My becoming a grandfather has already been a tremendous learning experience, one component of which is discovering how much things have changed since my wife and I had babies.

For example, ours were all swaddled tightly and placed on their stomachs or sides to sleep. I do not recall why that was the policy of the day, but we would have no more placed a baby on his back to sleep than we would have stood him on his or her head. It simply wasn’t done.

But somewhere over the past 30 years a transition was made. While both of my grandsons are swaddled, they are placed flat on their backs where they snooze peacefully.

You might have taken note of that word “swaddled,” past tense of “swaddle.” Until becoming a father for the first time some 30-plus years ago, I had only ever heard the term in connection with the baby Jesus who was “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

But as I learned soon after our first was born, it really is a thing. We were taught in the hospital how to place our newborn on a baby-sized blanket and fold it tightly around him from each side and the bottom. It would roughly replicate the cozy feeling they had in the womb.

Only for us, as I recall, it didn’t seem to matter that much into what kind of garment a baby was wrapped. I suppose a soft blanket was preferable, but I’m sure we swaddled with whatever was handy at the time. Anyone who has ever had a baby knows that once you get them home from the hospital your house becomes a wreck and you can’t find anything, and I am fairly confident we swaddled ours in dish towels and bed sheets.

That wouldn’t fly today. There is a whole line of garments related to swaddling. A few days after my son’s baby boy was born in October, he sent a text message to my daughter, who had given birth in July, lamenting his lack of swaddling ability. She immediately shipped to him the latest in swaddling apparel.

The whole idea about hot and cold has also changed, a fact I am certain has my dear, late parents spinning in their graves.

They, especially my father, essentially believed that 99 percent of anything ailing children could be cured by keeping them warm. At first they were passive-aggressive about it, making chuckling little remarks about “keeping that child warm” but later they were more direct, as in telling us this or that child was sick because our house was too cold. And we could pretty much count on our children
returning from visits to their house with new underwear and socks.

My in-laws also were big believers in warmth. We dropped our three off for an overnight visit one time and our youngest, about three at the time, did not have shoes.

I don’t know remember the exact circumstances, but today I can say with confidence that we either (a) could not find his shoes at the time and decided they were optional; (b) he kicked them off in the car on the way over there; or (c) since he was the third and last one, we chose our battles, and he very well could have said he just wasn’t interested in shoes at the time, and we decided if he was three-fourths of the way dressed, he could survive without shoes for a brief stay at his grandparents. I’m pretty sure it was a warm season, either spring or summer.

When we returned to retrieve him, we were told “that child didn’t even have shoes with him” and was in danger of catching a cold (possibly his “death of pneumonia”). By that time, of course, he had a brand new pair, courtesy of his attentive grandparents.

Today, parents are advised to keep their homes cool and not to dress babies too warmly during the day. Again, my late parents would not be pleased with this development and my in-laws, still with us, would most certainly debate this if we were to tell them about it.

I’m on the fence about that one. While I’m happy to be relieved of the guilt I had for so many years regarding my own children and their warmth (or lack thereof), I’m still inclined to wrap them up a bit for going outside, say, for a walk in the stroller.

And speaking of strollers, don’t get me started. When my daughter and son-in- law went to look at them a few months ahead of the birth of their son, they returned with all kinds of brochures about the different models (as if they were buying a car), and reports on how the infant carrier fits into the stroller, which is roughly the size of a standard sized bicycle, and also onto the “car seat base” which everyone in the family who might be driving the child should have.

In other words, you buy all this stuff – the carrier, the stroller itself and the car seat base – at one time. And I don’t believe those bases are all the same either. I think I’ve already been told we will need one that fits the particular brand/model/whatever that each grandson has. It is very complicated.

But that’s all great. We’ll have whatever we need for the visits, and I’m happy to keep the house nice and cool (with apologies to that other generation of grandparents who so valiantly fought against the cold).

Because one thing has not changed — the way we grandparents so quickly become putty in the hands of our grandchildren.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at

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