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Parenting

Irresponsible father or overreacting mother?

35 replies

mammya · 11/05/2003 22:30

My dd aged 2 spends every other weekend at her father?s. A few weeks ago, he needed to go upstairs and as he hasn?t got a stair gate, he told her to stay downstairs. As you can imagine, she didn?t stay downstairs, tried to climb up the stairs and predictably, fell down. Luckily she wasn?t badly hurt, just a few bruises. Of course when he told me I was livid and told him either to get a stair gate or to take her with him when he goes upstairs.

He still hasn?t got a stair gate, and I have now found out that he still leaves her downstairs by herself. I cannot understand how he can be so irresponsible, I have asked, pleaded, shouted for him to get a stair gate. He says of course he doesn?t want her to get hurt but always has a ?good? excuse not to get one.

I am now very worried that one day she will fall down the stairs and get seriously injured. I don?t know what to do, short of saying that she will not go to his place unless he gets a stair gate, which will certainly create arguments. Also I really value my ?free? weekends and don?t want dd to miss out on contact with her father.

Am I overreacting? I would really appreciate your thoughts on this, as I am not sure how to handle the situation.

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griffy · 11/05/2003 22:34

I don't think you're overreacting. A 2 year old cannot reliably obey instructions as her father seems to expect.

Don't want to alarm you, but if he's so unaware of how much supervision is needed, are you sure that she's safe with him at all?

Is there anyone else that he respects that you could get 'on side' to discuss safety issues generally with him?

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Mum2Toby · 11/05/2003 22:36

You are NOT over reacting! Dangers in the home are bad enough without leaving your DD wide open to injure herself! It's completely avoidable. A stairgate is an easy and affordable thing to buy.

If he won't (and I think it's awful he won't) then I think you should buy one and make sure it gets fitted, if that's possible. I know that it would be much more reassuring if he acknowledged this danger and purchased one himself but at least you know it'd be there. but then again, would he even close it?!?

In a few months time it probably won't be an issue as she'll be ok with stairs, but else might he overlook as a danger?!!

Stick to your guns. Good luck. Incidentally, who has been telling you that he leaves her downstairs?

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doormat · 11/05/2003 22:39

Mammya do you have a stair gate he could use over the weekend. Even if it means borrowing yours. Then he has no excuse.
I dont think you are overreacting at all. I would be annoyed too!!

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SofiaAmes · 11/05/2003 22:53

mammya, is it possible that your dd's father hasn't bought a stairgate because he doesn't necessarily think they are a good idea. For example, I got rid of our stairgates long before my ds turned 2. Then again, I wouldn't leave him downstairs to play on his own.
If you think dd's father hasn't bought the stairgate because he just can't be bothered, and you feel so strongly about it, I agree with mum2toby. Just buy one yourself (used in loot they're really cheap) and install it yourself.

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SueW · 11/05/2003 22:58

Have to admit that although I was paranoid about DD falling down my mum's stairs (and bought a stairgate for there) because she has a trunk at the bottom I wouldn't want DD to fall and hit, when we moved here she was 18mo and we didn't fit a stairgate.

Previously we'd lived in a flat so stairs hadn't been a consideration although we did have a gate into the kitchen because I was worried about her touching the hot oven.

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Mum2Toby · 11/05/2003 23:02

Actually...now I think about it, my Mum watches ds one night a week and she doesn't have one. Ds has no problems going up, but coming down he just has no concept of danger!!

Hmmmm, think I might take a bit of my own advice here and buy her one for the top of her stairs!!

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mammya · 11/05/2003 23:12

thanks everyone for your feedback.

Griffy, I do worry about her being 100% safe with him, not that he is a bad father, just that sometimes he doesn't really think things through.

Mum2Toby, he told me himself...

Think I will have to get a stair gate for him, although it p* me off that I should be the one to do it. Why can't he be more responsible? Why do I have to think/act for him? He's a grown man.

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Jimjams · 11/05/2003 23:15

No stairgates in this house- loads of stairs but DS1 headbuts gates if we try to out them up. DS2 is 16 months and is pretty good on stairs. He does love to try and run away (up them) screaming with laughter. I do have an early warning system as ds1 hates anything being on the stairs (especially his brother) so he starts screaming if ds2 heads up them.

