Tag Archives: fear

She Says… Fire Alarm Fear

I have written before about how fire alarms are Owen’s biggest fear. For a kid who seems to have NO fear leaping off of climbing structures taller than my head or starting up a conversation with a complete stranger, it still baffles me that he completely flips over something as commonplace as a fire alarm. But hey. It’s loud. I get it. And I know the bone-shaking fear from hearing my own house alarm go off unexpectedly.

So in the middle of the night on Saturday, I knew exactly whose room I had to run to first when I heard our fire alarms blare.

I was out of bed and standing in the hallway before I even woke up fully. With my hand on Owen’s door, I waited for him to call for me before I busted in, while simultaneously trying to make sense of the alarms (I didn’t smell smoke or see fire and feverishly debated the likelihood of false alarm vs. real emergency).

A few seconds later Benjamin stood in our bedroom doorway. He had just gotten back from a trip at midnight that night and I hadn’t even seen him yet (despite the fact that we were sleeping next to each other when the alarm went off). I jumped out of bed without even remembering he was right beside me. In his grogginess he assumed it was our house alarm system going off, and said, “Can you run down and turn it off?”.

There were 2 things wrong with this statement:
1. I knew that it was the fire alarm and I couldn’t just turn it off. But when he asked me this, he completely confused me and I began to doubt myself. Also, I learned my lesson the last time our house alarm DID go off that I shouldn’t just run down and turn it off — what if there was an intruder in the house?!
2. I was frozen outside of Owen’s room. I literally couldn’t move my body to do anything other than gather my babies amidst the crazy loud beeping.

So I just stood there. Staring at him. With my mouth open, trying to figure out how to respond to him. Owen’s cry for me (a scream of sheer terror, as he realized his biggest fear was happening) snapped me out of it, and I completely ignored Benjamin’s question, ran into Owen’s room and scooped him up. He covered his ears and yelled, “GET ME OUT OF HERE. STOP THE BEEPING.”

I clutched him and ran down the stairs. As soon as I did, I realized the sound was much quieter. It was our upstairs alarms going off. They are all wired into the house but apparently they don’t all go off at the same time. Who knew. I opened the front door of the house and held Owen outside, assuming that Benjamin was, I don’t know, handling everything else? I couldn’t bring myself to put Owen down but I wanted to grab Emmett as well, and didn’t feel comfortable leaving Owen on our front porch alone. So I ran back upstairs still carrying Owen to Emmett’s room. As soon as I opened his door (he was totally fine, by the way, barely phased by the noise) I realized what had happened.

It was his humidifier. It had to be. It was the only thing that was different about that night as opposed to other nights. And the very same humidifier had set off the fire alarm in Owen’s room one time, a long LONG time ago (when he was tiny enough that the alarm didn’t even wake him). I told Benjamin what it was and he quickly ripped the fire alarm in Emmett’s room out of the ceiling.

Phew.

Silence.

Emmett cooed happily as he realized I was going to feed him since I was awake and he normally wakes around then anyway. Babies are easy. Owen shuffled back to bed rubbing his eyes and asking adorable and yet painfully sad questions like, “Is the alarm ever going to stop beeping?” and “The alarm only goes off when there is a fire… is there a fire? Are we going to get burned?”. And, finally, “Can I sleep in your bed?”.

Almost as soon as both boys were settled back in their beds, Owen cried out again. He SWORE up and down that he could still hear the beeping in his sleep. I rubbed his back and asked him if he could hear it right now. “Yes. It won’t stop”. The poor kid was so traumatized he could still hear the ringing and it was keeping him awake.

After two more night visits to his room to reassure him, he finally fell asleep. The last thing he said to me? “Can I tell all my friends at school about this tomorrow?”.

I love that kid.

And while I’m so relieved it wasn’t a real fire, I’m super annoyed that I can’t seem to use a humidifier in my kids’ bedrooms (Emmett’s room is TINY so maybe I just have to turn down the setting, but I’m not willing to test that theory by possibly making the alarm go off again). Has anyone else had this happen? Even in Owen’s room, which is much larger, I can only put it on half power.

She Says… Still Shaking

The beginning of one of my worst nightmares came true two nights ago.

Benjamin was traveling. Owen was sleeping peacefully in his room. Schnitzel was curled up in a ball on my bedroom floor. All of a sudden, I was jolted awake by our alarm system blaring at 2:46am.

In the year that we’ve lived in our house, I’ve never heard the alarm go off on its own. Sure, I’ve forgotten to turn it off a couple of times and jumped out of my skin when it went off as I opened the door to let the dog out, but I’ve never felt that moment where your blood runs cold and you have to consider the fact that someone may have actually just broken a door or a window and may be in your house. RIGHT NOW.

Especially not while I was home “alone”.

