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Why We Barely Babyproofed

Babyproofing caution children

After my son was born, I attended a weekly mom's group. Most of us were new moms, and we sat in a circle, bleary-eyed. Some weeks, we just chatted about our babies' sleeping and eating issues, while other weeks, the facilitator invited guests to talk to us about pertinent topics.

One week, the guest was a professional babyproofer. He possessed a kind, grandfatherly aura and hauled a large bag with him. I hadn't realized that babyproofing could be channeled into a career, but the fact that it could seemed to emphasize its importance. Babyproofing was not just something all new parents needed to do. In fact, we might not be trusted to do it on our own.

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As an anxious new parent, I listened raptly—or as raptly as possible while nursing my son and intermittently checking his diaper. I tensed up as the man spoke.

"You've got to make sure your hot water heater is set to no higher than 120 degrees," he said. "And you want to have your stairs and fireplaces gated." He removed some props from his bag, holding them up for us to see. "This is a toilet lid lock."

My heart picked up speed. My son could not yet hold his neck up, but soon he'd be wading in the toilet bowl.

The babyproofer continued to illuminate the hidden dangers lurking in our homes. Electric outlets needed to be covered. Sharp edges must be padded. Pointy kitchen tools stored someplace high. Hot pans and scissors and chainsaws, oh my!

"You've got to think about the level your babies are at—you need to get down at their level and look for danger." I imagined my husband and me army crawling around our house, scoping for hazards. For an average of $500, we could have someone else do all the work to ensure our baby's safety.

Though the babyproofer's business card scolded us from the refrigerator, logically, I knew that our infant son couldn't even roll over yet, let alone scald himself with hot water.

"We've got to babyproof!" I told my husband when he got home from work that night. I attached the professional babyproofer's card to our refrigerator—a reminder that we probably needed his expertise if we wanted to keep our son alive and healthy.

"Calm down," my husband replied as I muttered about hot water heaters and poison control stickers.

But despite my anxiety about maintaining a safe home for our baby, my husband and I were also overwhelmed with new parenthood. Though the babyproofer's business card scolded us from the refrigerator, logically, I knew that our infant son couldn't even roll over yet, let alone scald himself with hot water.

As our son developed, we slowly adapted our environment. When he could sit up on his own, I bought outlet covers. I also purchased a cabinet lock to keep the cupboards below the kitchen sink closed snugly.

"We really need to get a gate for the stairs," I reminded my husband every few weeks. Including the basement, our home had three sets of stairs in it. Besides the outlet covers, stair gates were a babyproofing staple. But again, we procrastinated.

Our son was a late walker, not gaining full mobility until he was almost 17 months old. By the time he was actually interested in stair-climbing, it turned out that simply closing the doors that separated the living room from the main stairwell stymied him. We didn't even need to get those annoying door knob covers.

In retrospect, babyproofing our home was a process, not an event. We didn't need to go crazy with it, decking our home out with an elaborate system of gates. We just needed a little common sense, and a keen knowledge of our particular kid. Our son was never a climber or one of those uber-physical toddlers who can MacGyver his way out of his own crib. In fact, for about a year, he didn't even realize he could get out of his big-boy bed on his own. He just hollered and waited for one of us to come to him before he got up.

Also, I never strayed far from my son when he was really young. His separation anxiety prevented that. And like many parents today, I'm prone to a pinch of helicopter parenting. Many of us don't take our eyes off our young children for long enough for something truly tragic to happen.

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I'm not saying that people shouldn't baby or childproof their homes. Obviously, our primary duty as parents is to keep our kids safe. I know that plenty of kids are more physically precocious than mine were, and plenty of parents breathe easier knowing their environments are as safe as possible. I'm just saying that for us, babyproofing was much more simple than I thought it'd be.

We didn't need a professional.

Image courtesy of MorgueFile user jdurham.

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