In Defense Of The Old Lady

I give “old ladies” a hard time because they give me a hard time. There is always some white haired grandma telling me to put socks on my baby (in July!) or that using a carrier will suffocate him. I’ve had a grandpa or two share words of wisdom, as well, but not as often as the female mitten police. Men prefer to tell me what not to do. “Oh, boys will be boys, you have to let them rough house.” I do let them rough house, I don’t let them rough house with forks in their hands. I’m over sensitive to stab wounds. Old ladies, though, they like to tell me what I’m doing wrong, and it is always something archaic or unimportant. It was a little chilly in the store the day that grandma told me my newborn needed socks but it was so hot and humid outside it was like walking through stew, I wasn’t going to bother digging socks that won’t stay on out of storage for 5 minutes in the store to grab bread. To me that is common sense, my favorite way to parent.

I was eavesdropping the other day at the mall play area. I never think to schedule a play date for these visits because they are often impromptu and generally when I have time to stop and play other moms are busy. Our schedule is hectic, to say the least. So, I eavesdrop and inject myself into other conversations to meet moms. If they think this is creepy they have never let on. Snarky McSnarkbritches and Dr. Google were talking to No Time On The Internet Mom about her many and various mistakes as a parent, from  juice to car seats to sleeping arrangements. I self consciously patted my hair, feeling for the few coarse gray hairs that have been popping in since Little S was born and bit my tongue to refrain from sounding like someone’s grandmother.

Having a 16 year age gap between children I have seen first hand the phenomenon my mother described to me when Goldilocks was a Golden Baby, still being put to sleep on her tummy as “current research” suggested. My mom pointed out how much “current research” had changed and cycled back to the same things over and over again just in the time since we were babies. Having a 16 year age gap between my oldest and youngest child I have now seen that research flux first hand and feel somewhat justified laughing at it.

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Shortly before Golden Baby was born it was still widely accepted to put juice in baby bottles. Can you imagine the scandal if you tried it today?

Other moms of young children that I talk to now about things I did in the past sometimes cluck their tongue and chalk my poor parenting choices up to being so young when the girls were little, but I was there and I can tell you, I was doing pretty damn good thanks to my awesome pediatrician and a healthy dose of common sense. I didn’t have the internet on my cell phone, I didn’t even have a cell phone. Goldy was born in 1994, when the internet was brand new, and parent shaming on a grand and global level was still on the horizon. I had to gather facts the old fashioned way. I read every parenting book I could get my hands on, listened to our doctors and then did what I thought was right.  I remember thinking the things my mother’s generation did were crazy and I’m sure Sharkboy’s generation will look back at us now and think how naive and uninformed we were. And we are. For everything we know there is so much we don’t know and may never know, which is why it would serve us well to sit down and shut up about the things we think we know.

This video clip was recorded a year before Goldilocks was born.

After you read this conduct your own experiment. This works best on Facebook or another social media site.  Ask your friends when a child should see the dentist for the first time. Don’t bother charting it out but find a rough percentage of how many people say they absolutely must go by the age of one. Then calculate about what percentage say that is completely and ridiculously unnecessary because their doctor said they could wait until their child was three. Add those two numbers together on a post it note and shred it in the garbage disposal. Only listen to and hang out with the remainder of the people that quietly told you their opinion without trying to impress upon you that it was the only right answer. Smile politely at everyone else.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends visiting at the sign of their first tooth or by their first birthday.  Beauty and Goldy both went at age three as recommended at the time and they have nearly perfect teeth still today. Sharkboy went at 16 months, exactly one year from the date he got his first tooth and had a full set of teeth, all in great shape. Little S has 6 teeth and will probably go soon after turning one. My point isn’t that you’re doing it wrong. My point is that “current research” and “expert opinions” don’t even always agree, so it is unlikely that we will all make the same choices with our children, even if we all choose to follow the path of research and experts. And, if like me, you have seen all of that change and change back again, you might be inclined to smile politely or  laugh out loud at people who think they have it all figured out.

Which brings me to the old ladies and their constant advice.  Granny was probably chilly in the air conditioning. She saw bare toes and thought, “That baby needs socks.” And it’s very likely she chuckled at me when I told her, “He’s fine, thanks.” Because we both thought we had it all figured out. Even common sense can take us down varying paths.

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