I wonder if everything is better than it used to be is the question I asked myself this past weekend. We were taking care of Madden, our 18-month-old granddaughter, who spent the weekend with us. I played with her most of Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, so I had a lot of time to ponder this curious topic.
We had a great visit, even better than I’d anticipated. We don’t get to be around Madden as often as we’d like since we live 315.1 miles apart, so I was worried she might not warm up to us. No problem. She took to us as if we’d hung out together every day. We played in the swimming pool and on the playground slides, she bossed me around and told me which chair to sit in, and we had a great time.
One thing I noticed that’s changed since we had a couple of 18-month-old children of our own once (the last was in 1984), was how much better baby gear has become. For one thing, strollers are much better. Not only are they safer and maneuver better, they are more robust. You can pile lots of gear on top without crushing the baby or tipping over.
And car seats are better, too. Although I wondered about the 5-point racing harness I had to fasten and unfasten over and over, it was still better than the car seats of the 1980s. Cyndi reminded me that both of our kids could climb out of their car seats when they were this age.
Even pacifiers are better, except that all the young moms now call them binkies. I don’t know when that terminology started, but it is universal. The pacifier/binky itself hasn’t changed all that much, but the addition of a clip-on strap to keep it from falling to the floor is a significant improvement. Why didn’t we think of doing that 20 years ago?
And portable baby beds are much better. We have a Pack ‘n Play, and it folds up to 1’x1’x4’ bundle and goes straight to the attic when we aren’t using it. It is wonderful. The Pack ‘n Play was something Cyndi brought home about five years ago along with a whole carload of baby stuff she found at a garage sale. I asked, “Do you have something to tell me, Sarah?” Cyndi said she was just planning ahead for friends or grandchildren. Whew.
I guess the last thing that is much better than it used to be is something not exclusive to babies or baby gear. It is taking pictures. We took pictures when we had our own babies, of course, but we were choosy about what we shot since the film cost money and developing cost money, and you didn’t even know if you’d like the pictures until you spent your money first. And quite often we didn’t have a camera with us.
Now, we all have cameras in our pocket, and we can take indiscriminate pictures of anything and everything, by the hundreds, spontaneous and surprising. Photography is better now.
However, there are some things that haven’t changed at all. Baby spoons are still the same as they were in the 1980s, and the messy face and chin that goes along with spoons looks exactly the way I remember it. There are more choices for finger snacks now, but they are all really just variations on Cheerios.
And diapers haven’t changed. The big move from cloth to disposable mostly happened before we had babies, even though we actually chose to use cloth diapers for a while because they were specially designed to produce smart children with robust character and noble hearts. Eventually we decided the kids could develop their character on their own time and we went back to disposables. Last Wednesday night I went to Albertson’s to buy diapers for Madden and discovered the same brands and same sizes I was familiar with. Cyndi says the fasteners are better now, but I see that as a small incremental change. I should add, though, that the experience of changing a dirty diaper hasn’t improved at all. It’s still unpleasant.
Another thing that hasn’t changed is the value of a rocking chair. I love rocking chairs even when sitting all my myself with a book, but rocking while holding your snuggling granddaughter cannot be easily topped. It is one of the top five pleasures of life. Madden seemed to enjoy it, too.
The last thing I will mention that hasn’t changed is how hard it is for a man with un-dexterous hands to fix a little girl’s hair. For some reason babies with lots of hair run in our family. Katie, Madden’s mother, our daughter, had significantly more hair than any of her baby peers, enough to braid into pigtails at 18-months. And so does little Madden. But I need more practice before styling that extra-fine hair so that it will pass a mother’s or grandmother’s muster. Mostly, just like in the old days, I stuck to simple hair bows.
It is a tired cliché to say the more things change the more they stay the same. But clichés become clichés for a reason … because they continue to remain true over and over. I can’t wait to see what makes my lists next time.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
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