I was washing the dishes when I heard the sounds that didn’t seem quite right -- a muffled thump from somewhere on the other side of the house, followed by a second slightly louder thump.

I paused mid-rinse to listen; the other household sounds were familiar -- the whoosh of the water heater, the hum of the refrigerator motor, the wind whistling through the bedroom window.

I waited for another thump and … nothing.

Must have been my imagination, I thought, even though I knew it wasn’t.

I went back to rinsing, and the sound of a door opening gave me goosebumps.

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I strained to hear.

Anyone else would have missed it, but I was tuned in to every subtle sound in the house. And this one had a pattern to it – thump thump thump thump thump.

A door opening? Footsteps? It couldn’t be. I was home alone.

Well, not exactly alone.

“Hi, dad!”

I made a sound that was half gasp and half squeal, which is especially undignified when your 3-year old, his eyes still heavy with post-nap sleepiness, is standing in the doorway, hugging a teddy bear.

“Steven! How did you get out of your crib?”

“I climbed out!” he said; the “duh!” was implied.

He’d never climbed out of his crib before, and I had the feeling that life as I knew it had just changed.

Part of me was terrified and part of me was proud; parenting is weird like that. And even though it probably violated most rules in the Parenting Handbook, I was curious: “Show me!”

“OK!” he said with a big smile. We went to his room and I lifted him into the crib.

“Did you climb out while you were holding your bear?” I asked.

“No, I throwed him out first.” He tossed the teddy bear over the railing and it hit the floor with a muffled thump.

The rest of the demonstration was both nerve-wracking and fascinating: Steven pulled himself onto the crib railing and balanced like a seesaw, swung around until he had one leg on each side of the rail, swung his second leg over and lowered himself to the floor with a slightly louder thump.

He ended the performance with a proud “Ta-da!”

I’d read enough of the Handbook to know I shouldn’t applaud.

“We’ll have to talk to mom about getting a big boy bed,” I said. “But I don’t want you climbing out of the crib by yourself. You could fall and get hurt, and we don’t want that. Ok?”

“OK,” he said. “Can I have some juice?”

He went to bed at the usual time that night, too sleepy to ask why all the throw pillows from the couch were piled on the floor next to his crib.

I eventually went back and read the Handbook, looking for an answer to my most pressing parenting question: “How often will a child change ‘life as I knew it’?” The answer wasn’t in the book, but I found it through experience:

Every. Single. Day.

Dan Conradt, a lifelong Mower County resident, lives in Austin with his wife, Carla Johnson.