By Francis Ewherido
Parenting is tough business all the way. Each stage of your children’s development presents its peculiar challenges and occasional heartaches, but the high standard of care children need from birth to when they become toddlers make these two periods mentally draining.
A toddler is a young child, usually between ages one and three, who has started walking, but has not fully mastered the act. Once children start crawling or walking, it is as if they have been in prison and just gained their freedom. They want to explore their environment. There is this innate sense of adventure and that is where the main challenge is.
You are focussed on them fulltime or there can be trouble. In the 80s, in the middle of the rainy season, a woman was in her balcony with her newborn baby and her toddler. She went in to put the baby, who was sleeping, in his couch. By the time she came back to the balcony, her toddler had disappeared. She reasoned that the toddler could not have gone downstairs because the compound was flooded. She went back into the house to search for the boy to no avail. Other members of the household joined in the search indoors. They turned the three-bedroom flat upside down to no avail.
The first thought was that somebody had sneaked in to steal the baby when the mother went inside. That thought was probably what sealed the toddler’s fate because attention shifted and people fanned out into the streets looking for the imaginary thief and the baby. By this time, it was over 30 minutes since the toddler disappeared. But somebody decided to pay more attention to the spot where the toddler was last seen: the balcony. Below the staircase was grown grass submerged in flood. He started searching the area with a stick. Then the stick hit an object. On further probing, the object was the corpse of the toddler.
After the mother went in to drop his baby brother, he probably took a few steps down the staircase and fell into the flooded grass. His corpse was tangled with the grass, a sign of the initial struggle when he fell. There was no need to take him to the hospital because he was already stiff. That very day, the traumatised mother was relocated and the entire family relocated a few days after.
Earlier in the week, we heard the unfortunate news of the death of Daniel Oyebanjo Jr, the 13-month-old son of Daniel Oyebanjo, aka D’banj. The sad news was received with mixed emotions: tears, pain and anger. The loss of a loved one is always a traumatic experience. Rich or poor, high or low, every bereaved person gets condolence messages. The anger has mainly been two-fold. D’banj had posted the photograph of himself and the son by his poolside a few weeks earlier and some of his followers on social media had advised him to put measures in place to ensure that Daniel Jr. is physically restrained from falling into the pool. For many people, the toddler’s death is a proof that D’banj did not heed the advice/warning.
Toddlers will always wonder and explore their environment. It is innate and there is nothing parents can do about that. But parents have a responsibility to put measures in place to reduce [it is often impossible to eliminate all possible dangers] the probability of their toddlers coming to harm. Normally after transiting from a bachelor to a married man, you expect children at some point. One of the things you should start doing is to look at the set up of your house and make amends to make it toddlers’ compliant. Protective guards should have been installed by the poolside in this case.
Some people are asking where the mother was when little Daniel wondered to the pool area. Details are sketchy, but it was reported that they had visitors, whom she left Daniel with, but he still managed to evade many pairs of eyes. In the 80s, this could not have happened because Daniel was a cute boy. All the visitors would have been competing for his attention. But these days, a house can be full of adults and toddlers would wonder everywhere because some are glued to television, some are busy with their handsets, while the others are on play station.
Daniel’s death is a metaphor of the damage modern technology is doing to the family, the most essential unit of all societies. Fathers, mothers and children are increasingly becoming individualistic. There are not many activities to bring the whole family together any more. When we build houses, the rooms are en suite and we then put refrigerators and televisions in children’s rooms. So, if our children choose to, they can spend the whole day in their rooms without interacting with other members of the family.
Some people are blaming Daniel’s mother for negligence. When there are many grown ups around, can’t the mother dash off to sort out a few things? Even the most vigilant and dedicated mothers have off days. As young parents, a number of times we saw pieces of newspaper in my baby’s faeces. But we gave her the highest standard of care and attention. So unless culpable negligence is established against Daniel’s mother, I hesitate to blame her, tragic as the incident is.
Young couples with toddlers and young people preparing for marriage and parenthood should learn safety tips for their babies. All electrical appliances and sockets should be off the reach of toddlers. The kitchen door should be closed if the door handle is beyond toddlers’ reach and locked if it is within their reach to make sure they have no access. The kitchen houses too many objects that can harm toddlers. Furniture should be toddlers’ friendly. If the table is glass and can easily be broken with an object by a toddler, change it. Need I add that you should keep all medicines out the reach of children? These days, some parents put foot wears which emit sounds as toddlers walk around; this is also good.
Sen. Akpor Pius Ewherido (1963 – 2013)
Today makes it five years since you made an abrupt exit from mother earth. No good bye, nothing. The conversation we agreed to continue the next day never took place. Continue to rest in the bosom of the Lord, Gogorogo.