Disclaimer: This is not a blog post about contraception!
I'm talking about making your home safe for small people to dwell in.
We've never really done much by way of baby-proofing, in any of the three homes we've lived in since having children.
We did the very bare minimum when Toby was a baby- safety gate at the bottom and top of stairs, and one on his bedroom door too (but that was circumstantial, his bedroom door was actually on the staircase so not covered by the gate on the landing, otherwise that wouldn't have been our choice.)
Tobias, 16 months (aka, how old Rudy is now!) going for the "Caged Animal" look
We also put plug socket covers in the very few outlets not in constant use (tech geeks+old terraced houses= severe plug socket shortage!) We had a cupboard catch on the under-sink cupboard in the kitchen (you know, the one where everyone keeps their bleach, furniture polish and general nasty chemicals) I bought an oven-door guard, which reduces the heat that comes through the glass, to mimimise the risk of a nasty burn. Since Toby was my shadow and spent a lot of time around my feet whilst cooking that seemed like a reasonable adjustment. Other than that not much changed and not much needed to.
We learnt as we went along what things were a magnet for him, cups of tea and DVD's generally. He wasn't an angel but we had very few breakages and he was sensitive to being 'told off' so generally speaking never did anything truly dangerous more than once.
When Rudy came along we figured we had it covered y'know. After all, how dangerous could our home be? There was already a toddler living (and surviving) in it everyday!
Quite early on in his life he demonstrated with un-nerving clarity just exactly how different he was to his big brother so i suppose we should have spotted the warning signs. But when we moved house last year we let our (2.5) years of relaxed parenting get the better of us.
We contemplated putting a safety gate at the bottom of the stairs but Toby could manage a staircase with an acceptable degree of competence by that point and we have a hallway door here which neither boy could open (until recently) so why bother? (We thought)
There was already a safety catch on the under-sink cupboard but it snapped not long after we moved in. No need to replace it, we decided, as we have a safety gate on the kitchen here (for the dog's benefit, not the childrens) so neither of the children would be able to access all the toxic stuff anyway.
Plug socket covers didn't even enter the equation because by then we'd done a bit of research: http://www.fatallyflawed.org.uk/ and decided against them.
So really, other than a gate across the top of the stairs we have nothing...
But every child is different. And by god, never was a truer word written.
Rudy, appears to be interested in pursuing a career in stunt performing, or, he might be suicidal. It's hard to tell.
He has just figured out how to open the living room door. He stands on his absolute tippy-toes and yanks on the handle until it submits, the then makes a break for it, in which direction depends on the danger level. If the front door is open, complete with it's concrete step down into the front yard with no gate leading straight onto road then he of course turns right, no stopping, do not pass go, do not collect £200. If the front door is closed the danger level in that direction is zero, so he turns left and ascends the stairs as quickly as possible, only ever stopping to look back with his whole body when he reaches the very top.
Guess how i found this out? Yep, you got it- bathroom break. I went for the quickest pee you can imagine, leaving both boys thoroughly engaged in a game on the living room floor. I shut the door behind me, hobbled up the stairs and was actually sat on the toilet, when i heard a scampering on the staircase. Within mere seconds Rudy was stood on the top step, with his toes over the edge, facing down, and trying with some considerable effort to close the safety gate across the top of the stairs. There was an irony there that i could only truly appreciate later, once my heart rate had returned to normal and my pants were not around my ankles and my child no longer in mortal danger.
Suffice to say Chris made yet another trip into the loft yesterday to retrieve one of the many spare safety gates to fit across the living room door so we can at least attempt to keep his stunts/suicide attempts in one room of the house. I don't know what other people's loft excursions are like. Maybe you pull down a fitted ladder, climb up and trundle back down 10 minutes later with whatever you were looking for. Ours are not so. In fact yesterday's trip up there almost became life-threatening when Chris smashed a glass picture frame next to the hatch sending a shower of glass raining down on me, which was fairly fucking surprising i have to say. Then when i was on my hands and knees, which is an excruciating experience right now, what with my dodgy knees, he proceeded to drop a piece of safety gate on the back my head. Oh how we laughed. Oh no, wait, oh how he laughed. I was not laughing.
Chris's random acts of attempted murder aside, this is not the first time, nor i imagine will it be the last, that Rudy has done something so unbelievably terrifyingly dangerous. In fact he generally makes it his mission to get in at least one heart-stopping moment per day. One day last week i went into the kitchen to put the kettle on. When i returned i found our hat/scarf/glove box upturned in the middle of the room, the lid snapped next to it, and then slightly to the left there was Rudy, dangling (i shit you not) from a glass shelf on the bookcase about four foot from the ground, the contents of said shelf under him. 30 seconds i must have been gone. It's a game of risk every time i even turn my back.
Whenever i try to tell people what a little handful he is, they look at his cheeky grin, big blue eyes and blonde ringlets and give me a face like "Who are you trying to kid?" I am not now, nor have i ever, disputed the fact that looks like angelic. I'm just saying that in reality he is far from it!
Rudy the cherub
The whole "Dot it once, get told no, never do it again" thing that i mentioned earlier. That shit does not fly with Rudy. It's more like "Hmm...must figure out a way to be quicker/more destructive next time"
I am genuinely worried that because we spend so much time saying "no" and "stop" that it is going to become like white noise to him. Last week Chris and i had a conversation about the possibility of us ignoring his undesirable behaviours and only giving attention to the desirable ones. The practical application lasted about ten minutes, after which he was once again attempting to ascend a bookcase that is (as of yet) not anchored to the wall. So our plan to ignore the mischief got shot to shit as neither of us fancied explaining to an A&E doctor why we both sat back and watched him get crushed under an Ikea Billy.
Distraction is key, so i am told, many many times, by well-meaning friends and relations. I would just like to know what it is they think i could distract him with..."Hey Rudy Roo, don't scale that shelving unit- sure it looks fun but hey, over here i have some toooooyyys, yes, that's right toys, totally safe items you get to play with every single day. What do you mean no thanks?!"
Truthfully, all exasperation aside, i think it's partly our fault as parents too. With Toby, life was simpler, there was only one of him and he didn't move for a looong time so by the time he was "on the go" with walking, climbing etc he was also at an age where you could at least attempt to reason with him on some level and make him understand. Rudy started crawling before he could even sit up, in fact he's never been into sitting at all. He was cruising at 7 months and walking at 9 months. He climbed the entire set of stairs in one go the day he turned 10 months old. He never stops moving and he has his own little daredevil, thrill-seeking personality. But also, we're busy, with 2 kids and all the other stuff life throws at us, we have less patience and less energy, the house has more crap in it for him to destroy/damage/climb on/maim himself with. So although he's a crazy little dude, maybe if he had come along first, and so been an only child for 2 years, it would feel, less overwhelming. I don't know.
What i do know is that it seems kind of ironic to have not have done much baby-proofing in the last 3 years to now be on a baby-proofing mission when our youngest child is almost 16 months old.
Padded play room- maybe if our whole house looked like this i could actually relax for 5 minutes?!
Probably people reading this are wondering where he is right now, well not sticking his fingers into a plug socket that's for sure...uhhh...hang on...be right back...*
*Before anyone reports me to, well, anyone- he's totally napping. That's the only time i get to do this here blogging business ;)