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Echoes from the baby boom Appreciation: For 50 years, parents turned to the book by Dr. Benjamin Spock for the most common-sense advice about raising children.

March 17, 1998|By Patricia Meisol | Patricia Meisol,SUN STAFF

Later editions reflected changes in society. The books began interchanging "he and him" with "she and her" when discussing a child's needs, and added new sections on breast-feeding at work, child abuse and fatherhood. The 40th anniversary edition in 1985 included discussions of single parenting, divorce and anxiety in children caused by discussions of nuclear war.

The 1998 edition, scheduled for release in May, is billed by publisher Pocket Books as a "handbook to guide parents to the (( new millennium." It suggests a plant-based diet for children older than 2 and discusses school and learning problems, gay and lesbian parents, and the best ways for children to take care of their teeth.

Also for the first time, it includes issues of concern to parents of teen-agers, including their child's psychological reactions to puberty and subjects such as anorexia and bulimia.

It has some tough competition. If Spock made parents the experts on their child, he also paved the way for a generation of child-care experts. "The name has faded as other books have picked up where he left off," said Lawrence Pakula, a Timonium pediatrician. "In our office there aren't nearly the numbers of [parents reading Spock as] 10 years ago."

Today's parent can consult a myriad of experts including Brazelton, whose book "Touchstones" -- a map of child development -- helps parents anticipate a child's different stages. "He thinks about the implications for the family," Pakula says.

L Yet there is nothing like a basic reference in time of need.

Yesterday, for instance, with her 1-year-old son Dylan ill with a nasty virus, Kate Goldsborough consulted Spock before showing up at her doctor's office.

"I could not find anything in Penelope Leach," she said. Spock "is just so practical. 'Clear fluids for X amount of hours.' It's the kind of thing at 2 in the morning that is what you need."

The 35-year-old Baltimore mom says the book was a gift from a girlfriend who had giggled that it was a little dated. But Goldsborough has found it isn't so. "Spock is just the most basic," she says.

Even today Spock continues to comfort parents.

Spock's books

"Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care," 1946. Later editions called "Baby and Child Care."

"A Baby's First Year," 1954. "Feeding Your Baby and Child," 1955.

"Dr. Spock Talks with Mothers," 1961.

"Problems of Parents," 1962.

"Caring for Your Disabled Child," 1965.

"Dr. Spock on Vietnam," 1968.

"Decent and Indecent," 1970.

"A Teenager's Guide to Life and Love," 1970.

"Raising Children in a Difficult Time," 1974.

"Spock on Parenting," 1988.

"Spock on Spock: A Memoir of Growing Up With the Century," 1989.

Associated Press

Spock's advice

Excerpts from Dr. Benjamin Spock's advice to parents, from the 1968 edition of "Baby and Child Care":

Don't take too seriously all that the neighbors say. Don't be overawed by what the experts say. Don't be afraid to trust your own common sense. Bringing up your child won't be a complicated job if you take it easy, trust your own instincts and follow the directions that your doctor gives you. We know for a fact that the natural loving care that kindly parents give their children is a hundred times more valuable than their knowing how to pin a diaper on just right or how to make a formula expertly.

Strictness or permissiveness is not the real issue. Good-hearted parents who aren't afraid to be firm when it is necessary can get good results with either moderate strictness or moderate permissiveness. On the other hand, a strictness that comes from harsh feelings or a permissiveness that is timid or vacillating can each lead to poor results.

You have a pretty tough baby. He can care for himself pretty well for a person who can't say a word and knows nothing about the world.

Books about child care, like this one, put so much emphasis on all the needs that children have -- for love, for understanding, for patience, for consistency, for firmness, for protection, for

comradeship, for calories and vitamins -- that parents sometimes feel physically and emotionally exhausted just from reading about what is expected of them. They get the impression that they are meant to have no needs themselves. The fact is that child rearing is a long, hard job and that parents are just as human as their children.

A great majority of those who admit that their first reaction to pregnancy was predominantly one of dismay (and there are plenty of good people who feel this way) are reassured to find that their acceptance of the pregnancy and their fondness for the baby reaches a comfortable level before he is born.

Associated Press

Pub Date: 3/17/98

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