The Proof is in the Padding: The Downfalls of Childproofing
When my child was in the infant-toddler stage of life, my wife and I found ourselves blessed, not only with an exemplary kid, but with a child who seemed to single-handedly disprove most of the cautionary warnings about childproofing. This was a child who, upon finding something like shiny ball bearings or a spent fuel rod on the floor, would inevitably investigate with the utmost amount of caution and consideration and then pass it over to “Mama” or “Papa” without incident. No chewing on car keys, no sucking on pens. We were blessed as well as spoiled. So when I found myself at one of those toddler parties, where all the parents seem to be ignoring the furniture and instead sitting on the ground, I received an education. I saw all manner of children source out all sorts of mundane materials of danger. One child ate a dime, another child pulled half a bookshelf down, and another slammed his fingers in a drawer. My previously smug conviction that childproofing was a lot of hype, became much less of a conviction.
There is an industry out there that caters to the needs of cautious parents and reckless babies alike. On a cursory glance through Amazon.com, I found upwards of 46 babyproofing/childproofing books espousing advice, tips, tricks, and absolutes about making your home environment safe for babies and children. As is evidenced by a recent New York Times article by Ariel Kaminer, there are also legions of babyproofing experts out there willing to make house calls and, for a sizable fee (sometimes upwards of $800), outfit your house with a myriad of plastic safety guards and confounding latches to keep everyone out of harms way.
I certainly find no fault with anyone wanting to protect their children from needless accidents or peril. The statistics are staggering (albeit not entirely consistent) with nearly a million children under the age of fifteen suffering from some sort of semi-serious accident each year, with most of the risk residing with the under four set. Some people would say just employing a bit of common sense (i.e. don’t leave knives out, set up some safety gates, and keep all toxins and poisons well out of reach) would keep children reasonably safe. How much specialized knowledge does it really take? But there are always the freak accidents that scare the crap out of most parents and serve as morbid cocktail banter for months on end. This alone feeds the national childproofing obsession and fuels the unyielding state of parental anxiety and dread. Sensible people also like to say things like, “If you just watch over your child, then you could catch the accidents well before they happen.” The problem with this logic is that even the most eagle-eyed parent cannot catch everything, and the act of hovering over your child (some like to call this “helicopter parenting”) often stifles the child’s sense of confidence and independence.
I personally like to take a somewhat laissez faire approach to childproofing (within reason) but I also realize my situation might be unique. What do you think of the whole childproofing phenomenon? Is it sending the wrong message to our children? Is it a necessary evil or essential good? Does anyone have any creative recommendations or successful workarounds with childproofing that they would like to share with fellow readers?