Monday, March 27, 2006

Baby Proofing ... Re-defined

Back in the day when I was pregnant, we received some plastic outlet covers at my baby shower. The little clear things that you put in to your sockets to prevent babies from sticking their fingers or toys in to for a nasty shock. Charlie wasted no time "baby proofing" the house with these outlet covers. I would get a kick-out of it because we'd have to take the cover off to plug in the vacuum. We didn't even have babies in the house ... but we felt very confident and satisfied that we had baby proofed our house, long before the babies were even born. What a bunch of responsible and well prepared parents we were.
Then the babies came home.
For the first few months, they existed only in the "larval" stage. They'd eat, sleep, cry and poop. There was no interaction beyond that. We were far from the day of needing to worry about them sticking their fingers or toys in to the electric outlets - although when they tried - we were prepared for them. They slowly started to emerge from this larval stage. They started to bring their tiny hands to their tiny mouths and we quickly realized that we needed to exercise caution to keep small things off the ground. Popcorn kernels, small candies, nails, bolts, screws ... were no longer safe - just laying around on the carpet. We became vigilant in our efforts to keep the floors immaculate.

The babies started rolling, crawling and becoming mobile. Plant pots needed to be moved, unless we wanted all the soil within the pot that they could reach, to wind up on the floor. Cords had to be tucked away behind couches - floor lamps had to be barricaded off by pieces of furniture so that little hands couldn't pull them over, on top of little bodies. Magazines and books were no longer safe on the floor, in racks or on low bookshelves. EVERYTHING needed to be moved to higher ground. Stuff on lower ground needed to be evaluated, too. We recognized that the rubber ends on a door stopper, if in the wrong *little* hands, could get lodged in a wind pipe. All the rubber door stopper end-things, came off and were stored away. (I hope I can remember where they were placed when it comes time to move ...?)
They became expert walkers - in no time flat. Suddenly, they were able to move around the house at warp speed ... in three different directions at once. They were able to get in to rooms, faster than we could close doors. I was amazed, the one time that I didn't get the bathroom door closed quickly enough - that a 20-pound being - could unravel an entire roll of toilet paper in less than 30-seconds. Every nook and cranny in the house, was explored by three, bound and determine toddlers. We bought a 14-foot gate to separate our family room (aka: playroom) from our kitchen, and invested in smaller, expandable gates that we could use to close off other areas. But, our house was their house, too ... and they weren't going to stay content in a closed space. Once my mother came to visit and introduced them to "life outside the gates" they no longer wanted to stay locked up. Isn't this what Grandmother's are suppose to do - push the limits so that their own kids aren't too uptight with their offspring? Don't all Grandmother's do this? So, eventually - we gave them more room to roam, with limits. Cabinets, cupboards and drawers had latches installed. What we couldn't latch closed - or barricade off - was duct taped shut. More and more stuff was moved higher up on to shelves or the mantle. Baby proofing was now, truly complete. We could breathe easy.
Contraire, Mon Fraire.

What I didn't bank on was that as our babies grew older ... they'd grow taller, too. Suddenly, the things that were once out of reach ... were within their grasp. Nickels, pennies and dimes on the edge of countertops or side tables, were fair game. The water dispenser on the refrigerator gave Carolyn a rude awakening when she depressed the lever and got a squirt of ice cold water in the face. She looked at me, sputtering, and broke in to a wail. I picked her up and turned to see William, do the exact same thing. Our little Elizabeth was just a hair short to reach the dispenser lever ... or I would have had three, instead of only two, soaked and befuddled babies, to console. Fortunately, our refrigerator has a "lock" position for the water. Otherwise, we'd have to duct tape that closed, too.

Another thing that I didn't consider is how good these babies would get at climbing. They can scramble on top of our coffee table (conveniently blocking the glass enclosed fireplace) with ease. From the top of the table, they can expertly reach fragile items - including vases, family photos, candles and ceramic items ... on our mantle. They can just as easily scale our couch with the finese of a mountaineer. Once on the couch, they are within arms reach of our floor lamps, pictures on the wall, window blinds, plants, and bookshelves. If there is a particular piece of furniture that they are struggling to summit ... they'll employ tools ... by rolling over their ride on toy for a "leg up" ... or, if push comes to shove - stand on one another. They'll give me a smile when I attempt to scold them, which leaves me at a complete loss for how to enforce rules - at this age. Because they don't *behave* our quest to keep the environment safe, is at the front of our minds.

I'm now of the mind set that our babyproofing is not complete. I don't know that it ever will be. Baby proofing will become "kid proofing" which will become "teenager proofing". I already can see that we need to put a higher bolt on the door - because eventually - they will figure out how to open door knobs and I don't want them wandering out of our house - without our knowledge. Just the thought of that makes me shaky. Knives must be stored in a safe location because soon enough, I know that they'll be able to climb on to the counters. Of course this isn't something that I want them to do - or will allow - but, if I'm plucking someone off the top of our television, or making triple sure that our front door is bolted - someone might figure out how to mount the counter. From this point on, I must buy medication that comes in a safety container that will require all of my strength and graduate school education to figure out how to open. And that's just the tip of the iceberg...
Our curious three, as we have lovingly dubbed them ... are constantly on the prowl for things to get in to. In a room full of age-appropriate toys ... they will be drawn to a shiny safety pin nestled in shag rug, like moths drawn to a flame. If there is something we don't want them to have ... their built in "curiosity" beacon will lead them to it. The precision, accuracy and efficiency with which they are drawn to a new object - particularly a shiny one - is profound.
I've heard that this is the age of "curiosity" for a toddler. It is an accurate description but it's also a really pleasant way of putting it. Yes, they are propelled to "seek" because they are curious. And perhaps that is why they also "destroy" ... just out of curiosity. Meanwhile, Charlie and I are on a mission to always stay one step ahead of these babies. Today, we are scanning the house for small items that they could choke on, things they could fall off of, and items that they'll just ruin. This will slowly evolve in to setting parent controls on the TV and computer, and monitoring who their friends are. It only recently dawned on me that from the moment our children took their first breath in the world, until the moment that I take my last breath ... I will always want to know where they are, what they are doing, who they are with ... and most importantly ... have the knowledge that they are safe. Babyproofing ... parentproofing. I'm going to go call my own mom just to say "hi" and let her know that I'm OK.

1 comment:

  1. OK - I need the 411 on that cool kids picnic table with the attached stools and sun shade?? Shoot me an email when you get the chance