Back a number of generations bathing was not a daily affair as it tends to be today. Generally it was done about once a week, usually Friday or Saturday night. In many households running water was unavailable or an unaffordable luxury, so it had to be hand carried from a pump. This grueling process made filling the bath tub a slow and laborious chore, and only done once per occasion. When the tub was filled, the head of the household would bathe first, then the next in the family's hierarchy, and so on until at the end came baby's turn. If the family was large, by the time baby was placed in the water it was dark with dirt and filmed with scum, making it easy for baby to disappear unnoticed below the surface. If the attender was not ever-watchful, when the water was emptied, out would go poor baby with the bath water.
These types of problems, along with many to do with the controlling of open fires in the domestic environment for lighting and heating, preventing or retarding food spoilage, laundering/ironing, and dealing with human waste were everyday concerns for our distant ancestors. Yet these strangers persevered through the backbreaking and heartbreaking conditions so that we could be here today.
We are now into our fifth generation of family who have been afforded the luxury of hot and cold running water. Electricity is now used for lighting and to heat or control heating. Refrigeration can be had for both food and ourselves. Automatic clothes washers and dryers are common as well as fabrics that need little-to-no ironing. Inside bathrooms exist even in the lowliest of domiciles. Neither last nor least, there are speedy and powerful conveyances and a host of other conveniences never dreamed of by our ancestors.
Ironically, both because of and despite all the modern marvels, baby is still being thrown out with the bath water, so to speak, for the attenders are not ever-watchful. The attenders are the television, the video game and the computer, none of which knows or cares about the proper upbringing of a child. Baby has to make due with whatever human companionship and direction he or she can glean from other members of the family or community, who are themselves busily taking advantage of the marvels.
Love and connection are easily discarded in a household where family members only see each other rarely, and gathering together for any purpose generally causes somebody in the group an inconvenience. After all, there are so many things going on and so little time to do them. Interactions between members tend to be disagreements or collisions of interests or plans, so it evolves that the less time spent together the better. The extended family appears increasingly more attractive, as members of this family are one's peers and sharers of interests and goals, and mutual commitment is voluntary and flexible, not absolute and arbitrarily enforced.
Baby grows up in this environment, where love is equated with products, and connection is equated with handling other people to get one's own way. Baby has virtually no pressing problems of basic survival, so survival becomes equated with having things that make life more comfortable or interesting. Owning the latest video game or clothes of the current fashion become equated with survival, as do owning a large-screen TV, surround-sound stereo equipment, CDs, DVDs, a VCR, a computer, a sexy car, an enviable residence, etc.
It's no wonder that baby doesn't care about the travails or joys of his or her great-grandparents, or other generations further back. It's not that baby is intentionally unappreciative. It's that baby has enough to contend with managing living relatives who are forever obstructing baby's path, or are simply redundant to baby's needs or interests.
Baby is the future of our civilization and the family institution, yet is deeply immersed in the muddy and scummy bath waters of our commercialized and distracted state of mind. Baby grows up attended by inanimate objects and by humans that are insufficiently focused or devoted, spiritually unaware, and without adequate nonmaterial love. Consequently, baby does not develop an empathetic sense of connection with any generation, whether past, present or future.
The question is: When the time comes for the bath water to be thrown out, will baby be flushed away, too? Or will the attenders have resumed their responsibility and replaced with a solid foundation what were once murky and treacherous waters?
© 2000 Charles W. Paige
April 16, 2000
Last modified: Sunday April 16, 2000Home or Return to the top