We live in a very safe neighborhood and very close to our neighbors. Still, I always keep the doors locked, and it’s hard not to feel a little vulnerable when Benjamin is traveling. That’s the main reason I never write about it on the blog until he’s home. I am a very level-headed person most of the time, but the thought of someone stepping foot in my house while I am home with Owen unnerves me to no end. It’s my nightmare.

So the alarm is blaring. I leap out of bed (I don’t think I actually woke up until I was already running down the stairs to the wall unit to turn it off). I can’t see a darn thing without my glasses, but I just kept running. I know this is the wrong thing to do. Now. In retrospect. But I wasn’t thinking rationally at the time. I ran to turn it off and then the severity of what I had done hit me like a ton of bricks. Here I was, now downstairs from my sleeping baby. The alarm was quiet, as if nothing had happened at all. The house was dark except for a few night lights, and I couldn’t see very far in front of me because my stupid glasses were upstairs on my bedside table.

As quickly as I had gotten down there, I bolted back up, with Schnitzel following on my heels. I ripped the phone charger out of my phone and dialed Benjamin’s number. My whole body was shaking and my breathing was jagged as I stood outside Owen’s room, watching our front hall for any movement, ready to go in his nursery and lock the door at the first sign of an intruder.

Of course I know should have called 911 first. Now. In retrospect. But I just needed Benjamin. He picked up immediately and I can’t imagine what it must have felt like for him to receive this call. “The alarm just went off. I’m outside Owen’s room. We’re ok. What do I do?”.

More shaking. More breathing. My feet were glued to the floor outside of Owen’s room. I couldn’t move. Schnitzel stood in front of me, poised, watching with me. I knew at that moment that if someone had been in the house, Schnitzel would have been my first line of defense. He would have protected us.

Right at that moment the alarm company called Benjamin to see if this was a real emergency. As he switched lines to pick up the call, I croaked out, “Send the police. Send them now.”

He stayed on the phone with me while I shook and breathed some more, and in a matter of minutes (2? 3? an eternity? a second?) the police arrived. I walked, jelly-legged, downstairs to meet them. They checked out the basement (where the alarm was triggered) and the rest of the house and looked around outside. No evidence that anyone had been there or tried to break in, so they suggested it could have been a battery dying in our motion sensor or a system issue.

After all of that, a stupid alarm system issue. But still, I had no way of knowing that until after the fact.

And you can bet that no matter how much I reasoned with my rational side, I couldn’t stop imagining the alternative. That someone could have gotten in the house. That someone could have gotten to Owen’s room. To my room.

After the police left I called Benjamin back and tried to breathe normally again. My stomach wouldn’t unclench. I was more awake at 3am than I have ever been. I reset the alarm, minus the sensor that went off, in case it was a battery issue. I laid in bed, clutching my phone to my chest, eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling and listening to every little creak and croak and click and cringing with every one.

I stayed that way until 6am, when I finally felt the light of day taking my fear away. I nodded off just as Owen woke up, completely oblivious to the drama of the night.

Do you have a plan for what you would do if you thought there was an intruder in your house? Have you ever been in this situation? My plan was to run into Owen’s room and lock the door. Or run out the front door to our neighbor’s house. But what do you do when you have multiple kids? Thankfully, in this case, Owen slept through the whole event. But what would it have been like to have screaming kids? I can’t even begin to imagine.

She Says… “I Do It On Myself”

I was talking with a friend over the weekend who was lamenting how her 2 year old wants to do everything herself, making it nearly impossible to get out the door in the morning. “She wants to pick out her own clothes and put on her own socks and throws a fit if I dare try to help her”, she said. Of course she wants her to learn these important self-care skills, but it’s frustrating watching her drop her sock a million times before getting one toe in, only to take it off again because her other toes got stuck.

I can imagine.

Except, I can’t.

I’m not sure if this is a gender divide or not, but Owen has shown little to no interest in his own clothing. Choosing it OR putting it on. Since his teachers at school marked “putting on and taking off clothes” as one of his areas where his skills were “still developing” a few months ago, I’ve been working to let him struggle with taking off his tops and bottoms before his bath and helping him figure out how to tuck his thumbs in his waistband to pull his shorts off over his diaper. But to be honest I’ve never really focused on making him (letting him?) put on his own socks. And I still haven’t shown him how to take off his own diaper. I’m shocked he hasn’t tried it on his own, but I’m going to ride this “Only Mommy can do it” train as long as I can, for the sake of my floors and sheets! I will often ask “Do you want to wear the orange striped shirt or the green one?” so he can pick something, and he always has an opinion, but him doing these things “by himself” has not yet become a challenge for us.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I hear those powerful two year old words (“I do it on myself, Mommy! No helpin’ me!”) A LOT. But for us, they nearly always relate to death-defying stunts like tight-rope walking across a teeny tiny ledge or jumping from a dangerously high height.

