For a long time, people in the 19th century, living in urban apartments, didn’t regularly take their children outside so they could get some fresh air. Then, the doctors started to recommend that these children really needed to get outside for fresh air. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that the parents were real excited about the idea of loading up their child and taking them for a walk…just to get the recommended amount of fresh air. Nevertheless, it was important, as the doctors told them that it would strengthen their immune system, and with the number of pandemics that had gone around, the parents really tried to do whatever they could to make this happen.
While physicians such as Dr. Luther Emmett Holt advised simply placing an infant’s basket near an open window, some parents took it a step further. Enter the Baby Cage. The baby cage was just what it sounded like. It was a platform, with chicken wire all around it to keep the baby in. This whole contraption was then suspended outside the window…even if the window was on the sixth floor or something. Personally, I can’t imagine hanging my baby outside my window for a dose of fresh air, but it was an actual thing in those days.
Eleanor Roosevelt, who by her own admission “knew absolutely nothing about handling or feeding a baby,” bought a chicken-wire cage after the birth of her daughter, Anna. She hung it out the window of her New York City apartment and placed Anna inside for her naps…until a concerned neighbor threatened to report her to the authorities. I would think so. If the brackets that suspended the cage to the window came loose…so long baby. I couldn’t find any incidence of such a thing happening, however. The first commercial patent for a baby cage was filed in 1922 by Emma Read of Spokane, Washington. The cages became popular in London in the 1930s among apartment dwellers without access to backyards. Ultimately, their popularity declined. It is possible that this was connected to safety concerns. As I said, I can imagine. I would have nightmares about that if it were my child.
Most children take some type of nap for the first three to five years of their lives…and their mothers are grateful for that quiet time. I was no different, but I had one problem…my youngest daughter. Amy was a happy, smiley little girl, who loved to laugh and practically always ran wherever she went. Both of my girls were very happy little girls. When they were little, both of them took an hour to two hour nap every day. It was a time when I could clean house, do laundry, or maybe even read a book…which was shocking to my system. At first, they both woke up smiling and very happy, but as Amy approached two years old, things began to change.
My smiling little angel would go to bed so happy and when she woke up…all those little smiles were gone. The best thing to do then was not to speak to her for a while, because she was going to be grouchy for a while. My solution was to get her a glass of Kool-Aid, and wait it out. Amy was so grouchy that she would hold that glass up to her face, for an hour or two, sipping slowly, until she was ready to rejoin the rest of the world. The glass didn’t leave her mouth during that whole time. Now, if you know anything about Kool-Aide at all, you know that when it sits against a baby’s cheeks for a while, it will leave its mark on those little cheeks. One might have thought that it would be hard to catch a picture of a Kool-Aide face, but with Amy it was not difficult at all. She had a Kool-Aide face pretty much every day.
After almost a year of putting a happy toddler to bed and getting a cranky toddler up, I decided that I no longer cared what all the experts said about children needing their naps for the first five years. When Amy turned two, I made the decision that mine would be that strange household where the three year old took a nap, but the two year old took no more naps. Strange as it was, it was the best decision I ever made. Amy stayed happy and the Kool-Aide face became a thing of the past, and her big sister, Corrie took her naps for about another two years. And peace reigned in our house…which made me very happy!!