Home, safe home: Creating a safe environment for an adventurous little one

Leah Montgomery plays in her family's new home—one much better suited to her needs and safety. Photo: Elli Williams Leah Montgomery plays in her family’s new home—one much better suited to her needs and safety. Photo: Elli Williams

Up until six months ago, Tara and Andrew Montgomery were struggling to provide a safe and freedom-filled environment for their young daughter, Leah (18 months). They were living in an old North Downtown farmhouse, and their newly mobile child was at odds with the accoutrements of the 1910 home, as Tara, a nurse at UVA, pointed out. “We originally set up her room over in that house when she was born. And then she started really crawling and getting around. And it was winter and all of the hot radiators were on, and we were just like, this is not going to work.”

The layout didn’t exactly help. “In the old farmhouse,” Tara said, “there was no way to see anything but the room you were in. So, if she went out of the room I couldn’t just let her. I was constantly tied to her at all times.”

Leah’s parents found ways to keep her “contained but entertained,” as Andrew put it.

“In our old kitchen,” Tara explained, “we had one of those play things, that you can sit them in. That is how I got ready in the morning.” Leah was often in the Ergo carrier or strapped into a doorway Jumperoo. Andrew, an architect and designer, spoke about another option that they employed in the hopes of keeping baby Leah safe. “Actually, one thing that we did was just to decide, O.K., our den is going to be the ‘safe room’, because we couldn’t make our whole house safe. This is where we can rest assured that she will be safe, and be vigilant everywhere else.”

Despite their best attempts, it was clear that the house they were renting was just not meeting their family’s needs. So, the Montgomerys began to look for a more suitable home.

They ended up buying a newly constructed 1,400-square-foot home in south Belmont with a family-friendly floor plan and up-to-date amenities. “That’s sort of why this house was so attractive,” Tara said, “because the downstairs layout was just so open. And there is one set of stairs so we just need a baby gate at the top and one at the bottom and she is safe at any level. [Now, it’s better] sort of having an open space that is kind of gently baby-proofed so there’s not really a lot of anxiety about what she’s getting into.”

The move has had its drawbacks, as Tara mentioned. “We walked to the Mall everyday….So that was something we knew we’d be kind of giving up by coming over here, which was really, really hard. But now, we still walk the neighborhood and there are a lot of parks over here.” Also, there’s been a bit of an issue with noise. “Sound travels right up, so we put a noise-maker in her room.”

Some problems are more easily solved than others.