Want to watch a new grandmother splutter and try to retain her self-control? Just ask her about safety. Sure, we know that the goal is to prevent injury and save lives, but sheesh! don’t these people know when to lighten up?
These people would refer to the parents; the adults who are setting the rules and establishing the standards of proper behavior — standards that the new grandmother must follow, or at least pretend to, when the parents are in sight and/or the little ones are old enough to snitch.
But there is still a good possibility that you, as the grandparent, will go along with rules. After all, 1) It is not your child. 2) You don’t want to run the risk of alienating your actual child (the parent in the situation. 3) What if your luck runs out and the baby/child injures itself on your watch, and you have to admit that YOU WERE NOT FOLLOWING THE RULES? You, who, in the faraway past, tore your hair out getting those very people to understand the concepts of risk, prevention, thinking ahead, etc. etc. etc.
The problem is that standards have leapt up several notches. There is so much more consciousness of the possibility of injury, such an explosion of specialized products, so much more child-centeredness.
In my first days as a grandmother, I resisted the baby bathtub. After all, the kitchen sink had worked perfectly well for my kids and, I assume, for babies back to the dawn of history. (All right; maybe they didn’t even have kitchen sinks at the dawn of history.)
But when I suggested that kitchen sink possibility to the new parents, you would have thought I was advocating…..oh, let’s not go there. So, at the baby’s house, I dutifully used the baby gizmo. By the time the baby came to visit me, I even bought one for my own kitchen.
Did I learn to love it? No. Every time I used it, I had the same mental conversation: Ok; I see how this would make you feel better if you were anxious. Is there something wrong with me that I had not been sufficiently worried about bathing my own newborn in the same stainless steel sink where I had washed onions, and which I cleaned out with products that were probably poisonous? Or did I now, with my failing mental powers, just not remember?
Even in the form-fitting cozy plastic tub, my grandchild baby was able to squirm and cry and generally act uncooperative at times, although at other times, said baby was a model of infant delight, enjoying the gentle pat-down with the soft, tiny baby washcloth and the premium baby soap. I enjoyed knowing that I was doing the right thing; that my children and my children’s spouses would not be branding me as truculent or worse.
I had passed the first test of grandmotherhood: maintaining family peace.