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I Have a Toddler, but I Still Love Pretty Things

By Beth Anne Ballance |

When Doug and I moved into our first home, a neighbor came over to visit and brought her new baby in tow. She sat down and glanced over at my formal dining room where I had just lovingly displayed my grandmother’s china in the glass hutch with the dimming light. “Yeaaaaaah,” she drawled. “When you have kids, that’s going to have to go.” Then she pointed to our built-in bookcases where I had stacks and stacks of favorite novels and a few knick-knacks. “That, too. Your kids will be climbing them in no time, ripping out the pages of books and throwing the vases. Might as well pack it up.”

I was horrified at her comment and I have to admit that five years later, I’m still pretty miffed at it. According to her, I had to pack up everything I loved and everything that made my house feel like my home, just because I had children. Furthermore, the idea that a child would sit and rip the pages out of a book made me never want to procreate.

So the idea was that a hurricane toddler would destroy my home and there was nothing I could do about it but embrace the mess, right? Why not just teach that some objects are off-limits for little hands and teach respect of possessions?

Despite her warnings, Doug and I did have a baby in our home with the china cabinet and bookcases and wool rugs. Hey!  Those things are all in one piece! We simply set boundaries for him. He was not to play in the dining room, which meant there was no risk of him climbing the china cabinet. We taught him not to pull books off the shelves (although I did move my collectors’ books to a secure place just in case). He’s not allowed to pull on the drapes. I cleaned regularly and had him help me pick up as soon as it was developmentally appropriate. When I purchased a few new things for our new house (like a mirrored bedside table and cream upholstered bed), my mother laughed that I was buying things like I didn’t have a toddler. I just waved her comment away — I like these things and it simply means no cranberry juice or chocolate for the kid in the bedroom.

Our house isn’t a museum, either … I pick things that I like, but I also select items that are easy to wash, easy to clean, and easy to replace if need be. Harrison is free to sit on the couches and run inside with his shoes on and play cars on the coffee table. We live in our house, but because we live in it, I want it to be pretty.

I’m not a perfect mother. I’ll never say I’m perfect.  But I still strongly disagree that having children means a destroyed home.

And guess what? My china cabinet is still standing.

More from BA:

10 darling note ideas for toddler school lunches.

My kid is just like a celebrity.

Honest Toddler

Regretful Toddler hilarity.

Beth Anne writes words & takes pictures on The Heir to Blair. You can also find her on the Twitters & Facebook.

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About Beth Anne Ballance


Beth Anne Ballance

Beth Anne Ballance is a born and bred Southern Belle, blogging at okay, ba and using words and pictures to celebrate the challenges of motherhood and the joy of life. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Read bio and latest posts → Read Beth Anne's latest posts →

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8 thoughts on “I Have a Toddler, but I Still Love Pretty Things

  1. Nikki says:

    I wish I could say the same. It became a daily battle keeping Henry off things that my husband and I decided that removing the temptation was easier than the constant reprimanding that Henry was getting on a daily basis. So ottomans and benches are still blocking bookcases and tv stands and curtains are still tied up so they aren’t pulled down. That being said, we have yet to put any sort of lock on any door or cabinet, so I guess some battles are easier than others.

  2. Candice says:

    I’m going to say it depends on the child. My son tries to climb our bookshelves every other day, despite being told repeatedly not to do so. He ripped books when he was younger (closer to 1 than 2) but now he just flips through them. I do not have anything breakable around though, because he WILL break it.

    That said, the smugness with which parents tell other parents these types of things, “Oh, you’ll never be able to do/have THAT again” is beyond aggravating. I had someone once tell me to get rid of one of my couches when I said I didn’t have time for a particular baby item because “once you have kids, it’s not like you ever have company again anyway.” The worst part? She ended up being right, at least where we’re concerned. LOL

  3. SarahE says:

    I very very strongly agree with you! We’ve taught E boundaries since day one and I think that is a GOOD thing. Now my cats on the other hand don’t get the boundaries thing so much.

  4. Meagan says:

    When did you start teaching clean up? My guy is 13 months and I feel like age wise it’s getting close, but at the same time I can tell he’s nowhere near ready to grasp it developmentally.

  5. Christina says:

    Oh suuuuuuuuure. It’s all fine china and fun til you have more than 1 kid.. especially close in age.. Try two boys 22 months apart. Lemme know how good grannies china reglues.

    I jest. Mostly. But seriously we do have rules here.. but sometimes a ball is bounced in the house and the only vase you kept of the 12 ugly ones you got at your engagement party gets knocked over and splatters like a bag of glass on the floor.. shit happens.. it isnt’ a parenting flaw, it’s just nature of the beast.

  6. Nicole says:

    I am with you. We have taught our son that he has things he can and cannot touch. The only baby proofing things we did was a gate on the stair, covers on the outlets, and cabinet locks on two cabinet in the kitchen (one with our cleaning supplies and one with our liquor in it.). Our TV entertainment center has tons of bottons that he can touch and books on our book shelves. I always felt that we needed to teach him not to touch things since not all places are baby proofed like the grandparents houses or aunts house. It took time around 1-1.5 but he doesn’t touch or climb on anything. Gotta teach boundaries. And the excuse boys will be boys is not acceptable.

  7. Amy says:

    I moved the wedding album and coffee table books. Knick knacks remain. We’ve just explained to Charlotte those are only for “looking”. Keep those nice things, girl! Love it!

  8. Mary says:

    I LOVE this! Since my husband and I moved into our house almost 3 years ago I have been hearing the SAME thing from countless people including my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, friends and co-workers and it has been a sore point for me. Notice my family doesn’t make these comments.

    At first it totally boggled me, I grew up with most of the same items in our house, lots of antique items and nicknacks. We bought our house about the same time my mother sold hers and down sized so we were fortunate to reuse and incorporate most of the furniture and decor into our much smaller house.

    My mother had all of this + more junk in the house while I was growing up and I never destroyed anything. I mean maybe there was the occasional accident but I never played in the dining room or ripped out book pages either.

    What terrified me more was when my sister-in-law’s kids come over and run through the house into rooms opening up draws and doors and pocketing handfuls of mints from a teeny tiny candy dish I keep by the front door. And no one seems to find it odd or better yet talk to the children about their behavior. Or ever say NO! This would have NEVER flown when I was a kiddo. NEVER.

    And yet I never felt restricted growing up. There were play areas in the house and then there was the dining room, kitchen etc. And I ate in the kitchen at the table not walking around my aunt’s house munching on a doughnut leaving a trail of crumbs.

    I am now 7 months pregnant and more than ever hear about what we will have to move and give up but I disagree and will do what I can to raise a well behaved child that respects their belongings as well as other’s.

    Thank you for this article it made my day!

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