Chances are, if you've spent your twenties living la vida loca and avoiding parenthood like the plague, your place of residence is at best a teeming smorgasbord of breakables for a destructive toddler or a gaping death trap for a sweet crawling baby. Murphy's law dictates that at the moment when you're at your most reticent, your friend who has a baby will call you because she's right in the neighborhood and wondered if she could pop over with little Aiden or Isabella for a quick minute. Sure, you say, stop over! I haven't seen you in forever! As soon as you hang up, you panic. How are you going to baby-proof your entire place in 15 minutes?
The idea of hosting a toddler may be difficult for you to wrap your mind around, but as soon as you're done panicking, think of a baby like the world's most expensive and cunning puppy. This is going to be a challenge, but you can MacGyver your way out of this.
First, limit the baby-accessible space as much as possible. No, this doesn't mean fetch a cardboard box or a small chicken cage and just keep the kid in there for the duration of the visit. This means block off stairways, shut doors to non-main rooms, close off hallways if you can. Once you've established the space that the baby will be toddling around, take care of what could pose a physical danger to the child.
If there's anything babies love, it's opening things that are closed and putting shit in their mouths. Thus, all of those drawers and cabinets that contain poisonous household cleaning supplies need to be secured one way or another. Since a childless harpy like you probably doesn't have specially made childproof locks for cupboards (unless you have a very enterprising cat), use thick rubber bands, as every aspiring MacGyver type needs a drawer stuffed full of them. No rubber band? Get creative. Put a heavy thing in front of a cupboard that contains cleaning supplies. Sit in front of the cupboard like a kitchen troll. Tape the damn things shut. Just keep the baby out of there.
You're also going to want to move your drugs (prescription and recreational, and all associated paraphernalia) to higher ground and scour the floor for coins or beads. Crawl around to see things from the baby's perspective. Be the baby. Method act. Imagine that you have nothing in your mind but exploring the world by pulling on it and putting it in your mouth. Move magnets on the refrigerator so they're too high for the baby to reach. Put jewelry up and away. Remember, if it can fit inside a toddler's mouth and is in reach of the toddler's hands, the toddler will probably try to grab the thing with his or her hands and then put that thing in his or her mouth. It's a miracle our species hasn't gone extinct, what with all the poop eating and penny swallowing and wild remote control brandishing our young do.
Anything expensive or important to you should be moved to higher ground or put behind a closed door. Kids, while adorable, have a knack for finding the most important thing to break.
If you have a pet, move the animal's food and water dish to a location inaccessible to the baby. Cat litter and dog toys should be similarly stashed or blocked off. Further, if you have a dog that has never been around children, put the dog in another room. Just as some dogs hate men or women or are confused by people with beards, so too do certain dogs see children as terrifying garden gnomes that have come to life. The time to test your dog's temperament around children is not when the dog might have an opportunity to bite your friend's baby's face off. Of course, children can also be dangerous to small animals. Kittens, puppies, and small dogs should probably be put in another room, as most toddlers I've known haven't quite understood that a small animal's back leg doesn't double as a convenient handle for increased portability. And never leave a toddler unsupervised around an animal. It will only end in tears.
Babies also love pulling on things, so if you have long drapes or a tablecloth or a big potted plant, put those away or secure them so they'll be out of a baby's reach.
Babies also love running everywhere without looking where they're going, so use strong tape to secure the corners of rugs so they don't trip and get faceburn from your floors. The same goes for cords; either tape them down or put them away. If you have a low lying coffee table with sharp edges, you may want to consider moving that into one of the rooms that will be off limits to the baby. Use electrical outlet guards if you have them, or just move pieces of furniture in front of the outlets so the baby can't get to them. And make sure to lock your oven door (unless you live in a gingerbread house and that's what you were going for all along. No judgment).
In addition to the physical hazards your sexden of an apartment might pose to an infant or child, consider the moral hazards present in your abode. A male cohort with a preference for decorating with vintage pinups gave a friend's four year old son a sex education lesson that the boy's mother wasn't prepared to explain. Video games or DVD cases with violent imagery on the covers should probably be stashed. And if you have a really great Robert Mapplethorpe coffee table book, you might want to consider putting that away for a few minutes, as the child's parent may disagree with you on the definition of art. Make double extra sure to cordon off the area of your house that contains weird sex stuff, too. If you have a dungeon, maybe consider locking it up. Secure any and all grown up toys behind a locked door and/or inside a locked drawer. Lord knows that that squishy gel that comprises many bodily insertables is nearly irresistible to a toddler, and they're much too young to be around sex toys; a person shouldn't learn what a vagina tastes like until at least high school.
A child's curiosity is not easily suppressed, and so after assuring that your poisons and potions, breakables and edibles and buzzables are locked away, the best thing you can do prevent them from exploring too much is to keep them entertained. Pots, pans, bowls, and wooden spoons make for a fantastic baby cacophony, but at least the kid won't be shoving handfuls of Astroglide in his mouth.
Once the visit is complete, take a moment to pause and reflect on your accomplishment. You've done it! You've succeeded in not severely maiming your friend's child! Now pour yourself a glass of wine and look at pictures of cats on the internet, childless lady. You're worth it.
Image via AISPIX/Shutterstock.com.