Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mae: Destroyer of Baby Gates

Last night Maggie broke through the bottom baby gate in her room.  I heard a crash and ran up the stairs to find her laughing hysterically as she tore the plastic webbing in two.

I paused and marveled.  She'd had to yank off a heavy metal clasp, yanking apart the wooden and heavy duty plastic webbing.

We've gone through a half dozen of these $20 gates, but this was a new way of breaking one.

And it was nighttime.  I needed a way to secure the door so that she couldn't sneak out.

I grabbed a thick ball of acrylic yarn and pushed the gate back into place.  Then I wrapped the yarn around, over and over again, until the gate was tied back together, securely, making knots and then wrapping it again until I was certain she wouldn't be able to break through it.  Or maybe I should say that I was fairly sure that she wouldn't break through for at least one night, until we could get a new gate.

We used to have those door knob covers that go over the doorknob and "baby proof" them.  It was true that Maggie couldn't turn the door handle with them on.  But then she learned that if she hit them just right, with just enough force, they would fly into four separate pieces.  After that it took her less than a minute to get the door open in her room.

I can't help but look at this particular problem in two different ways.  The first is the obvious.  Of course it's a problem.  The child that runs and runs and runs without glancing back over her shoulder to see if someone is following needs a secure room.

But at the same time I can't help but appreciate the intensity of her determination or her inventiveness in finding new ways to escape.  I find myself marveling over these traits and wondering where they will take her.

"She's so smart" is something that I've heard over and over again and I have no doubt that it's true.

Last week I said that I was certain that she understand almost everything that I say.  The person asked how I could be certain.  I struggled to put it into words.  Later I repeated the question to Paul.

His response?  "Well, I guess it's the way she flips you the bird as she does the complete opposite of what you've just asked her to do."

Obviously that's not literal (I always have to say that lest someone miss the sarcasm, as so often happens with sarcasm or satire in the blogosphere... Maggie does not literally flip anyone the bird, just to be clear).  But I knew what he meant.

It's when you've just said something to her, or even had a conversation about her in her presence, and she goes over, with a gleam in her eye and a smile on her lips and does the exact thing that she wasn't supposed to do and then giggles hysterically about it.

And really, all I can do is laugh.  Don't get me wrong.  She has rules.

But when she finds the five hundredth way to get through a baby gate?  I fix the problem and I go downstairs and laugh.  "You know you aren't allowed to do that." I say.  "We need this gate.  It keeps you safe."  I tell her.  And I struggle to keep a straight face as she practically falls over, giggling at her handiwork.

I've only recently begun to realize the lengths we've gone to in Maggie-proofing our home.  As we sat at the last meeting the case worker asked if there were any dangers in the home they should know about.  At first I said no.  We've got it baby proofed.  Because when I scan the house I feel like we do.  But then I kept on talking:

"But I have to tell you about the vents.  I almost have all the vents blocked.  There's one in her room and she could get out the three inch screws so we bolted the bed in front of it, so she can't get into it any more.  And the other vents have heavy furniture over them so she can't go down them, because they're huge and wooden and don't screw down.  But the other day she found a heavy brass vent and moved the chair that was over it and tried to go down it. I found her up to her arm pits in it.  And when she wouldn't stop trying to remove the grate I put her up in her room for a time out.  And when I went up there to check on her she'd used her sister's headboard to climb up and reach the curtain rod and she as hanging from it. So we unbolted her sisters bed and removed the bookshelf headboard and put it in the closet and bolted the bed back down so she can't get up there.  Oh and there's a six foot tall double baby gate on the stairs she scaled the other day.  So really we've done all we can think of.  But she keeps finding ways you would never think of to get through the baby proofs."

You'd think that she has zero supervision hearing these things, but she's very quick and very quiet.  I am with them all the time.  If I notice silence, I'm quick to look up, but with Patrick and Sadie happily playing I don't always notice that Mae, in the corner of the room that I think is safe, has suddenly become very quiet and is therefore likely "into" something.

Maybe someday she'll become a security expert.  It would put her skills to good use.

Now to get ready for today's testing!


  1. When I was little my mom had to "lock" my room door. We didn't have baby proof knobs so she used a wash cloth, folded, wedged high in the door jam (knob side). It works wonderfully. I've used it on my boys and you have to use a lot of muscle to open the door with that cloth wedged in there. Of course, you have to have a door and not just a doorway. Maybe that might work?

  2. Maggie so reminds me of a little girl I taught years ago. It was a preschool class of 3 year olds, and I swear, this kid was a ninja. We had the big expedit shelving unit from ikea in our classroom (the one with squares instead of shelves), which was only a few feet shy of the very tall ceilings. The little girl would routinely scale the shelf and lay on the top of it. She would try and climb over the fence around the playground. If I said it was time to go in, she would go the opposite way. She was such a sweet girl, but so, so difficult to manage.

    Only in reading your blog, am I realizing how hard it must have been for her parents to raise her. You guys are in my prayers. :)

  3. My son was an expert at pushing down gates and escaping... we got this, and it works really well... at least for doors! (You can just search amazon for Door Monkey)

  4. Holy moly! I think I see engineering in Mae's future. And a few heart attacks for you along the way. ;)


  5. It sounds like Mae is awake at weird times in the night. (my dd was a bit like this at that age) We started giving her melatonin; (and now they have chewable ones) and it worked quite well.
    (my idea being that if she's asleep; she can't get up to things (ie taking the house apart) LOL


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