How do I put this nicely? Um…parenting has changed. A lot. And I just don’t know that we are better for it. I was reading the Berenstain Bears the other day (because most everything I learned about life I learned from them) and I noticed a glaring discrepancy between the way Mama Bear handles her family and the way that we as rugged, independent, baby-wearing, working American mamas handle our families.
You see…Brother Bear came home with a cold.
Now, this happens all the time. We get the sniffles. We cough and sneeze. We chalk it up to allergies or daycare germs or too little sleep. And what do we do? We take some cold medicine and we move on. Because nobody wants to (or can) miss out on this FOMO life for something as little as a cold. You can’t put motherhood on hold. You can’t leave school. You can’t skip the party. You can’t miss practice. You can’t leave work early.
Not for a cold.
But in Bear Country, life was a lot closer to the “good old days” than world we live in today. So when Brother Bear came home with the sneezing and wheezing, Mama Bear sent him straight to bed and he missed two days of school AND soccer practice! He stayed in bed. Watched TV. Read comic books. And rested…for a cold.
I’ve done a lot of thinking on this, especially as I sit here munching veggie straws with my four-year-old who currently has a cough and runny nose. First, let me assure you as a preschool teacher who LOVES her job (and is a bit of a control freak) that I’m the first one to scream, “Don’t bring your snotty kids to school!,” but the last one to actually stay home with my kids when they’re coughing. “Oh,” I think “it’s just allergies/drainage/something he ate/er…just a cold.” In fact, this morning I’m missing coffee with my favorite group of women and I promise it crossed my mind to (selfishly) go anyways because I’m the worst of the bunch when it comes to slowing down due to anything less than a life-threatening illness. But that doesn’t mean I can’t read about Brother Bear and sip my coffee wondering…
Why was a cold worth resting for “back then,” but we barely “sneeze” at it nowadays? (Pun absolutely 100% intended.) I can imagine a few reasons:
Indoor heating and air wasn’t the same. Clothing wasn’t the same. Germs weren’t the same. The fact was, a runny nose and a cough, if left untreated, could turn into much much more quite rapidly. So when the child came home sneezing and wheezing, they stayed home. Period. They rested. They hydrated. And they were taken care of so that they didn’t catch pneumonia and die. There’s some wisdom there.
Secondly, and this is going to ruffle some feathers, but you’ll get over it…mom stayed home.
She wasn’t rushing off to work or going to the gym or worrying about making this event or having that playdate. She wasn’t running all of her kids in different directions to practices and performances; she was a mom who stayed home and raised her children and cared for her family. As such, she was available when a child had a sneeze. She didn’t care about her personal schedule or her kids’ activities; she cared about the health of her child. And if one of her children had just a cold, she was available enough to make him stay home and rest no matter what else was going on. Am I suggesting we all just stay home and wash dishes? Heck no. But could I be more available for my kids when they have colds instead of keeping us busy all the time? Probably.
Thirdly, kids were tough.
I could argue that kids nowadays need to toughen up. (I do argue this, actually.) I think they need to build up immunity, be exposed to germs, not use hand sanitizer and eat a little dirt. I don’t think a trip to the clinic is necessary for every cough and sniffle, but back then this wasn’t even an issue. It was a given. Back then, kids had plenty of opportunities to “toughen up” and “build up their immunity.” They lived outside. They walked everywhere or rode bikes around town. They ate dirt. They were tough! So when the sneezes and sniffles got through all of that natural immunity, it actually meant something. And mom responded accordingly with care and rest.
Which brings me back to today. Am I saying that we don’t “care” about our children when we send them to school with a runny nose? Not at all. I know you care about your child more than anything in the world. But am I suggesting that sometimes our “just a cold” decisions are often based more on our agendas and social pressures than the health of our family (mine included)? Maybe.
Maybe our “cold care” says more about our values as a society than we care to admit (for the record, I have used every one of these excuses):
I can’t miss work for a cold because I need the money.
I can’t keep her home for a cold because the school has a limit on absences.
We can’t miss this party for a cold because he’ll miss all the fun with his friends.
I can’t stop what I’m doing for a cold because I need “me” time.
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t because it’s just a cold.
Or maybe our view of a healthy family and a truly healthy society is just not what it used to be:
Maybe if we valued family over everything else, workplaces and schools would be a little more relaxed about missing a day or two — even for a cold.
Maybe if money wasn’t the god of our culture, moms or dads would feel more comfortable staying at home and keeping a more open schedule, leaving them available for a day of cuddling on the couch when necessary.
Maybe if college scholarships and performance success weren’t the most important pursuits, it wouldn’t be so bad to miss a few practices now and then so your body could rest.
Heck, maybe if we truly valued rest in general we’d be a more caring, healthier society altogether. Because while I’m the worst at being busy, busy, busy, I don’t even need a cold to admit that a day of resting and cuddling with my kids is good for my health.