Babyproofing Grandma’s pets

As regular readers of this blog know, I have a 20-month-old granddaughter. What I haven’t mentioned is that I also have a 55-lb, 10-year-old Sheltie dog and a big old cat (he’s at least 15 pounds of cat meat and fur, and since he’s a rescue his age is indeterminate).


Our Kitty Bear can easily hypnotize you with those eyes of his

My granddaughter is at an age where she’s all over the house and into everything (a subject I discussed in this post on babyproofing grandma’s house). I try to make my home safe for her to play in. Do I need to be concerned about my pets, too? Do pets need to be babyproofed?


Yes, and yes.

Now, as far as the cat goes, we’re pretty lucky. Unlike some felines, our big guy tolerates children pretty well. He’s greedy for affection and purrs whenever someone comes near. He even allows our toddler to use him as a model to name body parts. “Eyes” she says, pointing at his gold-green orbs. Our cat just blinks. She can practically sit on him and he won’t react. When he’s had enough of her he slips under the bed beyond her reach.

But the dog is a different matter. He’s a senior in dog years, and he’s always been a bit neurotic. He’s also deeply obsessed with squirrels. He spends the greater part of his waking moments barking at them, watching them cavort in our backyard and chasing them whenever he gets a chance. Sometimes I think he sees our granddaughter, especially when she’s running erratically around the house, as a big, hairless and tail-less squirrel.


Our Toby  searching for squirrels in the snow

Toby snaps when he’s irritated – he’s snapped at me and my husband. That makes him a decided hazard to our granddaughter. But even the best-tempered dog in the world can injure a child.


Last week, I had a conversation with another grandmother in a parking lot while I was lifting my granddaughter out of a shopping cart and buckling her into her car seat. I noticed the woman’s Golden Retriever waiting calmly in her car behind her as we talked.

This other grandma told me about her friend, whose family dog bit her grandkid. The child bothered the dog while the animal was eating, and it reacted instinctively. She told me that now she takes extra precautions with her Golden around her own grandkids, even though her gentle dog looks like he wouldn’t harm a flea.

Dog bites are serious. Most dogs’ mouths are face-level with a small child’s. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that over 4.5 million people in the US are bitten by dogs each year and that approximately half of the 800,000 who see a doctor for their injuries are children. That’s 400,000 kids a year who are on record as being bitten by a dog. And there are probably a lot more bite injuries that aren’t reported.

The AAP provides some great tips on how to prevent dog bites and also explains what to do if your child is bitten.

The top prevention tip? Never leave a dog and a small child alone together.

It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about a beloved family Labrador or Grandma’s prized Pekingese. Any dog can bite, especially if it’s cornered, surprised or guarding its food bowl – all situations a child can easily stumble into.

My husband and I are paranoid on this subject, having witnessed a dog biting a child many years before we had grandchildren. So at our house, we avoid any risks by putting Toby in a separate room behind a baby gate when our granddaughter comes to visit. He doesn’t like it, but he gets treats and attention, especially after she leaves.

And our kitty? I monitor his interactions with our granddaughter as well. I never leave the two of them alone together. After all, he has sharp claws, and an almost-two-year-old could try the patience of a saint.

Perhaps a bird or a fish would be a safer pet to have around grandkids, but then, there are potential problems there, too. When our son was little he managed to find the knob on the back of the aquarium that controlled the heater, and before I knew what he was up to he’d poached a whole tankful of fish.

Sometimes our pets need to be protected from kids as much as kids need to be protected from them!

What steps do you take to childproof your pets for your kids or grandkids?


Children -Why?

questions-1922477_960_720I hear a lot of millennials who are either married or in committed relationships questioning the need or the sense in having children. Generations past, people didn’t think about things like that: babies just happened, like a two-day snowstorm or a power outage (coincidentally, two events that often result in the conception of children).

Nowadays, the growing tendency is to overthink everything, and the decision to have children is no exception. Here are my thoughts on five common concerns I’ve heard expressed:

  • Having kids is too expensive. Well, yes it does cost a lot. But so do a lot of things that won’t outlast you, like the latest iPhone or a trip to Tahiti.
  • Pregnancy will ruin my body. I wouldn’t say “ruin” exactly; more like remodel.
  • Kids really tie you down. So does anything you own that requires payments or getting a pet  (unless it’s a rat – you can just let that sucker loose in your basement and it will take care of itself). The point is, things or even an affectionate pet won’t give you hugs and kisses, or make you a birthday card covered with so much glitter that if it catches sunlight it could blind the orbiting space station.
  • Childbirth is painful. I don’t have any snappy comeback for that one, except thank God for drugs.
  • I’ll lose my freedom. A carefree lifestyle of partying, clubbing and spur-of-the-moment vacations will most likely go by the wayside after you have kids, unless you plan on being a terrible parent. But Nature has an answer for that. The older you get, and especially after you have kids, the less energy and interest you’ll have in partying, clubbing and taking spur-of-the-moment vacations. So, problem solved.

