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The boner

I did it. I did what every parent, no matter how conscientious, how vigilant, how tenderly attentive eventually does: I pulled a boner so breathtaking that I have set up flattering lighting, pushed "record" on the Handicam, backed the resulting footage with a score composed on my Casio keyboard, burned it to DVD, and am advertising it via e-mail with the subject line, "All w0mens neEd th1s!!!1!Huuge P3nis vX6Qw."

I was at my parents' house with Charlie. I'd just put him down for his afternoon nap, and knew he would sleep for at least an hour. My father, just two short weeks after heart surgery, was napping as well. With my father in the house and Charlie down for the count, I figured it was safe to go out with my mother. It would make a much better story if I said we'd gone out to score some smack, or even for cocktails and a facial, but the fact is that we just went to the grocery store a half mile away.

When we pulled back into the driveway after our 45-minute absence, we both noticed at the same time that my father's car was gone. It could only mean one thing: that he'd called my sister-in-law, asked her to bring over a rear-facing car seat, awakened Charlie, strapped him safely into the center back seat of his vehicle, and gone for a slow, leisurely drive around the neighborhood, obeying all traffic laws and never once exceeding the posted speed limit.

Okay, I guess it could mean two things.

Once inside, I tore up the stairs in a panic, expecting to find Charlie sad, gone, ill, or dead. He was none of those things. He was sleeping peacefully with no sign of trouble, unless you count the fact that his leg was extended clear to his hammy thigh through the bars of the PortaCrib, a state-of-the-art model from 1965. (Look, it could have been a lot worse. I could have found him hungrily chewing the lead paint off its pastel-painted finials, right?)

My father later explained that when he woke and found us gone, he assumed Charlie was with us. And this was a reasonable conclusion to draw. But I don't think my assumption was that outrageous, either: I had no idea my father would even wake, much less leave. It didn't occur to me, or to my mother, who knows his habits well, that we needed to consider that.

Still, it was bad. Really bad. Sobering, chilling, good-God-can-I-really-handle-this? bad.

I said at the beginning of this that every parent sooner or later makes a big mistake that could compromise a child's safety. My evidence for this belief is, I admit, anecdotal. I ask you, parents and those who have cared for a child in other capacities, am I right? Tell me. From letting the baby roll around on the bed and then hearing that sickening clonk on down, don't we all pull a boner sometime?

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