Friday, November 23, 2012

Babies in Non-Baby-Proofed Houses

Thanksgiving with a toddler, for a third time, has inspired me to write this post.

Ever since NJ was a toddler, we've spent Thanksgiving with my family in Los Angeles, as well as other family get-togethers such as Mother's and Father's Day. NJ was the first baby in my family in over 20 years, and my relatives' houses hadn't had children in them in a long time. Houses without young children have a tendency to collect tchotchkes and decorations, plants, and other non-baby-friendly items on side tables, bookshelves, coffee tables, etc. While decoratively sound, this tchotchke-collecting isn't so great when there's a toddler around.

The first few times we visited relatives with our baby- and toddler-aged son, we had to make the rounds, picking up or putting away all kinds of things, like fireplace tools and decorative items, candles, collectible coasters, photo books, and so on. As NJ got older and less likely to get into things, it was easier to visit without having to give the place a once-over first. By the time SB was a mobile baby, we had gotten pretty good about semi-baby-proofing and keeping an eye on the kids.

The only other problem is what the kids should do with themselves during the family visit. I remember as a kid being bored out of my skull while the adults sat around chatting. My brother and I were the only kids at most of these events; my aunt doesn't have kids, so there weren't any near-same-age cousins to hang out with. My kids are in the same situation - my brother doesn't have kids, so they have only each other for company. NJ and SB are now old enough that they're pretty happy to hang out upstairs watching movies. GI, however, is at exactly the wrong age for a family gathering. He's old enough to want to be up and exploring, young enough to have little patience for sitting at the table for two hours, young enough not to be able to take instructions, but old enough to toddle around all over the place, find things to pick up, throw, or chew on, and otherwise cause destruction.

Thus, Thanksgiving this year was interesting. On the one hand, it was very pleasant to be able to set NJ and SB up with a movie, knowing that they were happy and entertained and we didn't have to listen to whining. On the other hand, GI kept us on our toes a bit.

Fortunately, after five years of visiting with kids of various ages, my aunt's house is far less dangerous than it once was. We had to keep an eye on him as far as not knocking over the TV, getting into the cat's litterbox (although he actually showed no interest in it), and a few other random things. It was actually one of the easier Thanksgiving-with-toddler scenarios we've been in.

One thing that has really helped is that we've started keeping a few toys at my aunt's house. A few dollars' worth of Hot Wheels cars and two Tonka trucks that they only see when we're there make a big difference. Plus, we don't have to schlep a bunch of toys with us when we go, along with the food we were bringing, the diaper bag, and anything else we might need for a two-hour drive and several-hour stay with three boys.

So, some advice for visiting relatives' houses when you have young kids and they don't!

1) Don't be embarrassed to nurse the baby if you need to. (This has never applied to me in my thankfully very supportive family, but I know other families may be less open.)
2) Leave toys at relatives' houses so the kids have something novel to play with when they're there.
3) Let older kids have a little leeway - even if TV or video games are limited at home, for example, be sensitive to the fact that they have less to do and are genuinely more bored when they're at relatives' houses.
4) Help the hosts pick up or move items that may be dangerous to your mobile baby or toddler so that you can feel comfortable letting baby roam a bit.
5) Bring at least one change of clothes for each kid. You never know which one is going to throw up, spill, or have a bathroom accident or leaky diaper. It's often not the one you expect!
6) If you'll be there during naptime, arrange in advance for a quiet place to put the kid(s) down for a nap - a guest room, den, or other room with a closed door, for example.

What special tips or tricks do you have for visiting this holiday season?

No comments:

Post a Comment