A Father's Journal: Oh, baby! Making a clean sweep of household-hazard safeguards
We knew this day would come. We are finally starting to do it. We are de-baby-proofing our house.
We are taking all the safety plugs from the outlets and removing the latch from the under-sink cabinet where we store cleaners and other toxic dangers.
Caroline is in college. When she comes home, I hope she doesn't immediately run for a wall socket with a fork in her hand. Until her dorm room, Caroline had never lived in a place with exposed sockets.
Both of my daughters are now teenagers. Hmmm ... maybe we will wait a few years before taking the baby locks off the liquor cabinet.
Actually my 15-year-old knows where every key is and all of our passwords. I had to call her last week for my iTunes password. Most of the time she is one step ahead of us.
I remember baby-proofing the house right after Caroline was born. As I was going around the house, I was talking to my dad on the phone. I was puffing a little as I was reaching under the baby's crib to plug in a baby monitor. It was just the audio walkie/talkie type device. My dad asked, "Why are you out of breath?"
"I'm hooking up a baby monitor."
"It's a device that allows us to hear the baby in another room."
"So if the baby's crying, we can hear her when we are in the other room."
"So let me get this straight, you want to hear your baby cry in another room?"
"OK. You know ... we used to put you in another room so we didn't have to hear you cry."
"That explains so much, Dad."
My parents did very few things to baby-proof our house. I was the sixth child, so maybe all the protections that my parents had meticulously installed had been worn away by the time I came along.
I remember learning the danger of a wall socket the hard way. I do recall that everything interesting, sugary things and cleaning supplies, were put up high. We had to get on the counter or stand on the stove to reach them. I also remember an abundance of sharp things in the house.
My wife and I never really had to worry about our children getting at the cleaning products under the sink. Then and now, they have showed zero interest in cleaning supplies. In fact, I am pretty sure neither of them could locate any cleaning supplies -- or trash bags.
On the other hand, one of my nephews went through a period where he wanted to clean everything. At the age of 7 he asked for, and received, a toy custodian cart for Christmas.
He was a great kid to baby-sit. He was going through a bit of an obsessive phase, and I was helping him. When he was visiting one summer, I got out all the cleaning supplies and got him started cleaning our patio furniture. After I explained the process, I went across the yard to read the paper and provide adult supervision. I occasionally peeked over the paper to see him scrubbing away. He really was scrubbing. I occasionally would yell words of encouragement. But he didn't need it. He was in the zone. I did give him gloves to protect his little hands.
Imagine my delight the next year when his parents announced he would be staying with us for a few days. I went out and bought some more little gloves, steel wool and non-toxic cleaners (I am very considerate). We picked him up, and on the way home, I went on and on about the different cleaning products we had and all the "fun" things we were going to do.
"I don't want to clean," he announced. "I want to go to an amusement park."
I was floored. What is more fun than cleaning your aunt and uncle's patio furniture? Certainly not rides, games and unlimited soda.
He didn't clean anything that summer. He had outgrown his cleaning phase and just reverted to being a normal boy. I was very sad when I had to lock away the cleaning supplies under the sink again.
Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Friday. He can be reached by email at Tlawlor@mcommunications.com .