Apart from that we have a playpen- if I need to get on with something, or need to know he's safe then he goes in there. Could dd's father use a travel cot or playpen or something?

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Mum2Toby · 11/05/2003 23:19

Think/Act for himself?? Responsible?? These are things I have never associated with grown men!

Jimjams - your son is 16mths and can go downstairs ok??? WOW! My ds is 22mths old and if I wasn't holding his hand he'd just try do the whole flight in one step!!! We are trying to teach him to go down on his bum. But he will insist on trying to hold the banister. How do I get him to tackle the stairs safely?????

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judetheobscure · 12/05/2003 00:09

DS3 is now 20 months, has been going up and down stairs for a few months now (maybe 3 or thereabouts). I did have a stairgate, it was a pressure fit one as we couldn't screw into the walls. It was more hassle than it was worth because he kept pulling it down and then climbing over it. No accidents yet. He comes down on his bottom - "bumpies". And he is free to go up and down more or less as he pleases. (Please don't send the social workers round.

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judetheobscure · 12/05/2003 00:11

M2T - I taught DS3 to come down by doing it with him. ie I came down on my bottom. It was such fun being a big kid

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Mum2Toby · 12/05/2003 00:12

Judetheobscure - I'm desperately trying to teach my ds how to do this, but he's a nutcase! He does it for a couple of steps then just tries to jump the rest (he got his patience from his mother. ).

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Mum2Toby · 12/05/2003 00:13

Our post crossed! I show him this and he thinks its great but STILL tries to hold the banister and 'walk' the rest! HELP!! We're gonna have gates til he's at school at this rate!

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SofiaAmes · 12/05/2003 01:24

Mum2Toby, you took the words right out of my mouth.. boys become men...there's no growing up involved. When I leave ds/dd with childminder I never call home. When I leave them with dh, I call often to remind him of the basics (food, sleep, clothes).
My ds learned how to go down stairs (he could go up them not long after he could walk) at about 18 mo. We visited my aunt in the usa who had nice wide carpetted stairs and no stair gate. In celebration of his newly developed skill, when we got home, I dismantled my stairgates (top and bottom of stairs). Ds threw himself (along with a toy he forgot to let go of) down them not long afterwards.

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Ghosty · 12/05/2003 02:24

I taught DS to go downstairs backwards from a very young age ... I think that is the safest way personally ... we did have stairgates ... but they were to stop him going up rather than coming down

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dot1 · 12/05/2003 09:09

oh dear - our ds is 17 months and has been going up and down stairs by himself (on his front coming down) for a good while, so a couple of weeks ago we removed the stair gate at the bottom of the stairs - much better for us! This weekend he fell down..... He was fine - bumped down on his front, but it did give us all a shock - poor old dp was in tears for most of the day (ds was fine after a few minutes - he spotted a squirrel in the garden and all was forgotten!)

But have we put the gate back??! No! (bad parents, bad parents...!).

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scoobysnax · 12/05/2003 09:31

IMO it's a good idea not to turn this into a big argument about being responsible or irresponsible - better by far to either get a stairgate yourself or teach ds to go backwards down stairs.
If his dad has attitudes which you don't share, there is less reason to make a big deal of it if you are not together.
Big sympathy to you, but it sound like you have a really mature outlook and must be a great mother.

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janh · 12/05/2003 09:36

Mum2Toby, have you tried getting him to come down on his front, feet first? One of mine learnt to do it this way, on hands and knees, and then after a while discovered that if he adopted a Superman flying position he could slide down, still feet first, top to bottom in about 3 seconds!

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Mum2Toby · 12/05/2003 09:41

Janh - yes he can do this too, but STILL insists on standing up and trying to hold the banister. Judging by everyone else posts he should have been trustworthy on the stairs months ago, where are we going wrong!!!???
We can't stop him trying to hold the banister so certainly couldn't remove the stairgate at the top. What if he wandered out during the night, half asleep?????

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GillW · 12/05/2003 09:51

Hi Mammya - do you encourage your dd to climb up/down your stairs when you're with her at home? I'd expect that at 2 years she'd be able to cope ok with going up stairs without falling.

