Baby Gates: A Love/Hate Relationship

If I ever try to climb Mt. Everest, I will consider it the second greatest challenge in my life--the first being opening our baby gate. This $60 piece of plastic that separates our living room from our stairs not only keeps our 1-year-old daughter from escaping, but also keeps me from ... well ... escaping. I tug, kick, yell, scream, give it the stink eye—you name it, I've tried it. And yet the gate remains unopened, taunting me. If I ever grow a grizzly beard, it's not because I'm trying to look even more handsome than I already do (though that's a nice side benefit); it's because I can't reach my shaving cream and razor, as they occupy valuable real estate on the other side of that impenetrable gate.

Ah, to be on the other side. If only.

Having a baby gate in the house makes me feel like I'm in prison—not the kind with gang fights and stabbings, but the more dangerous kind with Disney Tea Cups and Tea Party accessories. I stand alongside my 1-year-old daughter, trapped, looking through those plastic bars, both of us hoping that someone, somewhere will come and rescue us. In the meantime, we commiserate and plot detailed schemes to escape our cell over a hot pot of imaginary Disney tea.

When my wife finally strolls down the stairs, she knows what awaits: two desperate prisoners who will do anything to get out of jail. Anna, my 1-year-old, is amazingly smart and uses a combination of the lip-quiver and puppy dog eyes to tug at my wife's soft heart. Brilliant move, my dear, brilliant move! I don't mean to brag, but she got that lip-quiver from me. It's practically a Klems family heirloom.

It worked like a charm. My wife lets her out. Game. Set. Match.

Without hesitation, I turn to my wife and, being the pro that I am, go for the more traditional husbandly act that all husbands use when they want to persuade their wives into helping them out: I flash her my junk. And just like that, my wife put an additional lock on the gate. And put up an additional gate.

The warden has spoken.

My wife claims that opening the gate is easy. You just unhook, lean, lift and violà! It's open. Simple as that. Easy peasy. It's a claim that belongs in the Hall of Fame of Ridiculousness, with its jersey hanging right between "by spending money we are actually saving money" and "New Kids on the Block are a fun, talented band."

I really should be able to figure it out. After all, I'm a college graduate for God's sake. I'm a critical thinker. I can walk and chew gum at the same time. Hell, I put the gate up! Of course, had I known how difficult it would be to open it I would have put it up while standing on the other side.

It's times like these I realize how much my 1-year-old daughter Anna and I have in common. We're both trapped by circumstances that are beyond our control. She's pinned in by a gate for her own safety. I'm pinned in by the comfort that the gate provides me in knowing my daughter is safe. Neither of us really wants the gate, but both of us need the gate. The reasons are somehow different and the same all in one.

Even though the gate may be irritating and frustrating and surprisingly resistant to the stink eye, I'm glad it's there. I'm glad it's protecting Anna from a dangerous situation. I'm glad it forces me to pause—if even for a moment—and share time with my daughter, sipping imaginary tea and enjoying this short period of her life where she needs me to protect her. The gate is proof of my love and if that means I'm stuck, then so be it.

As I contemplate that thought, my 3-year-old daughter gets up off the couch and walks over to me.

"Hey Dad," she says. "Where's Mommy?"

"Upstairs," I say.

She smiles and gives me a warm hug. Then she turns, lifts the gate open and walks on through. "Click," goes the gate as it closes behind her.

"WHAT? Son of a ... "

The Life of Dad is updated every Tuesday. Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

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