The curiosities of a toddler are unmatched. Amiright? They are into EVERYTHING, and they seem to find the most dangerous item to play with, whether you put it behind three locked doors or even forgot you had it in the first place.
I have two toddler boys. Of course, when they were babies, they weren’t into anything really. “Baby-proof” is a little bit of a misnomer. Babies lie there and look cute. Toddlers toddle into one death trap after another. It’s just what they do.
Just like any other parent, I am very concerned about my children’s safety; but, I recently started wondering if I was protecting them a bit too much. When they started getting into cabinets and drawers – and they are ALWAYS getting into cabinets and drawers – we put cabinet locks on them to baby-proof them. That kept them out of the cabinets, but encouraged them to keep playing with them because they make an awesome sound when you can only open them an inch and then bang them back and forth, and back and forth.
In a house with stairs, we were also all about baby gates. We probably had about six baby gates in our old house, but we just moved, and that’s when I started thinking they needed a bit more freedom, even if that meant chasing them all over hell’s half-acre. So, in our new house, we have only one baby gate. It’s been a lot to get used to, but it’s for the best, I know.
You see, it’s all about trust. If the land beyond the baby gates is forbidden, it’s soooo much more interesting. So, I’m trying to trust my kids to learn how to hang out where we are because they want to, not because I’ve locked them in. I’m trying to make playing on the stairs less attractive by letting them do it whenever they want. And I’m trying to teach them that playing with the cabinets and their contents is a no-no instead of just locking them shut.
I hate to compare kids to dogs, but I do it all the time, and I guess I was a way more trusting dog parent. We had our beloved dog for 13 years, and only put her in a crate the first couple of weeks she was in our house. We let her roam the house all day long, and this shocked a lot of people who gated or crated their pups during the day. However, I always said that because we trusted her to have the run of the house, she didn’t take it for granted. The rooms and the furniture weren’t forbidden places to her, so they didn’t hold any magic—you know, they didn’t call to her, “Chew me up! Pee on me!” At least that’s what I told myself.
I thought I’d do the same with kids when they came along—you know, trust them more. But they are children, not puppies. In the beginning, I over-protected them for sure, and I’m trying to be better about that. I’m trying to ditch the whole helicopter mom thing, one baby-proof step at a time.
I remember talking with a co-worker one time about baby-proofing before I had kids of my own. He said there were two camps—lock everything up and obsess over it, or trust your kids a little more and teach them what is dangerous or not allowed. I see benefits to both; I really do. But I’m trying to lock fewer doors,baby-proof fewer things, put away the baby gates, and micro-manage my tiny monsters a little less. I just hope I’m doing the right thing.