Article by Sally Hall
I often refer to Dalton as my puppy. He needs lots of fresh air and exercise or woe-betide me come bed time which can easily slip till 11pm if he’s had none of the above and any of the c stuff (chocolate!).
But I will be the first to admit that I am the biggest worry wart when it comes to keeping my children safe. And the need to constantly be out and about to keep Dalton busy makes me even worse. I (honestly) lie awake some nights planning how we would survive on a desert island (given we have not even got a holiday planned overseas anytime soon, this is a highly unlikely event!) and frequently practise swimming whilst supporting Dalton and figuring out where Belle would go just in case we are ever stranded in the middle of the ocean (see point above!!) So planning for the worst is something that my brain is just programmed to do.
When I was younger, I had no concept of fear or danger and skydiving and other such pass-times was simply about the thrill. But two life changing events happened. Firstly, my house got hit by lightning and burnt down. I promise, I’m not kidding! I lived alone at the time and escaped in one piece with my beloved cat and my mobile but lost everything else I owned from clothes to furniture. I learnt a considerable amount from that ordeal, but primarily 3 things. 1. A messy car is a good thing! Had I kept my car even half as tidy as I kept my house I would have lost an additional 5 pairs of shoes, a hose pipe (random, I know) a bag of cat litter and make up galore. 2. I had so many more friends than I thought I had and received amazing support from so many people including huge acts of kindness from neighbours I had never even taken the time to speak to. And 3. Lightening can strike twice in the same place! Part of my recovery was to try and get my logical brain round this illogical event and so I thought that with a bit of research I would be able to convince myself that my house would again be my home and that this freak event was nothing to be scared of. It didn’t work! My research showed that lightening was actually more likely to strike in the same place twice and that there are all sorts of other things such as using your mobile and computers which can further attract it. Fortunately however, that year I also met my husband, so moved in with him and sold the house in question. And whilst I admit to still feeling some nervousness in thunderstorms these days, I get better as time goes on and I am determined not to pass my fears onto my children. But the fact that this freak event happened, changed me. That same year, I got mugged on a main road at 6pm. I was not hurt but just as I was starting to wallow in the amazing kindness of others, someone came along and reminded me that this world is still a very scary place to live in. The first signs of starting to see danger in everyday life started to emerge.
Secondly, I became a Mum, and, I suspect like every other Mum, I now see danger everywhere, and not just in the obvious situations. So in my head I’ve drawn up my survival guide, and I figured why not share it. I am no expert on this subject – far from it, and am learning every day so please don’t take my tips as the only things which should be considered – far from it. That list would go on for days!! And there are loads of good tips on the internet including the dangers of tie backs and blinds, teaching your children stranger safety, and making sure your child knows what village/ city/ town they live in. The below is FAR from an all-encompassing guide so please don’t even begin to think it is. But my tips may just be something you haven’t thought off, or provoke some ideas that I hadn’t – please do let me know if so. So here goes: A paranoid mummy’s survival tips!
- Children wonder off. Fact. You can buy bracelets which clip on and which you can put your mobile phone number on so you can be contacted. Don’t put your child’s name on it, just your number. They come in also sorts of designs (Dalton’s is a crocodile) and can be picked up for next to nothing on places like eBay. Dalton happily wears his anytime we go anywhere which may be busy.
- Keep your mobile phone, on your person – if need be even in your bra! If you lose your bag, you’ll still have your phone and can call for help. And make sure your mobile is always charged up too! Which leads me to…
- Don’t run on empty! You never know when you may need to keep driving – for whatever reason, be it that you’re lost, you want a bright well lit petrol station (and for me, preferably one with pay at the pump if the children are in the car), or you just don’t want to get out of the car for whatever reason. Always ensure you have plenty of fuel in the tank before setting off.
- If a fellow mum offers you a little bit of help, it’s ok to say yes in some circumstances. I recently had to sort a bottle for Belle at a swimming pool (she wasn’t due a feed but was clearly hungry!) which doesn’t have proper seating. With Dalton in the pool, I could not go anywhere with Belle which was clean or safe for me to put her down. A mum next to me said can I hold her for you and my gut reaction was ‘no, I’ll be fine!’ Then something clicked, and I thought why would I try to balance her when I can just pass her to a perfectly competent mum who is stood right next to me where she’ll be much safer than in my juggling arms. And so I had the good sense to say “Actually, yes please, that would really helpful!”
- Always get the baby out first and in last when it comes to car parks. She can’t run off anywhere yet. Of course, make sure you put her somewhere safe and next to you, but I find if I take Belle out in her car seat and then take her round to Dalton’s side with me, I can get him out whilst keeping her by my feet tucked safely in front of the open door.
- Teach your children 999. Dalton has known ever since he was old enough that if he needs help he presses 999 on the phone and says “help, fireman Sam”! I figure an operator would make sense of it!
- Go on a first aid course. St John’s Ambulance amongst others run them and you never know when you might need it. I also keep my resuscitation cheat sheet in the nappy drawer too – you never know how your brain will or won’t work in that unthinkable situation.
- As soon as they are old enough, teach them the Green Cross Code. Every walk we ever go on involves me asking Dalton and telling Belle (even at 5 months!) that we stop and look both ways before crossing a road.
- Use safety catches on cupboards/ stairs etc! It’s obvious I know, but even the smallest amount of bleach could really harm a child if ingested.
- Cook at the back of the oven, and preferably put a fireguard in front of it. If I cook chips or boil anything, Dalton gets shut behind the stair gate in the playroom for the duration. I can see him, he can see me and there is no chance of him getting hurt.
- Don’t leave the children alone together until they are old enough to fend for themselves! Dalton adores Belle – I keep waiting for the novelty to wear off! But in the same way as I would never have left my cat with Dalton alone, I never leave them in the same room unsupervised either. That, ‘she was cold so I gave her a blanket’ could be horrific so I just don’t do it.
It is possible to swim with a 3 year old on your back without sinking, but it does help if they are wearing arm bands and you have a float, so try and keep these things in your changing bag/handbag at all times!!!!
Stay safe! And email me any of your tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sally Hall is co-owner of Dorothy & Theodore (www.dorothyandtheodore.com) which offers beautiful, stylish and yet still practical gifts for parent and child.
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