Baby proofing Christmas: The toddler and the tree fence

Baby proofing Christmas: For the parents of toddlers, Christmas can bring peril as decorations become snacks. One mom defends Christmas decor from the onslaught of toddler curiosity.

Matt Stamey/AP
Ellora McLeod, 1, pouts along with Santa Claus, played by Dennis Pollard, while getting her photo taken by her parents during the annual tree lighting ceremony at the Thomas Center in Gainesville, Florida on Dec. 7.

I have been baby proofing my house to defend against a two-and-a-half foot tall de-decorator for the last week. I place a decoration – heirloom or otherwise, there is no set criteria – within reach, he dutifully removes it and delivers it directly to me, drops it on the floor, or carries it around and chews on it until the paint has begun to peel off. Nothing tastes quite like success!

The tree has no ornaments below average adult waist height, everything on table tops has been pushed together, as if the decorations have warned each other of the perilous consequences of standing too close to the edge. And every gift under the tree is his gift, as it doesn’t matter who’s name is on the gift label when you don’t know how to read.

I am afraid that my memories of this Christmas will amount to reciting the chorus of M.C. Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” over and over again, as I chase down the toddler ingesting my holiday decor.

The tree security fence now consists of seven sections of plastic baby (or pet) fencing, secured to the staircase on one end and lodged against the TV stand on the other end. We have wooden floors, which turns the tree fence into a sliding tree sweeper, shaking all of the ornaments left on the tree with each push, and rattling my nerves as I wait for everything to hit the floor.

I tell myself there is Christmas joy in this process of defending my decorations. It comes from the glint in his eye and the spring in his step as he lunges like a drunkard toward the untouchable objects. Some things have simply been sacrificed to pacify him. Plush decorations are now chew toys.

Despite my husband’s wishes, the creepy (but sentimentally valuable!) Annalee characters have been spared, and they watch my defensive dance with their thin, shrewd, painted-on smiles. My husband is convinced they will come alive in the night to murder us all, but I’m too busy wrangling ornament hooks out of the mouth of a 1-year-old to notice.

We are practicing our sign language and the sign for “no.” My hand snaps firmly into a crocodile snout shape, signaling a yellow flag called on the play. I’ve done it so much It now looks like I am just doing shadow puppets. 

I know this too shall pass. The new year will come and I will take down the decorations and return to the usual set-up in the house. But this holiday experience has given me pause as I consider another child. Results from a parenting poll (or three stay-at-home moms sitting at a holiday party discussing toddler behavior over copious amounts of desserts) report that April is a good month to shoot for when thinking ahead to Christmas celebrations. Children born in April exhibit just enough personality to willingly wear a Santa suit for Christmas number one, while building just enough common sense by Christmas number two to know that no, I am not making shadow puppets of a crocodile, but rather pleading with you to stop eating the plastic garland.

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