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Hollow Tree Ventures parenting humor
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Dr. Spock: Childcare Guru or Deranged Maniac? - Episode 1

Well, I told you last week that I was going to share some excerpts from Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, which was first published in 1946 and became a bestseller with 50 million copies sold by 1998. This is an astonishing number of books, but perhaps even more astonishing is the fact that people were still purchasing this book in 1998.

But I should preface all this by saying that I don't mean to be too hard on old Dr. Spock. While some of his ideas seem off-the-wall by our standards here in The Modern Age of Parenting, where every infant has a Facebook page assigned to him at birth, Dr. Spock did revolutionize motherhood by being the first authority willing to suggest that (gasp) mothers might have some clue about what they're doing, and that hugging and kissing our babies will not necessarily turn them into whiny little co-dependent sissy-pants nancys. For that, Dr. Spock, I thank you, as most of us enjoy kissing our babies and it'd be awfully sad if we lived in a world where we had to feel all abnormal about it. Plus, let's not forget that Dr. Spock won an Olympic gold medal in rowing in 1924, and won the first-ever Human Rights Award from the International Symposium on Circumcision, which I bet you think I made up but I assure you it is quite real. So, it just goes to show that, in addition to being a groundbreaking Parenting Nerd of the highest order, he was also clearly a super cool guy.

The tape is covering up the price tag -
all of these words for the bargain price
of 50 American cents.
That being said, the 1957 revision of his classic book, of which I am a proud owner (thanks, Mom), does allow for some questionable parenting behavior. So before my copy disintegrates due to the fact that it's held together with non-archival quality masking tape, I thought I'd share some of his wisdom (wisdom?) and open the floor for discussion on whether the Good Doctor was a true Childcare Guru, or a Deranged Maniac hell-bent on killing us all (I will admit to the possibility that there's some middle ground available in there).

I think I might break this examination into a few separate posts, since the more I look at it and try to organize the snark data into cohesive sections, the more I realize that there's quite a daunting amount of material to cover and that maybe I need to take a nap. So, assuming that's what I'm going to end up doing (one never can tell, as I'm not typically a Planning Sort of Gal), I'll go ahead and proceed with...


EPISODE 1: Getting Ready For Baby

Let's start at the beginning - what kinds of advice does Dr. Spock have for those of you who ARE Planning Sorts of Gals and are thinking ahead about what you might need after you give birth to the baby by mysterious means (I feel sure he covered that in a different book, but he skips over it in this one) and get home with your team of Visiting Nurses, while your husband is still busy handing out cigars to strangers?

First off, you'll probably need lots of baby gear. If you're an idiot like me, you probably thought a stroller was a fairly important and necessary piece of baby gear, but we'd both be wrong.

In fact, a stroller (or "carriage," as they were called In The Days Of Yore) is only needed if you live in a Big City and don't have a nanny to watch your child while you go to the park by yourself, or if you don't own a canvas car bed.
Unlike strollers, canvas car beds are essential, as it turns out, both for car travel and for putting your baby out "in the yard or on the porch" every day. (What? You don't stick your baby out on the lawn every day? Well, don't be too hard on yourself, just tune in to our future Dr. Spock feature that covers Typical Daily Activities. It's never too late to start!)

Are these "car beds" of which you speak safe for my baby? you might ask. How dare you question the authority of Dr. Spock? But if you do have any doubts, just check out this advertisement in the July 12, 1953 issue of the Toledo Blade (newspaper motto: Keeping Babies Safe Since July 11, 1953).

Source: Toledo Blade
For the discounted price of $5.49, you can get a bed made of flimsy (yet fashionably plaid!) fabric and rigid metal poles, which appears to hook over either the front seat or the car door, I'm not sure which. This leaves your arms free to wave at neighbors and well-wishers as you cruise by, your baby cradled securely in a state of safety-harness-less bliss somewhere in the back of your car (you hope).

