I clearly remember a conversation my wife and I had with our landlord (and father of two) shortly after Bub was born. It went something like this:
US: Hey, do you think you could maybe install some of those covers over all the radiators in the apartment?
HIM: Ummm, well, that’s not in my immediate plans. Why?
US: Well, you know, Bub will be crawling soon (hint hint nudge nudge)…
HIM: Yeah, annnnnnd?
US: Well, like we said, he’ll be crawling. Like, fully mobile. He can just crawl over to any radiator at any given moment and totally scald himself!
HIM: I suppose he COULD do that, yes.
US: Well, this is our concern! This is us voicing it.
HIM: Well, we never had them downstairs for the girls. And they turned out just fine.
US: Well, what are we supposed to do without them?!
HIM: (gently) Ummm, watch him? Tell him not to touch them. It’s not high-tech, but it worked for us.
US: (looking at each other, heads hang simultaneously) Oh, right. Okay, we’ll give it a shot. Thanks! (He exits) You know, it’s just crazy enough to work. It’s decided, then. I’ll tell him to NOT touch the radiator! Ha! This parenting stuff is easy…
And so we did. And so Bub didn’t. No burns, no marks, no scaldings or scars in three long winters there.
And then I remember one of our first trips to Kids R Us; walking up and down the aisles, I was struck with the sudden impulse to buy a child toilet seat lock. Never mind the fact that Bub couldn’t stand. Nor reach the toilet seat. Or the muscle development to open it, let alone have the dexterity to crawl in and drown himself as I somehow pictured in my head.
Needless to say, the lock sat in the box, under the sink until we moved.
But that image was put in my head from an external source. Somehow. Maybe just by virtue of walking up and down those aisles. You really start to feel like your house is a CHILD DEATH TRAP, because what if we don’t put a thing on the door handle, or lock our cabinets or put bumpers on all our furniture?
The truth is it’s arbitrary, what is considered safe and what isn’t. We bought a baby gate, which was pretty stupid since we didn’t have stairs. But the idea was that Bub could stay in the kitchen with me. I could cook dinner and keep an eye on him. Well, a couple months later, we took it out after Bub tripped on it walking into the kitchen and got a nice, fat bloody lip. Did more harm than good in the end.
I mean, we all have a story of us or a loved one who underwent some childhood physical challenge. My brother fell down an entire flight of stairs when he was a toddler. Wooden stairs. Sure, he cried. Then he ate a couple animal crackers. Had some juice. Went back to his peg puzzle.
Kids are tough. They have to be. They are also malleable. They bounce. Their bones are not rigid, and they don’t tense up just before impact, because they simply don’t know it’s coming. Ignorance is bliss.
My point is that common sense will take you a lot further than child-proofing everything. Don’t believe the hype and get some sort of unsafe parent complex. Even if you had the “safest” house in the world, kids will find a way to incur injuries. Kids take risks. Whether they mean to or not. It’s a natural part of experimenting with this thing called life. They excel at it. But they also excel at bouncing back. And at integrating new information into their behavior patterns. It’s part of learning and growing. Our job is to let them.