Monday, April 16, 2007

The Times They are A-changin': Secular Version

Back in the 70’s, 808, 810, 814 and 817 Barrington Road housed seventeen children under twelve. That meant that the kids always had someone to play (or fight) with and we mothers always had someone to help us out in a crisis. We were all “stay-at-home” mothers and we could always count on a neighbor to watch our children while we took care of errands, doctors’ appointments, school conferences etc. If our immediate neighbors couldn’t help, there was always someone from church or school we could phone. If our charges were around when a mealtime rolled around, we fed them and we usually figured out eventually which ones were in diapers and which ones had to be reminded. It didn’t require complicated scheduling and on one occasion where a lot of blood and an ambulance were involved I just shoved the remaining kids in someone’s back door and ran.

I was always happy to do my bit. We didn’t keep records of how many hours who had done what, but we always had a vague sense of when it was our time to cash in. I can only recall one really traumatic experience. My friend Theresa had just had a baby, so the doctors didn’t take her stomach pain too seriously until they realized she needed an emergency appendectomy. Her next door neighbor had been watching the two and four year old and the brand new baby, but she had take her five year old to a doctor’s appointment (and leave behind another two year old.) So Lucy, who was all of four, and I went down to help out. There were two immediate problems:

  • Although I had five children, I had never prepared a bottle of formula.

  • There was a large and much beloved dog. He ran away.
I can’t remember how I figured out the formula business, but I think I must have. Then came the question of what to do about the dog. I decided he was on his own.

What brought back all these memories? It was a syndicated article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune entitled What to do before your child begins a play date. Man, did I do it all wrong. Delma Francis, the author, believes that “managing play dates is among the earliest and greatest challenges for parents.” Apparently I was supposed to woo the mothers first. She quotes a mother (called Muggy) who “ prefers the first play dates to be on neutral ground — at a park or a lunch spot. That's when the moms begin to build a relationship; then the kids can move on with theirs.” Apparently a note wouldn’t have come amiss ("Tony wants to play with Connor. Come on over. The coffeepot's always on.") The article cited play date etiquette involving rules of the house and choice of snacks, “whether there are guns in the home, any concerns with pets, the ratings of movies that each child may watch and so forth.” Give me a hungry baby and a dog any time.

By the way, the dog came back and Christopher grew and flourished.


Anonymous said...

Mrs Ament--thank you for always being there for me and my family! I have many great memories of the years I spent at your house--laughing, laughing, laughing! Brian

Marty: said...

I am a new visitor to your blog. I raised my kids in just such a neighborhood, where friends brought escaped babies home to their mom, gave all the kids in the neighborhood a popsicle and wondered who the strange kid walking out of the bathroom was.

I couldn't keep up with the social structure of being a mother these days. Interviewing parents to see if their home is safe for your kid? Worrying that the teenage boy bouncing a basketball next-door could be a child molester? It was a lot easier and more fun
back in the day.