Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Keeping Kids Safe

I should begin by saying that I am most emphatically NOT Safety Mom. Safety Mom requires that her kids wear bike helmets and knee pads to ride bikes in the driveway. Safety Mom owns every childproofing device ever invented by man. Safety Mom carries an extra set of these in a plastic tote in the back of her mini-van because not everyone's house is childproof. Safety Mom's kids have no fun whatsoever. And Safety Mom's kids grow up too stupid to realize that they aren't supposed to stick their fingers in the electrical sockets, because Safety Mom has never had to tell them not to do it.

Sure, I take basic precautions. I'll put gates by the stairs and have latches on many of my cabinets, and I store cleaners in those cabinets with latches. But kids are way smarter than the adults who invent childproofing devices. I had a rabbit once who figured out how to defeat his cage latch; I know my kids are smarter than rabbits. While an adult is still baffled by the latch on the cabinet, the one-year-old has already figured out that if she leans a certain way on the door while opening it, she can defeat the latch. So I put a premium on teaching my children not to mess with things they find in my cabinets. They have their own cabinets; they can mess with anything in there.

One thing I discovered being a mom is that you can't keep your children safe from everything there is in the universe. You can do your best to mitigate the risks and keep them from obvious dangers, but the best way to keep them out of danger is to train them not to get into it, rather than trying to physically keep them out of it.

Sonshine in particular loves to do dangerous things, just because he can and they feel great. I bet his guardian angel detail gets hazard pay. And I do what I can to keep him out of trouble. But it's just impossible; sometimes the only way he'll learn is to get himself into trouble. So whenever I can, I have to carefully select which trouble experiences he'll get, to maximize his learning while minimizing the danger. People may scoff at me letting him jump off things headfirst or get himself stuck in stair railings, but if I tell him not to do it and he does it anyway and it hurts somewhat, he learns that Mom was right, and is more likely to listen to me when I tell him I don't think it's a good idea to stick that in the electrical socket.