Toddlers and Stairs, Part 2

It’s a lazy Saturday morning as Samuel is watching a movie, Kirsten is sleeping after work last night, and Nathan has finally settled for a nap. It’s not supposed to be a lazy Saturday morning, though. We should be on our way home from Canton after Samuel’s first race this season for the Cuyahoga Falls Running Black Tigers. We decided not to go late last night after Nathan followed in his brother’s footsteps- literally- by falling down our (thankfully carpeted) basement stairs. Samuel did it when he was a little older than Nathan and was just learning to walk using a toy walker that he stood behind and pushed around. In Nathan’s case, Kirsten had just left for work and Samuel was going downstairs to brush his teeth. He dutifully closed the door with Nathan nearby, but then turned around and talked to and interacted with Nathan through the door. I was not more than 4 feet away, but looking down at something. We have a child lock on the door now, but it has to be activated from upstairs; so Samuel couldn’t lock it from the other side after going through the door. I should have locked it immediately. I should have known. I didn’t, though, as Nathan has never- until last night- successfully been able to reach, grasp, and pull the handle, though every day he’s been surprising us with what he can reach and do and what kind of trouble he can thus manage to get into.  So not long after Samuel finally went down the stairs, I heard a ruckus in the stairway. It sounded a lot like Samuel noisily making his way up the stairs, which he is prone to do, and for the first few milliseconds that’s what I thought it was. A few milliseconds after that, though, I heard Nathan crying downstairs and a pit suddenly opened in my stomach as I realized what had happened. Even as I rushed downstairs to get him the guilt and blame began, but more about that later.

As we did with Samuel, I immediately ignored common sense and sound medical thinking as I scooped Nathan up and rushed him back upstairs. I think it’s that parental (and even more so, paternal) protective instinct that made it impossible to not remove him from the scene of danger.  I knew pretty quickly that Nathan was probably fine. He had cried right away and there were no obvious signs of injury- no blood, no bumps,  no scratches even. He was awake, alert, and responding to me and being himself. I undressed him, looked him over, checked out his limbs, etc.; everything seemed okay. I called Kirsten and then the “after hours” number/nurse line for his doctor, and it seemed okay not to go into the ER but to watch him instead for signs of any brain trauma, etc. I had a hard time getting him settled for bed (couldn’t give him milk yet), and not long after he finally puked a little bit; so I decided to take him in to the ER (at the hospital where Kirsten works and was working that night)  just to be safe. They were busy, but they saw him relatively quickly and concurred that “we got away with this one,” as the doctor put it. Relieved, we went back home after seeing Kirsten for a minute as she was able to get away from her floor to come down and see us.

After all that drama we decided to just lay low this morning rather than get up early and drive a half hour for Samuel’s race. Some not-very-often-had donuts and a viewing of “American Tail 2” took Samuel’s mind off missing the race pretty quickly. As I alluded, though, I feel terribly guilty and responsible for what happened. I feel responsible, because I am. I’m the parent, the adult; I should have predicted what would happen and known that we had crossed that line where the door had to be locked at all times now. I, especially, should have been aware of what was happening. I, the just-officially-diagnosed PTSD sufferer with hypervigilance as one of the hallmark symptoms I experience, should have sensed the danger and acted to stop it. So I, especially, feel all that much more guilty. Thank God, Nathan seems fine. I’m not so sure when I will be, though.

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