I’ve been cleaning out bookcases in our bedroom, trying to reduce the number of books that are stacked upon other books, sideways and every which way. I haven’t been successful, but I’ve discovered some old books I’d forgotten about. One such book is entitled, From Crib to Bib, and it is the book my mother’s pediatrician sent her home with after I was born. As I began perusing the pages of that little book, I grew more and more alarmed, realizing how far short I fell in following its directives. For example, the pediatrician stressed how susceptible infants are to infections and wrote, “Unless absolutely necessary, the new baby should not be taken out until he is five weeks of age. He should not be put on display by the proud parents until he is three months old.” Well, I screwed that up royally. I think we stopped to show our daughter off on the way home from the hospital.
As for the infant’s sleeping arrangements, the good doctor was very clear on that. “The infant should always have a room alone and certainly never sleep in a room with adults.” Uh, oh. He must never have read The Family Bed. I did. The doctor also wrote, “Rocking or singing an infant to sleep soon becomes a habit which is difficult to break.” My grandchildren still expect me to sing them a song at bedtime, and they are 14 and nearly 10. I messed up on that, too. One piece of advice in the book had me scratching my head. “Two daily naps should be continued through the third year, each of about one hour.” I tried to take naps, but darned if those kids didn’t keep me awake.
I was practically grief-stricken at how inadequate my maternal skills were when it came to toilet training. The book said I should have started toilet training for bowel control as soon as the baby was old enough to sit up so I could place them on the potty chair. At ten to twelve months I should have had my children in training pants as that was the appropriate time for training for bladder control. I started training my daughter when she was a few months past two. She was trained when she turned three. With my first son, I started when he was two and a half. He was trained at three. I saw a pattern here, so with the third one, I waited until he was three, handed him a pair of underpants, and said, “You know, you’re supposed to wear these instead of diapers.” He took them out of my hand and said, “Okay.” That was that.
I didn’t get past page 21 because I don’t want to know how deeply I failed. My three children seem well-adjusted. One is a writer and musician, one is a lawyer, and one is a neurogeneticist. But think of how they might have turned out if I had been a good mother.