Some months back, my niece sent me a video of her cute 10 month old son bouncing energetically on his little bottom, and waving his tiny fingers to the beat of ‘vatapi’ sung by one of the legends of Carnatic sangeetham! It was really amazing to watch his delight in classical music- which is by no means easy listening for the uninitiated- at an age when most babies gurgle happily in response to popular film songs or advertisement jingles 😊
But what really impressed me was the effort taken by his parents and grandparents to identify and nurture what is obviously a gift this little one has. They make sure the house is always filled music, his lullabies are kirthanams and when he is cranky, all they need do is put MaduraiMani on the player and he calms down instantly.
Babies today are lucky. Their parents take so much effort to give them a head start in life even from the time they are in the womb. But it was different in my time and I am afraid my daughters had a rather raw deal in this respect.
When we arrived in Portland Oregon in September 1965 I was 19 years old and 3 months pregnant. Strange land, no friends, no support system. Unlike today, mothers did not fly to the USA for their daughter’s deliveries, grandparents did not babysit grandchildren in another continent😔
So my husband and I were totally dependent on books for guidance in parenting, and one book in particular- the bible for new parents in those days, was written by Dr. Benjamin Spock.
Dr. Spock was a disciplinarian of the first order. “Newborns should not be fed whenever they cry” he warned sternly, “Feed only at regular 2 hour intervals at first, gradually increasing to 4 hours between feeds.” So when poor little Devi, my first born, screamed in hunger, I would jiggle her frantically instead of feeding her and then guiltily realize that jiggling was a no-no too.
“Do not pick your baby up whenever he or she cries” was the next inflexible rule, “babies will soon realise that they can get whatever they need by yelling and become little tyrants”…or words to that effect.
Well I certainly did not want my daughter to grow into a tyrant, so I would watch helplessly while she howled till she became red faced with anger and then hiccupped herself to sleep.
Ah…sleep. Dr.Spock had very firm ideas about sleep time routines. “Babies should sleep in their own cribs from the beginning and should be moved to another room by the end of the first month” was his mandate. “Once the baby has been bathed, changed, fed and tucked in, leave the room quietly. Do not pat, rock, or sing a baby to sleep… do not start bad habits” admonished the child rearing expert.
I am sorry to say that it was Devi who had to bear the brunt of Dr. Spock’s advice… by the time her little sister came along a year later, we had become disillusioned with him and thrown his rules out of the window😡
Today of course even the west has acknowledged that our Indian traditions are the best… cuddling, demand feeding, bonding by having the baby in your bed, singing to your little one and generally, letting the baby rule the house and your life, is the accepted… and joyful…. norm.
In short, let your heart tell you how to bring up your baby. Even if you make mistakes it doesn’t really matter- that is also a part of being a parent. Believe me, kids are tough….and the generations of children who have survived Dr.Spock’s draconian rules – including my own – are happy proof of this.
First Published at Creative Moms Hub