“Your house is basically a toddler death trap.”
I can’t remember which friend jokingly described our home to me in this way, but I vividly remember it striking me: “Yes, that’s a pretty fair assessment.”
I don’t know how long you’ve been reading The Gathered Home, but I never want to give the impression that I have all of the answers or that I’m an expert in much of anything (except Craigslist, in which I believe I’ve earned my black belt).
It probably goes without saying, but I don’t have any interior design credentials or professional experience. I decorate my home the way I want to, with things that I love, and I do consider myself extremely lucky that my husband Bryan has given me mostly carte blanche with style choices: if I’m happy, he’s happy.
Over the years, I’ve learned to give myself carte blanche as well – the freedom to make my unique choices without the fear of what other people will think.
I’ve thrived under the boldness that comes with this liberty of self-expression. My style has evolved and adapted and I’ve had the chance to try all sorts of wild and crazy things in my home and decide whether or not they work for me.
I’ve been having the time of my life decorating for myself, and the truth is, “myself” is a 27-year-old woman with no children and certain decorating similarities to that stereotypical grandmother with tchotchkes everywhere and a sofa wrapped in plastic.
I’ll be honest, mamas: I don’t think my 100-year-old mustard velvet couch has a prayer against peanut butter and jelly fingers. And maybe you’ve thought the same.
You see, I don’t know what I don’t know. My life experience so far is a husband, who’s admittedly pretty hard on throw pillows, and two demanding cats that I sometimes compare to toddlers (although I think that’s hardly fair to the toddlers).
And I’ve always known that perhaps my upholstery choices and affinity for breakable decorative objects everywhere wouldn’t end up being ideal for children, but I figured parents generally have time to grow into that – to baby-proof, assess furniture practicality, and learn to adapt their decor to a style that doesn’t encourage survival of the fittest.
Toddler vs. the burl dining room table – place your bets! Toddler’s weapon of choice: crayons and lipstick. Table’s meager defense: Brynne’s tears of anguish.
So here’s what this post isn’t: it’s not a pregnancy announcement, although we do hope for children one day.
It’s just a confession: I don’t take child-friendliness into consideration when I decorate, and I’m realizing that needs to change.
Up until now, we haven’t had many people in our circle of friends with young children or even babies, but that has recently changed. We moved, found a new church, got plugged into a wonderful group of people, and now there are ten children that we interact with on a regular basis.
And I love kids, I really do! I get such a kick out of their their energy and their perspectives and the answers they come up with to their questions about the world.
And then I watch them wobble around and fall, or take off to explore, and I’m filled with dread because…
My house is a toddler death trap.
And I hate feeling like I can’t even open my home up to my friends because I’m that crazy lady who basically lives in an antique store where nothing can be touched, with signs warning parents to keep their children with them at all times. (I fall short of outlawing large bags and backpacks, but still…)
I’ve been wrestling with this lately and I’ve come face to face with a few harsh truths:
This isn’t what I believe a home should be. Certainly, first and foremost, it should be a place of refuge and comfort for the people who live inside it. But secondly, I want it to be a place of warm welcome to visiting family and friends, where they can relax and feel at ease.
I’ve grown rather selfish with my house. While I think it’s a good thing that over the years, I’ve learned to embrace my own style and run with it, it has also allowed me to develop blind spots.
When I was little, my younger sister and I shared a dollhouse. She wanted to play with the dolls and act out their daily lives; I wanted to set everything up just so and leave it, a perfect vignette frozen in time.
Twenty years later, that’s still my first impulse – I just have a slightly larger canvas for my decorating still life paintings.
I believe that good things are meant to be shared. Bryan and I have more than we need: more space, more things. And really what is the point of that if not to turn around and share the good things in our life with others? How lonely to create my picture-perfect, life-sized dollhouse and just pose inside!
We want to be able to throw open our door, to embrace community and fellowship, and use the gifts we’ve been given to love other people.
I want my couch to simply be a place to seat friends, my table to be a platform for good food and a circle of conversation – and yes, they can also be objects of art in their own right, but they should absolutely not be obstacles to hospitality!
And I want to be able to say to my friends with children, “Come on over!” and enjoy their company and the fun and energy that fills our house, without worrying about my “precious” things that truly aren’t anywhere near as precious as building relationships.
Honestly, I’m not sure how much will change around here, but I do know that I’ve definitely had a change of perspective, and I value the chance to chat through it all with you here!
I’d love to hear details of how you make your home child friendly – whether for your own children or visiting kiddos – especially if, like me, you have a love for gathering curios and knickknacks.
(And for the record, when it comes to actual safety concerns, I do make sure to do things like anchor bookcases to the wall!)
P.S. Can I just add – we are having a fantastic discussion about this on Instagram right here. I’m loving hearing everyone’s thoughts and ideas!