Created By: Goldfritha on May 4, 2013 Last Edited By: Goldfritha on June 26, 2013
Troped

Straying Baby

A very small child wanders from safety.

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Babies learn to move quite young -- far younger than they learn good judgment, or even to talk. This often leads to their wandering off and into grave danger, such as near a tub of water where they could drown. Whenever a child escapes the parental eye for a moment, expect a vanishing, and a subsequent panic before tracking the kid down. Worse occurs when the supervising character sees the baby just before trouble. A common comedy trouble is that all the problems escape the baby and hit the character pursuing. The Badly Battered Babysitter may get in that condition just trying to follow. For drama, features as an Adult Fear

A trope for children younger than Free-Range Children, who would be expected to have some judgment, even if they sometimes do stupid things, and Scare Dare, as the child blunders into danger out of sheer ignorance. It tapers off by about five, when the child has enough judgment to get into danger through willfulness rather than ignorance.

Truth in Television. Contrast Baby Carriage.

Examples

Anime & Manga
  • Mao of Chibi Devil does this near the beginning of the anime (in the manga, he was kidnapped).
  • This drives the crisis near the end of the Studio Ghibli film My Neighbour Totoro, when 4yo Mei gets lost after trying to go alone to visit her mother in the hospital.
  • This is how Yusuke Urameshi starts out dead in YuYu Hakusho. A five-year-old was playing with his ball by a busy road, Yusuke warns him off, kid doesn't listen and loses his ball in the road, goes after it, and Yusuke dives in front of a car to save him and gets hit.
  • Minami's triplet sisters in Centaur no Nayami have a reputation as troublemakers that began when they managed to wander twenty kilometers from home within five hours of taking their first steps. Their sister can only wonder "How?!"
  • Togepi from Pokémon has done this on more than one occasion.
  • Happens in a one-off scene in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. A baby on a pier nearly falls off as it chases a butterfly while Treize Kushrenada holds back the mother from rescuing it to prove a point about human nature and taking risks: the baby turns back at the last second and begins to walk.

Fanfic
  • In Harry Potter, Dumbledore leaves a 15 month old toddler on the doorstep overnight with a letter. Harry doesn't get up and walk away in canon. In fanfiction, sometimes he does, and even more often, the fact that he could have is discussed to cast Dumbledore as senile or untrustworthy.

Film
  • Mai's little brother in Avatar:The Last Airbender is prone to wandering off
  • Baby Herman does this inside a kitchen during the Maroon Cartoons short "Somethin's Cookin'" at the beginning of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It's all Roger can do protect him from harm.
  • This is almost the entire plot of the movie Baby's Day Out, where a rich baby gets away from three bumbling kidnappers and leads them through all manner of dangers.

Literature
  • Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan learned to walk relatively late, but still young enough that they don't expect any sense. (Given they find him riding a horse when he doesn't know how to ride, probably right.)
  • In Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, the assassin is shocked to find that Bod was capable of crawling away while he killed the rest of the family and sets out to hunt for him.
  • In The Casual Vacancy, Robbie Weedon wanders off and drowns because his sister, Krystal, is too busy getting Fats Wall to shag her to supervise him properly.
  • In Pet Sematary, Louis's son Gage. He doesn't even wander that far before the inevitable happens.
  • In Terry Pratchett's The Wee Free Men, Tiffany Aching's brattish little brother Wentworth does this twice, forcing his sister to reflect on how much better life would be if she didn't rescue him. She reflects that if she didn't, her parents would seriously freak out and make her life into a living Hell. Therefore she saves him not only from drowning, but from an eldritch river monster which she duly clobbers with a cast-iron cooking pot. The second time he strays into an abduction by the Queen of the Elves, who while craving a mortal baby to steal, doesn't even have the decency to leave a half-decent changeling...
  • A Mythbusters episode tested the abilities of men and women to multitask. Part of the test involved making sure an animatronic baby didn't crawl out of a designated area.

Live-Action TV
  • In an episode of Malcolm in the Middle when the family are at some convention event, Jamie wanders off, ends up toddling through the convention hall and somehow gets up into the rafters, and falls--just as Malcolm and Dewey, arguing over whether Dewey's shirt is "lucky" as the latter claims, are each tugging at the shirt: and this outstretched shirt is what Jamie falls into, saving him from hitting the floor.
  • CSI NY 'Unspoken': Danny and Lindsay are at a political rally with Lucy, who's somewhere between four and five (a time skip and mild Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome make it hard to pinpoint exactly) and she wanders off. Lindsay panics, looks for her, and finds her just in time to be able to dive for cover with her when someone starts shooting.

