Dear Grandparenting: When my daughter Kendra had her second baby I picked up and moved halfway across the country to help out with my two small grandchildren. That was five months ago. Ever since, all these “issues” keep cropping up about how I care for my grandchildren.
If it’s not one thing then it’s another. She takes me to task about letting the kids cry or sleep too long, or not get enough sleep. We argue about meals and when to feed them. She exploded when I told her to stop with the breastfeeding after four years. She says I’m too hard on the kids, and they need more baths. You get the idea.
Kendra is starting to shake my confidence. She says I’m stubborn and old-fashioned. I say my way is how it’s always been. Has childrearing really changed that much since I was a young mother? Jillian Perkins, Chandler, Arizona
Dear Jillian: Grandmothers served as an esteemed voice of wisdom on matters of childrearing for generations, but less so today.
Motherly advice books began to chip away at their authority in the 1900s. These manuals, supposedly supported by “science,” can seem zany. One presented evidence that newborns should sleep with their heads pointed due north. Another advised pregnant mothers to avoid thinking of “ugly people.”
But mothers were buying what they were selling. The popularity of Dr. Benjamin Spock’s bestseller “Baby and Child Care” in the 1950’s put more grandmothers out to pasture. And as families grew more dispersed, books and pediatricians filled the vacuum for all those new mothers worried about all they didn’t know.
Bringing up babies remains a boom market. Price can become no object when it comes to perpetuating the family line. Best childrearing practices continue to evolve, driven by a wealth of interest and research.
Dr. Markella Rutherford of Wellesley College got a handle on the changes by analyzing hundreds of advice columns and articles on childrearing and parenting from 1920 to the modern era. Today’s grandchildren have more freedoms inside the home but fewer outside. Modern grandchildren have only one primary chore — doing their homework — instead of being expected to pitch in with meals and housework, and have less opportunity to contribute to the greater community.
But one thing hasn’t changed. Grandparents will worry about their grandchildren and parents about children, and both will find different things to worry about.
Grand remark of the week
Teddy Chang from Islamorada, Florida is “happily retired”. When people ask how he’s doing, “I tell them I just got a big promotion. I became a grandparent.”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.