A Grandmother's Rite Of Passage

My children are having children. It happens.

I just wish they knew what they were doing.

(My grandmother prayed that my mother knew what she was doing when I was an infant. My mother was glad to show me how to handle my first baby... the cycle goes unbroken.)

I get anxiety and heart palpitations every time my son and his adorable wife put my newborn grandson to bed ... on his back ... wrapped in aluminum foil. Oh, wait, it's a fleece swaddle blanket, but it might as well be aluminum. How can that be comfortable when the baby can't maneuver his little penis to pee? He's going to sneeze and can't flail his little arms around his nose. I fear his arms are too tight and the circulation will be cut off. How do you know if his arms are purple until you unwrap him? He can't kick. Babies are not meant to be bound up like a sandwich wrap.

In my day (yes, I said that), we were told to put our newborns on their stomachs when we put them down to sleep so if they spit up, it wouldn't go back down their throat into their wind pipe. Now, my son insists his infant son has to lie down on his back. Really? No, that can't be right. Where was I when the American Academy of Pediatrics had that conference? They changed their minds? Who are these people?

When I went over to babysit with my one-month-old grandson for the first time, my son brought me in and explained how little Wes had to be swaddled just so when I put him to bed. There's a wrapping technique. I had my lesson and he and my daughter-in-law left for their date night. I think they might have had some fun. I had what felt like an appendicitis attack.

I gave that swaddling bit my best shot. It took me 52 tries. I cannot wrap a baby like a sardine and walk away. Finally, I left the room and almost passed out with a panic attack. I paced back and forth outside his room like a raving maniac listening to him whimper. He finally cried out loud: "GRANDMA, COME GET ME NOW!!! (You can tell what they're saying.) I haven't had hives that bad since I had to rent cars to the general public in my first job. I was afraid little Wes would feel like he was in solitary confinement. Thank God his head was free to yell out like he did. I just decided it was easier to hold my precious grandson for three hours on the porch swing. We bonded beautifully, with his feet dangling in the cool breeze and I was pretty sure he had full feeling in all extremities.

I can't believe the stuff parents buy for newborns these days. In my day (yes, I said it again), I had a crib, an small infant seat, a playpen, and my loving arms.

Here's what I didn't have: a state-of-the-art baby zoom wifi duo video monitor and Internet viewing system (the kind 007 would be proud of) -- I seemed to be able to hear my babies cry from two rooms away); a Prince Lionheart White Premium Wipes Warmer (warm washcloths seemed to work for me); three different high-tech newborn musical rock n' play sleepers to lay them in so they can be comfortable while they snooze in the den or the kitchen or the bathroom (I held my babies in my arms sitting in a rocking chair and hummed); a sophisticated baby bathtub that measures the bath water temperature so it will feel like a warm balmy ocean spray.

I didn't have an over-priced romper-room-like play station "Exersaucer" surrounded by dozens of gadgets designed to keep baby entertained until that next irritable bowl syndrome.

Then there are 2,200 different breast-feeding paraphernalia that seem necessary to keep the breast milk flowing and stored. (I fed my babies no-guilt bottles of formula because I just wanted to, and I wanted daddy to feel free to help. Thank God I didn't have super model Gisele Bündchen telling me there ought to be a "worldwide law requiring all mothers to breastfeed their babies for six months." I'll make up my own mind, thank you so much ... Can I sleep next to your husband? Then, shut up.)

Strollers, high chairs and car seats cost about as much as my first car. Babies now wear clothes right out of a J. Crew catalog (my babies wore those tie-string baby gowns for the first three months). Designer clothes should not be worn until high school. That should be a law. I saw a statistic the other day that suggests it will now cost around $300,000 to raise a child to the age of 18 (which does not include college). Well, duh!

Babies apparently don't start taking solid food until they reach five or six months old now. (Young pediatricians who make these nutritional decisions for their patients are handsome.) I had my baby on a very light formula of pablum (white flaky baby cereal) after about two to three weeks... usually fed them the light cereal in the morning and at night before bed so their little tummy would be full and happy for the rest of the night. Then I increased the consistency each week, and after about the first month to six weeks I started them on a bit of Gerber strained baby food. These days, mothers seem to breast feed their babies until they bite. (And they wonder why their babies they have those long restless nights. They. Are. Hungry.)

I asked my son if they could come over last weekend to see us and he said, "No, Wes has a couple of things going on." Wes is ... FIVE MONTHS OLD! He has a "couple of things?" He's on a soccer team? He has a book club? He has a play date with Princess Charlotte? I have to stand in line. In my day (yep), we couldn't wait to get to grandma's house for family gatherings every weekend. Seeing my grandparents was the highlight of my life. Now, it's by appointment (and only if I don't sneeze).

I've had conversations with my other "new" grandmother friends and we all feel like we know a thing or two about raising youngin's. But we try to keep swaddling advice to a minimum. It's just easier to have our guts pulled out by barbed wire (over swaddling tension) than to upset the apple cart.

Besides, I do actually think every generation has a right to raise their children the way they see fit. It's totally their business.

Pass the Rolaids.

(Pat Gallagher's grandson, Wes, just turned 6 months old. Pat's daughter (who is 11 months older than her brother) is expecting her first child -- a girl cousin for Wes -- in mid September. More swaddling!)

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

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The World's Most Glamorous Grandmothers