Monday, May 9, 2011

Be Warned

            Many young families attempt construction projects around the home while the children are still confined to a crib.  This is a prudent idea, as most home improvements and repairs become virtually impossible once mobility strikes.  These projects are usually minor in nature: a coat of paint, a new window, or an upgraded bathroom.  (Some people also consider babyproofing a minor construction project.  I disagree.  Babyproofing generally requires a second mortgage and the assistance of licensed contractors.)  My wife and I are no different.  We planned to upgrade the walls in our son’s room from paneling (the most hideous wall covering ever invented) to sheet rock.  Upon removing the paneling, (with appropriate ceremonies to remove any evil influence remaining in the room from having such a diabolical wall covering present for so many years) we discovered that the walls had no insulation in them.  Imagine our surprise: in their haste to cover the walls with paneling, some previous owners had failed to put a layer of protection between -30° Minnesota winters and massive heating bills.  We quickly corrected this by stuffing our newly opened walls with fiberglass insulation.  As this was a minor project, we left our son’s crib in the room, allowing him to continue sleeping in a familiar spot.  Imagine our surprise one morning to discover that our basically immobile baby had managed to pull a strip of R13 insulation out of the wall cavity and into his crib.  Imagine our greater surprise to discover that he then began eating it.  (Veteran parents would, of course, not be surprised at all by this; the only thing that shocks them is when a child eats the actual meal it has been given.)  After digging a wad of insulation out of our son’s mouth, we rushed for the packaging to determine if this meal would compromise his health.  The writers of the insulation warning label obviously had no children.  The only warnings given were to the adults involved in the installation of the product.  Nothing whatsoever about accidental ingestion.  Come to think of it, very few commonly eaten products, such as pennies, marbles, and pages from library books, have appropriate warning labels.  My cereal box with the picture of flakes flying out of the bowl has a small label warning me that “cereal pieces do not fly without assistance” but fiberglass insulation is completely bereft of nutrition information.  It seems, however, that no harm has come of this.  Both my son’s walls and his digestive system are a little warmer on cold days.    

Sunday, May 1, 2011

On the Move

It is one of the most difficult tasks known to man.  One could study it for years and still be no closer to mastering it.  Molecular physics?  No.  Hieroglyphics?  Not even close.   It’s baby-proofing a house- the singularly most difficult part of raising a child.  Oh sure, there are the obvious problems: the fork lying below a 110 volt electrical outlet, the spring loaded mouse trap in the corner, even that pair of scissors on the rug.  But some critical elements to baby-proofing a house are impossible to foresee.  Who could predict a ten-month-old would pass by a stack of brightly colored educational plastic toys so he could gnaw on a telephone cord?  Who thinks to look under the couch to make sure there are no screwdrivers hiding, just waiting for that project when someone on the floor under a sofa cries out, “Anybody got a Phillips?”  And the coat closet by the door?  Apparently a baby cannot pass up the opportunity to scatter all the gloves, scarves, and hats throughout an unsuspecting living room- thereby guaranteeing that no member of the family will ever find a matching pair of mittens again. 
There are multiple schools of thought on proper baby-proofing.  The oldest is the Natural Selection method- employed by parents from the stone ages until well into the 1950s.  In this method, parents allow children to fend for themselves, in hopes that children learn tough lessons the hard way while building inner fortitude.  Many saber tooth tigers captured easy lunches due to this method.  In modern times, the overwhelming presence of trial lawyers (currently they outnumber non-Vegetarian humans) makes this method more or less unsuitable.  The baby-proofing method developed most recently mixes the modern invention of plastic with the modern invention of hyper-sensitive parents, creating a home environment bereft of danger, as well as furniture, pets, carpet, and other family members. 
Regardless of which methods is chosen, however, babies will find a way to defeat it.  No matter how many books are moved from the bottom shelf to the top, no matter how many fragile decorations are stored away in boxes, there is always some unsuspecting pothole on the road to a perfectly baby-proofed room.  Now…where did all our goldfish go?