Adventures In Baby-proofing

pumpkinpickn2010As a mom, I wanted to protect my sweet children from all the dangers in our home and in the world.  But my oblivious kids simply wanted to explore and touch everything and be free.  The more restrictions I placed on them, the more easily and gleefully they appeared to thwart my plans.

How many of you reading this actually baby-proofed your home while you were still pregnant?  You know who you are.  I am one of YOU.  I craved control ….in a dangerous world.  I loved the idea that I could prevent danger.  I wished the world, at large, was a place that could be danger-proofed.  How lovely a place the world would be if all the sharp corners were cushioned!  Control…is fleeting…illusory even…..and, in the end, unlikely.  Baby-proofing is the way mothers are introduced to this Life lesson.

It starts on the day your sweet 2 year old – still in his footie pajamas – climbs out of his crib.  (The crib is, after all, the most wonderful invention.  It is, obviously, a cage to keep your baby safe….at night…while you are sleeping!).  I remember the morning I heard those toddler feet hit the carpet; I sat bolt-upright in bed.   The noise was padded and minimal but the moment was loud and important.  My eyes were as big as saucers as I held my breath to hear the next sound.  And it came…just as I feared.  My toddler opened the door to his room and ran down the hallway to my room.  He ran to the side of my bed and said “I outta da crib, mommy.  I did it!”

My sleepy voice said quietly, “You sure did. You got out..”  At that moment, I immediately knew that I needed more gates, more locks, more thought….to ensure his safety when I was potentially (although not likely) asleep.

Coincidentally, my son also managed to open the front door and GET OUT OF THE HOUSE at the same time that he learned to escape from his crib.  All I kept thinking was I need more locks …and HIGHER locks…..or he’ll be wandering around the yard telling the neighbors “I outta da house!”

Panic raced across my brain.

But as all good mothers do, I googled and I bought many more child proofing items.  I attached all the furniture to the walls to keep them from tipping over when my boy-turned-monkey climbed his first dresser.  I covered all the outlets with duck tape and permanent covers.  I covered the large glass doors to the patio to keep them from breaking after one-too-many crazy coupes went flying into them.  I installed a total of 12 fire/smoke detectors.  I removed every single shade or curtain in my house that had a hanging string or cord.  And I installed many high locks.  And, then, I figured that I might be “in control.” My mind eased….for a moment.  My home was safe.

Then, 3 months later, the “baby proofing” incident happened.  One morning, when I was loading the kids in the car (mind you, I was proud that I was on time for once!), just after I had put my son, George, in the car, I turned to see his twin, Dean, standing in the kitchen doorway.  I swear the picture goes into slow motion in my mind as I stepped toward the doorway in time to see Dean slowly turn the knob on the storm door.

With all the extra locks I had installed to keep the kids inside, Dean had just locked ME out of the house.  I had one kid in the car and one wandering the kitchen.

And, irony of all ironies, my kitchen was NOT baby-proofed.   Yes, I realize this sounds unlikely for a baby-proofing-crazed-mom like me, but I had actually put a lot of thought into that approach.  I thought that the kitchen was too full of dangers to be “baby-proof-able.”  So, in reaction to this grand fear, I installed a large, permanent, gate from the wall to the kitchen counter and declared the kitchen to be “forbidden.” Apparently, however, my toddler didn’t know what a “forbidden kitchen” was and easily climbed the SERIOUS gate I had installed (while I was loading his brother in the car).  So, Dean, who had never been in this land of utensils and cabinets and pantry items, had hit the jackpot when he locked Mommy outside!

I began to beg my 2 year old to “unlock the door” for Mommy.  His behavior ranged from gleefully laughing at Mommy … asking ME to “open the door”….to disappearing into the refrigerator and returning with a bottle of lemon juice and telling me that he has “a drink, mommy, open it.”

Mind you – Mommy is slowly starting to lose it.    And it is very COLD (did I mention that it is winter and my coat was inside the house?).

It was quickly becoming one of “those” mornings.

So, I decided that I had to break into my own house.  I start to look around for something to break the very large glass door (unfortunately, it was necessary because there was, literally, no other way into the house). I find a small pipe in the trash. I tap tap tap. Nope. I decide that I am going to need something heavier.

I look into the kitchen again and Dean is in the refrigerator again.  He playfully pulls out a package of hotdogs.  He holds up his prize to me and says, “Hot dogs, Mommy.”

I just say, “Can you TRY to open the door for Mommy?”

He isn’t interested – at all – in opening the door for Mommy. He has a whole refrigerator to explore.  He begins to place the items that he takes out of the refrigerator onto the floor.   He is treating the refrigerator like a toy box….and digging around for items of interest to him.  I try to stay calm – at least, he hasn’t found the knife drawer yet.

I go to the front of the house and pull out one of the solar lanterns marking the front path. A neighbor watches me as I yank it out of the half-frozen ground.  But since she doesn’t look like she is going to help me – I stick to my task.  I run back to the kitchen door and I try the lantern on the door.  It is made of plastic and isn’t strong enough to do any damage.

I poke my head into the car – to check on George. He is reading a Nemo book. He is happy as a clam wrapped in a blanket and oblivious to what is going on outside.

Deciding that it was time to get serious, I go around to the back of the house to look for something heavy. Thirty-five minutes have passed now and I’m officially late to work. I come back with a brick. Dean is standing on the other side of the glass trying to eat through a wrapped cheese stick.  I note that is he obviously hungry!

“Honey, can you move back? Mommy is going to break the window.”

He looks at the large white brick that mommy is wielding, takes the gummed up cheese stick out of his mouth, and says, “What’s dat?”

“Mommy is going to break THIS glass.  Move back against the counter, sweetie.”  He seems a bit nervous and backs up.  I tap the window one time – and it CRASHES into a million tiny pieces – and hits the floor.

Dean starts crying.  I step in and pick him up and hug him.  I realize I’m hugging him as if he had been in danger.  But the truth is – he was having a great time.  And I am the only one who was learning a lesson at the moment.

In the car – the first thing Dean says is “I want lemon juice, Mommy.” I close my eyes and don’t respond right away. I’m annoyed that I didn’t anticipate that he might lock that door.  I’m annoyed that I didn’t realize he could (easily) scale the SERIOUS gate.  I’m mad at myself for thinking I could ever make the kitchen off-limits like that.  I’m happy to have learned (after the fact) that the storm door had safety glass in it.  I’m happy that Dean stayed put when I broke it. And I kick myself for not hiding a key to that storm door.  And, finally, I promise myself to baby-proof the kitchen as soon as possible.

Dean is not aware that he caused any problems.  He didn’t do anything wrong, after all.  He was doing what he is supposed to.  He was exploring his world.

I compose myself and say “Lemon juice is yucky… remember when you tried it that time? How about some apple juice instead?” I pass both kids their sippy cups of apple juice and baggies of mini-waffles – both of which are cold since they were sitting in the car all this time.

I hear Dean tell George “Mommy break the window.” George doesn’t appear to hear him as he starts eating a waffle.

But I heard him loud and clear.  I believe he was saying “Dean one, Mommy zero” in this baby-proofing/battle for independence.

Phoebe Pappas