Prior to COVID-19, when we were allowed outside, my daughter said to me, “Shoes! Owside, Mama?” Chubby hands proudly plop mismatched shoes. If I let her she’d live outside. With sticks, bugs, trash trucks, our candy offering neighbor. The potential for wonder is endless. Because they’re still little, when the kids play in the backyard I go too. While tying my shoes I wondered when they could go out without direct supervision. I pop out my phone for a Google search.
Wait, what did Moms in prior generations do when faced with these questions? No smartphone, no internet. Did they even question leaving kids unattended in the yard? After bedtime I called to investigate. My grandma and mom gave insight as moms in the 1960’s and 1980’s. Good, bad and indifferent, things have certainly changed:
- Go play. Kids went outside without supervision. They got their wiggles out, used their imaginations and parents were not fearful.
- Respect. Questioning authority is new. There was a time when kids were taught to respect adults. This could mean the crossing guard, the piano teacher or a stranger at the market.
- Spanking. Parents would whack their kids on the bottom in public and no one batted an eye.
- Mind your own… three year old on a bottle? 7 year old thumb sucker? It didn’t matter. Parents didn’t live in fear of public opinion as there was no need. Mom shaming wasn’t a thing. If a kid acted up, a stranger admonished the child, not the parent.
- Safety. My grandma has no recollection of car seats. When I was pregnant, my mom couldn’t believe we aren’t supposed to use crib bumpers. The concept of child safety has evolved over the years. If in doubt, check out the car seat/medieval torture device Debra Winger uses in 1983’s “Terms of Endearment.”
- Technology. While I have a love/hate relationship with my baby monitor, it has helped me to catch croup before it escalates and spy on my older daughter when she’s supposed to be cleaning up. Nowadays the baby monitor is a necessity that my parents just didn’t have. Next, how did anyone make parenting decisions without the input of millions of strangers on the internet? My parents had to call a doctor with rash questions and read a book for toilet training tips. Gasp!
- Convenience. Cloth diapers may be the eco-friendly choice now but it was the only choice for generations. My paternal grandma said diaper pins had a large handle which hooked onto the toilet bowl to soak the diaper before they washed it (by hand). I have the benefit of motorized baby swings, wipes, email alerts for school closures and Disney Jr. playing all night when a flu bug hits.
Suffice to say I have mixed feelings about changes over the years. I’m thankful for advances in convenience and safety but I’ve also experienced the anxiety caused by too much information and public ridicule. I’m interested to see how things change for future generations. Personally, I’m hoping for paid paternity leave and self-buckling car seats.