Proof: (adjective) able to withstand; resistant; unaffected
First off, I’m not sure “baby proofing” is the term I want. “Safety proofing,” perhaps. Or “baby enabling” or “baby permitting.” I’m not trying to proof our living space against Lucy. Quite the opposite in fact. I’m trying to fit our living space to accommodate her.
For us, a nine-month old infant means undressed bookshelves and open cupboards. Lucy’s toys, planted in the center of the living space, now go untouched. She prefers shoe laces and toilet paper rolls.
I know that there are products for this stage. Fasteners to keep cupboards, drawers, and doors closed. Noise-making, light-blinking toys to distract. Good things, I’m sure. But I worry that our societal obsession with safety has led to actual baby-proofing—keeping our children out of our home environments, and thus preventing them from exploring their domestic world spaces. And in the process we drive ourselves mad with bored, fussy kids.
Before you suspect me of parental neglect, rest assured that our medicines and knives and cleaners are up high. We believe in safety. But we also try to live in a way that communicates to Lucy, “Yes! Explore your world! Use your physical senses! Show us what you find!”
What does this LOOK like with a nine month old?
- LOTS of time outside. We walk EVERY DAY. When Lucy is in the stroller, I pick plants for her and we talk about our surroundings. We stop to pet cats, feed ducks, and wave at old people.
- Accessible drawers and cupboards in every room of the house. In fact, my mom reserves the bottom kitchen drawer for Tupperware, just for her grandkids. They should probably sell the stuff at Toys R Us, because it’s a child favorite. Safe, stackable, and colorful.
- Constant involvement in household tasks. We brush teeth together, empty the trash together, and sweep the floor together. Lucy insists on ringing the doorbell, pushing the stroller, and wiping the counter with me. We pull her highchair up to the counter and put on “cooking shows,” letting her taste and hold anything that is child-safe. It sometimes feels inefficient, but we know better. We are simultaneously bonding and teaching Lucy about the world. Engaged parenting is the height of human efficiency.
- Outings. Lucy is interested in people, cars, plants, animals…so pretty much all outings are a go. Shopping, strolling, visiting friends, library trips, even the mechanic shop. It’s always a bit crazy, but we call crazy “adventure,” and then it feels better
So. Are we experts? No. Is our house messy in consequence of our parenting paradigm? Yes. Are enjoying parenthood as much as Lucy is enjoying infancy? I do think so.