Friday, February 5, 2010

Reader Question: Visiting Friends with our Baby

Last week we received the following question from one of our readers:

When my daughter was about 9 mos old we visited a good friend of mine that didn't have any kids at the time. The visit was SO stressful because I spent the whole time chasing my very active baby around their house trying to keep her out of their "breakables." My friend has invited us back several times since, but it was so hard the first time that I don't want to go back! How can I tell her that (or make the visit less stressful for me) without offending her?

When we read this question, we immediately identified with this mother’s situation. As mothers of young children ourselves, we each had a story to share of our own challenging visits to friends or family members’ houses that were not exactly “baby friendly.” Personally, I flashed back to a recent vacation we took to visit my best friend in Southern California (hopefully she’s not reading this!). I love my friend, but she and her husband don’t have kids and thus, their beautiful home is decorated with fragile (i.e. tempting) objects. My daughter has never been the type to sit still, and somehow she has it in her mind that “no” actually means “yes.” So, I spent the entire 4 day visit keeping my child from breaking something, making a mess or falling down their very steep staircase. Does this sound like a relaxing vacation to you?

At first I was afraid to say anything to my friend, so I tried reasoning with my daughter instead, saying “those aren’t okay to touch. Let’s play over here.” Then I would show her a safer area to play in. Redirecting her worked for awhile, but after 2 days, I needed a break! Finally, at my wits end, I asked if we could put some of the more delicate items up and out of reach. My friend said “no problem” and I relaxed a bit.

Since you can’t expect your mobile baby or toddler to sit still for long periods of time or not touch anything when they are driven to explore their environment, nor tell a friend or relative that you do not want to visit them because of the way their house is arranged or decorated, we’ve come up with a few things you can do to make the visit easier on everyone.

1. Ask your friend or family member if breakable items can be put up higher and out of the reach of your baby. Some people without children may not realize that babies as young as 9-months-old can pull themselves up on furniture and reach for items near them.

2. Bring a play pen with toys and books so your baby has safe activities to do. Keep the play pen near you and pack it with your child’s favorite toys to keep his interest.

3. Put a blanket on the floor with books and toys. That way you can sit and engage your baby and socialize with your visitors at the same time.

4. If you are really worried about going to someone else’s house, ask if your friends could come over to your house. Your child will feel more comfortable in his own home and you will be able to relax knowing he can move around freely.

5. If you are visiting around your child’s bedtime remember to bring pajamas and a blanket. Try to stay with your child’s normal bedtime schedule and routine even if you are away from home and be sure there is a safe sleeping space available for your child.

6. Bring a safety gate with you to block off dangerous staircases or rooms that have many breakables. While you’re at it, pack a few power outlet covers.

Remember, babyhood and toddlerhood fly by. Soon, you will be able to take your child on visits just about anywhere without worrying about her destroying your host’s home. Instead, you’ll just have to worry about reminding your newly potty trained child to use the big girl potty so that she doesn’t have an accident on your Aunt’s new white carpet. I guess this job called parenthood never really ends!

1 comment:

  1. As usual these are some good ideas, thanks. But I think bringing my own gate and outlet covers to a friend's house seems over the top. I use my sling to keep my daughter off the floor if I can't sit down with her. I would add using a baby sling to your list.