Monday, January 20, 2014

New Rules for Babies

My grandson is now 4 months old. Although he’s only 15 pounds, he takes up a lot of space, at least his accouterments do. Along with the crib he hasn’t used yet, due to new research claiming babies should stay in their parent’s bedroom for at least six months, he has a Bugaboo stroller that adjusts to so many positions it reminds me of the transformers my son played with in the 80’s, and a Britax car seat with enough straps and padding it looks capable of lifting off and reentering the stratosphere. 

He also has a mini-bassinet that vibrates as he sleeps, a Rainforest Jumperoo that bounces while the toys around the rim emit rattling, chirping and crackling sounds, a white noise machine, a swing with six different movement controls and tunes to match, an umbrella stroller, (my purchase because I couldn’t figure out how to collapse the Bugaboo) an Ergo infant carrier, another one that goes over the shoulder (again my purchase because adjusting the Ergo is beyond me) a tub that has an ever fresh water supply, an infant gym with owls and fish that make animal noises, booties that jingle or crunch (I can’t remember which) and, thank goodness, something recognizable, books. Lots of books.

Once upon a time I, too, had babies, two of them. They each had a crib, a stroller, a car seat and, eventually, a high chair. I seem to remember a rocking horse and something that attached to the door frame and bounced. They also had toys and books. Lots of books. Life was crowded, but nowhere as crowded as my daughter and son-in-law’s small apartment.

The rules are different now. No putting babies to sleep on their tummies and all car seats must face backwards for TWO years.  A pediatrician posted an interesting comment about backwards car seats: “My own babies screamed so much facing the back seat that even though I would never advise patients to do this, I turned my own children around.” Her rationale: “They were in far more danger with my twisting backwards to check on them than they were from whiplash.” Now, however, there is no choice in the matter. It’s the law. Babies must face backwards. The list goes on: no solid food for six months and then, vegetables instead of rice cereal because rice cereal is no longer considered nutritious, no upright position in the stroller until a baby can sit up without support, no bumper guards in the crib, etc. etc.

Our baby doesn’t sleep well on his back. He doesn’t like lying flat in his stroller nor does he like facing the back seat in a moving car. “Safety is paramount,” my daughter, ever the rule-follower, tells me.  "Studies show that SIDS is down as a result of the new rules.” I agree that safety is important and I’m relieved that SIDS is down. Of course, I observe all the “new” safety rules. After all, the baby isn't actually mine and he appears to be surviving his restrictions. He coos and babbles, sucks his fingers, smiles, laughs out loud (when he’s not in his stroller or car seat) and rolls over, front to back, all milestones of a healthy 4 month old infant. My daughter is a good mother, loving and vigilant, patient with her baby and with me. She is also very particular and so meticulously clean that sometimes I wonder if, all those years ago, I brought home the wrong baby. I'm sure she wonders the same thing...only sometimes, I hope.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Weather is Everything

Chicago’s a great city and, maybe, it wouldn’t be so hard to go back if I lived in Baltimore or Minneapolis, cities with real winters, but I’m leaving California for a wind chill of 60 below.”

This was my son’s lament the night before his plane was scheduled to take him back to the windy city. I imagine more than a few California natives wondered, this week, what made them choose to attend school in a state where a single storm drops twenty-one inches of snow in a weekend. In Michael’s case it was a no-brainer. Pritzker is a top 10 medical school with amazing credentials and he was offered a full scholarship, meaning, if he’s frugal, no debt.

Mike is definitely a Southern Californian with a love for surf and sand, Mexican food, coffee houses with outdoor seating, palm trees, 80 degree winters, Disneyland, Universal Studios, bare feet, shorts, and a complete disregard for checking weather conditions. His memories of winter mornings include the Rose Parade, running on the beach, young moms balancing lattes and jogging strollers, eating Korean barbecue at one of the ethnic restaurants dotting the coastline and aging surfers cycling with long boards under one arm. Driving the freeways between Los Angeles and San Diego poses no greater challenge for him than patience during traffic jams and following the rules of the road. He was, until Chicago, a neophyte when it came to lightning storms, delayed flights, snow, bitter cold and, that terrifying of all road conditions, black ice. 

I’m not sorry that Pritzker chose Michael, or that Michael chose Pritzker. I miss him terribly but I’m grateful for his change of venue and the not always so comfortable weather. Living here in the golden state is a privilege that is rarely appreciated until we experience inconvenience elsewhere. My son is no exception. 

Here, in Southern California, we don’t have the glorious displays of autumn leaves they have in New England, although we have our own kind of beauty especially in areas close to the foothills, nor do we have the wonder of a first snowfall with the exception of those who live in the mountains. But we do have a marvelous, easy, relaxed climate in which to work and play. We do have warm, dry days and nights cold enough to sleep comfortably, days and nights so unique and lovely that even though we pay a great deal more for real estate that sits close to our neighbors and has less square footage than we would if we lived in other states, our population surges and most of our children come home to live.

We don’t think much about weather in Southern California. We don’t have to. But for Michael, an expatriate who elected to temporarily live elsewhere, “Weather is everything.”