When people come to my house with their toddlers in tow, I can often be found running around behind them, blocking off chemical-filled cabinets and shutting the gas to the fireplace off. “Sorry, sorry, sorry!” I say to the worried-looking parents. “I haven’t had to baby proof in a while!”
The statement alone is a huge lie, because not once in my nine years as a parent have I purchased outlet covers, cabinet latches or toilet locks. I do have a baby gate, but it’s just to keep the dog from running upstairs and humping all of the guest pillows. He’s so dumb I don’t even have to install it, just put it in his way.
It’s not that “I haven’t had to baby proof in a while” so much as it is, “I’ve never baby proofed ever in my entire life, so I’m not even sure what’s around this house that could be potentially dangerous to your kid, so just wait one second while I block the staircase off with this tall, heavy dresser.”
A little cursory research shows me that I’m not alone. Not baby proofing appears to be something of A Thing, kind of a rebellious statement about modern parenting, typically associated with free-range parenting. And while my own parenting philosophy tends to lean that way, not wrapping my home in bubble wrap wasn’t A Thing so much as it was one task that I never got around to and didn’t know enough to feel guilty about.
There are a couple reasons for this. First, when she was an immobile lump and then a slightly more mobile lump, we lived in under 800 square feet of space. You may assume — correctly — that our apartment was that small because we couldn’t afford more space, and therein lies the second reason I didn’t bother with extra padding and toilet locks: We didn’t actually own jack at the time. Pretty hard to get verklempt over hard coffee table edges when you don’t even own a coffee table.
We did have outlet plugs in that apartment, but only because a previous resident installed them. In fact, now that I think of it, there are outlet plugs here, too, seven homes and two states later, also leftovers from whoever lived here first. Thanks previous owners with terrible taste in paint colors!
As far as loose wires, chokeable detritus and toilet-drowning, there are two things you have to know. The first is that I am a terribly anal neat freak, so it’s not like my kid could choke on loose pocket change left on the floor because POCKET CHANGE DOES NOT BELONG ON THE FLOOR WHY DID I EVEN BUY COIN JARS YOU GUYS?
And second, there was no “turning away for just a second,” because let me tell you that in 800 square feet, a third of which is kitchen, there’s no turning anywhere.
Once we moved out of there and she got even more mobile, it was honestly just easier to train her not to die. Instead of baby proofing my house, I sort of house proofed my kid instead. It’s not like everyone can do this. Some people have kids that will shimmy out of their cribs and eat the first thing that looks pretty and/or spells imminent doom. Mine just wasn’t a shimmier. Simple as that.
She also wasn’t a big eater-of-things-that-were-not-food. I don’t know why. She did eat a beetle once but it’s not like that was going to kill her. And judging by the look on her face, she didn’t need to be told not to eat beetles after that.
From there I moved in with my in-laws for a few months while my husband worked in another state, and what, like they’re going to baby proof their house for me? Hells no, and I wouldn’t let them if they tried. They did their time with two boys of their own.
Plus, there’s this thing you can get, it’s right next to the DVD guards at the baby-proofing store, called “watch your f***ing kid in someone else’s house,” and it’s even free. I only bring this up because I’ve been snottily told that I would no longer have the pleasure of a vague acquaintance’s kid at my house anymore because while she was in the kitchen gabbing with her friends, he had climbed up the stairs and why didn’t I have gates installed?
Why? Because my kid was 6 and baby gates suck, that’s why.
And they really do. I have never seen one function the way it should (why do they never take baseboard molding into account, why??) and ditto for those plastic globes that people put on their bathroom door handles that don’t mitigate a whole lot of risk but do make peeing your pants as an adult entirely possible. And the “edge bumpers” that fall off as soon as the humidity rises. That’s a whole lot of money for me to spend on dubiously constructed items on the off chance that you won’t watch your kids while you’re here.
While we’re on the topic of money, did you know that you can pay someone something like $200 or more to come install crappy edge guards for you? And you should, because if you don’t, it’s probably because you don’t love your kid.
I’m not saying child proofing is useless. Not by a long shot. What I am saying is that you should keep some common sense and understand that there are people out there who want you to be so terrified that you’ll pay them $200 to “consult” you about things the Internet will happily tell you.
More importantly, you should know your kid.
I know and love children who are curious little balls of energy, which is a great thing for kids to be. I know when they’re here they need someone to watch their back, and I’m happy to hold their loveys while they try this backflip or whatever. I know if their parents ever asked me to, I would get plug covers in a second for those kids, but they never have, because they also absolutely swear by this year’s hottest baby proofing item: “No, really. Watch your f***ing kid in someone else’s house.”
Just like I knew that my kid was a serious, quiet rule-follower to the core. So if you said, “don’t run in the house or you could tear your face open on that sharp corner,” she wouldn’t run in the house because really, who wants their face torn open?
So if you come to my house and find it’s not baby proofed, don’t be mad. At least I’ll house proof your baby while you’re visiting. Together, we can instill great habits in our children today so that they don’t tear their little faces open on sharp corners tomorrow!