The Incremental Appreciation of Babyproofing

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Categories Development, Safety, Toddlers, Travel

One morning, before I had kids, I was sitting in traffic on my way to the office and I noticed a Precious Baby Protectors van to my right. With much sanctimony, I declared “How lazy and utterly helpless someone must be to resort to having someone else do your babyproofing!” I mean, really.

Ask five people what you should do for babyproofing and you’ll get at least eleven opinions. Some will suggest – usually the parent of an easygoing singleton – you wait until after the baby is mobile before you make any decisions. Some will give you a personalized referral card to Precious Baby Protectors. Most will fall somewhere in the middle suggesting the minimum of sliding outlet protectors, hardware installed gate at the top of the stairs, and move all your household cleaners out of reach.

Had we had two like our daughter Harper, a gate at the top of the stairs would have been plenty sufficient to date. Instead, we also got a Mateo. A Mateo, who will wedge himself – and get stuck – between the sofa and the subwoofer, who started pulling ovens open at 9 months, managed to lock Jennifer’s cell phone, loves his blackberry, and incredulously dragged my camera from the center of the dining table, shattering the lens. I’m now wishing we would have purchased and installed that blackout screen for the fireplace instead of resorting to a bookshelf.

THE BLACKOUT SCREEN SUGGESTED TO US BY PRECIOUS BABY PROTECTORS. Yeah, that’s right. It was a weak moment sandwiched between too-much-to-do-and-too-little-time. But holy crap did it accomplish in two hours with three professionals what it would have taken two working parents weeks to do. My opinion of people who stash junk instead of cars in their garages has turned favorable, too. Chalking it up to another moment of parenting-induced compassion. Crow tastes good, yum.

We’re not out there buying Bumper Bonnets and baby knee pads, and we don’t assign the kids the task of sharpening our knives. While we did protect from the big dangers, unless you want your kid(s) to live in a bubble (and I’m horrified at how many parents do!), bumps and falls and bruises are inevitable. And, dare I say, healthy – on account of giving the kid(s) an opportunity to work out the kinks and find their mixture of gross motor development, spatial relations, and gravity.


It’s when we go to someone else’s home – where there are almost no protections from harm – that we go reeling, or at least a lot of redirecting toddlers and hardly any sitting Not. For. Even. One. Minute. It took a good six months to convince my mom to put her ten-picture-frames-on-the-hearth out of reach of her four grandchildren under 12 months old because no, grandma, they will not ‘just learn’, not without injury.

My suggestion? Go on as many non-babyproofed vacations before the kids are proficient crawlers, such as the relatively relaxing trip we took to New Orleans when the kids were nine months old. Once they’re pulling up, all bets are off.

Someone actually said “if you stay at a hotel, sometimes they’ll loan out outlet protectors.” Hello? Have you met Mateo? Plus, I can’t imagine how the kids would ever fall asleep while we’re still awake and moving around the room. Because, Harper? Sensitive sleeper.

After last weekend’s trip to a friend’s lakehouse, we’ve concluded that we’re holding off on overnight stay “vacations” until we’re feeling braver or the kids are closer to two. WHICH EVER COMES LAST. Fifteen months just isn’t the time for us.

What about you? Did you put a moratorium on overnight stay Vacations? (visits to family don’t count – we’re kind of obligated, after all) Recognizing that travel with children is never total leisure, when did you feel you could travel again and not be moving Every. Single. Moment?

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15 thoughts on “The Incremental Appreciation of Babyproofing”

  1. friends are loaning us their beach house for a week. our b/g twins are cruising like champs and will be just 2 weeks shy of their 1st birthday! my son also sees it as his duty to exploit all baby-proofing weaknesses in our own home, so I am more than a little anxious about what he has in store for us. we’ll have nana with us, so extra supervision, and we’re actually taking 2 cars – one simply to haul all of the gear! I fear that this vacation will be more work for me than if we choose to just stay home, but as a SAHM I am so looking forward to getting out of the house and a change of scenery that I think it will be worth it!

