Novice Father: Does anyone build a house out of Nerf?
Vail CO, Colorado
During my wife’s pregnancy, we had a lot to do to prepare for the arrival of the little one. Since our baby wasn’t going to be running around straight from the womb, we put off the task of baby-proofing our home.
Now, nearly five months old, the kid is still stuck to whatever part of the floor we plop her on. Though she’s a champion wiggler, if I run to the bathroom or put a plate in the dishwasher, I’m pretty confident she’ll be in the same place when I return. She’s very good at obeying “stay!”
However, she’s now showing the first clues that she will become an independently mobile creature. When I put her on her tummy she can push up with her arms, she can roll over, and she can make crawling-like movements with her feet. I don’t know how much longer I have until she learns to combine those skills to actually crawl.
With the clock ticking, baby-proofing is now top of the mind. I don’t live in a padded cell of an insane asylum … yet. As I walk around the house, there are so many possible causes of emergency room trips. Where do I begin?
To get some help on this new task, I called up Maggie Scanlon, Eagle County’s family childcare licensing specialist. She inspects the home of people who want to run a daycare.
Scanlon suggested that I crawl around on my hands and knees, looking for anything that might be dangerous: sharp edges, electrical outlets, my collection of rusty nails and broken glass.
She gave me a safety checklist that she uses for licensing family childcare homes. Some points were obvious: lock up the knives and cleaning supplies, cover the outlets. Other points gave me that “oh, yeah” moment: dealing with cords from window blinds, lamps and electronics.
“Make sure you hide all the items that are small enough they can be put into their mouths,” Scanlon said. My kid tries to put everything into her mouth. And she’s voracious about it, too. One afternoon I was holding her in the backyard, showing her the yellow aspen leaves. She grabbed a fistful off the branch and had those leaves in her mouth faster that a striking cobra. For the next 15 minutes I was pulling out soggy yellow leaf bits from her mouth. Aspen leaves aren’t much of a choking hazard, but small refrigerator magnets sure are.
“One thing that people don’t think about is the oven knob,” Scanlon pointed out. Toddlers can reach up or bump into certain types of oven knobs, turning them on. I’ve accidentally turned on my gas range a number of times myself. So there’s one more item on the baby-proofing list.
Can I leave some rooms out? “We went through every room. Every bedroom, every bathroom,” said Lance Wellbaum of Edwards, who has a daughter just shy of two years old. “They get pretty nosy. They get themselves everywhere.”
Wellbaum and his wife made sure to leave some safe things within reach of their toddler. “TV remotes, stereo remotes, books, newspapers, plastic cups. As long as it wouldn’t break or cut, we would leave it there so we could teach her not to touch it instead of just taking it away,” he said.
The padded cell may not be the ideal I’m looking for here. Wellbaum has a good point: I should keep my kid safe, but I should also give her the chance to learn from her actions.
“My first thought was you can’t baby-proof a house. You can just make it safer,” Wellbaum said.
Kelly Coffey is a novice father. He shares his mistakes, fears, and laughs along his journey to figure out how anybody could possibly raise a child. E-mail comments or questions about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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