I considered several different titles for this post…
“Adventures in Child-Proofing” was one possibility.
“To Insanity…and Beyond” had a certain ring.
Another option involved the simplicity of sticking to the facts, with
“We Survived Three Junior Houdinis!”
(I want the t-hirt!)
All of the possibilities listed above have the “hanging on by your toenails” chaotic edge that captures a bit of the reality of our life at the Boyd house for the last few years. But, alas, none of those catchy titles had the other element that all parents recognize as one childhood phase is ending and another begins: an odd combination of giddy relief and totally dramatic nostalgia. The symptoms are common. As you regain your sanity after realizing that the pre-school years have truly passed, you may find yourself looking at photos of sticky little boo bears sitting in a high chair and wishing you could go through half a tub of wet wipes cleaning up a squirmy little cutie pie’s face and hands just one more time. You watch a video of the holidays and realize how joyful it is to see wonder and delight through the eyes of a precious little one. Or, you see something that your child would have just loved as a pre-schooler… and realize that you don’t have anyone to share those kinds of things with any more. The feeling of treasuring all of the short-lived sweetness of the baby and toddler years lingers long after the outgrown clothes and toys have found a new home. Ah, sweet memories!
Let’s not forget the flip side of forgetful nostalgia, though. I don’t have to view many sticky boo bear photos before remembering all of the milestones that moving forward represents. There are no more diapers, no more potty chairs, no more sippy cups, and no more baby gates. Ah, yes. It’s all coming back to me now in a flood of the aforementioned giddy relief.
No more diapers means: no more changing diapers, no more buying diapers, no more waiting for the stall with the nasty changing table to become vacant, and no more wet spots in your lap.
No more potty chairs means: no more cleaning potty chairs, no more 50 yard dash through a crowded restaurant to a potty that your suddenly persnickety toddler refuses to use, and no more wet spots on your couch (even worse than on a lap).
No more baby gates means: no more parent wipe-outs after the “I think I’ll just step over it this time” syndrome claims one more victim.
And, finally, no more sippy cups means: no more frantic treasure hunts for the elusive favorite cup that fell out of the stroller somewhere on the ten block walk from your car to the arts festival (and then finding the missing cup two weeks later under the seat of the car after searching for the source of noxious fumes in your vehicle).
Are you giddy yet?
If you are still overtaken with parental nostalgia, allow me to refresh your memory with a tale of aging parents totally outnumbered by four adorable and clever pre-schoolers plus two older boys. Travis and I were experienced parents before we had pre-schoolers times four. We had a daughter who was married, a son in junior high, and another son in elementary school. We’d dealt with all the issues of child-rearing previously, but the years between our oldest three meant that we were dealing with the baby or pre-school stage one child at a time. At least, that was so until the four youngest Boyd boys came along. Braden, the oldest of the four, was three years old (almost four) when his twin brothers, Austin and Camden, were born. In the middle of the pre-school pack was Logan, who was born about half-way between Braden and the twins. So, by the time that twins Camden and Austin were fully ambulatory at age one, Logan was two and a half and Braden was four (almost five). At that stage, we were child-proofing like crazy. We had all of the usual outlet plugs and cabinet latches, but we quickly discovered that we needed to go much further. Though Braden was past the age of getting into everything, he was fascinated by the toys belonging to older brother Zachary (then age 6) and by oldest brother Jared’s Star Wars lego structures. If Jared forgot to lock the door to his room, Braden discovered it and was inside in a heart beat, destroying the complicated Lego builds. The force was with him. In the room that Braden and Zach shared, Braden left most things alone. However, he loved to dump out the baskets and bins of sorted toys (like hot wheels, super hero figures, monster trucks, construction vehicles, and duplo blocks) that were stored in the closet. To prevent all of the small toys from being out at once, we did place locks on the closet doors. Even with the force, Braden could not defeat us. We were undaunted. It was a hassle getting into the closet when we needed something, though.
