"Baby proofing" is not the right word to describe my problem. We are talking about a tall 7 year old child with special needs and mischievous curiosity. This is the next level.
Just scrubbed some more toothpaste out of the carpet the other day. I was folding laundry when I heard Chloe yell, "MOM!!! Lilli has the toothpaste again!" She had it in her hair and all over her face, arms, and legs. Oh joy.
Lilli is into toothpaste and spoons. I recently found a spoon at the bottom of the laundry hamper. Yuck. We find them all over the house. I found one in my bathroom sink. (With the water running on top of it, and a completely wet spare toilet paper roll in the middle of a puddle on the bathroom floor.) The other night I pulled the covers back to get into bed, and there lay: you guessed it, a spoon. What can I do about this? She gets into the silverware drawer. If there are no more spoons, she moves onto forks. I am afraid someday it might be knives. How do you move an entire silverware drawer up out of a 7 year old's reach? You think it sounds easy. But it's not just the silverware.
The spoons are better than the toothpaste. I hate finding toothpaste squirted out on my bed, which unfortunately happens several times a week. I hide the toothpaste in different places. She always finds it. She is very determined and I am not a very clever hider. I can totally handle my 17 month old. Well, I take that back. He is really giving me a run for my money. Between the two of them, Mr. short, "Destroy everything" Josh and tall "Long Arms" Lilli, I am chasing, "No No!"-ing, and cleaning all day most days. But Lilli is not a typical childproofing case. She has moved on to things I don't think to "baby-proof." I guess I should call it "Lilli-proofing."
Lilli is 7, and every year she gets stronger and can reach more things. Recently she learned to open the refrigerator door, and she just looks inside, then walks away, leaving it wide open. You know how things can kind of sneak up on you when you have a growing child? For example all of the sudden your toddler figures out how to push a chair over to the table to climb up onto it. From that day on, you can't leave anything spillable, or breakable, or even remotely important on the kitchen table until he or she grows out of this phase. And that is the key. They do grow out of it. At least I think they do. I only have one child to test this theory on so far: Chloe. She goes through phases like she goes through her dress up outfits all day. I can sigh and tell myself that she will grow out of it hopefully soon.
But with Lilli, the phase drags on…and on… and on. And she gets taller, and better at it. The toothpaste phase has been about 2 years now. Nevermind the fact that she does not have the fine motor skills to unscrew the tiny cap. She bites a hole in the side of the tube and squeezes it out the sides. If I move the spoons, I know she will find them. She is reaching up to open the toaster oven door now. She knows how to turn on the faucets and leave them running. And my biggest problem of all: she can open doors. The irony is that a few years ago I was asking the therapists to help Lilli learn how to turn doorknobs and faucets, so she could become more independent and do things herself. Now she goes into my bedroom, opens the bathroom door, turns on the faucet, and makes a huge wet mess. And it happens almost every day. I do have those babyproof doorknob covers on some of the doors. We hate those things. And the kicker is they only work if we all remember to actually shut the door.
I should be excited that Lilli has learned to do these new things. And in a way, I am. I am thrilled that she is progressing in her self-help skills and can open doors by herself. But I am terrified that she will now use that skill to open our front door, walk out into the street, and keep on walking. I can't reason with her, threaten her, bribe her, or make rules with consequences like I can with Chloe. Lilli has no sense of danger. She has no concern of getting lost. She would walk away from me and never turn around to see where I am. We can't discuss these things. I just have to watch her 24/7 and try to prevent anything crazy from happening.
I wonder where we will be in a few years, when she is even taller and faster. I wonder if I will long for the "easy years" of toothpaste on my bed and a spoon in the laundry.