  2. well, jen, i see you have three things going for you on your adventure : (1) Nana – 3:2 ratio of adults to children is exponentially more beneficial than 1:1, and (2) you’ll be there a week, which will make it worth the time and effort to spend a few hours clearing the 3 feet and below, assuring you some relaxing-ish days, and (3) cruising means you can still get to them/danger within reasonable time. i should have said that all bets are off when they are Walking :) Have a GREAT beach week!!
    .-= Rachel´s last blog ..Love, Grandma =-.

  3. It was shortly before two that we felt brave enough to travel again. Alex is one of those kids who is into everything. 99% of the babyproofing in our house is bc of him.

    The benefits of traveling at that age:

    * It’s easy to stay in a hotel room bc you don’t have to be AS strict about a schedule. We each sleep with a kid and they easily go down when we’re tired (10ish) without disastrous results. But they’re still young enough to lull to sleep in the car in a tantrum emergency.

    * They don’t need quite as much redirection as they have learned to listen to commands.

    * Absolutely no special stuff needed. They eat all people food, they drink out of open cups, and diaper changes are much less often.

    * This is the biggest: they quietly sit on the airplane watching videos on the ipods. Every flight, Jon and I relax!

    We got a few trips under our belts until I was brave enough to do a solo flight at 2years 8 months. Now we have fun traveling with the kids. And we are in the process of unbabyproofing lots of things, such as taking down the gate at the top of the stairs.
    .-= LauraC´s last blog ..Swim class and a new class =-.

  4. Perhaps it’s me but I have found 3 to be a little more challenging in the baby proofing dept. In fact, there were a lot of things my girls just didn’t get into when they were younger. Maybe it’s the girl-girl factor because it’s only now that we’re really having to keep things out of reach — like my makeup drawer and lotions and toothpaste. You name it, they’re in it.

  5. We are taking out then 15 month old twins to Hawaii for a week in August for our family reunion. The vacation house that we are renting has concrete stairs and a pool with out a gate.

    Here is our plan:

    Thankfully the adults will out number the kids, grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncles, will be a huge help.

    Cover the pack and plays with dark sheets to help the babies sleep.

    Bringing a large roll of blue painter’s tape to cover outlets, close drawers, etc. This suggestion came from here:

    We have also been training the kids to crawl down the stairs on their bellies.

    Just for extra precaution the kids where life vests when they are wandering around. Of course we’ll still not let them out of our sight, but this will give me a little more security.

    I don’t know about you guys, but one of the hardest things about being a parent for me is not being able to have interesting conversations while the kids are running around. We don’t get babysitters often enough and when we do we hurry home to relieve them. Group vacations are a huge blessing because after the babies go to sleep we can stay up, talk and play games as late as we want. The babies also seem to love being in a new place with new people. Sure it is harder than being home, but it is worth the sacrifice.
    .-= Rusted Sun´s last blog ..ranch house =-.

  6. Extra grownups have been a lifesaver on travel between birth and 3 years. Don’t leave home without them. Even extra grownups + kids helps — 4 on 4 allows for easier showers than 2 on 2. We try to rent 1 story houses with simple furnishings, bring outlet plugs & cabinet locks, rearrange knicknacks and furniture as necessary, and pray. Rental houses work better for us then hotels, for the sleeping issues you mentioned. But in a hotel usually one of us leaves to do something, the other lays down when the kids do, and when the kids are up, we can turn on some lights and hang out together whispering. Not vacationing pre-kids, but worth it to leave home.

  7. We do a lot of mini-breaks with our 16 month g/g twins. We started fairly early because we live on the rainy side of a tropical and often find ourselves desperate to get to the sunny side. We learned pretty quickly to hide the hotel electronics- they will destroy the alarm clock, modem, etc., if given a chance, but other than that, it’s gone well :)

  8. I was at several family member’s houses last weekend and they all laughed at me while I chased my two around their non-babyproofed houses. I don’t think they understand just how exhausting it is to do. We don’t stay overnight at my parents anymore because the girls don’t like to sleep at their house, so it isn’t worth it.

    But, my mom and I are taking the girls on a long weekend trip. They’ll be 17 months old, and we’re all a little nervous. I’m just hoping they’ll sleep in their pack and plays. After that, I think I’ll wait until they’re 2 to do anything more than go to grandma’s.