Newspaper Comics
  • All three children born to Darryl and Wanda MacPherson in Baby Blues exhibit this tendency. Firstborn Zoe tended to stray like a hazard-seeking robot. Hamlet tended to roll around the house, going much further and faster than crawling. Third baby Wren has learned to climb; it frightened Wanda horribly to discover tiny Wren atop an eight-foot tall bookcase.

Video Games
  • The second bonus level in Elite Beat Agents involves a baby escaping into a construction site with only a cat being able to protect him.
  • One NPC encountered in Metal Slug 2/X is a cute little baby that moves around aimlessly and even tries to perform a handstand, only to topple over before resuming its crawl. Wandering around in a war zone does nothing to deter its natural curiosity, although one wonders where its parents are and how it ended up on a battlefield in the first place.

Webcomics

Western Animation
  • This is the whole premise of "Buttons and Mindy" on Western Animation/Animaniacs. Every segment has Mindy's clueless parents leaving the dog Buttons to watch the toddler, Mindy escaping, Buttons chasing her through ridiculous circumstances, and the parents returning and blaming it all on the dog.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons a Noodle Incident involving baby Maggie wandering off ends up with her winning a beauty pagent tiara & sceptre.
  • Arthur: four year old DW has wandered off a few times. Once when they visited the White House the Presidnet himself finds her (she says her family is lost, not her). In another episode she wanders away from her mother as Mom is waylayed by a client while out shopping; DW manages to coincidentally get back to her mother just as the conversation finishes.
  • The 1958 Tom and Jerry cartoon Tot Watchers has Tom and Jerry work together to save a wandering infant from the hazards of a construction site. The teenage babysitter is too busy nattering on the phone to notice anything amiss.
  • The 1989 Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers episode Bearing Up Baby has an infant wander away from its parents' campsite into the woods, where it encounters a bear and a puma, among other hazards.
  • In the Popeye cartoon "Child Sockology" baby Swee'Pea wanders around a construction site and Popeye & Bluto try to save him.
  • Virtually 99% of Rugrats episodes involve the babies busting out of their playpen or wandering off from the current adults to have an adventure. The adults are almost always oblivious to this ever happening.
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Goo Goo Goliath", the stork delivers a baby intended for "Mr. and Mrs. Giant" at the top of the beanstalk. But the stork was drunk, so he just drops it off at a promising-looking suburban home. The baby grows to a height of 42 feet while still just an infant. And one day, when the parents accidentally leave a backyard gate open, the giant baby wanders off.

Community Feedback Replies: 42
  • May 4, 2013
    FantasyLiver
    This is the whole premise of Buttons and Mindy on Animaniacs

    Also, Mai's little brother in Avatar:The Last Airbender is prone to wandering off
  • May 4, 2013
    SneakySquirrel
    • Mao of Chibi Devil does this near the beginning of the anime (in the manga, he was kidnapped).
  • May 5, 2013
    Arivne
    Film
    • Baby Herman does this inside a kitchen during the Maroon Cartoons short "Somethin's Cookin'" at the beginning of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It's all Roger can do protect him from harm.
  • May 5, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Live-Action TV

    In an episode of Malcolm in the Middle when the family are at some convention event, Jamie wanders off, ends up toddling through the convention hall and somehow gets up into the rafters, and falls--just as Malcolm and Dewey, arguing over whether Dewey's shirt is "lucky" as the latter claims, are each tugging at the shirt: and this outstretched shirt is what Jamie falls into, saving him from hitting the floor.
  • May 5, 2013
    Dawnwing
    Literature:

    • In Warrior Cats, kits tend to wander out of the camp on occasion (for example, Cloudkit and his adopted littermates at one point in the first series). Somewhat Justified, since, as cats, they learn to walk pretty early, but they're definitely not old enough to learn good judgement or defend themselves from predators yet.
  • For the description:

    The trials and tribulations of the caretaker keeping up with the kid often result in a Badly Battered Babysitter.
  • May 6, 2013
    randomsurfer
    • In an episode of The Simpsons a Noodle Incident involving baby Maggie wandering off ends up with her winning a beauty pagent tiara & sceptre.
    • Arthur: four year old DW has wandered off a few times. Once when they visited the White House the Presidnet himself finds her (she says her family is lost, not her). In another episode she wanders away from her mother as Mom is waylayed by a client while out shopping; DW manages to coincidentally get back to her mother just as the conversation finishes.
  • May 6, 2013
    Melkior
    • Drives the crisis near the end of My Neighbour Totoro, when 4yo Mei gets lost after trying to go alone to visit her mother in the hospital.