The three youngest pre-schoolers shared a bedroom out of necessity, so at first we had two cribs and a toddler bed in the room. Later on, we had three toddler beds. Yes, we used all of the conventional child-proofing stuff with these three, but we were forced to go far beyond the norm time and time again. Our three sweet-faced toddlers might have looked totally innocent, but these little guys were amazingly resourceful. What one didn’t think of, another one would. Then, they would work together to accomplish their dastardly plan. Logan was our fearless climber. There was no such thing as “out of reach” where he was concerned. Have you ever seen a pre-schooler totally dismantle a lamp, leaving the shade totally torn apart down to the framework and the base of the lamp dismantled (miraculously, without breaking the light bulb)? Logan did. We gave up on having a lamp on top of their chest of drawers. As with Braden, we had to use locks on the closet for Austin, Camden, and Logan’s room. They would even pull clothing off of hangers and drag out all of the linens stored inside if we accidentally left the closet door open. In addition, Travis had to drill holes in every drawer front and install key locks on their chest of drawers. Otherwise, they would pull the drawers out and use them as a ladder to climb to the top of the chest. They would also pull out all of the folded clothing and have a good ol’ time throwing it everywhere in their room. If Mom was in the utility room trying to start a load of laundry, it was amazing how much destruction they could create in just a few minutes. Twins Austin and Camden also had their own twin language. This is not uncommon for twins, and it was quite fascinating. We never figured out what they were saying, but they understood each other perfectly. I think they were conspiring to pull off their next daring feat of destruction.
One thing that our three little Houdinis did was to repeatedly figure out ways to escape their room. They had plenty of play space and toys, and their room was right next to the kitchen, so we often had them playing in their room with the baby gate to keep them confined to one area and safe. After a while, they figured out how to climb the gate. We got a taller gate. It worked for a few days. It was like watching a military obstacle course in basic training. They were over the top in no time. In response, Travis built a smooth, half door to take the place of the gate. It was rather tall. with nothing that could be used as a foot-hold. That worked for a long time, but Logan eventually learned to scale the sheer cliff face of the half door. What would appear to a little fellow as a rather imposing structure, significantly taller than their full height even on tiptoe, was no match for our little escape artists.
Then, there was one thing these three did that I have never heard any other pre-school Mom mention. They would not leave their beds intact, no matter what we did. That drove me crazy. Every single day, the three of them took off their sheets and mattress pads. Camden and Austin started doing this when they were still in their cribs. Logan thought they had a great idea, so he was soon dismantling his bed as well. Then, they started taking the mattresses off. We finally wound up purchasing a bunch of luggage straps and strapping the mattresses to the bed frames, with the latch for the strap down below the slats inside the enclosed frame. One luggage strap was not enough. Each bed had to have one strap in the middle and one at each end. Have you ever heard of such a thing? I’m telling you, when those three little boys worked together, they were very strong. We tried everything to get them to stop doing this. We tried praising them when their beds stayed together for any length of time. We did time outs, we removed some of their toys and their favorite blankies, and even tried a little diapered bottom swat to discourage our miniature slumber demolition crew. Then, they figured out that if they all pushed, they could move furniture! Unbelievable! We literally had to fasten furniture to the wall with anchors and “L” brackets and whatever else worked. This kind of determined and systematic dismantling of their beds and their room continued for almost 3 years! Even when they could go anywhere in the house, they still were a wrecking crew in their own room. We finally abandoned using sheets for a while. It was pointless to keep trying since the sheets never stayed on. They all slept on their plastic covered mattresses in their toddler beds for a few weeks. Finally, one day, they asked for sheets. We put them on, and they have never gone back to the daily bedding battles. Whew! Finally!
