My wife was prepping some food in the kitchen and I was going to town on the wood floors with the Swiffer Wet Jet.* The kids were upstairs in the master bedroom, playing quietly. I assumed they were in the closet, trying on Mama's shoes.
I have become almost unflappable over these four years of parenting, and that's why the blood-curdling screams from both of the children didn't make me drop the Swiffer right away. The noise sounded almost exactly the same as when the girls see a daddy long-legs crawling on the wall. Mom was closer to the stairs than I was, so she ran up to see what was going on.
It was maybe five seconds before I heard Mom's voice join in the cacophony: "Oh no! Oh my God! What happened!"
At that, I dropped the Swiffer and bounded up the stairs. Beyond the hysterically gibbering children clinging to their mother, I saw this:
In case you can't make out exactly what that is, it's the remains of a pair of Mama's earrings, hanging out of an electrical outlet. The evidence of who put them there--both kids were equally distraught--was as clear as the black soot on her fingertips.
Here's the scene that followed (I've changed the names of the children to protect them from future embarrassment):
Me: Oh my gosh, are you okay?! [to Mom] Is she okay?! [To Kid B] What were you doing?! Why would you do that?! What on earth is wrong with you?!
Mom: She's okay, she's okay. [To kids] Why would you do that?! Don't ever do that again!!
Kid B: [Hysterical] I won't do it again! Wash my hand! Wash my hand!
Me: Does it hurt?!
Kid B: Yeaaaaaaahhhhh...it hurts! It hurts! [Kid A] should have never climbed up the dresser to get Mommy's bông tai [Vietnamese for "earring"--one of the only Vietnamese words they ever use anymore].
Kid A: [Calming down] Kids should not play with outlets. Kids should not play with 'lectricity.
Kid B: [Still freaked out] I shouldn't have followed her upstairs! Wash it again! Wash it! Wash it!
[Everyone calms down and the parents hold the kids tight just like in a movie where something dangerous has happened and the children didn't die like you thought they were going to from the ominous music and shaky hand-held camerawork.]
Kid A: I think you can fix the bông tai, Daddy.We didn't have to lecture the kids on the danger of playing with outlets for very long. They totally got it. Sparks and flames accompanied by a loud POP (my wife heard it from downstairs) left much more of an impression than our words ever could have. For hours, without prompting, the kids revisited the topic of what a bad idea it is to play with electricity. It was both sad and adorable, how shaken up they were. And it was really nice that they were alive.
One of the unexpected reactions they had to the electrical event was shame, or at least embarrassment. (That's why I didn't use their names, FWIW, and also why I have been thinking about the shelf-life of parentblogs lately, with regard to respecting the children's privacy.) After everything settled down a bit, one of the kids' main concerns was that we expunge the evidence of the incident. When they saw me taking a picture of it, they told me I shouldn't. "Why not," I asked. "Because it's bad," they said.
I washed as much soot as possible off of the outlet (don't worry: the breaker had tripped--I wasn't sticking a washrag in a live outlet), as I had been instructed to, but there was just no way to remove the blackness on the burnt outlet cover. I would have to replace the cover, and maybe the whole outlet, and I explained to the kids that I would do it the next day, because now we had to get ready for our friends to come over.
The girls were very insistent that we not let their friends go upstairs. They didn't want anyone to know what had happened with the outlet. And sure enough, when all the kids were running through the house, our girls would not let them get beyond the landing halfway up the stairs.
So, I guess I should talk about safety. Am I going to install a bunch of fancy, child-proof outlet covers all over the house now? Probably not. I really think the twins are not going to even attempt to plug in a phone charger until they are 18, and maybe even then not until they have some therapy first. They're very cautious kids, for the most part, and this will only make them more so.
As you can see in the picture above, we used the little plastic plugs to block most of the outlets. But sometimes you run the vacuum cleaner and don't put the plug back in the socket, and then you forget to ever replace it because you think your kids have taken your warnings about outlets to heart. And most of the time, circuit breakers do what they are supposed to do, shutting down the power when there's a short circuit. You can still get shocked (as I have, many times, while doing construction projects), but usually it's not so terrible.
|I was glad, once again, for building codes. I wired the addition myself, and followed the code scrupulously, not only because the inspector made me, but because electricity is some serious shit.|
*Not a paid endorsement, although I would be happy to do one because the Wet Jet is one of mankind's greatest achievements, IMHO.