I’m a father of three, and I can say without hesitation that things get more complicated with each child. They don’t sleep at the same time, and they are not happy or sad at the same time — you get the idea. With each child, it feels like the stars have to align just right for you enjoy a moment of peace and quiet. And the same can be said about development. With my oldest, it was easy to keep him out of things. He was the only child I had to worry about. But with each child, we’ve ended up with more and more of a group mentality when it comes to childproofing. The older child teaches the younger one this or that, or tries to be a big helper by assisting their little sister through a child lock, and suddenly I’m about to have a heart attack.
To those of you planning to have more than one, I can say honestly that childproofing gets more and more complicated with each child. Here are a few of the tactics used by older siblings to undermine your safety precautions.
1. “It Was Funny”
I don’t fully understand how “but it was funny” is a valid argument, but my children have used this reasoning to do everything from unlocking the front door and allowing their younger sibling to randomly run into the front yard naked, to teaching them how to eat it. This isn’t to say that we haven’t discussed how they put their younger sibling in danger — we have — but “it was funny” becomes the refrain of their argument and whatever I say is irrelevant.
2. The Big Helper
The oldest is, more or less, the big helper. I’ll use the example of my son here. He helped his younger sister get around child locks on drawers and cabinets. He was all about helping. Above the stairs in our old town house, we installed a child gate with a tricky childproof latch that was supposed to prevent our children from falling down the stairs. And while it obviously made me curse trying to open it, my son figured that sucker out by age 4, and he often opened it for his younger 1-year-old sister. I can’t count how many times I chatted with him about not opening the gate for her, but he was 4, so he didn’t really give a shit. I added an additional lock to the sucker, but he figured that out too. I can still recall one time Tristan let Norah through the gate and then shut it. Norah struggled down the stairs, while I struggled to open the gate to catch her before she took a tumble. In the end, I had to ask Tristan to help me open the gate so I could catch his sister.
3. Let Me Show You How It Works
Kids love to teach each other things, but all too rarely is it how to read or change the toilet paper roll. Most of the time, it’s an older sibling teaching the younger one how to get away with something, or how to get around a child lock. With my oldest, he had to figure everything on his own. But with the younger ones, they are standing on the shoulders of giants, and they seem to figure out child locks six months to a year earlier than their older sibling.
4. The Distraction
My youngest daughter has spilled water on two MacBooks, thrown a cell phone in the toilet, and shattered an iPad. Every time, these things were placed out of reach, but while we were tending to a sibling argument in another room or wiping someone’s butt, our clever little toddler found some way to get where she needed to be and break shit.
5. “But She Wanted It”
I have walked into rooms and seen chairs pushed next to counters so that little hands could reach anything from cookies to the stovetop. Just last week, I walked into the bathroom to see my toddler reaching into the toilet because her older sister helped her around the door guard. I confront Norah as to why she would let her little sister in the bathroom, and she said, “She wanted it.” I’ve heard this so many times. She wanted what was on the counter. She wanted in the bathroom. And regardless of how many times I tell my children to cut the crap, they keep it up.
Naturally, there are more tactics older siblings use to undermine your attempts at childproofing. But this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t continue to keep your children safe. You 100% should. But it should also be noted that with each child, you are fighting a more complicated battle and you need to be more vigilant. But what I can say is that, thus far, despite all these tactics, my wife and I have, for the most part, managed to keep our children safe.
So here’s the kicker, and it kind of sucks: You can’t just have faith in your childproofing. The real key is to watch the youngest in the family, and the oldest, and everyone in between, and pray. If anything can make you believe in divine intervention, it’s childproofing your home with older siblings.