Monday, 2 May 2011

Health and Safety

You know, I despair for the evolution of our species.  If it's all supposed to be about survival of the fittest, why are toddlers programmed to self-destruct?

If anything long and bendy falls into Abigail's hands - a skipping rope, a pair of my tights, a pair of her tights, a headband - it goes straight around her neck.  A bag of any description gets put over her head.  Anything exactly the right size and shape to be choked on gets put into her mouth.  Anything climbable gets climbed, even though she can't yet walk on her own; but once she's on a high surface, her instinct tells her to get off it head first (though we have had some success in teaching her to wiggle backwards off the sofa).  Given a room full of fascinating toys, she will make a beeline for the one dangerous thing I've overlooked, and she makes original and innovative use of the most innocuous-looking objects: this morning, she used our tall wheeled vegetable rack as a walker, and when it fell over, instead of letting go she kept hold of the shelf she was clutching and ended up balanced precariously on top of its narrow side, her legs kicking into space as she hung on for dear life.

Everybody knows that this is completely normal for a 16 month old, (although why it should be I have no idea.  Do mother gazelles have to tell their babies not to play with lions?  Do baby zebras have to be taught how to drink from a lake without drowning themselves in it?)  And yet, I have to confess, I haven't really babyproofed my house.

We have a stairgate - it's just not attached to the wall yet.  Neither is any of the furniture, not even bookcases.  Our electric plugs aren't filled in with little bits of plastic and our toilet seat is not locked down.

This is partly because I'm still living in hope.  I'm hoping that it is possible, through a simple strategy of closed doors and constant supervision, to bring up a toddler safely with a healthy respect for the word 'No' and a basic understanding of what not to touch - one that will serve her as well in toddler-free friends' houses as it does in ours.  Another part of it is realism.  In a house as cluttered and disorganised as ours, there will always be something to worry about, especially given that creative use of everyday objects I mentioned earlier.  Probably having an enormous clear-out of excess junk and furniture would do more for Abigail's safety than fixing a stair-gate to the bottom of the stairs in case she manages to climb a significant number of stairs in the ten seconds it takes us to follow her from the kitchen to the front hall.

I do wonder whether any of this will change as Abigail gets more independent and able; already she is happy to spend far longer than you'd expect playing in a room by herself, and I don't want to have my back turned the first time she works out how to remove a screw cap from a bottle of bleach, for example.  It may yet transpire that we have to move into a padded cell until she's 25.  In the meantime, I shall be answering her apparent death wishes with a firm belief that it will take longer for her to do herself damage than it will take for me to work out where she's gone and chase her there.


Ruth Parsons said...

Hi Amy - Abigail sounds very normal for a human. I ruled out stairgates as I realised my babies would just dive over the top of them to get down the stairs. Far better to teach your baby to shuffle down on her bottom, safely.
Since we were children, there has definitely been a sinister, capitalist movement to make parents paranoid and thus get them to spend more money. Hence one product I viewed in a catalogue with disbelief... the toilet lock, to 'avert toilet tragedies'. I reasoned that if they were stupid enough to dive head-first down the bog, then natural selection should probably be allowed to take its course...

Enola said...

Our house is 'sort of' baby proofed - in terms of moving precious or breakable objects to a height he can't yet reach. I'm not into 'corner guards' or cupboard locks either, though, and like you I totally think that 'no' is OK or 'that's not for Daniel'. Even uh-uh works well!
As for plug guard thingamies - they're actually more dangerous, as if the child prises it slightly out, all three points are contacted and that's really the only time you can get a proper shock.
We tend to use the 'blockade with chairs' option to cure our lack of stairgates (still sitting happily in their packaging, awaiting their moment of glory). :-)
Abigail sounds very adventurous now, though - how fun! xx

Anonymous said...

Our boy had similar kamikaze instincts as a baby, but we managed to get away with minimal child proofing. We had stairgates, and a fire guard for a time, but removed the latter when we realised that The Boy was more likely to injure himself climbing the fire guard than touching the fire (which was rarely lit). We never bothered with cupboard locks, table corner protectors, etc, and he lived to tell the tale. Somehow...