Every other day, I find a product designed for child safety in my inbox. It makes me believe that this is indeed a thriving industry. And that I will never be a part of it.
One of the best bits I ever read about being a parent was in a little book called The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff. Among other things, the book talks about the basic self-preservation mechanisms inherent in all children. Jean Liedloff says, “A baby has no suicidal inclinations and a full set of survival mechanisms, from the senses, on the grossest level, to what looks like very serviceable everyday telepathy on the less accountable levels. He behaves like any little animal that cannot call upon experience to serve its judgement; he does the safe thing, unaware of making a choice. He is naturally protective of his own well-being, expected to be so by his people and enabled to be so by his inborn abilities plus his stage of development and experience.”
“However,” she continues, “an anxious look, a word of what is expected in the parent’s mind (Don’t drop that!) or a promise (Mind! You’ll fall), works in opposition to the child’s self-preserving tendencies and can, if one persists, eventually cause her to obey, drop the plate, and/or fall off the chair.”
I have never had any baby cutlery, and when Re expressed an interest to eat with a fork, he was handed a fork. He has been eating his pasta and his fruit with it since he was nine months old and has never tried to poke himself or anyone else with it. Another morning ritual he loves is to put my tea mug away in the kitchen after I am done and also my breakfast plate at times. I guess he is trying to do his bit, or maybe he really enjoys participating in my rituals. Yet, not a day goes by when this routine event does not give palpitations to the other parental unit, even though Re is six now.
The other parental unit is the champion of baby-proofing, a crusader of all things paranoia and a firm believer that our child’s life is a danger zone every square inch, every millisecond.
Soon after our child was born, he would want to buy (or would end up buying) an item of baby proofing, which could include door-stoppers, table shields, corner protectors, and other such items that cost a bomb and do almost nothing. Dissuading him from doing so takes a lot of my time and mental health. The last purchase was a packet of 8 corner cushions ( adhesive corner protectors) that came with a disclaimer, “This product is not a substitute for adult supervision.”
Anyway, the said protectors were quickly affixed to the corners of the kitchen table, which our boy allegedly ran into as a baby and it was the cause of much grief to the OPU. However, Re still keeps banging into the said table (into the bits that can’t be baby-proofed) and depending on his mood, will scowl or frown and move on with his life.
Personally, I’d say baby-proofing is highly overrated. No doubt, it is a thriving industry, thanks to more people like the OPU and it would thrive even further if the OPUs were not married to people like me.
Of course, I’m not asking you to live with your baby in a 16th-floor apartment without a grill or to leave a hot iron or buckets of water well within his/her reach. I get the common-sense driven stuff. What I don’t get is over-obsessing about everything the baby does, touches, sits on or reaches for. I know you are thinking, “What about sockets?” Now tell me, when was the last time you heard a baby was electrocuted?
Last Sunday, Re was climbing the stairs near the landing, following Bravo, our cat, asking him to get back into the house. This is a daily ritual, which partly allows him to be responsible for the cat (however vagrant his ways). It is also something that the other parental unit didn’t know about until that day. Evidently, he didn’t approve. When the OPU saw this, he screamed blue murder and said, “Did you know Eric Clapton’s son D-I-E-D falling down the stairs? We must be careful.” I corrected him saying Clapton’s son actually F-E-L-L off a balcony, so technically his fear was misplaced.
To some, I might be a bad mommy and maybe I shouldn’t even be writing this blog post since I am never going to tell you how to baby-proof your house because I believe that it is impossible. Babies find a way to do what they want to do and if part of that involves getting hurt, then so be it. The only way to baby-proof a house is to never bring a baby into it. So if you don’t live in a glass house or aren’t a knife-sharpener or an installation artist by profession, you are fine.
Children, much like animals, have an instinct for things dangerous and work around them. Perhaps Re has the undue advantage of being born into a house with two cats. And you know how cats tread. Till date, Re hasn’t broken a single plate or mug. We, on the other hand, have broken several.
Photography Credits: Bajirao Pawar