    Edited the description. It's "tapers". "Tappers" would be several tap-dancers. :-)
  • May 6, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • The 1958 Tom And Jerry cartoon Tot Watchers has Tom and Jerry work together to save a wandering infant from the hazards of a construction site. The teenage babysitter is too busy nattering on the phone to notice anything amiss.
    • The 1989 Chip N Dales Rescue Rangers episode Bearing Up Baby has an infant wander away from its parents' campsite into the woods, where it encounters a bear and a puma, among other hazards.
  • May 6, 2013
    StarSword
    Anime and Manga:
    • This is how Yusuke Urameshi starts out dead in Yu Yu Hakusho. A five-year-old was playing with his ball by a busy road, Yusuke warns him off, kid doesn't listen and loses his ball in the road, goes after it, and Yusuke dives in front of a car to save him and gets hit.
  • May 6, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In the Popeye cartoon "Child Sockology" baby Swee'Pea wanders around a construction site and Popeye & Bluto try to save him.
  • May 6, 2013
    sgamer82
    • Virtually 99% of Rugrats episodes involve the babies busting out of their playpen or wandering off from the current adults to have an adventure. The adults are almost always oblivious to this ever happening.
    • Minami's triplet sisters in Centaur No Nayami have a reputation as troublemakers that began when they managed to wander twenty kilometers from home within five hours of taking their first steps. Their sister can only wonder "How?!"
  • May 6, 2013
    chicagomel
    Live action TV: CSI NY 'Unspoken': Danny and Lindsay are at a political rally with Lucy, who's somewhere between four and five (a time skip and mild Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome make it hard to pinpoint exactly) and she wanders off. Lindsay panics, looks for her, and finds her just in time to be able to dive for cover with her when someone starts shooting.
  • May 7, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Fixed my two links to Tom And Jerry, and the Rescue Rangers. :) I'll get the hang of this yet...
  • May 7, 2013
    Unknown Troper
    • In The Casual Vacancy, Robbie Weedon wanders off and drowns because his sister, Krystal, is too busy getting Fats Wall to shag her to supervise him properly

    (Was going to edit for a suggestion; mind was changed and message was returned to Trueman001's original. Sorry about that!)
  • May 7, 2013
    Goldfritha
    Does anyone have any idea why this accumulated a motion to discard?
  • May 7, 2013
    Trueman001
    The reason that the example I gave has even the work's title spoilered, is because the toddler is the only plot-significant toddler in the book, thus removing any of the spoiler containers is a giveaway. I think this needs to be fixed pre-launch.
  • May 7, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Can be an Adult Fear.
  • May 8, 2013
    Arivne
    ^^^^ ^^ @Trueman001: Our Handling Spoilers page says:

    "Spoiler tagging the name of the work is worse than useless. If you do that, there's a special hell waiting for you."

    Also, the third paragraph of the spoiler policy guidelines says that if removing the spoilered text would make the example meaningless, you should re-word the example.

    I think it would be sufficient to just spoiler the part that says "and drowns", since that's the only thing that a reader would wish they hadn't known in advance.
  • May 8, 2013
    surgoshan
    • In Pet Sematary, Louis's son Gage. He doesn't even wander that far before the inevitable happens.
  • May 8, 2013
    Chernoskill
    In Ghostbusters II, Dana's baby climbs out the window and along the high-rise apartment's outer ledge, supposedly controlled or influenced by Virgo.

