Sunday, November 9, 2008

My Milk Carton Baby

Rosemary's Baby has started playing hide-and-seek. While this is usually occasion for a few motherly ooh's and aah's of adoration, another little milestone for my rug rat, I have other ideas running through my head right now. I'm just plain alarmed.
Last fall, my little munchkin, then under 2 years old, pulled out all the stops. I have a friend, who is a great cook, a fun mom and a divorcee. I'll call her the Karaoke Queen, because she's that too. In September, the Karaoke Queen decided to move in with the Boyfriend, and because friends like to help each other out (and gab while the men do all the heavy lifting), I buckled the kids into our rusty old tin-can of a truck and headed over to her place to help haul a few loads for her. We put the kids in her living room with some toys and some kid-friendly cable programming, closed the french door so they were contained, and went to work. After 5 minutes of lugging a large entertainment centre up the basement stairs, we found Firstborn standing at the top, french door open, front door also open, and Rosemary's Baby nowhere to be found.
Naturally, panic ensued. The Karaoke Queen's soon-to-be-vacant house backed onto a river, so our maternal minds automatically summoned up the image of a floating baby. Thank god the Boyfriend was a little more logical. A father himself, he knew a small child who likes to wander would want to go as far as he could as fast as he could, and followed the first big, open space he could see. While the Karaoke Queen ran up and down the river crying and I ran from house to house on the street, frantically looking for him in random yards, pulling my hair out the whole way, the Boyfriend took the gravel road up to the main street and found my little horror happily chatting away to a bewildered passer-by who couldn't imagine what mother would let such a small child wander the streets alone.
In the course of under 5 minutes, Rosemary's Baby had made it the equivalent of about 3 city blocks on a gravel road in his socks. And he was as pleased as punch with himself. I'll never forget the relief as I saw my child come into view, in the arms of my friend's cool-headed Boyfriend, grinning from ear to ear at his most recent thrilling adventure. I kissed him about 40 times before the urge to throttle him kicked in. But if there's one thing Rosemary's Baby has given me a lot of practice at, it's keeping my homicidal urges in check.
On a quick side note, someone was looking out for me in more ways than one that day, as I had used up some fruit that very morning making a sangria recipe I'd seen the night before on a repeat of 30-Minute Meals, and left it in the fridge for that evening. If there was one night I needed an entire jug of sangria, that was it.
I wish I could say that this was the only time Rosemary's Baby has caused me a moment or two of hysteria. After that incident, I was careful to lock doors and check in on him frequently, but the nature of the toddler is that he is always learning new and exciting skills. And this past spring he outdid himself.
One pleasant afternoon in May, I was working away in the kitchen while the kids played in their playroom in the basement. At some point, my instinct to check that all was well kicked in and I headed downstairs to find, once again, Firstborn exactly where I'd left him, but Rosemary's Baby most definitely gone. At first, I thought he'd headed off to another part of the house and I wasn't too bothered, but when I came up the stairs and had a passing glance in the direction of the front door, something unusual caught my eye. The door was unlocked. And at this point, I knew I had trouble. I swung the door open to see my worst possible nightmare played out in front of my eyes. Rosemary's Baby had figured out how to turn the lock on the door, run a couple hundred feet up the driveway and was standing by the side of the highway, watching the transport trucks blow by at 100 km/hr. I screamed his name, kicked off my sandals and performed an olympic sprint (seriously, I think I broke the world record) up the gravel in my bare feet. I hobbled for days afterwards.
When Rosemary's Baby heard me shriek his name and saw me coming, he was, oddly, not inclined to run to me for a hug. Instead, he gave me a demonic grin and started running down the gravel shoulder of the highway, looking back every few seconds to see if I was gaining on him, and laughing his wicked little head off the whole way. Even after I'd caught him, and was carrying him back up the driveway, giving him hell, he was visibly overjoyed at the fun he'd had. Actually, as I recall, the dogs enjoyed joining me on my run, and Firstborn stood in the doorway, jumping and clapping the whole time. So, I guess a good time was had by all. The 10 years subtracted from my life that day would probably have just been spent in an old folks home, eating tapioca and complaining about kids these days anyway.
And in case you're wondering, we now have alarms and deadbolts on all doors leading out of the house.
But this brings me to Rosemary's Baby's new amusement. He's discovered that hiding behind chairs and in closets while I run around yelling his name is a fun game. Usually it would be, but of course when he suddenly disappears like this, my brain habitually travels to the terrible scares he's given me, and I see his picture ending up on a milk carton.
Does anyone know where I could get one of those electronic tracking devices you clamp around the ankles of convicted criminals under house arrest? Now there's a toddler safety product that'd fly off the shelves.

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