Wednesday, July 14, 2010

One Small Step for Baby, One Giant Leap for Babyproofing

I never realized until I had a baby of my own what exactly is entailed in babyproofing. There are actually two components to it. The first, and the one that most people think of when they hear the expression, is all those gadgets: outlet protectors, cabinet locks, baby gates, childproof doorknobs, etc. It’s all the physical stuff you have to install to keep the baby from getting into dangerous places. But the second, and the aspect that changes most over time, is behavioral changes. Not the baby’s behavior; the parents’.

When Ryan was a small infant and hadn’t even learned to roll over yet, I could safely put him down on the floor of the nursery to go answer the phone, or get a fresh pack of diapers, or get an outfit from the dresser, with no doubt that he would be exactly where I left him when I got back. The only danger there was the possibility of him being attacked by a dust rhino. Once he learned to roll over, I could still leave him for a moment to get the phone, I just needed to throw a blanket over the lamp cord and put my coffee cup on the side table instead of the floor before I left. He might try to eat a dust rhino, but that was the only worry. When he learned to crawl, I had to block the front of the crib so he couldn’t crawl underneath it (in pursuit of a dust rhino, of course) and get stuck, throw a blanket over the glider ottoman so he couldn’t get his fingers stuck in the mechanism, and unplug and move the hairdryer out of his reach. And now that he’s pulling himself up on things, if the phone rings, I have no choice but to grab him and bring him with me to get it, because by the time I got back he’d have pulled over the lamp, knocked the radio off the side table, and gotten his fingers stuck in the spring of the crib.

So even though our level of physical babyproofing hasn’t changed, my behavior certainly has. Gone are the days when I could sit on the couch with a cup of coffee and a sewing project, flipping through the TV channels. Back when Ryan was only crawling, I could leave a drink in the cupholder of the easy chair, I could toss the remote on the couch, and I could leave a pair of scissors on a side table without any fear of Ryan getting at them. But his perspective and therefore his level of interest changed from three inches off the ground to three FEET off the ground when he learned to pull himself up and stand up. So anything on the couch is fair game.

It adds a certain level of complication to anything I do with him in the room. This morning he was happily playing with a toy on the floor, so I decided to sit on the couch where I could keep an eye on him and stick labels onto some CDs I’d burned. Well, no sooner had I settled in with my pile of labels, my pile of CDs, my pile of envelopes, and my “CD Stomper”, but Mr. Curious had to come over and see what I was doing. And naturally, all my “toys” were much more interesting than his toys. I managed to maneuver myself so my legs were against the side of his playpen, blocking his access to the side of the couch with all my stuff on it, but he was determined and practically clawed his way up into my lap in order to get at it. I finally had to give up, put my things away, and wait until his naptime to finish my project.

So the term “babyproofing” is much more of an ongoing process than the one-time event I had imagined it to be. I’m also wondering if anyone has invented a cupholder that you can stick to a wall about 5 feet up off the floor. Yeah, five feet ought to buy me another couple of months…

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