  9. Wow – I haven’t even thought about babyproofing for our vacation. Its a while away (Xmas) but my twins will be 13 months old and somehwta mobile, although to what degree I don’t know. We will be at my MILs home in El Salvador so things tend to be more laid back than in the States. They have a little pond in their yard and the sliding doors are open all day. And they have a little bridge (inside the house) where the “pond” comes in…I have no idea how we would baby proof this…

    I guess I have 6 months to figure it out :)

  10. My boys are 24 months and I am very leery of taking them to any NON-toddler proofed house. I am starting to see it get a TAD easier at 24 months, they aren’t as prone to danger as they were maybe 6 mos ago. Some self-protecting instinct seems to be finally, finally developing at age 2. And Boys are crazier than girls and will explore more and deliberately find more danger, no matter what (IMO!!) which you have seen first hand with your pair, it seems.
    We have traveled, renting a cabin in the mountains of NC just this past week. I did a major sweep to remove breakables and reconfigure some furniture, after that we were OK. We have stayed overnite in a hotel and my lifesaver on travel anywhere, is the WHITE NOISE machine. When I plug that sucker in and crank it up, they KNOW its bedtime if we are home or in Timbuktu. And a dark sheet to darken whatever room they’re sleeping in (their pack n plays). So the hotel room was OK as long as I stayed out of sight in the bathroom for the 20 mins or so it took them to fall asleep in the darkened, quiet room without me in there.

  11. We just returned from a group vacation with 2 other families — one with infant twins and the other with 2 toddlers, so 6 adults, 6 kids — 4 of them under one. Our girls turn one tomorrow. We all expected the time to be fun but not restful and we all were surprised by the outcome and all said we would do it again in a heartbeat. We rented a 5 bedroom cabin, which was plenty of room [one more room probably could have been nice but we made do]. We blocked off the stairs from the toddlers and sectioned off the living room with furniture. There was a pretty large open space. The key was just having so many adults who could help watch the kids. So much better than a hotel room! I agree with a pp that though our quality conversation times were mainly after the kids’ bedtime [there were alternating nap schedules], it was the perfect getaway. My husband and I really feel like this is going to be the way that we vacation for the next few years….with other families!

    On another note, we find, at least at this age [surely it’ll change as soon as I type this!] that when we’re at someone else’s home, the girls take quite a while to warm up before getting into someone else’s stuff. I can usually have them play on the floor for a while before the craziness begins and the two go in 3 different directions.

  12. i lol about your mom and her picture frames. the boys are at my MIL’s house weekly and she still refuses to put her twenty odd glass animal figureens so temptingly displayed on the low glass table (by the front door no less!) away. not only that, but she also has her three of her prized decorative plates on another low end table that sits IN THE BOYS DEDICATED PLAY AREA. i am totally amazed at the lack of damage so far. i am so not amazed at how utterly exhausted i am after we leave her house.
    .-= Tracey´s last blog ..changes =-.

  13. We took the kids to visit my DH’s family in New Orleans for Mardi Gras when they were four months old. We took them to Birmingham for a convention when they were 7 months old. After that I made my husband promise no more away-vacations until the kids are at least a year old.

    We’re obligated to go to Mardi Gras next year. In a decision to make it easier on ourselves, we’re renting a house, and taking along a babysitter.

    We probably have to do Thanksgiving away this year, but at least the kids will be 13 months old at that point.

    The highly romantic anniversary week off vacation we planned on this year? We’re taking that at home. No bags full of bottles. No packing the car to within an inch of it’s life. No boxes of diapers (and no roadside diaper changes or feedings). No screaming babies wanting desperately out of their carseats.
    Instead we’ll take turns sleeping in. Make an effort to retune the kids way off kilter schedules with two parents home to comfort and hold two babies. Take some time to have all-together-family time, and some time to have one on one baby time. And, finally, babyproof the downstairs for the kids to have the run of it now that they’re pulling up.
    It sounds like heaven.
    .-= Janel´s last blog ..Trilling =-.

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