I thought our home was relatively safe. There’s no pool in the backyard, no loaded guns lying around, and our television has a V-Chip to ensure no visitors are accidentally exposed to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
Then Arvey Levinsohn, an Advanced Certified Professional Childproofer and owner of A & H Childproofers, paid me a visit and I suddenly found myself branded with a scarlet letter DM for DANGEROUS MOTHER. As it turns out, every single room in our condo is dripping with safety hazards, from prenatal vitamins lying in a little dish on my bedside table like an afternoon snack, to the dishtowels hanging from our stove, beckoning a curious toddler to pull them down, inevitably concussing and possibly burning herself.
Honestly, I wish I had taken a Xanax before Arvey arrived, because from the moment he entered our death trap of a home, my body was in flight-or-flight mode as I realized how much babyproofing we need to do. The first threat he spotted came at my own hands: I was encouraging Evie, almost nine months old, as she balanced herself on top of our kitchen island as Arvey got his checklist out.
“Look who’s standing like a big girl!” I cooed, bursting with maternal pride.
“Oh, good, you’re teaching her how to stand on the counter top,” he replied.
“But it’s not like she can climb up here unless I lift her,” I countered/asked hopefully. On the contrary. Arvey pointed out how a few open cabinets and drawer handles form an easy baby ladder. I might as well hire Rapunzel herself to stand up there and drape her locks down for Evie to scramble up.
From there, he conducted a methodical analysis of our pad, pointing out both obvious health hazards (cleaning chemicals beneath the sink) and surprising sartorial perils (keep Daddy’s ties out of reach in his closet; otherwise, she’ll try to tie one around her neck, just like she sees him do every morning.)
To his credit, Arvey conducted his safety inventory with a kind tone — he wasn’t at all snarky or judgmental. He basically acted like a human magnifying glass, opening my eyes to the various opportunities a child has to land herself in hot water. And there are tons of opportunities: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a child is treated for an injury in the ER every four seconds. That is why my husband and I will spend our next date night getting matching “1-800-222-1222” tattoos – so the nationwide Poison Control Center phone number is always within reach.
A few other interesting tips I picked up:
- Don’t swallow your daily medications within baby’s eyesight; doing so plants the “I want to eat what Mommy’s eating,” seed. Good thing this baby wasn’t around during Mommy’s experimental phase in her early 20s.
- Resist the urge to perch your video monitor on top of the crib, with the wire running down and through the side. I know it sounds ludicrous, but Arvey said it’s one of the biggest mistakes he sees parents make. In an effort to snag a front seat view of their sleeping baby, however, they’re setting him up for possible strangulation. I prefer to army-crawl my way through the nursery under the cover of night, peering up through the slats like a groundhog checking to see if it’s safe to come out.
- I may want to avoid letting Evie play with pots and pans. Why? “Because then they become her toys,” Arvey explained. “And when you’re frying bacon, she’s going to want her toy, and she’ll reach up and grab the hot pan.” Finally — a legitimate excuse for ordering in sushi or deep dish seven nights a week.
- Keep kids away from remote controls and musical greeting cards; both contain batteries which, if swallowed, start to dissolve rapidly, leading to internal chemical burns, esophageal tears and even death. (As a writer, I’m actually a huge fan of sending paper greeting cards, so I hate to discourage people from doing so, but I must give a shout-out to Treat.com — you can send personalized photo cards for less money than they generic ones you buy at the grocery store. I’m hooked. Bonus: No batteries.)
- No pressure gates at the tops of stairs. Too easy to trip over.
- After clearing out your under-sink area of bleach, countertop cleaner and the like, be sure to thoroughly wipe the cabinets down with soap and water and cover the base with a plastic liner. Otherwise, if she gets into it, and she has a wet hand from sucking on it, when she touches the floor of the cabinet, her wet hand will reactivate any chemicals that previously dripped there. (You can also try sticking to non-toxic cleaners like Seventh Generation and Bon Ami, but that’s still not a license to leave cabinets unlocked.)
- Turn your baby monitor off when you’re not home. Thieves can hack into it and listen in, and if they overhear silence (or you singsonging to your baby, “Are you excited for our weekend trip to grandma’s?”), they’ll have all the info they need to break in and leisurely steal your stuff while you road trip to your mother-in-law’s.
- When it comes to bedside dressers, Arvey’s mantra is: “No knives, guns, whips, chains, drugs, mirrors, razors or handcuffs.” In other words, childproofing your home is where fun comes to die.
How did you babyproof your home? Would you hire someone to do it?