Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Breaking and Entering

Our child loves knobs and doors.  If he's not opening and closing doors, he's turning knobs until they're so loose they almost fall out.  It's a fun thing to discover if you need to change your underwear in a hurry.  One of our friends has even banned him from his bedroom because Kyle had managed to unscrew the knobs of nearly all the drawers of the room's furniture during the five minutes he was in there.  Our kid has some talent with knobs, and hopefully someday he'll be about to mold it into a skill that's both useful and lucrative.  For now, it's just annoying, and potentially dangerous.  That's why we keep him out of hospital rooms.

When he's not turning knobs, he's pulling on them, trying to open and close drawers and doors.  This is one of his favorite activities.  When we rented a cottage in the Poconos last year, one of the first things he did was run into its kitchen and open up all the cabinets.  It was the most fun he had there all weekend.  He usually can't do that in our kitchen, since the cabinet doors are kept shut by a very sophisticated baby-proofing device called the "spring and release latch."

The latches worked well for the better part of a year.  Then last week, as I was watching him in the kitchen, he looked at me, smiled mischievously, and then pressed down on one of the latches.  The door opened.  Taa-daa!  Kyle suddenly had free access to all sorts of amazing things, from bleaches for the bathroom to paints to insecticide.  There are even more knobs to turn inside, fun ones that control our hot and cold water.  There's even a natural gas pipe to play with!  Kyle was very excited that he figured out a way to enter this chemical wonderland.  I almost dropped the glass I was holding.

One thing I have learned in my two-and-a-half years of parenting is to never make a big deal out of something your kid is doing if you truly want him to stop doing it.  So far it's working with his crib.  He probably could have climbed out of it months ago, but he has yet to try, and I think that's in part because we don't make a big deal whenever he throws his entire leg over the rail.  We just quietly put it back and distract him by giving him a blanket or telling him there's a monster under the crib.  Kyle soon forgets he was trying to climb out, and we get to put off buying a bed for another few weeks.  Had we shouted "no" or gave a big reaction, no doubt he would have tumbled out by now.  I decided to apply the same method to the cabinet doors last week.  I told him calmly that only his parents open those doors, and that he could get seriously hurt or blow up the apartment building if he snooped around in there.  The rest of the day, he simply pointed at the doors.  The method worked, but for how long?

Up until that point, I had fooled myself into thinking I had done a fine job baby-proofing our home.  I installed gates blocking doorways that lead to potentially unsafe locations (like the bathroom or alligator pit), we moved scissors and other dangerous items out of Kyle's reach, and we no longer keep our fragile glassware in an old toy box.  I spent a good hour on a Saturday afternoon putting those latches in, but apparently that wasn't enough.  When Jennifer posted on Facebook that Kyle figured out the latches, one of our friends wrote that Kyle is "super smart."  I will try to look at it that way, assuming that Kyle will someday get a full-tuition scholarship to some prestigious university because at an early age he learned how to open the cabinets.  Still, my gut tells me he's just doing this because he thinks it's funny and he enjoys all the attention he gets, while at the same time annoying dear old dad.  It's a behavior similar to that of a rodeo clown.  So I don't know what to think.  My cousins have a magnetic lock system that supposedly makes your kitchen as secure as Fort Knox.  We might look into that.  Meanwhile, the little guy is also trying to figure out a way to put enough weight on the pedals of our gates to get them open.  Heaven help us all if he manages to do that.

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