Chapter 27: Babies on Board

Back in the 1980’s, I was aware a cultural tsunami was occurring.  There were signs every where, but mainly hanging in the back of  these new fangled things called “mini-vans” that really frightened me.

These signs said:  “Baby on Board”.  They were innocuous triangular-shaped signs, but I just knew they meant big trouble in the future.

First of all, I didn’t understand “mini vans.”  I grew up with station wagons. We had one when I was growing up.  Briefly.  Until Daddy had too many beers at Earl’s and flipped it on the way home during an ice storm one night.

He said it was all for the best.  Too many people wanted him to drag crap around for them, so he was happy to go back to big Ford LTD sedan.

He made this plywood bed thing in the back of the big Ford for my sister and I to sleep in when they went to the Drive In to watch Doris Day movies or to drive to Florida for our Summer vacation.  There were no seat belts then….and it made fighting for territory more difficult, but he was immensely proud of it.  They didn’t really worry about us bouncing around the car like popcorn kernels if we had a wreck or they slammed on brakes.

But, I digress….Back to the 1980’s.

I just knew those vans and those signs meant trouble was coming in the future.  It just seemed to me those signs gave an unearned sense of importance to those “babies” and those vans made their lives too safe and comfortable.

I really feared for the future.

I just knew those kids were going to grow up too protected and self-absorbed.  All my friends were entirely too focused on their children and their worlds revolved around them.

I just knew it all would lead to the decline of the American Empire.

When I was growing up in the South in the late 1950’s to late 1960’s, our parents more or less let us fend for ourselves.  They didn’t want to be bothered too much.  They firmly believed children were to “be seen and not heard”.  And seen as little as possible.

They pushed us out of the nest and hoped we would fly.  If not, between valium and bourbon, I’m not sure they really noticed.  We were on our own and most of us made it.  Mostly the stronger for the experience.

I do remember my Mother having her nose in “Doctor Spock’s Baby Book” constantly once my sister was born.  Every sentence she said seemed to begin with “Dr Spock says…”.

Until my Father had a gutful of Dr Spock.  One day, he grabbed the book from my Mother’s hands and said:  “Dr Spock is a Communist.  I don’t want you raising my children to be Reds.”  Then he threw the book in the diaper pail and walked out…

For those that don’t know, Diaper Pails were where one put soiled cotton diapers until the Maid came or the Diaper Service picked them up.  Once White People had to wash their own children’s diapers, Pampers Disposable Diapers miraculously appeared…

And my generation was raised on “formula”.  The idea of breast-feeding was too tacky for words.  That might have interfered with our paren’ts Social Lives.  Breast pumps were far in the future and way too much trouble.  I’m sure my Mother barely let my Father touch her- and then only if it was time to germinate a scheduled baby or if she wanted new furniture or a special coat from Rippes.  Why let some baby suckle at her teat who could not afford new French Provincial or faux Chanel?  What a silly thought…

But we survived.  And we learned not to take our parents too seriously.

We all loved our teenage rebellions and finding our own freedom and selves.  We all, as Carly Simon said, “hated our parents for the things they’re not” while they “hated themselves for what they are.”

I knew the “Babies on Board” generation would not be like us.  My friends actually planned their lives around breast-feeding schedules.  The kids actually liked their parents.

God, it was frightening…

These “Babies on Board” would not face the challenges we faced.  Nor would they understand taking chances- and that the world was not a safe place.  They would never learn how to “play the odds.”

Instead, they were raised in a cocoon of false safety.  They thought they were the center of the universe.  They grew up averse to risk taking.  Their parents were their “friends”.

They were rewarded for coming in 9th place and never taught to fight to be number 1.

They became the infamous SJI’s– Slack Jawed Idiots- I joke about.  People whose jaws dropped in amazement and confusion at challenges and surprises.

Their first reaction was always to run back to Mommie and consult, not to try to find their own solutions.  Not to take chances.  Not to think critically and solve the problems.

They became a passive generation….

But I haven’t given up all hope.

They are also more collective than we were and more aware of the needs and challenges of others.  They are more socially liberal.  They have a sense of social justice.

If we can teach them to vote, they may actually make the world a better place.

By being so sheltered, their fear makes them recognize the challenges of others.  They are sensitive to others.  They think we all need to work it out together.

Maybe those “Babies on Board” will yet turn out to be wise enough, in a new way, to make the world a better place.

We haven’t done such a great job…

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6 Responses to Chapter 27: Babies on Board

  1. Pingback: Chapter 27: Babies on Board | My Southern Gothic Life « Lost in the 21st Century

  2. Scott, I think you should connect this post to the one about being grumpy around the age of 52.

    Still, I liked the diaper pail story. And my favorite “Baby on Board” sticker was “Baby is Bored.”

  3. Aunt Lily says:

    Back in the early sixties ther was a mother of four young boys who snapped and wore a diaper for a headscarf in North Danville. I think her husband refused to pay for diaper service. She trained her three year to “fetch Mommy’s cigarettes”.

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