You know, as much as our lives have changed by becoming parents, we really have become very attached to the boy.
As such, we felt it high time to start to make the house a little safer for his newly discovered wandering ways. After a few near misses involving potential death by plummeting, death by ingesting poisons, death by electricity and death by albatross (don’t ask) we decided to invest in some heavy duty safety gear.
A quick aside, it is really expensive buying stair-gates and other baby containment equipment. If you are planning to reproduce I would strongly suggest you move to a bungalow or a one level flat. Living in a four story townhouse is quite stressful. More so when the design of your house is based on the popular children’s game KerPlunk.
The design (lots of open space between levels), we presume, is an effort to keep the air circulating and cool the house.
It doesn’t work.
What it does do is provide ample opportunity for baby/cat/inebriated death.
Which, let’s be honest, isn’t ideal.
After heading over to our local Ikea and loading up on enough metal bars to turn our house into the Thai equivalent of Fort Knox as well as paying enough money to let Ikea set up the Swedish equivalent of Fort Knox, we set to securing the house.
In a way, it felt like I was readying the house for a zombie attack – just with less nerds wearing Shawn of the Dead t-shirts. Stairways were barred. Baby pens set up. Doors to cupboards latched. Plugs filled with those little plastic things.
Except, they don’t work entirely well.
The baby pen – currently called ‘The Cooler’ – has become the optimum head-butting target with an added, no-extra-cost, sideline in getting limbs caught up. I’m also concerned about his psychological development if we over incarcerate him. The other day he was running a tin mug across the bars and singing Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen. It’s only going to be a few more times behind bars before he becomes a lifer. If all he knows is the baby pen, how will he cope outside of the baby pen? I don’t have the time to set up a twelve-step rehabilitation programme.
My concerns don’t cease at the baby pen. The stair gates are now climbing frames, with hilarious but oh-so-perilous drops the other side. In terms of sudden, donkey-kick-to-the-stomach fear, there isn’t much that can compare to seeing your child attempting to vault the gates with a massive kamikaze grin on his face.
And as for the latches…
He ripped it off and started eating it. The thing that is supposed to protect him from choking hazards isn’t supposed to become a choking hazard!
It occurs to me that there is no such thing as a baby proof house. Or world.
And that’s okay.
Yes, we want our children to be safe, but by attempting to eradicate risk from their lives we obscure the powerful, sometimes painful, lessons that help to inform our choices later in life.
For example, the cat has become the boy’s best friend. The cat doesn’t really agree but hasn’t worked out that our son is now mobile and as such, can hunt her down with the ruthless aggression of a South African bounty hunter. Basically, she has no choice in the matter.
This would initially result in fistfuls of fur being gripped and chewed, followed by being swatted on the nose by the cat and then tears.
The boy has thus learnt that grabbing isn’t okay but if he pets her, even if that petting is clumsy and hard, she’ll sit there and purr.
Had we stepped in every time to prevent cat based retribution he wouldn’t have learnt that lesson at that time. He might have tried it with a less good-natured cat who could have acted far more aggressively.
In my opinion, therein lies a major dilemma of parenting. We have the technology, ability and the will to prevent any harm befalling our children. But if we do that, we don’t allow them to learn to assess, mitigate and manage risks.
As and when the boy injures himself I know I will be utterly full of worry, guilt and fear. That might be tomorrow clambering on the sofa, or when he’s 13 playing rugby or when he’s 30 and driving his car. But I accept that from those he will learn to be more careful. To tackle properly. To drive safer.
I know in my very core that I will do anything to protect my son. Sometimes though, that means letting him learn to protect himself.