Yep, I get it. Just not in the same way.

Exhibit A. Owen watched a 4 year old on the playground run on this hamster-wheel type thing while holding on to the handles. I tried to help him do it (ahem, safely) and he pushed my hands away, insisting, “I do it on myself! No helpin’, Mommy”.

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Exhibit B. Balancing. “Do you want a hand, buddy? I’m just going to spot you.” “No helpin’! I do it on myself!”.

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Exhibit C. More balancing. This one was at least wider so I wasn’t so scared of him falling off, but it was high off the ground and he was DANCING across it instead of just walking. Crazy kid.

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And Exhibit D. Jumping. Oh, jumping will be the thing that gives me gray hairs. And lots of ‘em. This kid has no fear (which I’ve known since he learned how to walk) and gets immense joy from being airborne. “Look Mommy! I do it all on myself!”. “Great, buddy. Let me get 911 on speed dial.”.

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So we may be a little behind in the “putting on your own socks” department. But I guarantee my kid could scale a rock wall without my help. So that’s something.

 

She Says… Beepin’

Last week, while Benjamin was traveling, things got a little overwhelming. I was running a training event at work which meant that instead of working from home, as I do most days, I was schlepping to and from the office in rush hour. Since Benjamin was gone, I was also responsible for daycare pickup, drop off, making breakfast, lunch and dinner, and keeping up on things like laundry and dishes. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I don’t know how single parents do it. It’s A LOT.

Anyway, on the last day before Benjamin was coming home, my schedule was particularly tight. No matter how I sliced it, I was going to be late to work, even if I dropped Owen off at daycare the minute they opened, and I was going to be late to pick Owen up even if I left my last work event early. And late I was. On both counts. And if you know me, you know that being late is one of the things that drives me CRAZY. “Better late than never” isn’t necessarily true in my book. And never wasn’t an option.

So I left work, late, and knew I was going to hit nasty traffic on my way to get Owen. Unfortunately, I also got in the car to see this:

While sitting in traffic I debated long and hard about just how many miles are actually left in the gas tank when it says empty and could I just make it to daycare first and then find a gas station. Blah blah blah. All terrible ideas. Especially for someone who has run out of gas 2 times already in her relatively short life. I was pretty much already running on fumes and was going less than 5 miles an hour in traffic. I was going to be a whole lot later if I ran out of gas in the middle of the road, so I pulled off at a random exit and went on the search for gas and a non-highway route to Owen’s daycare.

It took me 1.5 hours. He was the last kid there. Thankfully, miraculously, I was still a few minutes shy of the actual closing time, so I didn’t have to pay any late fees. But we were so late for dinner and the dog hadn’t gone out to pee since 7am; I felt guilty enough without paying, believe me.

So we got home. I kicked off my heels and rushed around and let the dog out and threw dinner on the stove and tried to read Owen a book all at the same time. Not surprisingly, I got distracted while cooking and the pan started smoking and our fire alarms started BLARING.

Owen froze. He stared at me with wide eyes, glistening with tears. I jumped up, opened all of the doors and windows, grabbed a counter stool and stood on it, waving a dishtowel at the smoke detector. It would stop for a minute and then start beeping again, just as I had gotten down and started to tell Owen it was all over. I was ready to rip the darn thing out of the ceiling, but they are hard-wired into our new house and I was too short, even standing on a stool. So I hopped back up on the stool and kept waving that stupid towel. As I’m teetering on the stool, crying toddler at my feet, neighbors start coming out of their houses, one by one, to see what the noise is. Since all of the doors and windows were open, they just stood there. Watching me. One or two of them waved at me, and I waved back, embarrassed. One even gave me a thumbs up. ARE YOU KIDDING ME, MISTER? THIS IS NOT A THUMBS UP SITUATION. I think they didn’t know whether they should come in and help, or if that would make me even more embarrassed… because, there isn’t really much you can do at that point except clear the air, and I was doing all that I could to do that on my own.

But still, people. Standing in the road and watching me look like a fool DOES NOT HELP.

Finally our next door neighbors who are very close friends came over. After also trying to rip the alarms out of the ceiling (impossible, apparently), we realized that it was the smoke detectors in the UPSTAIRS hallway that were causing the alarm to keep going back on. I had opened all of the windows and doors on the first floor, but apparently the smoke (what LITTLE there was… this was not the major kitchen catastrophe that it sounds like!) had traveled upstairs, where all of the windows were shut.

Of course.

FINALLY we opened the windows, stopped the beeping, and found something to feed Owen for dinner.

Crisis averted.

Except that now Owen is terrified of the smoke alarms and won’t stop talking about them. Every morning he wakes up, points to them in the ceiling and says, “Beepin! LOUD! ‘Hmoke! Owen ‘cared.”.

Waaaaaaaaah. I’ve scarred my kid for life.