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By Daphne Biener

You may know my eldest daughter as Kira. How about for argument’s sake we call her Decoy? As in, she is the decoy child that effortlessly waltzed into my world, issuing barely a sneeze for a year or three. She did not exhibit an interest in leaping off buildings, nor did she consider each seat belt a personally affront.

I can barely recall those days. Back when we took pony rides instead of ambulance rides.

Back then, I held up my track record with Kira as proof of my maternal competencies. Why not sign up for another round? After all, I knew what to expect. Children, thought I, were not so tough.

Life, pointing at me and laughing, “HA!”

And thus Acadia stormed into our world. My incredible uncontainable wild child. My Cady Knievel.

I wouldn’t change her for the world. Not her fearlessness or her imaginative interpretation of the laws of gravity. All I have ever hoped to do is cushion the corresponding blows a bit. You know, contain her.

Acadia, however, has never taken kindly to restraints. She laughed in the face of the five-point harness of her backwards-facing baby bucket. That she blew through at six months, spinning free and worming her way to the top of the seat to say hello to dear mom in the front, who practically had a heart-attack doing 60 on the LIE. Note: there are no reliable Swedish companies making nugget-sized straight-jackets.

acadia-4.jpgHere she is sporting her first birthday present—bestowed upon her just 2 days after she escaped the ties that bind normal children into backyard swings. Lady Houdini was not amused.

At 18 months she dislocated her arm, alone in her crib. As I told her doctor (12 times!) I swear I didn’t see this feat, but if you imagine a wolf gnawing its limb to gain freedom I think you’ve got the picture. We ditched the crib and free-ranged her in her room after that.

Her diapers were reinforced with duct-tape. Nevertheless, 6 mornings of 7 our sweet MacGyver greeted the dawn sans pamper.

There isn’t a harness, a strap-contraption, or a helmet I haven’t tried. I would be the proud owner of an mini-ergonomic space suit, but NASA never returned my calls. Which is why when Dave suggested I raise her in a box I gasped at his genius. What? Kidding? Apparently he found something funny in our tiny stunt devil’s exploits. I never got that memo.

Decoy Child ratted out her dad the other day. Seems he put 7 year-old Kira in charge of 4 ½ year-old Wild Thing on the monkey bars. The ones that hover in the backyard approximately 106 feet above the same frozen ground that delivered one of her earlier concussions. I handled the situation with decorum. I went ballistic.


Him, incredulous: You want me to catch her if she falls?

Um, yes, I want you to catch her if she falls. Cushion her if she crashes. Look before she leaps. DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO KEEP THAT CHILD SAFE!

In Finding Nemo, overprotective Dad says about Nemo, “I promised nothing would ever happen to him,” and simplistic (ok, realistic) Dory responds, “But then nothing would ever happen to him.”

I get it. I do.

And yet part of me aches to keep my babies in a box. Even though they jab me when I try to tuck a pointy elbow back into the protective cube and they insist on this crazy business of growing up. How can it already be time to let them out into the great big scary world? Bad things happen out there. I know, I know exciting things, terrific things, wondrous life-things happen out there too. And I’m on board, I am. All I’m going to need is a guarantee that all those fabulous things come without big-time bumps and lumps.

I have learned, begrudgingly, that there’s a limit to what I can control. I can’t shove them back from whence they came, and there’s not a box around that can hold their dreams. So as the ambulance sirens finally fade, I am left with my awe and slight fear of sweet Acadia and what she might do next. She is baby no more. She will not be contained, and though it may look like my eyes are squeezed shut in terror, really, I’m ready. I am.

You can read more of Daphne’s work here on the mama bird diaries or visit her site, Sestina Queen.

13 Responses to just try and contain her

  • sharon says:

    Chills…I've got 'em. My little spitfire is a mere one and I've had the same thoughts of "containment" and keeping her safe!! Well done.

  • Allison G. says:


    All of us first borns who love to be in control are certainly thrown for a loop when the children come into our lives and we realize for the first time that there is actually something close to us that we can not control and keep safe. So hard to take but so necessary for our kids (girls in particular). Great insight and I am passing this piece on.

  • Grace says:

    I love this story! It is so well written. When are you going to publish all these tales in a book. I'd by it! Acadia looks like Evan during one of his tantrums. He usually only has them when I am trying to keep him safe and HE is trying to face fall off the kitchen table or use the dresser as a ladder, and so on and so on…

  • Lanie says:

    I seem to recall you used duct tape on your shoes too. If I am remembering the night correctly the duct tape did not work on those either. Maybe we need to find better tape. . . Great post!

  • Valerie says:

    I'm not sure I remember this from at least 15 years ago, but I do — I recall a conversation we had when we saw a small child in one of those harnesses with a leash that the parents holds to keep the kid from running away in a crowd. You commented that when you first saw one you asked your Mom or Dad why anyone would put a leash on their child, and the response was something like "how the heck do you think we kept you from running off when you were that age?" So maybe she gets some of her daredevil spirit from you? Actually, I'm certain you figured that out LONG ago! Great post Daphne! I think Acadia's got great spunk!

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