It was early on a Saturday morning in late August of 2014. My husband and I were half asleep in bed with our two year old laying between us watching cartoons. Our five and six year old daughters were upstairs in their bedroom, still asleep.
Or, so we thought.
Out of nowhere, our doorbell rang, and my husband and I sat straight up in bed and looked at each other.
“Who in the world is that at 6:45 in the morning on a SATURDAY?!”
At the time, we lived in Kansas City, in a multi level house with several half flights of stairs. Our two oldest daughters shared a bedroom on the top floor.
I stayed in bed with our two year old while my husband went downstairs to the door. Seconds later, I heard him running up the stairs, rounding the corner, and then up the second set of stairs. He threw open the bedroom door just in time to see our five year old closing the window.
“Babe, what’s the matter??” I jumped up and followed him into the room. I saw the blinds crumpled with the bottom half closed in the window. I stood there, frozen in shock.
There is no way that I am seeing this. I look at my husband in disbelief. My kids would never. “WHAT IS GOING ON IN HERE??” He looked at me and said, “The person who rang the doorbell said he was out for a walk and saw two little girls climbing in and out of the top window and walking around on the pergola. He thought we might like to know.”
I felt dizzy. And nauseated.
I looked at both of my daughters. The color drained from my face. “WHAT?! YOU DID WHAT?!”
My five year old says “We just wanted to see if we could see the swing set in the back yard from up here, but some of the boards are a little loose.”
I tried to swallow the lump in my throat.
“DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED TO YOU? YOU COULD HAVE DIED! YOU BOTH COULD HAVE! And we thought you were asleep in your beds! We thought you were safe!” Horrifying visions flashed through my mind of the nightmare that we could be living. We ushered them downstairs and went over every square inch of the situation. Why did they think it was okay? Weren’t they afraid of getting hurt? Did they know how heartbroken that Mommy and Daddy would be if something happened to them? WHERE WAS THEIR SENSE OF SELF PRESERVATION?!! As it turns out, kids don’t think of preserving themselves. That was up to us, and we had failed them.
We had discussed every possible danger with them as they were growing up.
Look both ways before you cross the street. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t play with fire or guns or knives. Don’t put small things in your mouth. Don’t go by water without an adult. The one thing we forgot to cover? Don’t climb out of your window.
This was one of those horrid parenting experiences that left me literally feeling ill. I called my mom and sisters, begging them to tell me that they had a story about one of their kids doing something worse that would make me feel better. A close call that rivaled mine. I felt guilty, and stupid, and sick to my stomach. I mean, did every other parent think to put child proof locks on their windows, and we somehow forgot? Even though I felt confident that the girls understood the severity of the situation, I was still afraid curiosity would get the best of them and they would open that window again. We needed a plan for the future.
We talked about child proof locks, but my first thought was
even though it’ll never happen, what if we have a fire, and they needed to escape? We decided on these sensory window alarms and installed them on each window. If the window opens, the sensor separates, and a loud alarm goes off. We tested them to make sure we could hear them from anywhere in the house, even with doors shut.
I laid in bed that night thanking God for the man that rang our doorbell that morning. I pictured huge guardian angels protecting my daughters bare feet and balance as they made their way across the wooden pergola, still in their little nightgowns, hair blowing softly in the wind, giggling to each other. I know that we were spared from a gut wrenching tragedy, and that feeling will never leave me.
(The top left window is the one my girls “escaped” from.)
A well-known psychiatrist once told me that a persons brain is not done developing until their mid twenties and before that, the part of our brain that houses self preservation isn’t “fully cooked” until then. MID TWENTIES!
We’ve got a LOOOONG road ahead.
This story sure did bring back memories. The title for your “fire that would never happen” could be “Pancakes and Tator Tots at 3am”. This KC neighbor misses you terribly, bit is so happy you are safe in Louisiana with family nearby.