I remember a big box appearing one day while I was a little kid. I’m sure a new dishwasher or giant early 90s television came in it. The box was probably left in the living room to be broken down and tossed out in the trash. Eight year old me was having none of that. I immediately took up residence in it, proclaiming I would now be living in a large cardboard box.
Seeing as I no longer live in that box I must have gotten bored after a half hour of being curled up in the dark and wandered off to play Nintendo, as was the style at the time. Whenever I see a large box I still feel that tiny voice inside me chiming “It would be fun to play in there for a little while. We could make a fort!” As a grown-up I have the ability to get myself as many cardboard boxes as I want. I can actually build a cool fort for adventures out of wood and nails. I could probably charge admission from other adults who want to play pretend.
My toddler shares the same love of cramming herself into tiny spaces. If she can get in/under/behind something, she will. We’re always finding her behind the couch, in the corner behind the entertainment center, and under her trampoline. Sometimes she dumps her toys out of her toy bin so she can climb into it. Her most favorite place to hide is under her baby sister’s crib. The space between the bottom crib support and floor is maybe six inches. It’s just big enough for her to squeeze under but not big enough for a grown-up to easily get her out of. Once she’s under there she can sit up and have exciting adventures while we impotently tell her to get out. “Right now!” I say, while she giggles at me. “When you hide under the crib, mommy is mad!” She’s excellent at not caring that mommy is mad. I’m sure the parenting books would say we should ignore her and she’ll come out on her own, but most of the time I do not have time to hang out all afternoon while she frolics in her subterranean wonderland. I end up reaching under the crib, grabbing a hold of whatever body part I can get a hand on and pulling her out.
Last night we could hear her talking to herself over the baby monitor like we always do. She sings and talks to her toys. She turns on her musical seahorse, Mewskeet, over and over again. Then we heard something unusual. She was crying. After a few minutes it was clear this wasn’t “I am whiney and don’t want to go to sleep” crying, or “I have suddenly hurt myself and have a boo boo” crying. This was different. I went in her room to check on her and came across one of the funniest scenes I’ve witnessed as a mom.
I saw the top half of her seemingly emerging out of her bed at the headboard, with her body nowhere no be found. “I’m stuck!” she wailed at me as she struggled to pull herself on to the bed. I could then see she had tried to crawl up from under her bed and squeeze herself through the tiny space between the headboard and bed frame. She was able to get the top half of herself through but was stuck at her butt. Since her behind was pressed against the wall she couldn’t go back down and couldn’t pull herself up any more. She was truly stuck and in a good deal of distress. I did the only thing I could at that moment. I burst out laughing.
I think parenting is a lot of trying to balance enjoying when something is super funny and not wanting to laugh in your children’s crying faces. I’m always having to suppress chuckling while the baby cries and makes silly expressions and sounds in her misery, or when the toddler is doing something so incredibly naughty I can’t believe it. You don’t want to give the kids the impression that what they’re doing is funny and should be repeated or that you don’t care that they’re upset. That is really difficult because most of the time they are mind-blowingly hilarious. Trust me on this: Nothing is funnier than seeing the top half of your toddler clawing out of the bed frame while he little legs kick at the air under her bed.
Of course once I stopped laughing I immediately pulled her free. I told her I was sorry she was scared and cuddled her until she stopped crying. I explained to her she that shouldn’t play under the bed when it’s time to sleep because she can get hurt. All the while I was giggling in my head at that image of the stuck little girl. I’m sure a good deal of the laughter was relief that she wasn’t actually hurt, but I’d never admit that.