By Genevieve A. Suzuki
Although there’s a generational divide between my mom and I when it comes to parenting, I wish I was half as brave as she was when I was a baby.
My mom just turned 82, twice the age she was when she had me at 41. Coincidentally, I turn 41 this year and have a baby of my own. But things have changed a bit since I was an infant in my mom’s arms. For one thing, I don’t have to struggle with cloth diapers or shoddy disposables. Babies ‘R’ Us, which we conveniently have here in La Mesa, sells all kinds of diapers, wipes and what-nots right down the street.
“You’re lucky,” my mom will say as she watches me struggle to diaper my 8-month-old, who has learned to turn his naked torso an unnatural 180 degrees on the changing table. “We didn’t have all of those fancy things available to us.”
And while it’s true that she didn’t have access to a warehouse full of baby necessities, she also had the kind of confidence only a person who helped raise three younger siblings and two other daughters would have.
For instance, there is a photo of me as a child, sitting beneath an apple tree in Tacoma, Washington. If either of my kids sat under an apple tree, I would be madly obsessed with making sure they weren’t going to be stung by a bee or bopped on the head by fallen fruit. My mom? She only has good memories of me enjoying the apples.
On the other hand, there are times where I wonder how I survived my childhood.
My son, Deacon, is starting to teethe. As such, we’ve purchased a hundred different teething toys designed to calm, soothe and trick him into chilling out.
“Oh, well, you should try what we used,” my mom said, peering at one of my brightly colored plastic tools before it was flung across the room by a fat, tiny, furious fist.
“What’s that, Mom?” I asked, feeling frustrated that she didn’t just volunteer the information without the usual prompt.
“Wait — you gave me jerky … as a baby? To teethe?!”
“You loved it. Your grandfather couldn’t believe how much you loved it. And it worked!” she said before smugly adding, “We also gave you chicken bones.”
We sat there for a minute, staring at each other as I tried to figure out the joke.
“You didn’t give me chicken bones,” I said.
“Yes, we did. You loved that, too!” she grinned, lost in what seemed to be among her favorite memories: me as a baby gnawing on beef jerky and chicken bones.
“Awwww,” I said. “Is this me and our dog, Schatzi?”
“Yep,” she said. “Read the back.”
The back of it said, “Dog (4 mo.) Genevieve (17 mo.) She has her eyes shut ready for an attack from the dog. She is holding the dog’s chew bone.”
“Isn’t that funny?” she laughed, watching my face.
“Mom, this is awful! Was I really scared?”
“We wouldn’t have let anything happen to you! You were fine!” she said, cackling harder.
I don’t know about fine, but I can now safely say that I am a survivor.
So maybe I take some of my mom’s bravery and temper it with some of my healthy caution. Leave the chicken bones, but keep the apples. And for goodness’ sake — keep the kids away from dogs if they’re holding their chew toys.