The game has changed. This was a realization I had back in my very first fatherhood post. Each day is an exercise in adaptability. Those words are more and more true with every passing day. While my daughter (who’s now seven-months-old) grows smarter and more capable each day, there are significant game-changing milestones. We hit a big one last weekend. She can crawl.
Gone are the days of a stationary baby. My wife and I lit a candle to properly grieve the end of the era when our parenting activities didn’t involve the word “chase.” I was originally so excited to reach this new stage. It’s so awesome to see your child gain new abilities – I feel like I’m witness to a real-life superhero origin story. But now that she’s been crawling for a few days, it’s really started to sink in what this new stage of babydom means for us as parents.
Yes, the game has changed and here’s what we’ve learned.
4. Our house is a mess
Since my wife has become a stay-at-home mom, our quality of life as greatly improved. She keeps a good handle on all of the chores, and as a result, our house is very clean. Or so we thought. Nothing reveals to you how messy your house is until your baby starts crawling around.
Take last night, for example. We swept the floors and vacuumed the carpet. It looked great. Then my daughter crawled across the floor. When she sat up, her hand went instantly to her mouth. To any non-parents or new parents, you should know that this is always a red flag. You see, as I watched her put her hand in her mouth, I saw it wasn’t empty. Wrapped around her thumb and forefinger was a thick, six-inch, black, curly hair. I jumped out of my seat and swatted her hand away like she was about to eat a shard of broken glass. Where did the hair come from? Didn’t we just sweep in here?
The answer: yes. We did everything required to properly clean the house, yet my daughter’s hands have become portals to alternate dimensions where only the most obscure of disgusting artifacts remain. Each time my daughter takes a break from crawling on the floor, I need to check her hands. The other day, she pulled a piece of hay out of the carpet. Hay?! Where did that come from? And what does she have now? A hood ornament from a 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass? Sure, why not.
3. I’m way too prone to distractions
When your infant is stationary, you’re allowed to have a life. Watching TV, surfing Reddit, solving crossword puzzles…these are all possible when your baby stays where you put her. Now that she’s crawling, I’ve discovered that I’m now left with one purpose in life: watch her.
I never realized how pervasive my distractions were until the gaps in my attention were measured by the distance traveled by my crawling child. You see, I’ll put my daughter on the floor right at my feet. In fact, to be an even better dad, I’ll sit cross-legged on the floor beside her. Yay, we’re bonding now! Suddenly, there’s a ping on my phone, so I pull it out to check. Apparently Facebook wants me to remember the things I did on this day in 2009. While I’m there, I might as well see who’s birthday it is. I look up from my phone and now my daughter is in the kitchen, trying to steady herself on the trash can. I check the clock, look back down at my phone, then back at my daughter. Did I time travel?
If you don’t already know this, your interests, hobbies and distractions all take place in a sped up version of reality. What feels like a quick glance at your phone is actually 20 minutes. A quick scroll through Netflix is actually half a day. Be warned. You’ll get a big dose of temporal reality when you see how far your baby can crawl in the moments you look away.
2. Everyday objects are dangerously sharp, small, irregular, slippery or hard
Last night, I set up a play area in our living room. I gave her a plethora of fluffy things, squeaky things and toys that play the same five-note tune in endless loops. My daughter also loves non-toys, so we sometimes have a few random objects sitting around that she can pick up. Those would be things like Kleenex boxes, plastic plates and the like. Last night, one of these non-toy objects caught her attention. She scooted over to a plastic insulated mug and picked it up.
After a second, she started screaming – a blood-curdling cry of pain. I scooped her up and did my best to comfort her, which didn’t take long. She calmed down and went back to normal. I was so confused until I noticed that her nose was red. Looking closer, I realized it wasn’t just red, it had a tiny cut across the tip, a little paper cut. I went over to the mug, and sure enough, just below the rim, there was an uneven and jagged edge. Not only can this mug keep your drinks warm and cold, it is apparently also a flesh-slicing weapon that knows no mercy.
So now I’m obsessed, feeling everything in the house with a new set of criteria. Yes, that’s a harmless-looking plastic plate, but it also harbors a hidden tiny death spike on the bottom. The hardwood floors are uneven and jagged. You can feel the indent of tacks on the edges of our carpet. A plastic spoon has the trifecta: it has sharp edges, is too pointy, and has a spike on the end. I see the world through new lenses, and I’m now convinced that everything is built specifically to hurt babies.
1. The difference between a safe boundary and a prison cage is very thin
For as much as you know you need to watch your baby constantly, there really is a point in your day when you absolutely have to look away. Thankfully, the world’s free market has created devices to help keep your children safely contained while looking elsewhere. They call them “playpens” or “Pack n’ Plays,” but their purpose is essentially the same: give your child a safe boundary to keep them from harm.
These sounded like such a great idea, and when I realized how much undivided attention my new crawling baby needed, I ran straight to the closet to pull out a playpen. What I didn’t realize, however, was how intensely the sense of guilt hits you when you put a baby in one. Seeing her sit alone inside a fenced-in area, I feel like I put her in Guantanamo Bay. Thank goodness we have cute names for these play boundaries, because they make me feel a little better about occasionally putting her in one. If we called them what they really are, I’d never use one. “New from Fisher-Price…Baby Cages! Now your child can experience the freedom and independence of maximum security inmates!”