Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mama's Mistakes

I think the couch, hairdo and stripey outfit say it all.
Christmas, 1973

I was interviewed on the Gab Blog today about being a mother. I have to say, I want to be all I cracked myself up to be, but in the spirit of full disclosure I'll admit to a few super blunders I made in the 1970's. You deserve to see both sides.

I drove my babies around without car seats. I held them (and nursed them) in the front seat when Dee drove 80 miles round trip to my folks' every week. If I was alone I often laid them on the front seat (they were bench seats in those days) next to me with no restraint at all! I did this from the time they were a week old!

Illustration from Mommy Knows Worst, by James Lileks

We took a five hour road trip with Josh in the back of our VW, in a bassinet like this one. Gabi was two and sat on my lap. Later, as toddlers, my kids stood in the middle of the front seat. In this world of car seats, it's hard to imagine being so irresponsible.

My pediatrician prescribed paregoric for just about everything: teething, earaches, upset stomachs, you name it. I had taken this horrible, licorice tasting medicine as a child, and I gave it to my kids routinely. The doctor even suggested giving an aspirin along with it to help a sick child sleep. He called it a soothing syrup. It is made from laudanum, which is a form of opium! I remember being very upset when I couldn't get a prescription for this any more, and I hoarded the last few spoonfuls I had left. I had no idea what this medication really was. I don't think anybody did.

A neat trick to entice a baby to take a pacifier was to coat it with honey. It never worked for me, and I never had a kid with a binky, but it was not for lack of trying. All seven kids were given massive doses of honey from the time they were born.

And then there was the matter of discipline. A time out was the boring part of a football game, and had nothing to do with children. I was a spanker. Usually it was just a whack on the bottom with my hand, but the wooden spoon was available as necessary. Just the rattle of the drawer where it was kept was a deterrent to bad behavior. "Spare the rod, spoil the child" was a proverb I believed, and my kids all have stories to prove it.

In those days all babies slept on their tummies. My mom told the story of a babysitter who put my brother on his back when he was tiny. He spit up, and choked on it. By the time she found him, he was blue. She grabbed him and ran next door to her parents. The jostling must have worked like CPR because he began breathing again, and was just fine, but it was a reminder that babies should NEVER be laid on their backs. It's still hard for me to adapt to this change. I'm always happy when a grandbaby learns to roll over, because then it's up to them if they sleep on their stomachs or not.

I made zillions of mistakes with my kids. I yelled, and cried, I hovered and neglected (sometimes I did all these things on the same afternoon.) I let my daughter suffer with a broken arm for a week before I realized she needed to see a doctor, but often insisted on unnecessary antibiotics hoping to keep the kids from getting sick. I prayed for more babies, but resented the fact that they invaded my whole life. I was fulfilled and bored, devoted and cross, annoyed and enchanted.

So, when you read all my marvelous mommy tips, remember that they are in retrospect. It's easier to talk a good game after the fact, than to be on the field getting tackled. Someone once said, "Adults produce children, and then children produce adults." Mine produced a philosopher.

17 comments:

Kay Dennison said...

Good words!!!!!!!! I identify!!!!

MissKris said...

You and me, girl, have thought and acted along parallel lines as moms. I still have my wooden spoon tucked away in a drawer. I never had to use it very often, but it spoke volumes whenever I took it out of the drawer, ha! In fact, my son said he'd like to 'inherit' it as a dad. As far as the paregoric goes, I never used that but I'd give my kids various cough syrups when needed and now we hear on the news we should NEVER have done that. When I was a kid I was anemic and my mom used to give me a tablespoon of the most noxious, horrible stuff in the world called "Beef, Iron, and Wine" tonic. It smelled like dead horses and tasted even worse. I wonder how I survived childhood, haha!

gab said...

First of all, the biggest mistakes were the hair...yours and mine in the first pic.

Second of all, OF COURSE I remember each and every mistake you made with me and the sibs...but choose to let them go and remember only happy stuff instead.

I would like a big ole bottle of Paregoric for my birthday please!

Stie: My Favorite Things said...

I remember being given paragoric. How funny. I was a drug addict and didn't know it.

I agree with Gabi - I think your worst mistakes were the hairdos and the outfits. Otherwise, they turned out all right.

Ashlee said...

My mom used to slap the wooden spoon on the counter top when we were naughty. We tease her about it now.
I wonder what we as parents now, will look back on and cringe at. They didn't have car seats back then, so how could you have "restrained" your kids? What are we missing out on now that will help us to "restrain" them? Or maybe it's me that needs a little more restraint! Sigh.

Joy Des Jardins said...

I still have a little problem with babies not sleeping on their tummies Marty. Moms are being told different things today...right or wrong...I'm a sceptic to some of it. It made perfect sense to me to lay a baby on their tummy to prevent any choking on spit-up....what changed?

andrea said...

linked to you through celia, trying to put names with blogs. this post was super! i loved it. i'm looking forward to hearing you speak at WC. you ARE the one speaking, right? you ARE the reason all of us are giving our husbands for attending, right? :O)

Beverly said...

Isn't it amazing what we did and called it love??? Of course we did love our babies, but the spankings, I still cringe when I think of it. The paragoric syrup was given to help your baby who had his days and nights mixed up. I gave it for three nights to try and correct this situation. All I probably did was constipate him!!!
I love you blog.

Sheri said...

I'm guilty,too! I never would have survived my daughter's colic if it wasn't for paregoric. I have huge guilt about letting my kids ride their bikes without helmets!! I wonder how my kids survived, yet we Baby Boomers survived much worse neglect and abuse!

kenju said...

Ditto, Marty~! My mom and I, and my grandmom before us - all did the same things. We survived, and so did our kids.

kenju said...

P.S. My son had more paregoric than he ever should have. A colicky baby, I dosed him with it according to the pediatrician's advice - mainly so I could get some rest.

Jessica said...

You are the best blogger ever. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

crystal said...

Phew! This is reassuring. And you summed up the rhythm of a mom-life perfectly. It seriously is nice to know I'm normal. Well, semi-normal.


(found you off Gab's blog)

Kenny, Linsey and Caleb said...

Phew. Baby number 2 is just days away and I am awake at 3 in the morning with a bit of a panic attack. Now that I've read this I think I can go back to bed and sleep just fine. Thanks for this.

raehan said...

Just stopping by to finally tell you how much I adore this post.

Lindsey said...

Oh, this post gave me such glee. Especially the second to last paragraph... where you prayed for more, and they hated how they invaded. Too Hilarious! Love it.

marta said...

it seems to be the instincts to hold and love your babies are the one thing that stays true! these images are so cute, mama. glad your seventh was no mistake. hee hee.