I've only got experience of one child, but my ds was climbing our stairs on hands and knees at about 8 or 9 months, and coming down backwards about a month later. Now at 20 months he's happily walking up and down with the aid of the bannisters, and it's been several months since we took our gates down (I decided it was safer when he started climbing over them!).

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Jimjams · 12/05/2003 10:15

Mum2Toby- he comes down backwards- step by step - kind of on his tummy. It took him ages to work out how to turn around at the top of the stairs, but he does well now. He also used to try and sit up half way down which wss "interesting". He's had to learn how to do it as hour house is on 7 levels (!) and DS1 really will not tolerate stair gates.

With ds1 we had stair gates and he was totally unsafe by the stairs, until well after 2.

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Lindy · 12/05/2003 10:34

Must admit I'm another one who has never had a stair gate - (except on his playroom to keep him in!!!) - I took the attitude that it was best to try & teach DS - now 2 - to use the stairs properly (ie: backwards) & so far there have been no accidents ....... will probably happen today of course. We do plan to put a stairgate on his bedroom door when he goes into a bed.

Obviously - it is much easier with an only child as I can be aware of where he is & what he is doing (but also admit that I do leave him upstairs/downstairs playing ....... bad mother alert?!).

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susanmt · 12/05/2003 10:57

I must be a bad mother - we had a stairgate at the top when dd and then ds were very little but I made a big point when they were about 12 months of teaching them to go up and down safely. Ds is 15 months now and for at least 3 months has been turning round at the top and coming down on his tummy. We have 2 short flights of 6 steps with a 180degree turn, so its not like they would fall down a whole flight. Maybe it wold be a good idea to teach your dd to be careful on the stairs and to do it properly, then you know she will be safe wherever she is if there arent any gates.

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TheOldDragon · 12/05/2003 12:35

We taught DS2 the "turn and slide" method of coming down the stairs when he was 12 months old. About 4 months later, he learnt the "Superman" pose mentioned below and comes down in approximately 2 seconds! Very scarey for people who didn't know what he was doing He has now (2) learnt to come down properly through watching DS1. He had to learn as it wasn't fair to keep DS1 downstairs.

Mammya, have you tried making a concerted effort to teach your DD how to safely use the stairs? I have a sneaky feeling that some stairgates are labled as suitable for up to 2yrs old so you'd need to check.

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JanZ · 12/05/2003 13:05

I'm definitely one of the bad mothers' club - we also never had a stair gate and taught ds from an early age (he learnt to climb them at 13 months - at his great granny's in South Africa) to go up and down stairs safely. Barricaded the stairs for a wee while when he was cruising but then decided it was probably more unsafe, as he could climb on top of the blanket basket and then was more at risk of falling from a greater height!

We did teach him the "going-down-backwards-on-his-tummy" technique, but he preferred to bum shuffle his way down. After watching him, we realised he was doing so cautiously and safely, so we stopped turning him around every time.

Now, age 2 and 1/2, he climbs up and down stairs confidently, without even holding to the bannister. It means we can visit people (or stay in ski chalets!) and not worry about steps etc! He always jumps the last step - but has had it drummed in to him that he is not allowed to jump on any of the other steps.

I too think that a lot of stair gates say "Up to 2" - I think by that age a lot of kids can clamber over them anyway, so the stair gates almost become a danger in themselves.

Another admission - dh and I often don't know where ds is and when looking for him will find him either upstairs or in the downstairs hallway (our main living area is in the first floor). Lindy - you and I have a lot in common! (I have a theory - older mums tend to be either ultra relaxed and more paranoid - I fall in to the former category, perhaps excessively so!)

Mammya - every kid is different, and you know your dd best. If she's really not ready and is unsafe around stairs (through observation of our ds, we were happy about his concept of self-preservation!), then you may ned to bite the bullet and buy stairs. If she just needs a bit of added confidence, then why not make a concerted to teach her stairs, so that at least that's one worry of your mind when she's at ex-dh's. You're not going to be able to wrap her in connton wool every time she goes - but you can try to teach her things to minimise potential dangers.

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