Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Parenting Before the Internet

This afternoon I was paying for gas at the local Shell station and I had Lily inside with me, in her car seat. There were 2 sweet little old ladies (at least mid-70s) who were oohing and aahing about how cute Lily is. After a few seconds the littler and older of the two ladies looked up at me and said "when I had my babies we had to shut them up in a room and not let anyone around them..." and I looked up in surprise (Lily is 6 weeks now) and asked her how long she had to do that for. She turned to the other Lady and said do you remember having to do that? and the other one simply said no and walked out of the store. The littler one then looked around a little flustered and said "...my mother told me I had to do that..."

As I was leaving the store I was thinking how lucky I am to have as much information as I want about parenting at my fingertips. I was also thinking about how some of the women on MDC are really mad at their parents for not parenting them in a way they agree with, even if they did not have abusive childhoods.

The thing I think so many of us new parents are not considering is that our mothers, and their mothers before them, did not have a lot of parenting options and information presented to them. They were largely told "this is how you take care of a baby..." and who can blame them for accepting that when they didn't have the opportunity to easily find another way? Sure they could read books, but how many books can you read in your spare time with a little one? And how do you know which books are the good ones?

Throughout history the methods of parenting have been passed down from parents and community to new parents. The methods common within a culture became the start of enculturation and the methods that were unique to particular families presented traditions that solidified membership and education of ones familial group.

In every age and culture some new parents chose to parent differently in some ways. There were the things they remembered with pain and embarrassment, those they chose not to do, but in all they did as they were told because they were inexperienced and worried about not doing the best thing for their loved one.

So I wonder how little old ladies feel about this new world where the things they were taught to be true have changed so much. Did that frail and stooped woman regret locking her new baby away from the world for however long her mom said she should? Did her friend's reaction make her wonder how many other things she was told she "had" to do were really not musts?

And do today's grandparents look at our options, our information and research that gives us the confidence to find our own path, and wish they had those or feel glad that they at least "knew" what was right?

I can only say that I am glad that I have such a vast resource for my parenting information. I also imagine it would have been something my mom would have enjoyed and used if she'd had the chance.