Sometimes I wondered if they older brothers were supplying contraband. No matter how we tried to make sure that all coloring was done at the kitchen table or on their high chair trays, a marker or crayon would sometimes wind up in the little guys’ room. You may have seen what one toddler can do with a writing implement. Multiply that times three, and we’re talking graffiti on an epic scale. Walls were not the only target. They also ‘decorated’ furniture, the windowsill, and the window itself. Thank goodness for Mr. Clean magic erasers!
It was such a blessing to have a handyman husband during those childproofing battleground years. Travis was constantly having to come up with new strategies to keep them safe, reconstruct things they broke, and maintain some remnant of sanity for the rest of the family. They actually pulled the door knobs off of their closet doors four times, stripping out the screw holes each time. To replace them, Travis would turn the knob a new direction so that the screws would be in a different place. The knobs are on the doors now only because Travis found a super strength filler that allowed him to re-use the stripped out holes. One day not long after we moved to our new home in Georgia, I looked up to see Camden (who had been sitting on the couch watching a pre-school program just moments before) climbing over the stair rail and catapulting himself onto a table below. It was one of those hide-a-tables (with a plywood top and three spindly legs) that you cover with a floor-length tablecloth. The table was no match for Camden. As soon as his little bottom and the force of his toddler exuberance hit the table top, the whole thing collapsed, with Camden on top of the heap. That incident may have been life-saving. It scared Camden (and his brothers) so much that no one has ever climbed over the stair rail again. To fix the table after this incident, Travis built a rectangular box with a shelf, adding a base for stability; and it became the new support for the table top, with the bonus of some hidden storage. Who else do you know who has an industrial strength hide-a-table? What a man!
A couple of weeks ago, a significant rite of passage occured. The final piece of toddler furniture in the Boyd house has now been donated to Good Will. We had been talking about purchasing a bunk bed for the room shared by Austin, Camden and Logan so that they could finally all have a ‘big boy’ bed. When I found a great deal on a used bunk bed with the sturdiest metal frame I’ve sever seen, we bought it. Austin and Camden now share the imposing structure, and Logan has his own twin bed. The last remaining toddler bed is finally gone. I must admit that I did feel a little wave of nostalgia when we were removing the toddler bed from the room. After all, this toddler bed frame is the one that Travis made after the boys tore up Logan’s two previous toddler beds. The white, metal framed toddler bed that had served us well for Jared, Zachary, and Braden bit the dust when the welds connecting the bed platform to the headboard began to fail. We tried to get it re-welded, but none of the local welders we tried wanted to mess with it. So, we purchased a new toddler bed with a metal frame and molded plastic legs, headboard, and footboard. They destroyed the molded plastic parts of that bed within less than a year. Our final toddler bed was a super sturdy wooden one that Travis made, with rounded corners for safety and total overkill on the strength of the frame and the bed platform. It lasted for as long as it was needed, and we closed the door on nostalgia when it was carried out to the pick-up for transportation to Good Will.
Through the years, Travis and I have shared so much joy with our bunch, even during all of the craziness of the pre-school years and constant child-proofing. Each of our six boys is incredibly awesome. We are so proud of them and so blessed to be their parents! If we had been blessed with more than our six sons and one daughter, we would have loved them all and found a way to make it through. Our little guys were not the only ones who knew how to be resourceful. We are just thankful to have survived and to see our boys well on their way to growing up strong and living a life that honors God. We still have locks on the closet doors in Austin, Camden, and Logan’s room, but we don’t have to worry about them climbing on the chest of drawers anymore. Logan has special needs; and he still can be destructive, but we are working on that. He and his twin brothers all keep their sheets on now, and they are growing up. So, goodbye to baby gates, strollers, sippy cups, high chairs, potty chairs, diapers, child-proofing devices of every description, and pull-ups. All of the baby and toddler gear served us as well as possible, but we don’t need it anymore. We’ve loved our little guys through every stage and laughed at all of their antics; but now the three littlest Boydinis are moving on, and so are we!
This post was written by C. Boyd
Do you have any unusual child-proofing tales to tell? We’d love to hear about your experience, so feel free to comment.
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