I often find myself performing a quick risk assessment when my children appear to be happily amusing themselves. The fact that they are amusing themselves is rare. Aware that it may offer me 5 minutes peace and quiet or the ability to do some cooking or speak on the phone without them hanging off me, has meant that occasionally whilst I’ve noticed that what they are doing or playing with would not exactly be my ideal choice, I’ve been prepared to let it go.
An example of this is a few months ago. I was in the shower, my now 19 month old daughter, pulled all of the contents of the usually child locked bathroom cabinet out and sat happily playing with a box of tampons. At first I was somewhat horrified that she was playing with something so inappropriate. Although they were of course all still in their wrappers I had the sudden thought my head often gets filled with of ‘what if?’.’ What if she puts one in her mouth, the plastic comes off, she swallows it and then it expands inside her?’ Of course, I’m fairly sure the chance of this actually happening is less than zero, however the thought still weirdly found a moment of time in my head.
I rationalised my concerns, accepting that it was highly unlikely and if it did happen I would be able to see and could step in quickly. I concluded my risk assessment with the acceptance that whilst tampons wouldn’t exactly be my first choice of toy for her, she was happy and it bought me an extra few minutes shower time. These precious extra minutes enabled me the luxury of shaving my legs – a treat usually saved for weekends only when daddy is around.
In my head there are many things that I thought I’d have not allowed my girls to do:
- Eat food off the floor when out and about
- Walk on walls
- Eat food in the pram, car seat, on the sofa
- Eat food such as bolognaise without being bibbed up and chained down
- Play with the box of condoms they found in the drawer next to the bed
- Put shoes in their mouths
- Eat sand
- Wipe their own bottoms
- Eldest daughter feed/shove food into her baby sisters mouth (something that made them both roar with laughter)
- Eat all of that chocolate
- Eat all of that chocolate whilst wearing that beautiful dress
- Scribble in our brand new notebook which is now 400 pages of squiggles
- Play my biro instead of their washable pens whilst I was on the phone so they and every item of furniture is covered in pen.
- Play with my phone whilst I was on the toilet which they have now dropped on the hard toilet floor
- Unroll all of the toilet roll whilst I was on the toilet
- Pour water everywhere whilst I was cooking in the kitchen (but they did sound like they were having so much fun)
- Eat all of those hot chips that were covered in salt – with red sauce
- Bang the remote control on the table
- Both stand on precariously wobbly children’s toys so that they can both reach the sink and brush their teeth at the exact same time
- Play hide and seek together in the curtains which does often result in a few head bumps but provides them with hours of entertainment and giggles.
The daily risk assessment list is endless.
I remember a couple of instances in particular where my risk assessment failed:
The first one was when my youngest was about 8 months old. I’d decided to give her some nappy off time. She had just done a poo, therefore my risk assessment concluded it was safe. I was enjoying a moment of freedom, cooking in the kitchen with both hands and no children on my feet. I looked over my shoulder regularly to check she was ok and whilst I couldn’t see her face I could hear her contentedly gurgling away. I continued to enjoy the time to complete whatever it was I was doing, relaxed in the knowledge that she was safe and happy. When I’d completed my cooking I walked over to her to give her some attention. As I approached her I was horrified to see what it was that she was playing with was actually s***t! I got there just in time as she had her hand raised and headed in the direction of her grinning mouth.
The other occasion that springs to mind when she was around 5-6 months and not yet crawling. I was at the playground with her and my 2 year old. I placed her on the soft padded ground by the climbing frame. I performed my usual risk assessment, scanning the area to check there were no small parts she could put in her mouth. Clear. Risk assessment passed. The risk assessment for my 2 year old highlighted a few more potential hazards so I focussed my attention on her. When I looked back at my baby I noticed something small and brown on the ground beside her. That’s strange, I was certain there wasn’t anything there before. As I approached the small brown thing I was horrified to see it was part of a dead cockroach. PART OF ONE!! What had happened to the rest of it? I looked at my beautiful baby, sitting there so innocently, and thought I might be sick. No! Had she eaten the other part of it? I will never know.
Risk assessments play a big part of my daily life with 2 such young children. I will of course always do my utmost to keep them safe from harm. However I’m sure there will be many more moments where what they are doing is far from appropriate or ideal yet if it makes them happy and gives me a break for 5 minute the repercussions are probably worth it!