Thursday, March 18, 2010


I've been out of touch with "progress" it seems. I watched agape as two grandmothers and a recent mother filled two shopping carts at Babies R Us for a shower tomorrow night. They had a wallet full of money collected at a church appeal for a baby shower. The mother-to-be, my granddaughter, had registered her needs at the store. I understand stroller and crib sheets, that is about it. A bunch of other items which young mothers feel are necessary were unknown to me. I understand choosing items that match a color plan -- although I knew no such thing when I had children. But many items have been invented and we were told by the young mother -- a sister-in-law of the granddaughter -- that she finds them not only useful but indispensable.

To listen to the list of necessary items was to think I had raised babies in the dark ages. I never experienced a shower, nor did I feel bereft without one. Some things stuck me as frivolous in the extreme. When I wished to nurse a baby in a public place -- well, never in a public place but a semi public one like the automobile I was riding in, I did not need a "nursing shield" -- a swatch of fabric attached to a shaped whale bone stay to keep it modestly in place above the breast -- I simply put a blanket over my shoulder stole style and covered breast and baby. That is the only very cogent example I can give of what struck me as unnecessary inventions.

Just as breakfast cereal brands and varieties of salad dressing have multiplied, it seems so have the things a young mother feels she must have to get through a baby's first months of life. The picture above is the mountain of boxes that were purchased and wrapped this afternoon, many more items will appear at the event tomorrow. Babies will still coo endearingly to parents and grandparents and still awake crying at 3:00 in the morning, but now they will be cuddled on softly padded seats in bathtubs and lulled to sleep in their bassinets by tinkling toys with a choice of tunes to be played, not by mama's voice singing lullabies. The great American consumer machine is doing it's product extension thing and young couples feel they must have what the young couple down the street has -- how else can they tell that they are raising their babies right? Is it a miracle the grandparents of this crop of babies actually survived babyhood without these accouterments? Hmmm ... maybe it's a miracle the great-grandparents remained approximately sane back in that primitive era.

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