This page is not so much a list of toddler safety tips, as the story of what happened to a parent at a friends’ house.
There are plenty of sources of information on the Internet. The lesson here is all about toddler proofing your mind.
Here's what happened I was invited over with the kids – it wasn’t exactly a party, just 2 or 3 friends and their children sitting in the garden having a drink.
4 year-old Louis played with the other kids, and two-year-old Tom did his own thing, wandering around the house and garden. He divided his time between the garden and playroom at the front of the house. If he disappeared inside for more than a couple of minutes, I would check on him. So far so good as regards toddler safety.
Doing one of my checks, I saw that not only had Tom disappeared but that the door from the playroom was open – the door that led out onto the front patio and road. open.
We checked the house but he had gone.
Everyone fanned out and started searching for my son. There were about 10 of us looking - my friends’ teenage son and and his mates were also at home.
The good news was that this house was in a suburban quiet cul de sac. The bad news was that at the end of the cul de sac was a field that led to another road…as well as a railway track.
One of my friends got in her car and went to look beyond the end of the road. I ran off down a nearby alleyway (we just kept on discovering more possible exits). I tried to ask passers by if they had seen a toddler but by this time I was pretty incoherent.
While I was down the alley I knew I had to get myself together. I knew I had to somehow rise above the hideous panic that was setting in. I started repeating to myself
When I get back they will have him
When I get back they will have him
- and some part of my mind actually managed to connect with that belief.
I made myself visualize it.
Once I searched the alley thoroughly, I returned to the cul de sac where one of the passers by told me my friends had found Tom. I ran down to my friends’ house where she was just bringing him back.
Where had he gone? To the end of the road, crossed it and gone round the corner to a bigger and busier road. It is impossible to get to the point he had reached without crossing a road.
The most awful part that keeps replaying in my mind is the bit where Tom must have wandered across the road. This is a road with loads of parked cars and the chances of him not being seen by a driver would have been, well, very high.
Lessons There are 2 big toddler safety lessons I take away from his experience:
1. It’s so easy to get complacent
The problem here with my toddlers safety was that just because our house always has a front door that shuts securely, I naively expected that anyone else would be the same.
If a friend with a 6 month old came to visit me, it would be potentially really unsafe because my home is not baby proof. As your child’s development moves on, so does your safety focus. Right now mine is to toddler proof everything, ie make it impossible for a child with absolutely no sense of danger (scratch that – no sense full stop) to hurt himself. My friends’ youngest child is 7 and their safety focus is different.
2. I take complete responsibility for what happened
I never left the door open. Who knows, it could have just swung open itself. Of course nobody would ever deliberately leave that door open. When you’re scared - especially when it comes to something like toddler safety - it’s really easy to blame other people. This is completely wrong – if you live at the level where other people’s actions decide your life, then how can you change things?
And surely the important thing is for me to have a greater awareness of how I can best protect my child in the future.
I was lucky - very lucky - that I had this warning thrown in my face like a bucket of cold water, without any harm coming to my toddler.
What I’m saying is that whenever you are out of your home environment at a friends’ house for example, just assume that it is not set up for toddler safety.
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