Parenting styles differ not only from family to family but also from culture to culture because we all are products of both nature and nurture. This Sunday we were at the Club enjoying a lazy afternoon lunch when L noted my grandson eating his food.
Despite the fact that L is a confirmed bachelor he has had years of experience as a doting uncle to half a dozen rambunctious boys, he was only too happy to join us and soon began regaling us with stories about children and bringing them up – a common topic when babies are around. I’d like to share some of them which I thought were absolutely bizarre.
- Hold the baby away and puff away – Last year L was travelling through Europe on a conducted tour. On the bus was a young couple from an East European country travelling with their 8 month old son. Every time the bus stopped for the passengers to sight see, the young couple would eagerly get off and light up a cigarette each faster than the others whipped out their cameras!
While the father smoked leisurely, the mother held the kid literally at arm’s length, turned her face the other way and puffed furiously till her nicotine levels were restored. Supposedly she thought that by turning her face away the child would not be inhaling any secondary smoke. My friend being Indian was aghast at this kind of behaviour and being Indian volunteered to look after the baby during their puff breaks. Needless to say, the parents were relieved at being able to smoke in peace and happily handed over the baby while they puffed away at their cigarettes.
- Chew on it – The same mother, on one trip, thought that the bus would take them back to the hotel in time for baby’s feed so she didn’t carry the baby’s food with her. The bus was late and when it was time for the baby’s feed, she coolly fed the baby with the food she’d chewed on! Admittedly chewing is the best way she could have fed the baby food which is normally blended and soft and smooth enough for him to swallow (and possibly it was a weaning method before the days of blenders) but surely she should have remembered to always carry the baby’s food irrespective of the time. Isn’t it normal for all mothers to have a contingency feed in stock for any emergencies?
- Licking the Lolly – If L’s first food story was not bizarre enough, this other one almost made me gag. One hot summer afternoon at New York’s Central Park he saw a young nanny and her charge strolling in the park. Suddenly the nanny stopped by a bench and took out an ice lolly which she licked and then offered to the infant in the pram. Once again L was horrified at this and couldn’t stop staring at this maid sharing the ice lolly with her charge and watched gob smacked for a good five minutes till both the maid and her charge had licked the lolly clean.
Am I weird or am I not but I thought these stories were definitely strange and horrifying. In the first two cases, it was the parents themselves who were (to my mind) irresponsible with smoking with an infant in tow and not carrying a baby feed at all times especially when on the move. As for the last story, I felt sorry for the little child who was obviously the child of very wealthy parents who had left him in the care of someone who had very little concern for hygiene.
Parenting is a hard task especially for working parents. Living in nuclear families these days, makes it really hard for mothers to go back to work. Some young mothers have the option of leaving children in day care services but how many centres are actually certified or audited? In the past few months, I have heard of several cases of children with Foot & Mouth disease (an illness which in itself was unheard of in our time i.e. 30-40 years ago) which I thought was solely associated with cows and other hoofed animals.
Perhaps, as my friend Kay tells me, there should be an internship for parenthood because living in nuclear families makes many young parents unfamiliar with children and child rearing and if they have absolutely no reliable help around find it a difficult sea to swim in for sure. So while there is no standard procedure for bringing up children universally, surely there are some practices that are downright unsuitable for young children, aren’t there?
As a mother of two thirty-year old daughters and a grandmother of a nineteen week old grandson, Sunita Rajwade has been there and done that. A hands on mom, she has seen two girls grow successfully through baby hood, toddler hood, adolescence and adult hood; solving their maths problems and contributing to their angst of growing up with a mom “who doesn’t understand”. But now as a grandmother, she’s being appreciated for her “wisdom” and “understanding” and would like to share my experiences of this wonderful journey from motherhood to grandmotherhood