Now that you have your car bed, what other essentials should you acquire? Just the usual, of course: baby clothes, sheets, and "a pound roll of sterile absorbent cotton" for making your own Q-tips (pg 27). Oh, and don't forget a place to sleep! Not for you, silly - you don't get to sleep anymore, you'll be far too busy rolling fresh Q-tips. No, for the baby, of course.


Dr. Spock assures us that nothing fancy is required - any old box, drawer, or clothes basket will do, as long as you take care not to expose your baby to too much of the pig's hair in the mattress. Also, be mindful of the "slight" risk of smothering if you decide to use a soft pillow as a mattress instead.

That's Dr. Spock for you, always erring on the side of caution.


That covers the things we need to purchase. Is there anything else we should be aware of as baby's arrival approaches? you wonder.

Dr. Spock is so glad you asked. Next, you'll want to get ready for the avalanche of laundry that's coming your way. If you thought darning socks and starching Dear Husband's collars was time consuming, just wait until this baby descends upon you like a Plague of Stains with her incontinence and her complete inability to keep food inside her face.

Now is the time to dip into your New Hat Fund and splurge instead on that washer/drier set you've had your eye on. Or better yet, Dr. Spock tells us it might be helpful to send our laundry out to be washed; by whom, he doesn't say. If anyone out there knows of somebody who's willing to come to my house, pick up my filthy laundry, clean it, and bring it back to me, I'd like to know about it because I've been doing my own laundry all this time, LIKE A CHUMP.
Another way Dr. Spock suggests we "simplify housework" is to put some of our furniture in storage; now, you can say what you want about this guy, but you cannot deny the brilliance in that. Why has it never occurred to me that I wouldn't have to wipe off the dining room table if the table weren't there? Tired of brushing cat hair off the back of the couch? Cram it in a storage unit! No time to vacuum up the crumbs those pesky kids are always dropping in the carpet? Roll it up and get it out of there! This practice will also simplify your efforts to baby-proof the house, a topic we'll be covering in a future post.

And finally, please don't forget to take care of yourselves, Mommies. There was a Deep Dark Secret back in 1946, and Dr. Spock blew. the. lid. clean off of it.

Direct your attention to that last sentence, ladies. That's right, Dr. Spock shocked the world of pediatrics by stating that postpartum mothers may experience a bit of depression, in part because the physical and hormonal changes "probably upset the spirits to some degree." To some degree, indeed! I don't know how many mothers Dr. Spock met in his lifetime, but I've met a few myself, and every single one I've ever met has experienced "glandular changes" that resulted in feelings ranging from Mild Moodiness to Outright Bat S*** Crazy. Thankfully, through some miracle I never had what you'd call real Postpartum Depression, despite my history of Regular Garden-Variety Depression, although I have had the Baby Blues. I also went through a brief period where I was genuinely afraid that newborn Zoe was going to wake up, look up at me from the snuggly nest of my arms, and hiss at me with a mouth full of evil, pointy teeth. I don't have any idea where the fear came from, or where it falls on the scale above (probably closer to the Bat S*** Crazy end), but I'm pretty sure it was evidence of some nasty glandular changes.

So what's a weepy mother supposed to do about it? Dr. Spock suggests she should go to a movie or to the beauty parlor, or see a psychiatrist, but to remember to "pay some attention to her husband" lest he begin to seem indifferent and thereby make her depression worse (pgs 14-15 - I'm not making this up). However, although he sounds a bit heartless and antiquated in his advice, I believe Dr. Spock has sent a hidden message on the subject in another part of the book.

In his discussion of The Colicky Baby (and what pushes an already half-crazed mommy over the edge faster than colick?) Dr. Spock tells us in no uncertain terms to hound the doctor mercilessly for sedatives. However (and this is the very important bit) he doesn't specify that you should give the sedative to the baby. No, when you think about it, that would be ludicrous. It makes much more sense for the mother to take the prescription drugs, at which point she'll be much better equipped to deal with the baby. So you see, Dr. Spock had us and our postpartum hormones covered after all.

