Steel Advice: Grandma wonders what happened to playpens
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DEAR MARY ANN: I am a loving grandmother of a precious 8-month-old little boy. I have watched him many times since his birth and find it becoming more and more of a challenge. He crawls like a bullet now and can pull himself up on dangerous furniture. I just don't know how mothers today can get anything done.
Please tell me what ever happened to playpens? I remember always being able to entertain my kids, have them with me in the kitchen, etc., talk to them, play with toys and do it all in a safe environment, "the playpen." Young parents today don't know what they are missing! Please tell me what you think.
-- THE PLAYPEN PUSHER
DEAR PLAYPEN PUSHER: It is difficult to buy an old-fashioned wood slat or mesh cage for a child today. Recently, I asked a young mom-to-be if she would ever use a playpen; when I explained the concept, she froze and said, "No!" Resale shops sell old-fashioned playpens, and when the resale shop gets one it doesn't stay on the shelf very long. Maybe grandmothers buy them for their own homes.
Pack n Plays can be used for a short timeout, but for the most part young families use them as changing tables. Moms and dads are baby-proofing certain rooms in the house and sealing off others so little crawlers have a safe environment to explore. Restrictive gates that can be shaped and sized create a play yard within a room. Today's parents interact with their babies while keeping close tabs on them. An ultra-fancy stroller is a modern parent's status symbol.
Babies arrive home from the hospital on the second day after birth, ride in the back seat of the car, wear adorable big-kid-style clothes and start school before the age of 3. Times are changing and the playpen as you knew it, Grandma, is a thing of the past.
DEAR MARY ANN: My wife has a hobby, which could be described as almost an obsession, of researching her and my family ancestry. I thought it was kind of interesting at first, but long ago I tired of it. My wife seems to think that because people lived and died long ago, that elevates them to near sainthood status. I assume that relatives that lived long ago were probably no better and no worse than our current living bunch. I'd rather concentrate on making the most of our time while we have it, and, other than acquiring a basic biographical outline of ancestors, I don't see much value on dwelling on it further. What do you think? Am I being properly pragmatic or is there a value to this research that I might be missing?
-- ANCESTRY WEARY
DEAR ANCESTRY WEARY: History tells a story. When your wife traces her roots she is personalizing history. Imagining how her ancestors lived and survived brings her to a closer understanding of herself.
Ancestors who overcame great obstacles or those who suffered horrible injustice infuse a spirit of gratitude in their descendants. A successful lineage can be a source of pride; however, as you suggested, many people who lived before us were just ordinary men and women who went about their lives much in the same way we do today.
Your wife's intense interest in genealogy is a serious hobby; it provides a distraction for her from the daily grind. Be patient while she enjoys tracing her family history and be thankful her hobby is not something else, like macrame, for example, or collecting salt and pepper shakers.
First Published July 3, 2012 12:00 am