Monday, September 05, 2005

Dangerous games

The person who said kids like the box better than the gift itself got it mostly right. I think it would be more accurate, however, to say that the kid likes eating the styrofoam peanuts (sort of an “exhibit A” for “easy to choke on”), chewing on the strapping tape and wrapping himself/herself in the bits of string more than the gift. Basically, the more dangerous and seemingly inappropriate the item is, the bigger battle I’m going to have taking it away from my child.

Our first inkling that this was true was when Davis and his dad were driving somewhere and my husband suddenly heard chewing sounds coming from the back. A quick glance in the babyview mirror (one of the things I swore I’d never get and now cannot live without) told dad that the plastic Spongebob Squarepants window-shade clingy-thing was now providing quite the feast for our boy. Spongebob’s rescue was greeted by much howling and protestation, because naturally, suffocation hazards are what babies like best.

His current favorite toy in this department is a measuring tape I bought at the dollar store while I was pregnant to record the annexation of my abdominal region. It’s a disk about an inch thick and maybe two or three inches across with a flabby length of measuring tape that clicks out and is retracted by a button. I think he first encountered it when I was making it click for him-he grabbed it and they’ve been best friends ever since. This thing is like the anti-toy, seriously. Okay, it’s probably too big for him to choke on, but it does have both the automatic strangulation device (the measuring tape) and the mechanical whip action (the retractor button).

Well, I say it’s his favorite toy. It may have been demoted today, as he spied my belt lying on the bed and went for it like a grad student after free pizza. He gazed at it in wonder, and I could only imagine what he was thinking: “Ooo, its tail can activate my gag reflex when I chew on it! And its shiny buckle has a sharp piece that’s perfect for stabbing myself! Oh, and if you twist it just so, it would fit around my neck!”

Okay, actually, he was probably thinking something much more Fab Five, like “What do you mean, no belts with jammies? Um, people, I’ll quote Steel Magnolias: ‘The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize!’ And yes, black is still in--brown is so NOT ‘the black of the 21st century.’ You don’t agree? Well, tell that to most of Manhattan. Well, yes, this thing could use a few more rhinestones. Baby needs some bling, mama!” I think my husband’s contention is that he was thinking “Whoa…chewy. And ooo, shiny. And…chewy,” but then he takes all that stuff about babies having no short-term memory waaaay too seriously.

But to drag this back to my original point (and yes, there was one--it will be on the quiz later), babies love dangerous stuff, probably because they have very little sense of loss and fear. How did I get from that place (where, presumably, we all started out) to thinking, “ I can’t give him a teething biscuit because he doesn’t meet each of the five developmental criteria listed on the box?” I’m learning to love that Davis can find joy and interest in some things many of the rest of us find disgusting and/or dangerous, and I’m trying to make my job more about helping him be safe without killing his curiosity or his thrill-seeking nature. So I let him enjoy his Measuring Tape--just so long as he has proper adult supervision. Not sure I’ll give in on the black leather belt, though--I need the slimming effect of black way more than he does.