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.
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
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
"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
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.
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.