I wheeled Eddie in his stroller along the boardwalk this morning, and as I looked out at the vast expanse of beach, I thought, “What a great place for the baby to learn to crawl!”
I was surprised I hadn’t thought of it before. My husband, Bruce, has been complaining for months that our Victorian home, with its small rooms and hard wood floors, was a hazardous place for a child. Our stove has sharp metal edges, the floor boards could give the baby splinters, and the basement door, which is off the kitchen, is swollen from dampness and cannot be shut, leaving the baby exposed to a flight of stairs. Sometimes, I put the baby on the kitchen floor so that he can move around a bit while I’m making dinner. I’ll put out about half a dozen toys, a handful of cheerios, and some soft pillows so he can roll around on them. But he always gravitates to a corner of the room at the edge of the stove where there’s a white-covered wire sticking out from the baseboard molding. I feel like Martha Stewart: “A loose wire can make a great children’s toy.”
The beach, on the other hand, has miles and miles of unfettered terrain that is soft and forgiving. I pulled the baby out of his stroller, deposited him on the sand, and then patted his bottom as if to say, “Be on your way, little one.”
But what I thought would be a lesson in crawling turned into a lesson in learning how to say, “No,” because the baby didn’t crawl anywhere. He spent his entire time in the sand trying to eat it.
“No!” I said as I watched him reach his sand encrusted little fingers into his mouth.
Seconds later, “No!” I yelled, as he turned his back to me and started to lift a fist full of sand to his mouth.
I ran around to the front of him so I could watch him more closely, but as soon as I turned my head for a second, his fat little fist was in his mouth again.
“No!” I shouted. “Stop!”
They say a child can drown in a teaspoon of water. I say he can do a lot of damage with a grain of sand. Eddie didn’t just have it in his mouth. There was sand in his eyes, his ears, his hair, and a line of it above his lip, perilously close to his nose. By the time we got home, his hands, which had been coated in a layer of sand like fried chicken, were almost completely clean, presumably because he’d licked it all off.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. When I give him a new toy in the grocery store, he’ll gnaw on the cardboard price tag. I gave him a newspaper to crinkle – he likes the sound – and he ate the corner off of the international page. He’s like a goat. Yesterday, he tried to put my foot-wide breast pump machine into his mouth. He’ll find last week’s hairy little cheerios behind chair legs, under couch cushions, or wedged under a piece of molding. This morning, I took him up to the attic to keep me company while I did my exercises. I spread out a leopard snuggy on the floor so he had a flat surface on which to spread out. Within a minute, he had peeled back the snuggy exposing the dirty shag rug underneath, which had bits of Styrofoam packing peanuts in it that he immediately popped into his mouth.
But as I listened to the sound of my own voice telling Eddie, “No!” “Stop!” “No!” I remembered walking down the boardwalk two weeks earlier and seeing a young boy in a stroller who kept shaking a matchbox car in his hand and yelling at the toy, “No! Stop it! Just stop it!” He’d then slap the car with his other hand. “I said stop it! No!” He’d then slap the car again. As they came toward me, his mother must have heard him, and she looked around the side of the carriage and said, “Honey, why are you saying that?”
“You know why honey ‘s saying that,” I thought.