Childproof or Bust
Last week, I caught my one year old daughter removing everything, piece by piece, from the kitchen trash. It was as if she was searching for a pot of gold Cheerios at the end of a white Hefty trash bag. No such luck.
Yesterday, I caught her hitting the keys on my computer as she attempted to create her own musical symphony. Success.
Just this morning I found her pouring her milk into my rain boots. Brilliant.
Some might strongly suggest I enroll her in puppy training school, though that "some" would mostly include my father making a bad joke. Others might recommend a more vigilant approach to childproofing. And the rest of us might begin to wonder why children are so intrigued by everything they're not supposed to be intrigued by.
As my little girl rearranges my tupperware cabinet and dials international numbers on my cell phone, I look around at the countless toys that have engulfed my apartment. Every square foot has been conquered by Fisher Price, Melissa & Doug, and Little Tykes. An antique hutch, my most prized piece of furniture, was just recently evicted and replaced by a two-floor toddler parking garage. A bar that held all of my husband's favorite bottles of liquor lost its lease to a hot pink princess vanity mirror. We are so often greeted by talking dogs and singing bears that one might think we share the same interior decorator as Walt Disney. Yet, no matter how many toys fill our home, she still seems to find the rising steam of the dishwasher far more appealing.
As I make my way through the apartment, I look back at my daughter who is now resetting the time on the cable box. Sure, I could section off the living room and claim it as "Parent Territory" but something tells me she'd find her way in. I could place garbage bags over the TV screens and muffle all song lyrics, but wouldn't her curiosity only grow? If I raise my child thinking the world is filled with "Do Not Enter" zones, she'll feel more inclined to break through each barrier and enter the wild.
Naturally, I think of my own parents and how they maintained their laid back parenting approach throughout my childhood. When I was a little girl, my mother allowed me to choose one day of the school year to play "hooky." As a teenager, my father never set a curfew. The first time I kissed a boy, tried a cigarette, or tasted vodka, I excitedly told my parents. Not once did they condemn my actions, punish me, or make me feel as though I disappointed them. As a result, our open and honest relationship left me with no desire to rebel, test my limits, or hide any secrets from them. So, where did the trust begin? Did they not childproof?
As I witness my daughter's growing desire to explore, I can't help but wonder where we draw the line. How do we keep our "cool" when our children begin to take risks as they discover their independence and test their limits? I can invest in more childproofing gear and secure her safety within our home, but before I know it, that control will be far from reach. One day, she'll venture into her classroom and she'll decide if she'll share her crayons or not. One day, she'll collaborate with her friends in camp and she'll decide if she'll raid the boys bunk. One day, her friends in high school will offer her a beer and she'll make the call.
I know my future holds a lot of challenges as a parent: many moments of cringing, biting my tongue, and pretending not to wait up all night. I also know it will bring many moments of learning to trust and learning to let go. One thing is for sure: for every decision my daughter makes and for every secret she shares, I'll be here with open arms, open ears, and an open mind. No matter what.
But my current reality? My little Picasso has just decided to spread her artistic vision across our living room walls. Her medium? Peanut butter.