    ^^That's how I faintly remember it anyway, if anyone has a more accurate memory please advice :)
  • May 8, 2013
    Olaf_Merchant
    Might not be all that important, but the original Roger Rabbit game 'Hare Raising Havoc' (1991), also had this as the sole plot point. Roger was left as a baby sitter for Baby Herman who goes AWOL, forcing Roger to rush after him before he gets hurt.
  • May 9, 2013
    AgProv
    Literature: In the Discworld novel The Wee Free Men, Tiffany Aching's brattish little brother Wentworth does this twice, forcing his sister to reflect on how much better life would be if she didn't rescue him. She reflects that if she didn't, her parents would seriously freak out and make her life into a living Hell. Therefore she saves him not only from drowning, but from an eldritch river monster which she duly clobbers with a cast-iron cooking pot. The second time he strays into an abduction by the Queen of the Elves, who while craving a mortal baby to steal, doesn't even have the decency to leave a half-decent changeling...
  • May 9, 2013
    SquirrelGuy
    Western Animation: In the Looney Tunes short "Goo Goo Goliath", the stork delivers a baby intended for "Mr. and Mrs. Giant" at the top of the beanstalk. But the stork was drunk, so he just drops it off at a promising-looking suburban home. The baby grows to a height of 42 feet while still just an infant. And one day, when the parents accidentally leave a backyard gate open, the giant baby wanders off.
  • May 10, 2013
    Random888
    I think the name might be confusing. When people hear "baby", they usually think of an infant with an extremely limited straying ability. Perhaps "straying toddler" or "straying child" would be better.
  • May 10, 2013
    Trueman001
    ^ The above point is, I think, a specifically American English point; in Britain "baby" is used interchangably with "toddler" up to about age three. Doesn't make the point any less valid, of course...
  • May 11, 2013
    DracMonster
    Would Toddled Off Somewhere be clear?
  • May 11, 2013
    Goldfritha
    No, because it would exclude babies who crawl off somewhere.
  • May 13, 2013
    Melkior
    Perhaps it should be Straying Infant instead? "Infant" strictly means a baby, but colloquially is sometimes used to describe toddlers as well.
  • June 1, 2013
    LOAD
    The Avatar example isn't film....
  • June 1, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Newspaper Comics
    • All three children born to Darryl and Wanda MacPherson in Baby Blues exhibit this tendency. Firstborn Zoe tended to stray like a hazard-seeking robot. Hamlet tended to roll around the house, going much further and faster than crawling. Third baby Wren has learned to climb; it frightened Wanda horribly to discover tiny Wren atop an eight-foot tall bookcase.
  • June 3, 2013
    azul120
    • Togepi from Pokemon has done this on more than one occasion.
  • June 3, 2013
    jbrecken
    This is almost the entire plot of the movie Babys Day Out, where a rich baby gets away from three bumbling kidnappers and leads them through all manner of dangers.
  • June 3, 2013
    LOAD
    The Avatar The Last Airbender example is Western Animation.
  • June 13, 2013
    LOAD
    What are the rules about changing something in the YKTTW if it's under the wrong section and it hasn't been fixed yet?
  • June 18, 2013
    eowynjedi
    • Happens in a one-off scene in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. A baby on a pier nearly falls off as it chases a butterfly while Treize Kushrenada holds back the mother from rescuing it to prove a point about human nature and taking risks: the baby turns back at the last second and begins to walk.
  • June 18, 2013
    Someoneman
    The second bonus level in Elite Beat Agents involves a baby escaping into a construction site with only a cat being able to protect him.
  • June 23, 2013
    GuyIncog
    The Ghostbusters II example might actually be a twofer. In addition to Dana's baby crawling out on a ledge to be kidnapped by Vigo, there is also an earlier scene where Oscar rolls away from Dana in his carriage while Dana's back is turned. Might not count though, as it's technically the carriage rolling away rather than the baby wandering off on his own - is there a separate trope for that?

    That said, if we are including runaway baby carriages, there's a scene in The Untouchables where a baby carriage rolls down a flight of stairs during a gunfight.
  • June 24, 2013
    randomsurfer
  • June 24, 2013
    GuyIncog
    ^Thanks.

    For Live Action TV:
    • A Mythbusters episode tested the abilities of men and women to multitask. Part of the test involved making sure an animatronic baby didn't crawl out of a designated area.

    Liking Toddled Off Somewhere as a possible title.
  • June 25, 2013
    StarValkyrie
    • Subverted in Harry Potter where Dumbledore leaves a 15 month old toddler on the doorstep overnight with a letter. Harry doesn't get up and walk away in canon. In fanfiction, sometimes he does, and even more often, the fact that he could have is discussed to cast Dumbledore as senile or untrustworthy.
  • June 25, 2013
    X2X
    Video Games
    • One NPC encountered in Metal Slug 2/X is a cute little baby that moves around aimlessly and even tries to perform a handstand, only to topple over before resuming its crawl. Wandering around in a war zone does nothing to deter its natural curiosity, although one wonders where its parents are and how it ended up on a battlefield in the first place.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=k4abn3sc0bt8i2impqb5lkit&trope=StrayingBaby