I remember my mother’s amazement when Kid One was born. She looked at her baby grandson and she marvelled over the new wee undershirts that swept under the back, under the rubber pants and domed at the front… a series of domes for growth.
“Boy, I wish we’d had those,” she said. All we had for you kids was flannellette nighties with a tie at the neck and open down the back (sort of like a miniature hospital gown).
“And these stretchy sleepers, now that is just incredible,” she continued.
She marvelled at the vast assortment of walkers (with wheels), jolly jumpers, swingomatics, and that invention to end all others… the car seat.
I remember feeling smug.
I don’t know why… I hadn’t invented any of it.
But now, I’m the grandmother and as I look at the incredible selection of gear for babies these days, I find myself joining my mother and understanding her wonderment.
While my baby brother was popped into a metal and cloth gizmo that simply hooked over the front seat in between mom and dad (read, car seat), my kids had extruded plastic seats that anchored with bolts that were installed in the trunk and kept the kid safely in the back seat. Hard, cold plastic. With fibre belts. No quilted covers (until I made one). And no choice. It was the white plastic bucket affair for newborns and then one bigger one for when they moved from infant to toddler. No strict rules, there, either. When you could no longer squish them into the rear facing bucket, you moved them to the forward facing bigger seat. When they were about four, or you lost the ‘battle’ they graduated to a booster seat and that was it.
But now… holy smoke! There are carrying handles and hoods. The seats snap into stroller frames with cup holders and amusement devices that hang in the kid’s face. And there are mirrors that attach to the rear headrest so the kid can see themselves and the parents can look in the rear view mirror and see the kid. And they all ride facing backward in a graduation of devices that keep them immobilized … some of them even have air bags!
I find myself sounding more and more like my mother… needing a lesson for putting the seat into the car. Another lesson for getting it out. Still another to get it into the stroller frame. Clearly these baby-boomer-baby-parents have engineering degrees or a sixth sense about how to make them all work. And they’re all different!!!
And let’s look at the humble swingomatic. While we were thrilled with the canvas and bent steel seats that permanently hooked to a frame with a handle that let you wind the thing up (and wake up the baby at the same time), today’s swingomatics are space age. They have music, lights, bowls of simulated fish swimming around, and settings that let the baby rock gently or whip back and forth with the seat turning in at least three directions. And there’s no loud turning handle, anymore. It’s battery operated and has tons of settings… another lesson or two for that device.
Cute wee baby seats, plastic ones with a metal support let you pop the kid on the table and set it to sitting or almost lying down. An invention my mother just moaned over when she saw it. And now? Well, they fibrate, they rock, they have an arc of covered plastic that holds any number of baby toys… they’re amazing. I won’t even talk about diaper choices here… it’s a column all by itself!
Playmats? Well, my kids laid on a blanket on the floor with a long piece of dressmaker’s elastic stretching between the chairs with things like spoons, rattles, soft animals looped into the elastic and hanging just above the kid’s face. That was my invention. But today? Well, a playmat has music, interchangeable toys with pull handles so baby can reach, grab and get instant results. And while the boomer babies had a good time with paper labelled Fisher Price telephones, chickens, and mock radios that a parent would wind up, today’s babies already know more than their grandparents! Show & Tell has taken on a whole new meaning!
As our first grand-daughter reached her pinnacle first birthday, I braved the huge toy store to see what amusing thing we could find for her. Need I even describe my shock? The dilemma of selection, reading the packaging to find out what these toys would teach… it was a tough decision. These stores are likely the ultimate grandparent emporiums… I can go back for at least a dozen years. With grand-daughter number two approaching her half-year mark, it’s a challenge to even concentrate enough to consider what might be useful for her (and her parents).
And so, as they say, what goes around comes around. And while the equipment is much more advanced, likely based mostly on the computer chip, the feeling of stunned awe has now passed from my mother to me.