YOU ARE THE FAMILY SECURITY OFFICER. KEEP THEM SAFE, PAULA BLART.

by olivia black

As a parent or guardian, you will be legally responsible for the welfare of your minor children. No, you cannot ever just leave your one-year-old daughter locked in the car, not even for 30 seconds. No, you cannot slip out to the store and leave your six-year-old boy home alone for “just five minutes.” No, you cannot ignore that smelly diaper, his crying, or the need for daily bathing. And no, you certainly cannot rely on prayer, miracles, or any god’s will to resolve any sickness or serious medical situation. Avoiding any basic need, either accidentally or purposefully, constitutes neglect or child abuse. The law will take that child away from you and probably put you in jail. And your local news will make sure your reputation as a human being is permanently destroyed well before you’ve been tried by a jury of your peers. News channels thrive on ratings generated by child neglect stories. 

vant for years to come. 

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Once you’re fully aware that you are a child’s cook, butler, maid, servant, nutritionist, health care advocate, education counselor, safety engineer, and cleaning person, you’ll begin to realize parenting is not for the selfish. But strong selfless parenting is the cornerstone to a thriving F.U. 

Begin with childproofing your home as best you can. The best way to be sure things are safe is to empathize with your youngster. Be the brat. Get on your hands and knees and pretend you’re two feet tall. You might notice things you can reach that you had never realized could be harmful or even deadly, and you’ll never forgive yourself for missing them.

Although most of the following tips are common sense, it never hurts to have a refresher. 
 

  • Cover your electrical outlets and remove loose or exposed extension cords. 

  • Do not put heavy items like televisions on narrow or top-heavy stands that could tip over. Children love to climb things.

  • Tie up, cut off, or modify window blind cords. 

  • Move all the cleaning supplies and knives as high as you can get them. 

  • Add child-safe locks to any cabinets or doors that lead to dangerous products or areas.

  • Block all stairs with child gates. Although many children can climb up easily, they could fall backwards too.

  • Don’t leave hot pans or pots on the stove with their handles facing out where a child could reach them.

  • Anything loose and breakable will be knocked over and broken if it’s within baby’s reach. Move it or lose it. 

  • Make sure all outside doors are always locked.

  • If you have a swimming pool, ensure you have an approved baby gate, and that it’s always secured. It only takes a few seconds for something bad to happen. 

  • If you travel in an automobile with your baby, use an app or set an alarm reminding you that child is in the child seat so you won’t forget to bring your child with you when you leave the vehicle. It happens. 

  • Eliminate anything loose if it’s smaller than a baseball; you would be amazed at what a child can fit in its mouth and choke on. 

  • Keep an eye on the babysitters.

Fortunately, babies sleep a bunch during their early years, as their tiny bodies exhaust all their energy in the growth process. Unfortunately, you don’t get to choose when they sleep. The feeding process is constant – it’s every few hours while they’re tiny. It is not uncommon for your child to wake in the middle of the night, screaming bloody murder, because she is hungry. And no, Miss Convenience – you can’t just leave a bottle and some snacks in her crib.

 

It is important for you to establish that nights are for sleeping and days are for waking. Some children tend to be more active at night. Some “experts” advise you to discourage your kids from sleeping during the day getting them into a more normal routine at a few months into their little lives. This involves letting your baby “cry it out,” essentially ignoring her until she cries herself to sleep. There are two schools of thought on this process. Some children are needier than others. There are feeding challenges, cramps, fear, sickness, and other problems they can’t communicate to you just yet. Later in life, ignoring your child’s needs could create detachment issues, and even underlying trust concerns that could crop up from not being there for your crying child. On the other hand, it is thought that too much coddling could result in a less independent child. The truth is no one is quite sure. We may never know if the cry it out method is good or bad for children, but one or the other might make your life less miserable. 

Photo by Roly Vasquez from Pexels

Me? I caved every time. I couldn’t handle more than five minutes of crying that seemed to get worse by the minute. I found my own son may have been suffering from cramps provided by the peanut proteins in his bottled breast milk while subsisting on a diet of PB and Fluff. When we switched him to formula to see if he’d sleep better, things improved drastically. Eventually, children learn to sleep on their own. It was a very tough two years with each of mine.

 

And no, you cannot wait until the morning to change her diaper when you know it needs to be changed. You’ll usually smell it quite readily, but other times you will need to check for wetness frequently. And when shit happens, you’ll know it. Change that diaper without hesitation, or you’ll be dealing with a very upset child when a painful diaper rash sets in. Don’t forget the butt cream – use it liberally.

 

Early on in the first year, babies are fairly stationary. You can usually put them down on a floor somewhere, in a safe and child-proofed place, and surround them with pillows or a baby gate. They may roll around a bit, but you shouldn’t have to worry about them escaping your house and getting on a bus. My kids stayed strapped in their comfy car seats a bit more than most frilly mothers would approve of. Those seats not only strap into modern baby carriages, but they fit nicely into shopping carts and easily strap on to kitchen chairs. We’d leave our kids in their chairs on the floor next to us when we went out to eat. If we were lucky, they’d stay sleeping. We weren’t lucky too often.

And these are the years where everything goes into the mouth. Hands, feet, toys, keys, phones, cords, trash, pets, dirt, and even things that are nailed down. I remember being at a party several years ago and watching a small child grab a beer bottle off a coffee table, immediately putting it into his mouth. Someone pulled it away quickly as it spilled everywhere, but I am fairly sure that child had a sip before he let go. Fortunately, it wasn’t some sort of poisonous household cleaner. Things happen very quickly, so keep everything you don’t want in his mouth somewhere that he can’t possibly reach it.

 

You’ll learn that boys tend to be more mechanical. Before he can talk, your son will quickly figure out how to disable your child-safe locks, learn to disassemble things that engineers have trouble with, and will climb on to surfaces you thought weren’t accessible. And he will gaze in wonder as he watches a variety of things (like your keys) magically disappear in that amazing device called a toilet.

 

At this age, girls are a bit easier to manage. Most will remain slightly more stationary, spending her time learning how to speak and play nicely while developing her mental faculty at a much faster pace than boys. 

 

This is the time your child is still a cute novelty, and you’ll be receiving lots of attention and outside help from family and friends. Don’t feel guilty about accepting help – the friendly offers won’t usually last long.  And once they’re gone, you’re that baby’s servant for years to come. 

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