Ever since Daniel was a speck in my eye (well, womb), I've been thinking differently about home decor. I flip through the Pottery Barn catalog and see images of beautiful vases filled with perfect, delicate flowers, sitting atop coffee tables alongside glass candle holders, and I think: Clearly, this Pottery Barn family does not actually have children. Even though the catalog's mudroom has individually labeled cubbies for the kids' backpacks, and the Christmas catalog shows stockings hung from photo-frame stocking holders (bronze or silverplate!) monogrammed with each child's name, I don't quite believe the kids actually live there. Because if you put Daniel in that house, he would rip it apart in minutes. That beautiful pot of roses would be overturned onto the beautiful rug below, and the artfully arranged piles of books on the lower levels of shelves would be thrown across the floor, alongside the DVDs and CDs he pulled off the media console. Maybe the Pottery Barn kids are older and have been strictly trained not to touch the contents of coffee tables or the electronic equipment that sits in plain open view in those gorgeous media centers, but Daniel's curious fingers would have Pottery Barn mom and dad scrambling. House plants? Ha.
So I was quite amused to read this New York Times article, which I found courtesy of the Star Tribune blog Cribsheet. Basically: Having children changes lots of things about a couple's lifestyle, and for parents (particularly older ones) who have spent time and money furnishing their homes the way they want them, the world of baby gear and childproofing can come as quite a shock. “Once you become a parent, your home is not your own,” one woman is quoted as saying. “I think you mourn your previous life, at least for a while. You’re never going to have what you had.” Amen to that.
I'd say our house is still a work in progress when it comes to decorating it. Steve and I don't have a lot of expensive furniture, but we've bought a few nice pieces over the past few years. (I cringed when one woman in the article said her 4-year-old used a pen to carve her name into a cherry dining table just delivered from France. “I thought I would die,” she said.) But I know I've had to let go of some of my decorating dreams since Daniel became mobile.
Our living room is strewn with toys, which sometimes end the day reorganized into their baskets, but often spend the night un-put-away. A few of the sharper corners on the coffee table and wood mission chair are covered with horrendously ugly foam protectors, which we realized were necessary after Daniel started to bruise his head on them repeatedly. The coffee table is shoved up against the beautiful cherry bookcase, giving him more play space and blocking from his reach (for now) a few items we would like to keep there untouched — certain books, the box of bill-paying essentials, candles, pottery figures I acquired in Mississippi. The open shelves that serve as part of a dividing wall between our dining room and the front door used to have family photos lined up on them (and Steve's entire CD collection, a holdover from his bachelor days that I confess I was happy to see go). Now they're pretty much empty, except to serve as repositories for harmless, unbreakable things like stuffed animals. We deliberately chose a closed armoire to house our TV, stereo equipment, DVDs and CDs because otherwise they would become part of Daniel's toy collection. Some toddlers might leave that stuff alone, but not Daniel. He has an amazingly persistent sense of curiosity. We set up old stereo equipment in the basement playroom just so he can push buttons, turn knobs and insert plugs to his heart's content. Maybe he will be like his grandpa and be an electronics genius.
In the meantime, we walk the ever-shifting line between keeping our belongings (and son) safe and not giving in completely. We haven't drilled any holes for drawer-blocking devices into our bedroom dresser or nightstands yet — we just can't bear to — so Daniel has free reign in our drawers. We adjust by making sure there's nothing in there that can hurt him. Pens? Nope. Foot buffers? OK. Socks? Fine. We're training him to put them back when he's done pulling them out of my sock drawer. (I am sure we will regret this choice the day he carries some embarrassing bedroom item out into the living room during playgroup, but so far he hasn't looked twice at the ... ahem ... unmentionables.) I resonated with a comment one woman in the article made: “I’m pretty sensitive aesthetically, and it does something for me when I look at a pretty room," she said, describing a dining room they converted into a children's play area. "Looking at what the room used to be was the visual equivalent of listening to Bach or Mozart. Now it’s the visual equivalent of listening to Barney.”
I figure it's just a few years before maybe we can have some of our space back. In the meantime, we try to keep a sense of perspective. We may not have a perfect house, but we do have a pretty cute son (who I'm sure is going to have a pretty cute brother), and we're very fortunate for that. So we live with the toddler-proof home and do our best to keep him away from the gorgeous coffee table displays when we go to other people's houses. That's our life, and I'm OK with it.