03 June, 2011

Our house

 I noted in my previous post that I haven’t child-proofed my house.  There’s no need – as I’ve said, the children in my life are all overseas, our up-country.  We live in a house on the side of a hill, no lawn, a building hazard of a deck that might be finished by the end of the century, four staircases, and hazardous chemicals within reach of the average toddler. 

When children visit, we might child-proof our house a little.  Anything precious that might get broken will be removed, or put above the reach of a toddler.  I remember when I was first married, just a young thing, and my sister came to visit with her daughter (the one who now has an eight year old!).  My sister grinned evilly as she walked around our new flat, picking up the occasional wedding present that was high on a shelf and saying “does this usually live here?”  She recognised I child-proofed the house.

A few years later, I was living in Thailand and friends visited with their one year old (he’s just turned 20 and is graduating university this year - argh!).  I’d been away on a business trip, and so returned the morning after they arrived.  I walked into our apartment and stopped, shocked! It looked as if burglars had visited, not good friends.  Turns out my husband had taken all the precious or breakable stuff, and our Persian rugs off the polished wood floors, and hidden them in the spare spare room. 

So yes, we child-proof our house sometimes – it’s only sensible!  But I also believe that parents need to take responsibility for their children when they’re in our house – it’s not our job to ensure that our house is child-proofed 100%.  I also believe that children understand that there are houses where they behave differently from the way they do at home.  Growing up I knew that.  And I’ve had remarkably few incidents in my un-child-proofed home, because I’ve seen the children behave themselves.  I’ve also seen fathers panic when I have put a full wine glass on the carpet, when a child is a few feet away.  He literally yelled at me to put it away.  The child was nowhere near.  Besides, I said, "she’s going to be careful, isn’t she?"  She nodded.  And she was.  I expected (and got) better from her than he did.

I did feel guilty however the day a friend and I had been chatting, wondered what the children were doing downstairs, and found one of the boys playing with the lighter I kept near the candles.  Fortunately, he couldn’t figure out how to work it.  So now, if there are small children visiting, I remove the lighter.


  1. My parents have refused to childproof their house. There are glass shelves in the living room at child-level, filled with bells my mother inherited when her mother died. None of my children have ever broken any of them. I never broke anything at my grandmothers' houses either.

    But when my cousin comes over, which is rare, my mom doesn't let them go into the living room because her 11 year old and 9 year old are feral.

  2. I think the atmosphere of the house makes a difference, too. We are pretty calm people. (And we have cats so we have a minimum of breakables, anyway.) I think the fact that we don't yell to be heard makes a difference when our rent-a-kids come over. But, (i tend to have a clutter problem) i also have much less problem when the house is fairly neat and not cluttered.

    I think you must be very calm and respectful of the kids, and so they respond to you the same way.

  3. We have a second home (which sounds much more glamorous than the reality) and my husband visited it with his daughter and her family while I was out of the country. The next time I went it had been childproofed. All my outlets had plastic plugs in them. To be honest, it really pained me to see my home childproofed for someone else's child and not my own. It wasn't that I didn't want it to be safe, but knowing my own house would never look like that was painful. Needless to say, I removed all the plugs and stuffed them in a cupboard along with all the baby products that had also been purchased.

  4. My sister's kids have only visited me once, and by then they were grown enough that not much child-proofing was needed. I do have to dog-proof my house though. I think that counts.

  5. I think it rocks if you do anything at all to child proof, but I always think it's up to the parents -- not to set up their kids for failure by taking them to a place that's too difficult to navigate (my inlaws once rented a house that was doily central: every room had ceramic dishes set on doilies at a child's height... crash) and to follow after them so you can teach them how to behave.

  6. Argh - thankfully, our house is NOT doily central. (Great description!)

  7. I always think it is totally my responsibility to keep my child from breaking anything in your house. It's your house, I'd never ever expect someone to change their house because we were coming. Now, that doesn't mean I don't seriously appreciate people who move breakables out of the way and such, but I'd never expect it. (My mom moves things when we visit, my in-laws do not. And I never get to sit down at my in-laws house because it is just too breakable.)

  8. My mom half child proofs her home, and my MIL allows her crazy pitbull to run amok. We also visit many relatives who have no children, my sister and aunt for starters. It is totally up to parents to supervise their own children. However, I often avoid family gatherings at my MIL's because going there with the kids is too exhausting for me, as well as dangerous for the little ones.

    I can't believe a guy yelled at you because you had a glass of wine on the floor. Seriously? How rude!

  9. We are a foster home approved for ages under 5 so we had to child-proof our home. It was msotly done for cat/dogs anyway (the cat likes to open cabinets, the dog eats everything).

    We have well behaved foster kids and we take them places. Others are more free range and we have yet to even take them to a restaurant. We had some feral kids of friends of ours that are probably not going to be invited back..

    A parent should be just that. I don't expect other people to watch my dogs when I go out so I shouldn't be expected to watch other people's kids.

  10. My nieces are welcome guests in our house, as they were when they were younger - but when you put some things high up so they are out of reach of small fingers, it's a bit irritating when my brother gives Mr Spouse's snow globe that he put on the mantelpiece, to the 2-year-old to play with, and she drops it.

    Our adoption social worker is obsessed with child-proofing though she does accept it doesn't need to be done till children are mobile - and we have some of the kit already plus plans to get others, we just haven't found what we want yet. But I am crossing my fingers we finalise the adoption before our child is crawling because she has a bee in her bonnet about stair gates, but I understand the latest thought is they are not very safe because kids climb them and fall even further.

  11. Interesting topic. I would probably move a few things out of the way, but really, I can't completely childproof my childless house (especially on short notice), and I most certainly would expect the parents to keep an eye out for their child.

    I also have some crayons, etc., that I offer to help keep visiting kids busy. My nephews knew where I kept them when they were little, & they would make a beeline for that desk drawer as soon as they were in the door! Also a few videos (Disney, Looney Toons, etc.) -- they're mine, but believe it or not, kids like them too, lol.

    I'm really behind on my blog reading & commenting lately. I have a bunch of other posts from you in my reader, which I am hoping to get to shortly!

  12. We childproof our house insofar as things we care about that could be broken by a wayward child of a friend. But really, beyond that, I see it as the parent's responsibility. I take care of my stuff. You take care of yours (child). I will admit that after one trip when my SIL brought her daughter and plugged all of our outlets with those plugs (which, btw, I've never understood. Kids can't actually get a finger in there and if a baby is crawling around with a knife to stick in them, methinks the knife is the main problem.), and as soon as they left, I threw away all the plastic outlet plugs in an "I'm never having a baby" hissy fit.