Tuesday, 13 March 2007

What would you do?

I've just been reading a cry from the heart from Her Bad Mother, who was worried about a teen mom with a newborn in an upright umbrella stroller and wanted to help or advise her. She decided not to do so, but says "What would you have done?"

I would probably not have noticed the problem, truth be told. My generation was a lot more laissez-faire about safety than yours. My girls were on skates at age two, playing (sort of) with hockey sticks and pucks by age five, and never, ever wore helmets. They had bikes and roller skates, ditto. They had a sort of suspended car seat with no seat belt until they grew out of it and then they went on booster seats in the back, with no seat belts until I bought a car that had them in the back seat. My granddaughter got her first helmet at about a year old so that her mother could skate and push her in a sports stroller. (Like Her Bad Mother, my daughter has two strollers.) She wears her hockey helmet to skate and ski and toboggan. I buckle and stuff and swear (silently) while I fit her snowsuited wiggly self into her car seat. It's a whole different mind set.

It's hard to judge how much of a problem a tiny baby is having unless you know the baby. In Africa I watched mothers slinging their very tiny kids into shawls and even the youngest usually went onto the mother's back. Getting the baby slung properly involved swinging the shawl around in an inimitably graceful manoeuvre which did, however, cause the infant's head to snap back at one point in the arc. The back carry also meant that the bigger children's legs were splayed way out to either side of the mother's hips.

When my older daughter was born, my mother found for me one of the first ever baby knapsack carriers. It was, essentially, a pouch in a bent tubular frame with a sling seat inside that could be adjusted as the baby grew. It was wonderful and I was the envy of all who saw me. But it did require that baby could hold up her head. Older daughter could do this very young (she could roll over at five weeks old, and grew up to be a gymnast.) Younger sister was born in July of 1967 and we decided to take her to Expo '67 in Montreal in early September. And we took her in the carrier, wadded in with diapers to keep her head in place.
Just as an aside, there was one (1) nursing station on the whole Expo '67 site. And it rained buckets the whole time we were there. I got a few weird looks while I nursed her, from time to time.

I vividly remember sitting with my mother in a restaurant -- a long time ago now -- while she fulminated about a teen mother who was feeding her toddler french fries. My mother really, really wanted to go and tell the girl off. As I sat in a restaurant not long ago with my daughter while she fed her toddler french fries, I thought about this and chuckled a bit. I once got my grandmother to talk to a tape recorder about some of the problems of caring for December born infants in a farmhouse heated with a coal stove. It's priceless!

Where am I going with this? Well -- I believe that babies do thrive in many different situations, many of which would not seem appropriate to another mother from another time or place. I buckle on helmets, and throat guards for hockey, I cope with the [censored] car seat. You know what, though. Neither of my daughters tasted a french fry until they were school age. You never know who's watching!


  1. Thanks for the link! How did you find me?

    If I felt I could have struck up a friendly conversation with the mother, I might have said something. But only if I thought there was a chance of her listening. Too often we are criticizing other mothers, instead of supporting them.

  2. I think it would be so cool to hear the tape of your grandmother! What an amazing record to have taken.

    This is a tough issue. I think some people take the safety issue to the extreme and end up with kids who aren't used to bumps or knocks. But there's also the issue of lessons learned. And, yes, there's also the issue of peer and societal pressure to at least appear as though you're doing well by your child. I think we've tried to find some kind of middle ground. Yes to car seat. No to padding around the edge of the coffee table. Yes to a few, strategically-placed baby gates. No to "Hot!" signs on anything in the house that can reach a temperature higher than that of the room.

  3. I was doing a course in Social Anthropology and was required to do a family history. I have other wonderful pieces, including a long document in which my mother dissed all her cousins. Precious stuff.