While I’d never try to convince an unwilling person to have a child (there are sadly already far too many unwanted children) here are five reasons to make the lifelong investment of having children, if you’re mulling it over:

  • It’s a chance for a do-over. Raising kids gives you a chance to relive your own childhood, and maybe even rewrite the script. Your parents never took you camping? You can make it a point to camp with your kids. (Of course, you may find that your kids hate camping, the same way your parents did, but that’s another story.)
  • You’ll see that magic is real. Participating in the growth of a child is a truly magical experience, and I don’t use that description lightly. Even the stunts in the Harry Potter stories seem pretty tame compared to the phenomenon of watching tiny human beings, in a mere two years, transform from a state of complete helplessness into little people who can smile, laugh, walk, talk, and say no like they mean it.
  • You can be the star of a real-life drama. No two childbirth stories are alike, and you have the right to embroider yours as much as you want to after your child is born. What may be a routine hospital procedure can become an epic tale of courage and nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat thriller if you tell it right. Just don’t share your highly embellished story to a young woman who hasn’t had kids yet. You may spook her, and her mother or mother-in-law won’t thank you for it.
  • You’ll get members-only benefits. Having children grants you an automatic entry to the biggest and yet most exclusive club in the world: parenthood. There’s no secret handshake, but on some level parents automatically understand each other, and what we all must go through for the sake of our children. All moms, whether they’re world leaders or housekeepers, have something in common, as do all dads who’re doing their best to raise kids in a world that often doesn’t support their efforts or affirm their sacrifices.

That’s four. Now, here’s the fifth and the best, which I’ve saved for last:

  • Grandchildren.

You won’t appreciate this reason until you’ve guided your kids through childhood and past the shoals of adolescence to the point where they’re ready to become parents themselves.

Being a grandparent allows you to experience the miracle of life all over again, without the full burden of parental responsibility. Grandchildren are a wonderful reward for all the years you spent parenting – the sleepless nights and apprehensive days, the worry and the joys that go hand-in-hand with raising a family.

Trust me on this.  And it’s worth noting that you can’t be a grandparent unless you’ve been a parent. That’s an absolute prerequisite.

todo-list-297195__340Many of us would reverse that order if we could – being a grandparent is way more fun than being a parent– but that’s impossible. And that’s just as well. I don’t think you can really appreciate grandchildren without having raised children first. It’s a layering of experience that can’t be duplicated or short-cut.

So here’s my admittedly unsolicited advice. If you’re considering having kids and are in a position to do so, make two lists, pro and con. Don’t be surprised if the cons outnumber the pros. Then rip up both your lists and have kids anyway. (A snowy night with no power may help things along.)

Don’t overthink it. It’s the only way you’ll get a shot at becoming a grandparent.

What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the pros and cons of having kids.




Babyproofing Grandma’s house



Despite the pink ribbons, we don’t know yet if  our next grandbaby is a boy or girl


We’ve had some wonderful news – another grandchild is on the way, due this summer. Our first and currently only grandchild, who’ll be a big sister to her new sibling, is 20 months old.


I have the privilege and pleasure of taking care of our active granddaughter on a regular basis. I blush to say it, but my main strategy so far to keep her safe at our house involves me following her around constantly.

Now, that won’t cut it with two grandchildren. I know that just like when I was a mom raising two rambunctious boys,  I’ll get distracted and lose track of one kid or another occasionally, which can open the door to all kinds of mischief.

So I’ve realized that it’s time to get serious about childproofing Grandma and Grandpa’s house. No grandkid of mine is going to get hurt on my watch!

To get some help in the matter (hey, it’s been a long time since I had to hide the matches from my inquisitive two-year-old son) I did a search and found some good advice at Contractor Quotes. The site has some great tips from folks who build and remodel houses on the best ways to babyproof your home. They also sent me an article I want to share with you describing how to make your home safer for children, starting in the living room.

And if you want to be really thorough, as in “there’s no way these kids can get into trouble at my house now, no matter how hard they try” check out the infographic that follows the article. It covers the house inside and out. That should take care of your little darlings, or at least slow them down!

Spend Safer Quality Time with your Baby, by Contractor Quotes

You should spend as much quality time as you can with your baby in your home, and the best place to do so is in the living room. It’s probably the biggest area in your room and should have a lot of things that can help entertain the whole family.

However, most living rooms are not safe for children. This is because they were constructed and designed with adults’ needs and preferences in mind. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that you cannot spend quality time with your child there. With the right babyproofing steps, it can be a safe place for your child, allowing the whole family to spend safe and fun quality time in there.

How to Baby Proof your Living Room

Here are the steps to take to baby proof your living room.

  • Get down on all fours and look around.

This may seem weird, but it’s really necessary so you can see what your child will see. Look around at this eye level and try to see what may attract your child so you can see if they’re safe for children or not. Look around to see potential dangers so you can take care of them.

  • Keep small objects out of reach. Include the things that can be toppled over.

Children love to grab on small objects. This can be dangerous because your child can put them in his mouth or break them. If it’s small enough to fit inside the toilet paper roll insert, then it’s a potential choking hazard.

Also, keep vases, lamps, picture frames and the like out of reach.

  • Secure the TV and other appliances and furniture with furniture straps or anchor bolts.

The TV can be easily toppled over, especially the latest models that are very thin. This is why you have to secure them with straps. You should also do the same with lighter furniture. For the heavier ones, you have to use anchor bolts.

  • Check your houseplants.

Your houseplants may be safe for adults, but some of them may be unsafe for kids. This is why you have to do your research to find out if your house plants are toxic for your kids. If they are, you have to get rid of them immediately.

  • Check your fireplace.

On a cold night, families love to spend some quality time in front of the fireplace. Make sure it’s safe for your kid. Start by installing a fireplace screen. The sharp edges of the fireplace have to be secured with edge bumpers. Make sure to keep fire starters out of reach.



Photo credit for stork image: janwillemsen via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA