September 1, 2010


I’ve been invited to a baby shower. My gardener of the last 8 years has finally left me to begin a new life as a mom and I’m happy for her. I’ve not doubt I’ll be the oldest one at the party, old enough to be the mother of all those in attendance.

When my gardener extended the invitation, she seemed tentative, as if inviting me to have cake and play baby shower games was probably an event I wouldn’t consider; but I would. The sheer novelty of it is a draw. Besides, I’m flattered she asked. How could I say no?

I admit, when I was younger, I’d greet wedding, graduation and baby shower announcements with chagrin. Not a week seemed to go by when I wasn’t invited to celebrate another seminal event. But I shrink from them no more.  Baby showers are all too rare an event on my calendar. I wonder how the parties are organized now. Will there be a door prize and sugary cake with punch and balloons? I suppose not much has changed. Why should it? Babies get here the same way they always have. Soon-to-be mothers still waddle like ducks and wait for their water to burst.

There are a lot of books written about how to raise a child. The advice often changes, though. I read in one of my magazines that modern child rearing experts caution on the danger of giving a child too much praise. It gives them false expectations, the writer said. That was news to me. Since when did praise become the enemy? I thought neglect and battering and all manner of abuse where the problems. Raising an infant to a healthy adult is difficult enough without parsing praise for the goldilocks effect: not too much, not too little, just the right amount of praise.  

I know a child can be spoiled but somehow making a youngster feel good about himself doesn’t strike me as something to fear. There’s going to be enough negative feedback waiting for him in school, at work, among his colleagues and probably from his doctor at one time or another. All those writers of children’s books ought to bear that in mind when they write about giving too much praise.

Raising a child is hard, harder than writing a book, and it’s a commitment for a lifetime, not till the child turns 21. Parents are going to hiccup now and then even if they adhere to baby book notions which all too often change. When they err, they should chill and listen to some music. The Beatles gave the best advice on child rearing: All you need is love.