All right, I don't know about you, but that's as much learning as I can take in one day. Stay tuned for the next installment, in which we'll explore Dr. Spock's views on how best to achieve baby's Coppertone glow and the usefulness of depriving infants of human contact in hopes of learning whether or not they like beets.


I don't even own a car bed, which goes to show what a top-notch mom I am!
So go ahead and click below to vote for me, or else I might start doubting my parenting choices and place an order with the Toledo Blade!
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20 comments:

  1. parenting is about instinct and love and good music and comfortable shoes. you have all that down.

    good post

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  2. Thanks for saying so, Lance! I still kind of want that car bed, though.

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  3. Thank you for a good laugh! I think I'll opt to put my baby to bed in a box next time I have one :) That is just too funny.

    I've heard of car beds, but that was the first time I'd seen a picture of one, they are just scary.

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  4. Charlene, I'd never seen one either - imagine my surprise when it popped right up on a Google search! The Horror! Of course when I was a kid we had a van and my brother and I used to fight over who got to sit in the back in the beanbag chair, so times have changed a bit...

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  5. I LOVE it! To think how we used to travel around in vehicles--I remember ROLLING from one side of the car to the other! Never had a CAR BED though! Thanks for the laughs--I am LOVING your blog! So much so that I nominated you for The Sunshine Award on my blog today (that I am just about to post...)!

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  6. Too funny!

    Although I actually received the advice: when staying in a hotel with a baby, just pull out a dresser drawer and line it with some pillows.

    Sweet...but I think we're going to stick with the pack and play.

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  7. Wow, Nika - THANK YOU! My very first blogging award; I'm honored! :)

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  8. That's so funny, Jordan! I don't really like to touch ANYTHING when I'm in a hotel room, so even if it were the pinnacle of safety I'm not sure I'd want to but my kid in the drawer...

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  9. I have raised two kids to (young) adulthood and only needed one thing: booze. It does a body good.

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  10. Kirby, I couldn't agree more. Dr. Spock did recommend a drink and a smoke to calm the nerves while you're pregnant, but I think he really missed the mark by not encouraging booze more throughout parenthood.

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  11. This was so great! Ha! I'm with you about being glad it's okay to hug our babies. Thank God for Dr. Spock! (Also, do you think I could still get that bed for $5.49?)

    (Thanks for linking up with us at "Finding the Funny"!)

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  12. Kelley - I WISH we could still get that bed! I'd get one for each of the kids and make 'em all sleep in there at that price, spinal columns be damned!

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  13. My sister and I have been serving up some Spock for ridicule through 6 combined pregnancies, but we never saw the things you saw. Laughing out loud! Glad to find your piece linked at Write on Edge. Will be back for sure. Thanks, Erin

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  14. Thanks a lot, Sisterhood - that means a lot coming from you (your blog is awe-sum)! :)

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  15. This whole post is hilarious! I think what it goes to show most of all is how completely psychotic we are now and always have been--as a society, and as mothers!

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  16. Kathleen, I think you're right - what scares me most is thinking of all the things I do now, smugly thinking I'm so smart, that one day my kids will throw back in my face. "I can't believe you fed us BANANAS. Gah, people were so dumb back then..." *shudder*

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  17. Oh my mom had stories about Dr. Spock and his famous little book and none of them were flavored with anything remotely nice. She has the book still somewhere. I think she's holding out for grandchildren, so she can have a good laugh at my expense.

    Looking forward to the next installment.

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  18. Just you wait, SheltonKD, one day you'll feel like you almost, ALMOST, know what you're doing, and then WHAM! There's Dr. Spock to prove that in a few years we'll all look like idiots.

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  19. Brilliant post! He's been slated for years over here but maybe there was some good in there, considered his era. :)

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  20. Yes, idiosyncratuceye, I agree - there might be a nugget of wisdom or two in there among the nuggets of kookiness. :)

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