My fourth-grade science book was lemon yellow with a picture of a dinosaur on the cover. This is the closest I ever came to any kind of formal education on the subject of prehistoric times. This is no cause for alarm, however, because any deficiency in my learning was more than compensated for by my daily exposure to Alley Oop in the newspaper and my weekly yabba-dabba-do visit to the Flintstones ("From the [pause] town of Bedrock [pause] they're a page right out of his-to-ry").
With this solid literary background, I came to learn that cave men carried clubs and cave women dressed provocatively. Fred Flintstone tended toward Chauvinism with his loud disapproval of his wife's spending habits ("Wilmaaaaaa!") and his dedicated membership to the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes, where he aspired to the position of Grand Poobah. Only recently, in the Geico commercials, have I become aware of the cave man's more sensitive side.
I say all this to establish the context in which I came across a short article titled "Prehistoric Parenting Lessons" in this February's issue of Woman's Day (p. 19). Apparently, a Dr. Darcia Narvaez of the University of Notre Dame has determined that when it came to parenting skills, Wilma and Betty and their counterparts had their rocks in a row. Narvaez doesn't say how many cave people she actually interviewed, but she nevertheless draws several conclusions for our consideration.
First, she says, cave moms held their babies more because they didn't have things like buggies and strollers and Bumbo seats. She claims that the human touch makes kids "calmer and more sociable." Now I have to say I have seen Bamm Bamm when he wasn't at his sociable best ("Can you say 'loud and destructive,' Bamm Bamm? Come on, give Mommy back the club"). And although I hate to cast aspersions on someone's research, I would swear that I once saw Pebbles in a stroller. So, at this point, let's just say I am skeptical at best.
Narvaez goes on to warn that, unlike Stone Age parents, we too often separate children by age, thus depriving them of the chance to learn from older kids. However, she fails to quote any meaningful statistics on the survival rate of these younger children, and she does not give us due credit for all that stuff we let older kids teach our little ones on the school bus. So far, Narvaez has not scored a point with me.
But then, she redeems herself. She says that if parents have to "shoulder the burden of childrearing alone [this seems a bit melodramatic to me, but OK]," they will feel inappropriately stressed and the kids could feel deprived. As I see it, this is where we grandparents must step in and do our part to save civilization as we know it.
I'm sure the Stone Age grandparents were on to this and, consequently, they were likely the first generation to be accused of being too permissive with their grandkids. I can just hear a barefoot, fur-wrapped googie, her gray hair secured by a bone, saying "OK, go on out and play with the woolly mammoths, but just don't be too rough" or "OK, go ahead and throw rocks through the window; there's no glass there anyway."
And here is a real point to ponder. What if none of the Stone Age googies had let the kids draw on the cave walls? Then we might never have known anything at all about prehistoric life.
I shudder at the thought.