It's one of those moments that drains the blood out of the faces of most parents. The moment when the full realization of what could have happened hits you full in the face like a right hook from David Haye.
The rule of the stairgate is golden in our house. It is always used, it is always kept locked.
Tom at 2 years & 3 months is capable of navigating the stairs but only with assistance. This assistance being Karen or I (or sometimes both) sweeping up behind him like vast safety nets ready to catch him should he ever stumble on his climb upwards. Only rarely has he shown any inclination to climb down on his own much preferring the ease and comfort of being carried. Well, who wouldn't?
Yesterday, during the delivery of our weekly shopping the stairgate was accidently left open...
Tom loves to help us put the shopping away. This eagerness to help sometimes results in teeth marks in the butter and fruit being thrown around the kitchen like footballs. But we can live with it. Frequently Tom amazes us with his understanding and knowledge. Yesterday he came across a tube of toothpaste. Instantly he knew this was not a kitchen item but an upstairs item. Thinking the stairgate nicely secured we told him to put in "on the stairs" - something he can do quite easily by reaching through the bars of the gate.
He disappeared. We thought nothing of it. Not until Karen took some other upstairs items to the stairs herself and found Tom halfway down / halfway up them. He was fine. He was chattering to himself in the quiet way kids do when they're concentrating and urging themselves on to complete a sterling endeavour. Karen and I had a mini freak-out and made sure he reached the bottom safely.
We didn't have to tell each other what a close call that was. I myself fractured my leg at Tom's age by falling down two stairs and had 6 weeks in hospital as a consequence.
The toothpaste was nowhere to be found however.
We searched the hall and the shoe-rack. There was no sign. Surely he hadn't made it all the way upstairs?
I ventured up. There in our bedroom, on the bedside table was the tube of toothpaste. He'd got all the way up to the top and half way down again under his own steam.
I feel both amazed, proud and damned relieved. And have ordered him some crampons for his next birthday - it looks like a hillwalking holiday in Wales might be on for this year.
That is, if my nerves can last that long.