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Don't Look At Ugly People! The Hidden Logic Behind Old Parenting Advice
April 19, 2013 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Though Dr. Spock's book on "how to raise a mildly disfunctional baby boomer" might have been the best selling parenting book in history, it wasn't the first or remotely the craziest. But according to an article at The Atlantic, they had a good reason for their tough love and crazy theories.
posted by esereth (22 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Self linking; banned -- taz



 
My nonna told my sister not to look at an ugly baby when she was pregnant, or else her baby would be ugly, which didn't happen. However she also said she shouldn't wear a necklace since it would make the baby come out tangled in the cord, which did happen (the kid came out OK). Fwiw.
posted by jonmc at 12:28 PM on April 19, 2013


I've got a parenting-advice book from 1912 or so that asserts, without any doubt or hesitation, that injecting a dilute solution of turpentine into a baby's rectum is the way to cure gas or colic.

Baby books have always been rich vein of crazy.
posted by mhoye at 12:40 PM on April 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Babies want to live. They want to thrive.

That's probably the best advice for parents. Relax. Keep them away from poison and other fatal accidents and they'll be (mostly) fine. Or they're going to be screwed up no matter what you do, b/c they've got your crazy aunt molly's genes, etc. etc. You do matter and you don't, etc.

Dr. Sears Baby Book is definitely our generation's Dr. Spock. A useful reference (just in case, like me, you can never remember how much baby ibuprofen you're supposed to give for teething, etc.)
posted by mrgrimm at 12:43 PM on April 19, 2013


that "don't look at/think about ugly things or your baby will be deformed." thing pops up in SO MANY folkloric traditions.
posted by The Whelk at 12:45 PM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've got a parenting-advice book from 1912 or so that asserts, without any doubt or hesitation, that injecting a dilute solution of turpentine into a baby's rectum is the way to cure gas or colic.

You've just described my weekend plans.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:46 PM on April 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


But where will you find a colic-ey baby?
posted by five fresh fish at 2:01 PM on April 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


How do you know the baby is ugly till you look at it? Do you get your partner to look first and have a signal if the kid is too ugly to look at? Parents are fucked up.
posted by biffa at 3:11 PM on April 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


You polish your shield to a reflective shine and look at them in that.
posted by The Whelk at 3:19 PM on April 19, 2013 [19 favorites]


But where will you find a colic-ey baby?

There's an app for that.

Or just use craigslist.
posted by MattMangels at 3:27 PM on April 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


How do you know the baby is ugly till you look at it?

I suppose you could guess what it looks like. Babies really all do look very similar.

A few days ago, one of my co-workers wanted to show me a picture of a mutual (dudeweneverthoughtwouldevereverhavekidsever)friend's baby. She ran up to me, smartphone outstretched in her hand and said "WHO DOES THIS LOOK LIKE?!!!" as she thrust it in my face.


"Uhhhhhh.... Winston Churchill?"

Apparently that wasn't the correct answer, but I swear it was the right one, because that baby looked a lot more like Winston Churchill than he did Glen.
posted by louche mustachio at 4:43 PM on April 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


As P. G. Wodehouse said, "There's never been much difference between babies of that age. They all look like Winston Churchill."
posted by phliar at 5:12 PM on April 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've got a parenting-advice book from 1912 or so that asserts, without any doubt or hesitation, that injecting a dilute solution of turpentine into a baby's rectum is the way to cure gas or colic.

Or how about those ones that talk about how you need to "wear" your baby so that is sufficiently attached and it doesn't get a complex. Those are a gas. (I kid, I kid.)
posted by mermily at 5:14 PM on April 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


That'd be like comparing assholes and orangutans.
posted by lordaych at 7:57 PM on April 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


About fifty years ago, when a cousin turned out to be mentally retarded, the older people in our family all agreed that it was my great-aunt's fault because she had once bathed him with the window open.

I hope that she lived long enough to learn that it actually wasn't All Her Fault. (Blaming anything wrong on the mother is another enduring tradition.)
posted by Toothless Willy at 8:56 PM on April 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or how about those ones that talk about how you need to "wear" your baby so that is sufficiently attached and it doesn't get a complex. Those are a gas. (I kid, I kid.)

The Sears parenting books have helped us out. Total common sense approaches to being a parent and being a human.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:38 PM on April 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just what I needed today, thanks.

I wear my baby for me, not for her. Hands free and she smells good. Mostly, she sleeps; so I doubt she's developing a secure emotional base or anything.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:09 AM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The "Don't think of ugly things while pregnant" is not horrible advice. This is:

We run into many snags when we undertake to discipline the nervous baby. The first is that it will sometimes cry so hard that it will get black in the face and may even have a convulsion; occasionally a small blood vessel may be ruptured on some part of the body, usually the face. When you see the little one approaching this point, turn it over and administer a sound spanking and it will instantly catch its breath.
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:40 AM on April 20, 2013


Is it? It seems to me that a shock to the system is sometimes required to break out of a closed-loop system. A short sharp smack trips the breaker. With the feedback cycle broken, a recalibration and cessation of the undesired behaviour is possible.

What do you suggest as an effective solution?

Good thing MeFi doesn't do down votes or I'd be destined for hell... try to forgive me for old-fashioned thinking.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:27 AM on April 21, 2013


I'm not pregnant but if I were, the instruction, 'don't think about ugly babies,' would surely guarantee days and nights picturing the likes of these: http://uglyrenaissancebabies.tumblr.com/
posted by genuinely curious at 10:49 AM on April 21, 2013


The first is that it will sometimes cry so hard that it will get black in the face and may even have a convulsion; occasionally a small blood vessel may be ruptured on some part of the body, usually the face. When you see the little one approaching this point, turn it over and administer a sound spanking and it will instantly catch its breath

What do you suggest as an effective solution?

I'd say it depends on the child, obviously, but my youngest used to do this when she was very young and it was terrifying. She had very little hair, and she would cry so hard (usually for food) that her whole head would turn purple. The solution (usually) in her case was to get her food as fast as possible. ;) She was a fucking feisty baby. I literally couldn't hold her the first 3 months without her going insane. She's 0-60 in 2 secs.

But in the other cases where it wasn't so simple, I would suggest a change of location as a very effective solution, especially if you can go from inside to outside.

The Sears parenting books have helped us out. Total common sense approaches to being a parent and being a human.

Totally agreed. Regardless of how you feel about attachment parenting, the books are a fantastic resource.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:22 PM on April 21, 2013


What do you suggest as an effective solution?

Dealing with the baby's needs before they get to the convulsive stage? We are talking infants here, not toddlers or older children.
posted by Jilder at 3:18 PM on April 21, 2013


I found The New Basics to be a great, "don't get so worried about it," baby care guide.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:17 AM on April 24, 2013


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