Once upon a time, I was a young, naïve, enthusiastic mom with two kids under the age of three. I look back on those days fondly, even though by today's parenting standards, it was prehistoric.
When my kids were born, I had no concept of how backwards we were. We were abject failures. We didn’t have fancy car seats, expensive designer strollers, or ergonomically correct swings and bouncers that do everything but fold laundry and make dinner. My parents didn’t either, and neither did their parents. We didn’t know it, but we were living in the dark ages, and it’s a miracle that our girls made it to adolescence.
Times have changed. My house used to be somewhat neat and tidy. Now that I’m a grandma three times over (with a fourth on the way), my living room is a Babies-R-Us showroom. Between the pack-and-play, the rocker, the swing, the kid’s picnic table, Battle Rovers and assorted “bags of fun” that only an Olympic weight lifter could successfully lift, our décor is best described as “shabby Grandparent chic” with most of the emphasis on shabby.
I watch the newborn swing in her hammock as a soft lullaby plays below the din of “Monsters University." If this thing had arms, it could change her diaper. And it vibrates too. I wish I could lay in a vibrating hammock that sings to me. But, even if I had one, I don’t have the room to put it anywhere.
I marvel at the baby’s brand spanking new bassinet. It shifts and tilts. It even has a night-light. Our kids’ bassinet was a wooden laundry basket on wheels with a tent, and it was as big as the Titanic. When my mom rolled it out at my baby shower, the women ooh-ed and aah-ed as if it was a brand-spanking new Cadillac hot off the assembly line.
We had one cheap umbrella stroller – we managed to make it work for all three of our kids without any major mishaps – and a whale of a carriage that I only used once because we would have needed Einstein to come back to life and figure out how to put it in and out of a car.
Parents today have a myriad of choices. My kids researched their baby’s “travel system” as if they were plotting a defense against a zombie invasion. What they ended up buying would have been, in their grandparents’ day, the equivalent of a mortgage payment. At least the baby will be protected against zombies, I’m not so certain about the rest of us.
Which brings me to another thing we didn’t have, and had no idea that we even needed: the Internet. I can’t believe all the things I was missing: lists on how to be a responsible parent (all I had was a thumb eared copy of Dr. Spock), how to make homemade baby food that could earn the Gordon Ramsay seal of approval (I simply mashed bananas and peas in a bowl), and how to turn my girls into fashionably correct divas-in-training with Baby Yeezys.
Also, thanks to the World Wide Web, I can go online 24/7 and convince myself that my baby is suffering from a multitude of illnesses and upsets. She’s not pooping enough, she must have a gastric obstruction. She's pooping too much, that’s not good either, could be worms or an infection. And let’s not forget about peeing – too little, she’s dehydrated, too much, well, there has to be a reason for that too too. Let’s check WebMD again. Spitting up must mean a food allergy of some kind. Cold feet, her circulation is terrible. She’s too hot – oh dear, must have a fever. I get sick just thinking about it, let me look that up too.
It's a wonder that any of us ever got any sleep. I realize now that we should've been checking them every minute of the night. And don’t talk about putting the baby to sleep on her stomach. I did that, and now I would be drawn and quartered for it.
My husband and I were quaint, I guess. We didn’t want to know the sex of our unborn children. Knowing that our baby was healthy was enough for us. Today’s parents really want to know - they have gender reveal parties, baby showers, and decorations to plan.
My gender reveal was in the delivery room. People gave us gifts in gender-neutral greens and yellows. I didn’t have a fancy designer nursery, just a basic crib and a changing table I picked out of a Sears catalogue.
Apparently, my parenting fails weren't enough to scar my kids for life because now I’m a full-time grandma. My kids trust me with their kids, and I love every minute of it.
I guess for everything I did wrong – for every piece of gear I lacked, for every child-rearing strategy I didn't know about, for every gender reveal party I didn't have – I must have done something right.