Forgive me while I take a few paragraphs to properly set the scene. I am blessed. My children still nap every afternoon. It takes some effort though. We go upstairs together at 2pm. If necessary we change into comfortable clothes, potty, and read books. Then I let Michael play independently in his room while I sing Ava to sleep. This can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes. Then she's out for the next hour and a half. If I don't stay with her until she falls asleep, she'll play and skip the nap altogether.
This works out well because Michael runs off some excess energy while playing in his room waiting for me to finish with Ava. Once I close Ava's door leaving her sleeping peacefully I slip into Michael's room where he's usually so busy in imaginary play that he doesn't even notice me come in. I tuck him under his covers and sing him to sleep too. That takes another 15-20 minutes, but then he's also out for the next hour and a half.
From the time I go upstairs with both children to the time I make it back downstairs it is usually a full hour. Then I usually have an hour to myself (hello blog post) and the children have a much calmer evening than they would have without the nap.
So, a few days ago, when I slipped into Michael's room he was kneeling on the floor facing the door to his room. I could tell something was up because he was wide-eyed with that "you caught me" look on his face. Also, he was completely silent. My brain hadn't quite caught up with my immediate sense of suspicion enough to voice a question when his mouth opened and a river of marbles spilled out. Seriously - it seemed like a neverending stream of marbles spilled out of his mouth onto the floor followed by one or two stragglers spit out for good measure at the end.
My heart sank down into the general vicinity of my stomach while the speech-path in the back of my mind gibbered about the diameter of the trachea and what could have happened if he had inhaled sharply when I opened the door, or coughed, or sneezed, or tried to talk to me before spitting out all those marbles. The calm part of me shut off. All rational thought was completely absent. I wasn't even mad. I didn't even come close to losing my temper. I am completely unaware of making any decisions about what I was going to do next. I was on some kind of autopilot.
Michael knew there was trouble. He was spewing about 80 kinds of "I'm sorry mama." at me, but I knew he was just telling me what I wanted to hear. I pulled the door shut quietly behind me and I sank down on my knees and asked him to come see me. I pulled him in my lap wrapping my arms around his still breathing body and tucking his head under my chin for a moment. Then I looked him right in his eyes and I picked up one of the 12 to 15 marbles scattered about us and showed it to him.
I told him that marbles were the exact same size as his windpipe. I told him that if he had coughed, or stumbled, or sneezed, or tried to talk, or put one too many in his mouth they would have slipped right into his windpipe and kept him from breathing and he would have died. I told him that I wouldn't have even been able to hear him because I was in Ava's room singing to her. I told him he wouldn't have even been able to call me for help because his windpipe would have been blocked off. I told him I would have come in to sing him his songs and he would have been dead. I told him to never, never, never put marbles in his mouth again - NEVER. I told him mommies only give big boys marbles because big boys know better than to put their toys in their mouths. And then I hugged him, wiped away a few of his tears, tucked him in, and sang him to sleep.
He'll be five in November. He's not a baby any more. He never puts toys in his mouth. He's had free access to marbles for months now. What on earth was he thinking?!?!?! I realize that telling a four year old that they could have died because of their actions was perhaps not my most well thought out parenting moment, but to be honest, I don't regret it. It was a serious moment. It could have had life-altering consequences. I needed to kick him out of the automatic "sorry" mode and into a more serious "think about what you've done and really see it with open eyes" mode. I think it worked. But I'll be seeing that river of marbles every time I close my eyes for the next month.