Why I Didn’t Childproof

When did kids start drinking out of bags?

When did kids start drinking out of bags?

Years and years ago, well before I had kids, I was hanging around in my sister’s newly refinished basement, playing some board games with two of her kids and my dad. My niece and nephew, Tara and Nick, were drinking juice out of those foil pouches, like Capri Sun (which now, by the way, are being recycled into adorable purses and tote bags by an enterprising company called Terracycle). Anyway, both those kids, being kids, had a hard time sitting still. They were scooting around the table where we were playing, hanging upside down from the couch — all while sipping from their pouches.

Suddenly something occurred to me: There were no juice boxes or pouches, much less sippy cups, when my siblings and I were their age. So I turned to my dad, and asked, “When we were kids, how did we drink juice?”

“Out of a cup. At the table. Like a human,” he answered.


A number of years later, at my baby shower, I received a basket full of childproofing gadgets — outlet covers, cabinet locks, a contraption whose sole purpose seemed to be to render your toilet virtually unusable without an advanced engineering degree. We didn’t end up using any of them. First, we lived in such an old (read: unrenovated) apartment that we only had three or four outlets in the whole place, so all of them were already quite full, thanks very much. Second, the cabinet locks didn’t work with the type of (cheap, builder-grade) cabinets in our kitchen. Third, I was not about to lock up my toilet. Please, we only had one!

By the time Daniel was mobile enough to get into things he possibly shouldn’t, he just kind of…didn’t. We had two bookcases in the living room, and we’d already cleared out the bottom shelves to stow baskets with his toys, which he happily accessed himself. Not only did he not strew our CDs over the floor, neither did he ever stick a frozen waffle into the VCR.  Do kids actually do that? You hear about it, kids jamming foodstuffs into VCRs, but I always wondered if it was an urban legend, or if the fact that Daniel didn’t do it made him weird.

Then again, he may not have tried to feed the electronic equipment because he never consumed waffles, or anything else, while wandering about in reach of the VCR.

He ate in his high chair. Pulled up to the table. Like a human.

I’m not anti-childproofing, but there’s a tipping point at which well-meaning parents slide from commonsense moves (like relocating dangerous substances out of reach, or buckling a baby into a carseat, neither of which, incidentally, my parents did for me) into a sort of childproofing mania. You can actually hire a professional childproofing consultant who’ll come to your house and assess what needs to be done. I hear they crawl around at kid-level, looking for death lurking in every corner (and charging you appropriately for fixing what’s patently wrong with your home). I imagine them going around with their clipboard and a serious expression, handing you the estimate, then going out to their car and laughing all the way to the bank.

Any of you get the One Step Ahead catalog? I do. They have some good stuff in there, from top-quality carseats to breastpumps. But their real stock in trade is the childproofing paraphernalia that you just have to have. And if you have to have it but don’t have it, that means your house is obviously impossibly dangerous. Good God, how can you raise your child in that death trap? (See Death Trap Protector, on page 14.)

We used two things to childproof, apart from the outlet covers, which we did employ when we moved into a bigger home with more outlets; the boys pulled them out and used them as toys; and apart from a gate that roped off my husband’s home office, which was doorless and full of very enticing officey objects. Those two things:

  1. Physical intervention. If the boy started crawling toward something he shouldn’t, we’d intercept him. Try this if you have a newly crawling baby — it’s hilarious. Just pick him up, mid-crawl, turn him around, and set him back down. He keeps going in the new direction, like a windup toy. Who says babies are no fun?!.
  2. A sharp”No!”, which tended to make the baby plop onto his butt and look up at us, like, “what? I wasn’t going for the bleach! Jeez, Mom!” But he stopped.

But we didn’t lock toilets or cover tub faucets or buy those weird gates that turn your living room into a toddler-safe OK Corral. And no way, ever, never would I spend a dime on this:

Fun with fruit!

Fun with fruit!

This being a mesh bag with a handle. It’s called the Baby Safe Feeder Starter Kit (good heavens, there’s more to it?) You pop in a piece of fruit or whatever, and your child can gum and mash and suck out the food through the mesh. You know, so he doesn’t choke.

Naturally I don’t want my child to choke on his food. Or fall down the stairs, or burn himself on the stove, or play chemistry set with the cleaning supplies. But I do believe that things like this mesh bag lull parents into thinking they can eliminate risk with one giant order from the childproofing porn magazine, I mean, the One Step Ahead catalog.

Because, you know–with that mesh bag? Um, whatever happened to cutting up your kid’s fruit? And serving it to him, under your watchful eye?

At the table? Like a human.