I have a little story to tell you guys. Like many stories, even those with happy endings, this one begins with a tragedy that would only later become a near miss and a lesson learned the hard way.
You see, when we moved to the house we live in currently, Blake had just turned 5 and Penn was just 5 months old, and while both were obviously quite young, Blake was already a very conscious, forward thinking, and reasonably aware child. Unlike the other homes we have lived in over the years, this new home had honeycomb cellular shades on all of the windows. Considered an upgrade by most standards, with heat blocking characteristics and light filtering capabilities. But for me, they were cumbersome because I need the natural light and to see the view, which means I have to pull them up entirely and can no longer simply tilt open to let the light in.
A unique combination of things, including the age of this home, the ridiculously tall height of each and every window, and my obsession with having the shades open, means that a sturdy unyielding cord hangs down from each of those blinds that is no less than 90 inches, in total. Hanging as if to lure children in with the temptation of something fun to swing from. I think you can probably see where I am going with this… This home is not old, by any means, yet apparently it is old enough that the window treatments don’t have child safety features built into them – just in case. Many blinds have a safety release that will pop the blind out of the mount, or a portion of the cord that snaps off when weight is applied to them, and all of mine had some form of this over the last 10 years. Brand new window treatments now have a completely cordless option or a continuous loop to help keep your kiddos from strangulation. I learned that mine don’t have this – the hard way – one quiet afternoon shortly after we moved in.
You can see the window line in my family room in the image above. There isn’t a window in this entire house that doesn’t sit below a standard height piece of furniture. On the one hand, this is dreamy, but on the other…
Let me preface this by saying that never having ever had to pull the blinds up on a single window in my entire life, never having windows this tall (long? whatever), having Blake be the age that he was, and my assuption that every house built in the mid 2000’s or later had fixtures with these safety features I mentioned earlier built into them (especially the high end fixtures)… the danger of that dangling cord never even occured to me. Literally – not a single thought. If you know me in real life, you know that I tend to be a worrier. Inside, I am the crazy, fearful, terrified of the ‘what-if’, stupid accident happening and harming my children type of gal. So needless to say that if I thought there was something to worry about, I definitely would have. Not to mention Blake and I had the ‘talk’ many times in his life prior to this, about never touching the cords and what could happen. He could never even come close to reaching them anyhow, unless he was standing on something.
And then my sweet blue-eyed boy was playing with the cord, swinging it wildly back and forth and letting it wrap around his neck like a tether ball. I had no idea he was doing this mind you, because at the time I was putting Penn down for a nap upstairs. Several minutes later, Blake wandered up and was telling me his neck hurt. I asked him to show me where it was hurting and he got a little tearful as he typically does when he is trying to be tough but is actually a bit hurt. He pointed to the side of his neck which appeared fine from where I was sitting and he said he thought he scraped it. That might have been a red flag if it were any other kid, but my kids in particular inherited their weirdness from me and so mention of a scrape on the neck wouldn’t have been the oddest thing to ever have happened. Though I can usually tell when an odd claim such as that is more of a reference to how it feels than to what actually happened and that is what I figured here. He was describing that stinging, burning sensation that happens when you get rug burn or a scrape on the knee. When he got a little closer to me I could see that a line was starting to show. It did indeed look a bit like a scrape and even more like he had been running with a stick in his hand and it hadn’t ended well. Over the course of the next 20 minutes a full burn mark appeared and wrapped around the front of his neck from ear to ear. When I pressed him further about what happened he finally managed to tell me that he was jumping off the furniture and surfing the sofas as he often does and that the cord from the blinds got wrapped around his neck and choked him.
I started to cry, finally realizing what he was attempting to tell me and seeing the complete situation unfold in my mind. Running through the horrific details and what he must have just experienced – what he could have experienced. He was frightened and while I still don’t know to this day exactly how things actually unfolded, I know enough to know just how scary this almost was. The mark on his neck was so severe that I kept him out of school for an entire week while it healed. You see, until you experience seeing the unmistakable appearance of a rope burn around the neck of a little kid, you honestly can’t know the horror and I honestly can’t even put it to words. This goes for any child, not just your own. Had I seen this on someone else’s child, I wouldn’t have been able to shake that image from my mind, and may have burst into tears at the sight of it. It was the most disturbing thing I have ever seen or experienced as a mom so far. My worst nightmare – and I am one of the lucky ones. I didn’t have to experience the loss of my child to understand the danger and to figure out that everything I thought I knew, wasn’t actually true.
They say ignorance is bliss, and I suppose in this case it was, until that terrible day. Having never had a reason to raise the blinds before living here, all of the cords were up and out of the way, even when they were danging down, so this was unique for him as well. Maybe my warnings didn’t resonate since the circumstances were different here, or maybe he was young and the power of temptation was too great to heed my words. And maybe he simply forgot – kids do that. There is nothing that will draw a child in like a dangling cord. Since then I have rigged make-shift cord wraps at every window to wrap the cord up and out of the way. But children will always find a way if they really want to. Luckily he doesn’t, and may never touch another cord like these ever again in his life, but now Penn is 3 and a force to be reckoned with. So rather than live in this fear I have, I am ready to replace these death-traps and upgrade the window situation altogether. For safety and for style.
We have no molding or trim around our windows, just a simple drywall return. And while the shades are relatively high end, they match the wall color so closely that they somehow look dingy and undeniably blah. With furniture that rubs against the drywall thanks to those low lying windows, the paint is beginning to wear and with curtains that are never left alone by my boys and the dogs and that spend most of their time tied up in a knot and off of the floor… let’s just say everything is ready for a major update and refresh. I want to streamline and I would love to replace the shades with something that looks beautiful on it’s own – curtains or not – and is lasting and classic. No more temporary solutions.
I had a lovely gal from Smith + Noble come out for a design consult. We settled on a gorgeous neutral linen in a classic roman shade. They have a cordless option available for this, which is incredible, though with the height of my windows, it maybe be hard for me to reach. They also have a continuous loop option that is perfect for putting my mind at ease and would still allow me to reach the pulley to raise and lower easily. Even their standard cords can be locked in place so they don’t dangle. Of course we are now talking about an upgrade that will take many years to do all throughout this house, but hopefully I can tackle this one room at a time. I will try to make this a priority as I refresh paint, add trim and update other general fixtures as well.
These mock-ups are what I envision the roman shades will look like and what I hope to work toward over the next several months (years probably). If I trim out the windows themselves, then I should have the option to do away with the fussy curtains altogether if I like. In the spaces where we spend a lot of time, and the boys do a lot of playing, no dangling curtains sounds amazing. The dust and dog hair they pick up is unreal.
If you have kids, and you need to upgrade your #WindowSafety -do it in style – #SafeandStylish. Smith + Noble is hosting a giveaway for $1000 toward new window treatments, so go forth and enter (I did)! If you have existing shades or blinds in place, they will give you $50 trade-in value for every blind you trade in. They also have a handy little guide to help you child-proof your existing window treatments. A must if you aren’t looking to replace or install new blinds or shades any time soon. With no less than 8 million windows in this house, I should rack up the discounts, no? Fingers crossed because this little mama bird is terrified of what my younger daredevil child will attempt. He is a definite hazard.