You know those lists you see in baby magazines and mommy blogs that discuss your reaction to things that happen with your first baby compared to subsequent babies? Like…with the first baby you sanitize the binky when it falls on the floor. With the second you wash it off. With the third (fourth, fifth…) you check for dirty chunks and dog hair, rub them off on your jeans and plug it back in.
My outlook on baby proofing is similar. Let’s compare Baby #1 Cameron (now 12) compared to Baby #4 Evan (age 1).
With Cameron, we spent a lot of money we couldn’t really afford at the time extravagantly baby proofing our apartment. I think we even had a latch for the toilet. We had plug guards in every socket and baby gates in elaborate configurations. Our place looked like the hotel maze from “The Shining”.
Fast-forward 12 years to the era of Evan. Somewhere along the line we became incredible cheapskates. Sure, we have installed latches on the lower kitchen cabinets (except one with nothing good in it that's secured with a very classy rubber band). But instead of toilet latches we just keep the bathroom door shut. We have strategically moved our end tables in front of reachable electric sockets. And up until recently we had created an Evan-friendly area we affectionately called “Baby Jail”.
Baby Jail consisted of a large part of our family room. To make it Evan-proof we crammed my big bright green (very gently used) exercise ball between the ottoman and the love seat and wedged Evan’s toy crate between the ottoman and the sofa. It looks something like this:
Viola! Baby Jail, at a cost of $0.00.
(Don't hate me for my mad diagramming skills.)
Baby Jail was pretty genius for quite awhile. There was nothing in that area that could hurt Evan or, (perhaps more likely) that Evan could hurt. Then three things happened.
- Evan discovered Joe’s big screen TV.
Technically we both own it, but Joe is so deeply in love with her that I just usually just give them their privacy. It’s sort of an unholy alliance that I don’t want to be a part of. About a month ago Evan toddled up to Joe’s girlfriend and smacked her across the face. I doubt Joe’s reaction would have been more shocked and appalled if Evan had smacked me. Of course, I heal easier than a 42-inch flat screen. In fact, Joe’s reaction was so overblown that Evan squealed in glee. Rookie mistake, daddy! Now that Evan got a rise out of his old man, his favorite game became pulling himself up on the TV stand, waiting for Dad’s attention, smiling broadly and giving Lady LCD a big ol’ bitch slap.
- Evan discovered our fireplace.
It’s functional (as far as I know) but we haven’t used it once since we moved into the house. I love the ambiance of a good, roaring fire, but both Joe and I are just too darned lazy to make it happen. And it really does need a good cleaning. Anyway, at first Evan couldn’t reach it across the raised hearth. These days he’s coordinated enough to pull himself onto the hearth and headfirst INTO the fireplace and he also has the throwing ability to whip his toys in from several yards away. Good for his future baseball prospects. Not good for keeping him and his stuff out of the dirty, dusty fireplace.
- Evan discovered he was strong enough to push the ball out of the gap and coordinated enough to climb into and then past the toy crate.
Once free, he would screech with joy and crawl like a mad man to freedom, scurrying as fast and as far as he could until someone gave chase and scooped him up.
So, admitting the complete and total defeat of “Baby Jail”, last night we dragged the old time baby gate out of the basement and set it up in the arch between the kitchen and the family room. Escape problem solved. Except…
There are two steps from the kitchen down into the family room. This being an older-style gate with no pass-through door, and not wanting to have to constantly put it up and take it down, the only other option was to step over the gate and balance precariously on the teeny strip of stair on the other side until you got your balance together enough to walk (or more likely stumble) down the other step.
That was somewhat doable (if inconvenient) for Joe and me, but almost impossible for Evan’s older brothers. Fearless Brandon immediately dragged a kitchen chair over in front of the gate, stood on it and was about to launch himself over the gate and into the sunken family room before I stopped him. That kid’s legs are the key to his soccer scholarship and I’m not about to let him blow them out at age seven.
So for the rest of the night, anytime one of the boys wanted into the room they’d climb on the kitchen chair and either Joe or I would stand on the top step and lift them over piggy-back style. If they wanted out of the room it was basically the same thing in reverse. You never realize how often your kids go in and out of a room until (1) you're trying to have a private conversation or (2) you are required to use your own body to facilitate their entrances and exits.
At this point you’re thinking: How dumb, just suck it up and buy a newer baby gate for crying out loud. And you would be right. Not 30 seconds after Joe set up the gate I thought “this will never work”. Joe, on the other hand, is more than willing to keep up the crazy acrobatics rather than spend money on a new, more logical solution. I figure either one of the boys will get hurt or Joe will hurt himself pulling one of them over the gate before he comes around to my side of this argument.
As for the fireplace, that will probably cause some out-of-pocket expenses, too. I’ve tried dragging the boys’ big red barn playset in front of the opening, which works but looks kind of crazy (although no less crazy than the bright green exercise ball). So we’ll probably end up buying an actual fireplace screen.
Wow, look at us – so grown up!
And Joe’s mistress, the saucy minx known as Vizio LCD? If he wants to do something to keep Evan from smacking her around, that’s up to him. As far as I’m concerned, she has it coming.
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