As a new mother, working in an Emergency Department made me want to go home and childproof every nook and cranny of our house. On a daily basis at work I would care for children, most often toddlers, injured at home in various ways. I learned of all the potential household dangers and how to keep my children safe.
I remember vividly caring for the 2 year-old girl who burnt her entire hand and arm with hot coffee after reaching up to grab mommy’s mug from the counter top. She screamed in pain and her mother felt so incredibly guilty for the honest mistake. After seeing that I made sure to always keep hot liquids away from the edges of the countertop and never hold my children while drinking something hot.
I recall another toddler who climbed a TV stand and had the TV and stand fall on him. Luckily he had no major internal injuries and went home with only a few scrapes and bruises. Seeing that, I made sure to secure our TV and dressers to the wall so that they would never fall over on our kids. I also taught my children never to climb furniture as it could tip over and hurt them.
Another time there was a 2 year-old boy who fell down the stairs breaking his collar bone. The parents hadn’t installed baby gates at the top of the stairs which could have prevented his fracture. They felt awful. We had a gate at the top of our stairs, but it was a reminder to always close the gate when my toddlers were up stairs.
On a different shift there was the 3 year-old boy who touched a hot stove and burnt his hand. After seeing that, I made it a habit to always cook on the back burners of the stove and to teach my children that the stove is hot and never to touch it.
There were many children who would get into medicines that weren’t put away or pills that they would find at grandma’s house. From this I learned not only to put away medicines in locked cabinets at my own home but also at grandma’s house or any other home they might visit frequently.
I also began teaching my kids that medicines are not candy and could hurt them. I made sure they knew that they should only take medicines when given to them by an adult. I also taught my kids about other household poisons such as cleaning solutions and made sure to keep cabinets where they were stored locked.
I can’t count the number of times I have seen small children with cuts to their foreheads or near their eyebrows after bumping into the sharp corners of a coffee table. Needless to say, we got rid of our wooden coffee table soon after my first child was born and replaced it with an ottoman. But putting foam bumpers on the table would have done the trick as well.
Once I remember being quickly called into a room for a 18 month-old girl whose index finger was stuck in the sharp blade of a food processor. We were able to use a ring cutter and cut the food processor blade and pull it apart and off of her finger without lacerating it. I asked her grandmother, who was babysitting, how the little girl had gotten a hold of the food processor blade. Grandma explained that she was trying to make dinner and gave a box of kitchen utensils to the child to play with. She didn’t realize the food processor blade was in the box. It was a reminder to always keep sharp items locked up or on high shelves.
Seeing all this at work made me a little paranoid about all the potential dangers even within our home. They seemed omnipresent.
My parents, who often babysat my kids, would say that I worried too much. And I would say it was only because I saw these things happen so often at work. But the reality was that just because I saw these things happen to other children didn’t mean that they would happen to mine.
Nonetheless, knowing what I knew, I didn’t want to have to live with the guilt I’d seen parents face when they knew an injury could have been prevented. They beat themselves up thinking, “If only I had just closed that baby gate,” or “If only I had put my coffee down before picking up the baby.”
I know that it can only take a second for something tragic to occur. So I decided that the more I created a safe home environment by childproofing my home and the more I taught my kids about certain dangers, the more I could relax and simply enjoy my kids.