An irresponsible mother worries about lethal gas

by CJ

Dear reader, I reach out to you from these two months of blog silence to rant about carbon monoxide. Not that it’s a lethal gas (you already know that), or that responsible folk have CO monitors in every bedroom of their house (you’re so responsible that you even checked the monitors’ batteries last weekend), but that this household danger is yet another thing I must thwart with motherly Kung Fu.

You see I hadn’t thought to buy a device to protect Poppy from this colorless, odorless gas. I’d assumed that I was an excellent mother simply for having smoke alarms. It had never occurred to me that excellence is only relative to what other safety gear is on the market.

This is a dangerous and possibly expensive situation.

I first knew I was too relaxed about odorless gas when I read this post in the New York Times. It’s about a mother, marginally more responsible than I am, whose carbon monoxide alarm rang but she switched it off because she thought it faulty. Minutes later, the fire brigade came crashing through her door, shouting that windows must be opened and children woken at once.

It turns out that a neighbor’s carbon monoxide alarm had gone off too and this person, even more responsible than the author, had called the fire brigade and saved the day.

I read this article in a state of shock. Poppy has lived for two and half years in our monitor-less home but could she survive another night? My lips trembled as I ran into Walter’s study. “Husband,” I cried, “we must buy six state-of-the-art carbon monoxide monitors and have them rush-delivered to our house today!”

Walter, busy annotating a big equation on his screen, couldn’t bear to turn his head.  From the side of his mouth came a smattering of phrases, including “they cost what??”, “disproportionate response”,  and “when’s dinner?”

I ordered two middle-of-the range monitors. I was in a state of high alert until they arrived. Immediately upon delivery I installed one in the guest room and the other next to Poppy’s crib and, in sacramental tones, assured my tot that the blinking zero meant she was being protected. The toddler and the dog absorbed this news with the gravity their father lacked.

I felt relaxed until I suddenly understood that the lethal gas problem was just an emblem of my larger dilemma. Safety mavens urge one not to travel without a portable smoke and CO alarm. I suppose this means that I shouldn’t step out of doors without a fire retardant blanket too? And how about a first aid kit, an epi pen, a copy of my will, and some pepper spray just in case?

Of course, I’d have to conceal these things from Walter because I know he’d think I was crazy. But these things are heavy, and he carries my suitcase, so I’ll have to pack a back support belt for him too. But how to conceal the gear and get him to wear the belt without raising suspicion?

Reader, overcoming obstacles to keep one’s family safe is a full-time occupation.

I hope my diligence hasn’t made you feel inadequate.