My twins are officially crawling, and one is pulling to stand using whatever’s handy (furniture, our legs, the cat). Having roving children made me research baby-proofing, which in turn made me realize that we have definitely failed as parents.
Though the decorative scrolling on what I now realize is the Coffee Table of Doom seemed innocuous before, now the therapists who come to our house to work with the boys make polite suggestions: “I hear Home Depot has baby proofing supplies,” they say with a little lift at the end of their phrases to indicate that they’re only politely suggesting, and are not crazy concerned.
I understand their confusion. Normally, when my kids’ therapists suggest we do something, I am on top of it. So they must be totally thrown at my complete and utter lack of motivation for fixing this death trap of a house.
Here’s the thing though, my sons crawled into the edges of the coffee table a couple of times, but quickly learned to drop to a belly crawl when approaching the table, while under it, and for a few inches as they come out. To me, this seems like a problem that’s solved itself.
Don’t get me wrong—we’re not trying to kill our children. We hit the basics: covered power outlets, blocked access to power cords, moved the cleaning supplies to an upper cupboard, and put a gate at the bottom and top of the stairs.
But we stopped there, and I’m starting to think my line for baby-proofing is a little more lax than it “should” be, but that it’s probably ok despite the countless lists of baby-proofing “must haves” on parenting websites that make it clear that our house is a baby death trap.
Parenting.com, for example lists nine “must haves,” of which we have two. Here’s why:
Bath Spout cover – Nope
We don’t have a faucet cover for the bath, or even a rubber bath mat in the bath because one of us is either in the tub with them or right next to them for every bath. Sure, they wriggle, but we swoop ‘em up when they slide, and they are fine. They don’t hit the spout, and instead shove their heads under the running water for fun. When my kids are Olympic divers, I will credit this parenting fail.
Safety Door Stop – Nope. We might get ’em later though
I see these foam thingies at the store that you put between the door and frame, and they look nifty. . .but they prevent the door from closing, and that’s pretty key to our baby containment measures. For now, I can’t see a reason to get them, and if I only had one kid, this wouldn’t even be on my radar, but with two, I suspect I’m going to need them.
Table corner guards – Nope
The quick and dirty solution? A pool noodle sliced along its length and shoved over hard shelf corners. They pull the sucker off their low bookshelf, but it does the job. Why haven’t we covered the Coffee Table of Doom this way? Probably because it makes the living room look like a scene from Hoarders, and within days of learning to crawl, both boys learned to avoid the corners without earning so much as a bruise in the process.
Toilet seat cover locks – Don’t have ’em, not sure if we need to
We close our toilet lids and our bathroom doors because our pets have unhealthy fixations with toilet bowls. But, I can see the twins figuring out how to lift those suckers and play in the water when they’re old enough for potty training, so if need be, I’ll get locks.
Outlet Covers – Yes
Half of our outlets are covered with these, and half by heavy furniture in front of them. I’m also obsessive about covering cords to the same degree the twins are obsessive about finding them. Fortunately, they are easily distracted, and simply placing throw rugs over the cords is enough to make them lose interest. Other than our house looking like the inside of a rug store on clearance day, it works for me.
Doorknob Locks/Covers – Nope
These ugly doorknob covers require users to squeeze and turn instead of just turning the door. Besides seeming unnecessarily cruel to any visitors who have arthritis, I have seen too many kids defeat them. I suspect we’ll just rely on strategically placed baby gates or a hook and eye placed out of reach and decide on these when the kids start to walk.
Cabinet and Drawer Latches – Don’t have ’em, and have NO intentions of buying them.
We eliminated the need for these by moving our stuff. First, I used baby-proofing as an excuse to get rid of the massive amounts of crap we’ve managed to hang onto. Second, I moved all the dangerous stuff to upper cabinets in the living room and bathroom. Third, I set up a baby play cabinet and drawer in the kitchen, and a play drawer in the bathroom. All the other drawers and cabinets are shut to prying fingers through the expedient use of pipe cleaners and rubber bands. The play cabinet and drawers contain old pans, plates, serving spoons and other things that we don’t use.
Medicine Safe (I kid you not: here’s proof) – awww hell no.
We don’t have a lot of medicine, even if you include things like diaper rash creme or Neosporin in that category (which, you probably should). The medicine is located on the top shelf of our bathroom closet, and vitamins are on the top shelf of the spice cupboard. That seems safe enough to me. Again, my kids are easily distracted, so out of reach and out of sight equals out of mind.
Baby Gates – Yep
My small one year old can knock down a tension-rod baby gate with only a few minutes of determined effort, and this kid is the king of determination. So, we have a baby gate at the top and bottom of the stairs (not tension mounted), and a pet gate between the kitchen and back room where the pet stuff is kept (since kitty litter and dry pet food apparently emit a siren song). The pet gate specifically says that it’s not for use with children; but unfortunately Amazon did not, so we didn’t know that until we got it open. Ironically, it is the only tension gate that withstands my sons’ assaults.
Tethering The Big Stuff
I was surprised not to see anything on the parenting.com list about securing heavy furniture to the wall. We’re fortunate that we don’t have a ton of heavy furniture, and for the most part, a trip to home depot’s S&M section took care of the few things we’re tethering. The only exception are these cheap tethers for flat screen TVs that prevent them from falling on and killing my curious kids.
So that’s it. In addition to tethering, we have only two of the nine “must have” baby proofing items. We joke that it’s a parenting fail, but it works for us for a couple of reasons.
First, kids learning to navigate the house and explore is immensely rewarding, and adapting to an environment that has the occasional hard surface, “no zone” or pointy edge is part of their exploration and understanding of the world. Allowing them to experiment and learn that one cabinet holds play opportunities while another is boring and difficult to open is part of providing them with puzzles and a rich and interesting learning environment.
Second, the world is not baby proofed. Learning some measure of caution (falling down hurts! I need to look a this surface before running at it!) is good for helping them survive out there.
Ultimately, for me the problem is not baby-proofing itself. It is that baby-proofing isn’t the black-and-white you’re-a-good-parent-or-not issue that websites and magazines make it out to be. It’s highly individualised, and based on personality and the home you live in. It’s also not a once in a life time decision. What doesn’t need proofing now may later and vice versa.
So, for now minimal baby-proofing works for me, and whatever works for you may be something different. And the Coffee Table of Doom is just going to have to stay.