I have a copy of that book, you know. A friend of mine gave it to me when my first child was born way back in 1976. But to be perfectly honest, I never really used it. I guess it's because when Spock said (right in the second paragraph) that I should listen to my own instincts, I figured he meant it. And I've been listening to those instincts ever since.
Oh sure, I've made my fair share of mistakes. Just ask my children. My son, for instance, would love to tell you about the time I insisted that he couldn't possibly have outgrown his Sunday shoes already, and told him to quit whining about them hurting his feet and wear them to church anyway. Only when we got home did I discover a pair of socks from the week before scrunched down in the toes!
And my daughter would be quick to point out the time we stopped to eat breakfast at a roadside cafe. She kept saying over and over, "Mommy, my cereal is moving". Naturally, I said that was ridiculous and demanded that she stop complaining and eat. Turns out, the box they served her was crawling with little worms, and yes, her cereal really was moving! She never has let me forget that one.
But aside from these isolated incidents (which, by the way, taught me to listen more carefully to what my children were saying), I managed to navigate the perilous waters of motherhood pretty well, simply by trusting my own instincts.
What’s that? You want me to give you a few examples? Well, okay – if you insist.
Instinct #1: A baby will not disintegrate if you take it out in public before three weeks of age. Quite the contrary, the younger a baby is the more it sleeps, and the more peaceful the outing is for mom. A child of fifteen months, however, should not be taken anywhere. Doing so causes its mother to disintegrate.
Instinct #2: Bathing an infant is a good way to remove dried oatmeal from the creases under her neck. It also makes her smell deliciously sweet and fresh. But on those occasions when you have a particularly hectic day and never get around to giving her a bath, don't fret. Dried oatmeal under the neck is seldom fatal.
Instinct #3: Parents should put their children to bed by eight o'clock in the evening. Otherwise they become irritable and cranky. And so do their children.
Instinct #4: Children require discipline in order to learn proper behavior. Despite what I told you earlier, when it came to the subject of spanking I guess I did actually use Dr. Spock's book. No, I don't mean that I heeded what he said about spanking. I mean that I used his book – right on my son's diapered little bottom!
Instinct #5: Never give a child too many choices. Constantly requiring him to choose, "Pancakes or toast? Elmo or Barney? Milk or orange juice? The blue cup or the green one?" is a bad idea. If you're not careful, one of these days when he is older, you'll make the mistake of saying, "Either you clean up this filthy room or I'm going to go crazy!" He'll choose the latter, and then what will you do?
These are just a few of my instincts. I'm sure you have a list of your own. And for those of you who don't have a clue what your own instincts are, I suppose you could buy a copy of "Baby and Child Care" because for the most part, Dr. Spock's advice is basically timeless and fairly sound.
There is one topic, though, on which he and I disagree. Temper tantrums. My own instinct tells me to handle the situation firmly, right there on the spot. You know, the old, "show `em who's boss" philosophy. Dr. Spock, on the other hand, advises Mom to make a friendly gesture, suggest something fun to do, and then hug the little monster in a show of support and understanding.
Now honestly. Have you ever heard of anything so absurd in your life? Oh well. What do you expect from a Vulcan?