What kind of diapers did your grandmother use on your parents? With the holidays coming up, I’m going to ask you a favor. When you are sitting around in a quiet moment with your older relatives this year, consider asking them about what they did as parents. Ask your grandmother about diapers and see what she says.
I think we make a lot of parenting issues complicated. More complicated than they need to be, I’m not sure, but complicated nevertheless. It might help us to simplify if we know what people did before us.
Several years ago, Real Diaper Association, a charity that focuses on cloth diaper education, sponsored an oral history project to interview grandmothers about their use of cloth diapers. I’ve borrowed the tips below from that project.
#1 Wait until you have time
If you want a full answer, make sure there is time for it. Wait for those quiet moments where nice, open time stretches out in front of you.
#2 Ask open-ended questions
If you ask yes & no questions, you may just get yes & no answers. What you really want is to hear about her experience. Your question isn’t important. It is just a memory trigger. If you ask “What kind. . .” or “Tell me about. . .” you are more likely to get her talking. Your grandmother talking freely is the goal.
Your Grandmother Should Know lists these questions to start:
- Tell me about the diapers you used.
- Where did you get your diapers?
- What did you use for diaper covers?
- What years did you have babies in cloth diapers?
- Did you sew or make any of your own diapering supplies? If so, what did you use?
- Did you use pins or something else to secure the diapers?
- How did you wash the diapers?
- How did you dry the diapers?
- Who helped, if anyone?
- Have your children used cloth diapers on their children?
#3 Expand your view of time
Think beyond the reach of one lifetime. Just like you know a bit about your parents and grandparents’ lives, maybe your grandmother can tell you about her parents and grandparents. Your Grandmother Should Know suggests:
Don’t just prepare questions about Your Grandmother’s own babies. She may remember further back to when her own younger siblings or cousins were cloth diapered. She may have asked her own mother about diapers when her babies were born. Dig into her memory to find the oldest memories of diapers she can recall.
#4 Make it last
If you really do have a long stretch of time in front of you, how about getting out a tape recorder and a camera?
It will be fun and easy just to ask a few casual questions about diapers, but, if you can do it keep a record. When the older women in your life are gone, you will be glad you have their voices to remind you of them.
During this holiday season, ask your grandmother about parenting. You might find insights that will help you in your own parenting.
Your Grandmother Should Know: An Oral History of Cloth Diapers from Real Diaper Association, “Project Guidelines,” Real Diaper Association, 2006.