Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sparing the Rod

In Texas, a 19-year-old mother has told police her two-year-old daughter was beaten with leather belts, had her head held underwater in a bathtub and was thrown across a room, slamming into a tile floor, for failing to say "please" and "thank you" and otherwise displeasing her 24-year-old stepfather. The child's body was found in a plastic box in Galveston bay.

As authorities sort out details of the brief, brutalized life of Riley Ann Sawyers, also known as "Baby Grace," it is a haunting reminder of what childhood was like in America before parents of the Baby Boomers came home from World War II and one of them, Dr. Benjamin Spock, wrote a book for the first generation that would treat children as human beings to be loved and nurtured rather than creatures to be trained and restrained.

Before Spock, child-care experts advised “less sentimentality and more spanking” and discouraged playing with children or showing them affection. Babies were to be fed only on schedule, toilet-trained ready or not, and have their hands tied to prevent thumb-sucking.

In an era of postwar optimism, parents were persuaded instead to love their children without restraint and risk "spoiling" them.

Now, some critics find those children who were not drilled to say "please" and "thank you," as they near retirement age, a "me" generation, selfish, self-centered and the source of many of America's social ills.

But whatever the pathology in the case of Riley Ann Sawyers turns out to be, her story is a jolt to those who may have forgotten that the Baby Boomers also turned out to be one of the most sensitive and caring generations ever.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Your going a little overboard comparing the treatment by the Texas stepfather of Riley Sawyers with life in America before Spock. I don't recall there was a great plague of child beatings during those days.

Oh, yes, the baby boomers (George Bushes, Bill Clintons, Ken Lays, Paul Wolfowitzes, and Baby Grace's father) are a sensitive and caring generation.