My niece is newly pregnant with her first child. In a recent phone call, her husband told me that he was having a childproofing expert come over to their home to take a look at what they should do to keep their baby, who still has several more months of gestating left I might add, safe.
In addition, he is planning on crawling around the house so that he can get a baby's view on everything and try to grab things, then he will know what they should get rid of. He wants to keep his baby safe, he told me several times. Several times.
He hasn't yet realized that your kids are smarter than you. It is their job to outsmart you at every turn. I don't think there is such a thing as completely "baby proof." They will always find something that you overlooked. My initial response was to laugh, tell him about my children, and wish him well. And then say I guess he'll never want to bring his baby over to our house. Which made him laugh, a little too heartily, I might add.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that he just doesn't have a clue yet. If only it were that easy to keep your child safe. Those are the easy years, when your child is completely under your control. You install the baby gates, the outlet covers, block off the stairs, and put up breakables that you treasure. The onus is on you. And still one day you will walk into the room and discover your toddler holding scissors or perched on the top steps of your long staircase, your heart will skip a beat and you wonder how you could have allowed it to happen.
I have kids now who want more freedom than I am sometimes will to give. Items to keep them safe aren't readily available in the aisles of Target anymore. Unless they are selling micro chips that I can implant in their brains to force them to make good decisions, override their dangerous ones, and track their whereabouts at all times. No?
At what age to you allow your child to use a public restroom alone? This is the source of much bickering at my house. My children are not allowed to use public restrooms alone, period, end of the story. This includes the restroom at the baseball field, which is far away from the actual fields and in the parking lot. I don't care what other kids are allowed to do, and from my experience it seems that all the other kids from age five up are allowed to go in the restroom alone.
I am tired of hearing the completely lame argument that "we live somewhere safe" or "nothing bad has ever happened here." Yeah, that's what people always say. That's why people let down their guard. I doubt anyone would let their nine or ten year old go off in Central Park and use a public restroom. Or would they?
In some ways I feel like I may have lost all perspective, but these children are my treasures. And even the thought of something happening to them is more than I can bear. Especially if it is something that I could have prevented by being a bit more vigilant. These pre-teen years are tough, tougher than I ever imagined as we engage in a manic dance of push and pull, give and take, freedom and handcuffing them to my body.
If only a package of plastic outlet covers would work now. Or maybe I could construct a huge cage made out of baby gates to put them inside. I don't think they would mind, would they?
Chris is a writer, artist, wife and the mother of seven children. She lives in an historic old house in New England that is perpetually under renovations.