Something I’ve learned over the last six months is that people will say some pretty strange things to new parents — even people who have no children of their own — and they really don’t mind getting up in your business to say them. Typically, these nuggets of “wisdom” appear either under the guise of offering unnecessary (and, more often than not, unasked-for) advice or by comparing some current child-rearing experience of the moment to the way they themselves grew up. You learn pretty quickly, of course, how to filter everything through a weave of self-education and rational thought, and how to apply copious quantities of salt to everything.
Something I’ve heard often lately occurs after I’ve spent a few minutes expounding on the virtues of the latest development in child safety technology. Usually, it’s something that I think is really cool and that I’m excited about because it makes my job as an admittedly over-protective parent a little bit easier. It could be the newest innovation in car seat technology, or those color-changing, rubber-coated spoons that let you know when the baby food is too hot, or the five-point harnesses that keep your active and energetic infant from flinging herself out of her seat. Whatever the innovation, it’s typically not long before I hear, “We never had that when I was growing up, and I turned out alright.”
And that’s where my brain trips a circuit somewhere.
It’s not the statement itself that brings me up short. It’s true. A lot of the child safety technologies we have today either didn’t exist when I was my daughter’s age or have been vastly improved upon since then, making them much safer than they were 30 years. And it’s also true that, for the most part, my generation did turn out alright, otherwise we wouldn’t be here to talk about this.
No, what puzzles me a bit is the psychology behind statements like this. The implication is that, because technology worked more or less well enough to keep my generation safe, there’s no need to innovate and make it even better — or to invent new technologies that help provide protection where none existed 30 years ago. I mean, why the heck wouldn’t you want to do everything possible to keep your child safe and protect them as much as you can? Why wouldn’t you want new tools and better technology designed with your child’s well-being in mind? It is possible that the driving philosophy here is some sort of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, that being concerned and cautious about your child’s safety is tantamount to paranoia, but it could also just be that some people simply haven’t thought much about the need for this kind of innovation.
Of course, I could just be over-thinking this. It’s what I do. And ultimately, statements like this don’t really bother me that much, other than to serve as passing curiosities and blog fodder. It’s just that the social psychologist in me often wonders about the way people think and why they think the way they do. Being a relatively new parent, I find myself analyzing the social behavior of people around me as it relates to my child. That’s normal, right?