That confounded baby equipment

    When our children started to have babes of their own, how familiar were the feelings of joy and awe and thanksgiving. Yet, when it came to equipment — everything had changed.

    I jumped into grandparenting rather quickly. Three of our four children were married within 11 months, and several years later they had one or two children each.

    I had written poems trying to express the wonder of looking into the crib that our own children had slept in, seeing a facsimile that narrowed the space between giving birth and becoming a grandmother. How soon our babies had grown — to receive babes of their own. How familiar were the feelings of joy and awe and thanksgiving. Yet, when it came to equipment, everything had changed.

    In the car

    The first rude awakening came when I offered to put our first grandchild into the car seat. The scrunched-up little newborn certainly didn’t look comfortable to me as she waited for me to place her under straps, making certain that her head was properly positioned under an arched head-stabilizer.

    This was one of my first offers of help as a grandmother, and I wanted to impress my daughter-in-law! I had raised four children, after all — yet I hoped my insecurities didn’t show that it had been a long time.

    She waited patiently. The pressure was all mine!

    I am much in favor of car seats. The persistence of pediatricians and seat belt laws have saved many dear little lives. We didn’t have them, for better and for worse, when our first child was born. Vacation car trips were times of nursing on the open road, unhurried by demands of home. Naptime was in a port-a-crib in the back of our station wagon.

    We were fortunate in never having an accident, and we didn’t really think about it because there wasn’t an option. It’s not unlike putting children on school buses now. You hope for the best and, in the meantime, know that the risk and the “you’re on my side of the seat” contentions and the bus play are part of the ride.

    By the time our fourth child was born, car seats were “in.” They were primitive, but simple. I put my child in the seat and fastened the buckle. Done. Let’s go!

    This experience, however, was something new that I was not prepared for. But how hard could it really be?

    I managed to get the straps in place, wiggling the little, flexible arms through, fastening the straps together in the middle. But what was with the two upside-down key-like clips? My daughter in law stepped in with a quick clip, and I thought we were finished. Not so. She proceeded to show me how to pull on a strap to tighten the belts — oh, too tight I thought, as I studied her quick movements trying to register where the pull strap was.

    On the road

    At our destination I resounded quickly to my daughter’s suggestion to “just take her out in the baby carrier.” I eagerly unfastened the main seat belt.

    “No, not that one. That part stays,” she said. “We just have to unfasten the top part, here, like this.” She rethreaded the belt through the base, pointed to the release button, and handed me the Z-shaped carrier handle that is supposed to make it easier to carry. I wondered if it wouldn’t be easier to just carry the baby!

    When it was time to go home, I breathed a quiet sigh of relief when the baby was strapped in the carrier first, before getting to the car. I needed a little quiet time to review what I had learned. All I needed to do this time was to clip the carrier into the base, putting the slit over the end of the bar. I saw the slit, but what bar? And then: “No, Mom Greer, not frontward. Infants face backwards for safety.”

    Silly me! How could I have forgotten so quickly?

    More red buttons!

    Next came the stroller. It was the first time that I was alone with my granddaughter. Again, I was clueless. It was ultra-light and fit nicely in the trunk. Getting it out of the car was much easier than with the one I remember from years ago. But why wouldn’t it unfold?

    The clue seemed to be red — there were red buttons and clips — but my pushing and pulling was in vain. One red button adjusted the handle, but that was no help at this point. I never did figure it out, so we went for a short walk the old fashioned way: I carried her.

    Later, my daughter showed me how simple it was. Unclip the red latch and pull the body down from the handle. I asked myself why it had been so hard. I had mastered e-mail, word processing, the Internet, Power Point, eBay, downloading and uploading digital pictures — but not a baby stroller!

    Nice walk next time — until I tried to fold up the puzzle on wheels and put it in the car. Helpless again, I stood dumbfounded that folding was not just the opposite of unfolding. I tried allthe red buttons. No luck. My options were to push my granddaughter home (only five miles!) and leave the car, or leave the stroller behind (I was tempted), or ask someone. Nah … they were all my age, and what would they know? Luckily the stroller folder — before I did — with the slide of one red button and the squeeze of a release bar. 

    My granddaughter back in the car seat, which I figured out all by myself even though it was different from my previous experience, we went home for lunch. Booster chair — no problem: I’ve got these clip things down. But the bib? The bib! Why would anyone design a bib that could drive someone to distraction! I had seen my daughter make a cuff at the bottom, so I knew what was to be done. Zig-zagged snaps lined each side of the bottom half of the bib, none of which snapped into each other. I didn’t quit easily, but I finally did — and here I sit and write.

    My daughter will be home soon!

    Post script

    I’m back in my own home now, and yes, she did show me how to snap the bib. And yes, it did seem rather simple once I could watch, but I just had a most gratifying phone call from her.

    She sounded distracted so I asked her if there was a better time to call.

    “No, just give me a minute,” she said. “I’m trying to put the baby in the backpack carrier.” I could hear her talk to herself in the background: “Leg strap, no pinch hinge — good grief!”

    Back on the phone, her words indicated a most familiar frustration. “Mom, I don’t understand why they don’t show a picture of the baby in the seat and not just one of the strap!”

    I chuckled, and she knew why. I left her to her work knowing that the baby equipment generation gap was not as deep as I had thought.

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