GRANDPARENTING BY TOM AND DEE AND COUSIN KEY
Dear Grandparenting: After my daughter Lucky had her second baby in two years, I picked up and moved halfway across the country to be closer to her family and help out with my two young grandchildren. That was four months ago. Since then “issues” keep coming up about how I care for my grandchildren.
If it’s not one thing then it’s another. To give you an idea, Lucky has taken me to task about letting the babies cry and exploded when I told her it was high time to stop with the breastfeeding. There have plenty of other disagreements. Lucky is starting to shake my confidence. She says I’m just stubborn and old-fashioned. I say my way is how it’s always been done. Has childrearing really changed that much since I was a young mother? Helen Winder, Philadelphia, Pa.
Dear Helen: In a word, yes. Generations of grandmothers once served as the voice of authority on childrearing, daughters deferring to their collective wisdom. Motherly advice books began to chip away at their monopoly around 1900; these manuals, supposedly supported by “science,” can seem zany today. One presented evidence that newborns should sleep with their heads pointed due north. Another advised pregnant mothers to avoid thinking of “ugly people.” But mothers were buying what these “experts” were selling. The popularity of Dr. Benjamin Spock’s bestseller “Baby and Child Care” in the 1950s put more grandmothers out to pasture. As families became more dispersed, books and pediatricians filled the vacuum for new mothers afraid of what they didn’t know.
Bringing up babies remains a boom market. Price is no object when it comes to perpetuating the family line. Best childrearing practices continue to evolve, driven by a wealth of interest and research. Back in the 1940’s, a crying baby was somehow believed to be doing itself a favor; even handling an infant beyond the bare minimum was frowned upon. After the medical community began touting the health benefits of breastfeeding until 24 months and beyond, that social stigma began to diminish. Even bowl movements were once regimented and prescribed.
The art of childrearing is a work in progress. Dr. Markella Rutherford of Wellesley College tried to get a handle on its drift by analyzing hundreds of advice columns and articles on the topic published between 1920 and 2006. She concludes that today’s grandchildren have more freedoms inside the home but fewer outside. Modern grandchildren have but one primary chore Ð doing their homework Ð instead of being expected to pitch in with meals and housework. They also have less opportunity to contribute to the greater community.
But one thing hasn’t changed. Grandparents still worry about their grandchildren. It’s just that they find different issues to worry about than their forebears did.
** ** **
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
“Age only matters if you’re cheese.” — the late Helen Hayes, legendary American actress whose career spanned 80 years
** ** **
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.