Home Sweet Home
The obligatory bio
Charites & Organizations
My Calgary Sun Column & More
Law Stuff
Gary Lautens
E-mail me!

Safety First

by Stephen Lautens


February 14, 2003

I had no idea that our house was such a death trap.

Our eleven month old son James has suddenly become seriously mobile. From parents worried that he was taking his sweet time learning to crawl, we've become full-time crossing guards. We now look back on the good old days when you could put him down and he'd still be there when you looked again five seconds later. If there was any justice in the world, children wouldn't learn to walk until they were ready to leave for college.

Instead our son is happily careening around the house like a BC Premier. Every corner is a potential trip to the hospital. The coffee table alone is capable of taking a dozen IQ points off every time he staggers close to it. I was developing one enormous thigh muscle from leaping off the couch to cover the pointy bits so his head would bounce off the back of my hand and the edge would instead dig a permanent gouge in my palm. Don't get me started on our stairwell, open concept kitchen or twelve years' accumulation of eye-level knick knacks - all pointy or toxic.

We can now see that house we've been so comfortable in for twelve years is more of a liability than an Iraqi army pension. Rather than do everything needed to make it safe, we briefly considered simply filling the entire house about waist high with rubber balls. It would be safe, and at the same time it would cut down on the vacuuming.

Although I like to think that I take safety seriously, it was probably a mistake visiting our local babyproofing store. In my parents' time, no such thing existed. Maybe babies were tougher forty years ago, because I don't remember many of my friends wearing eye-patches to daycare. Back then, baby proofing consisted of not storing the carving knives in the crib and making sure your cigar butt was out before letting junior play with it. Accidents did happen. I still carry a beaut of a scar over my right eye from a childhood run in with a coffee table - but if anyone asks, I tell them it was a bar fight with a 300 pound biker.

The babyproofing store I went to for assistance had rack upon rack of devices designed to prevent gruesome toddler injuries that I had never even considered before. There was a cage designed to fit around fireplaces that was only slightly smaller than the one used in a WWF Smackdown. There was padding for every piece of furniture, locks for every appliance, and spy cameras concealed in teddy bears for the ultra paranoid.

Like a chamber of horrors, every room in the house was shown with all the accidents that could befall a toddler - along with the items that could prevent such occurrences. Such safety does not come cheap. Little bits of ordinary plastic to keep fingers out of VCRs run twenty bucks. Like the wedding racket, I learned long ago that you had better resign yourself to getting hosed when buying baby stuff.

As I made my way to the cash with the smallest number of purchases a parent's conscience would allow, one of the sales clerks asked if there was anything I had overlooked. Perhaps I'd care to look at the new line of toddler helmets designed to be worn all day. It looked like a large foam egg.

I politely declined, and could tell he was silently writing me off as someone not serious about child safety.

Trust me, our son will already have more than enough to tell his therapist about when he grows up without making him wear a foam egg on his head all day.

© Stephen Lautens 2003

Back to column archive index