Actually the last time he watched the boys during lunch time, he piled them in the car and took them to In-N-Out.  Did I mention he’s also against giving them fast food?  On Saturday mornings, my husband is the one who turns on the TV, and he was the one who introduced Evan to Mickey Mouse.  Before that the TV was always on some sort of PBS programming, except Tellytubbies. 


My belief is everything in moderation.  How can we give our kids the tools to survive out there without a lesson in moderation?  It’s all a balance.  They have to learn to work and play.  They need to learn that they can have a healthy diet and still have some fast food or dessert on occasion.  They need to learn that you don’t have to be drunk to have a good time; they can drink in moderation.  I’m not sure watching TV or eating dessert will have all the effects I want, but at least I have a half an hour to take a shower, brush my teeth, and put something on with a little style.  (Bleach stained isn’t a style yet, right?)