Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Way Things Were


My mom is horrified by car seats. She is convinced that I am going to drive into the river and that I'm not going to be able to get the babies out of their seats. It doesn't matter that I'm about 4 times faster at getting the babies in and out of their seats than she is (practice, practice, practice). She thinks the seats are little plastic death traps.

This has prompted her to tease me about all the harnesses in my kids' lives. The swings, the high chairs, the bouncy seats - all of the things that we put our kids in, today, have at least 3-point, and usually 5-point harnesses. My generation has an expectation that if you put a child in something, he or she will still be there when you come back.

Apparently this was not The Way Things Were when my mom was raising us, which brings me to our new feature:

The Way Things Were

...in which I will explore how parenting has changed since the stone age when I was little.

We begin with car seats. Apparently there was no such animal when I was a kid. Acceptable substitutes included laundry baskets, a parent's lap, and the back window of the car. Apparently when one parent was traveling alone with a child, it was standard practice to hold a child in one's lap while one was driving. DRIVING. Apparently Mom even nursed me while she was in the act of driving at times - not just as a passenger in the car, but while she was in control of the trajectory of the vehicle. And this was not an abnormal thing to do - my friend Shannyn's mom, apparently, did the same thing when Shannyn was little.

These days, if you don't spend $200 on the state of the art car seat, with a five point harness, cushioning, and its own miniature airbags, and if you don't strap Junior in more tightly than an astronaut on the Shuttle during take-off, you are a Bad Mommy. And children have to stay in their car seats until they are nine years old. Nine. Years. Old. Mom was probably driving when she was nine.

In addition, children are not allowed to ride in the front seat until they are twenty. This poses a serious problem for the 16 year old, learning to drive, because he or she must actually learn to drive from the back seat, and then transition to the front seat when he or she is old enough to not be frightened by the airbags when they go off.

I rear ended someone once (BK - before kids), and my air bags went off. Holy crimeny, that was scary. It sounded like a gun going off. My thoughts were, "Who's shooting at me?? What's all this white stuff???" before I figured out what had happened. And I had huge bruises and chemical burns on my forearms.

If you ask me, the greater risk is to the elderly, who may very well have a heart attack when the air bags go off. It seems to me that, given a choice, the kids with young, healthy hearts should be driving, and all of us old farts should be cowering in the back seat. Kids would probably make better drivers anyway. Have you ever watched them play video games?

What else was different when you were raising kids? Drop me an e-mail or a comment, and your crazy parenting practices may be featured in a future installment of The Way Things Were.

1 comment:

Kim said...

We used to stand on the armrest thing in between my mom and dad when they were driving. Yes, stand. And sing. We always sang.

But I found even when I was raising kids that things "weren't the same". No lawn jarts, they were replaced by these nerf things that weren't nearly as fun to hit your sibling in the head with. And no clackers. They were replaced by these stupid things with the balls attached to some plastic harness. There was absolutely no way to hit yourself in the head with those! How the hell were your supposed to know when to stop playing with them? We always stopped when we started seeing stars or passed out with the concussion.

And swings just aren't the same anymore, either, all these drop down bars that go in front of you when you're sitting on the swing. One of my favorite things was swinging really, really high and then flipping off the swing - extra points if you were actually able to plant at least one foot upon dismount.

And can you imagine someone introducing an easy bake oven or Creepy Crawler maker now? The "Good Parenting Association" would run them out on a rail.

Toys are no fun anymore. Kids even have to wear a helmet when riding a bike or a skateboard. And be truthful - did you learn to swim with water wings, or was it when your father and mother threw you off the side of the boat and said "She'll swim or drown, by God!"

Ok, maybe that was just *my* parents.

But it just seemed parents were more relaxed about child rearing. They had wide slat cribs that kids got their heads stuck in, and playpens made not out of mesh, but wood, and walkers that would flip over regularly and instead of high chairs, they used to tie the kids to regular chairs with dish towels.

Between the faulty equipment and laying in bed chipping the lead paint off the walls, and station wagons with a cargo full of kids bouncing around, it's a miracle any of us survived.