Robert Benchley: Holt! Who Goes There?


Since I’m not having any luck finding out who Goran Topalovic is or why I should know his name let me repost another classic piece by Robert Benchley, who wrote so many classic pieces. This one’s on the raising of infants and it shows its age more than the one about Portland cement does, and the ending is not the strongest. But there’s an ending at all, which makes the essay easier to finish reading.


“…children sleeping out of doors in the country are likely to be kissed by wandering cows and things. This should never be permitted under any circumstances.”


The reliance of young mothers on Dr. Emmett Holt’s “The Care and Feeding of Children,” has become a national custom. Especially during the early infancy of the first baby does the son rise and set by what “Holt says.” But there are several questions which come to mind which are not included in the handy questionnaire arranged by the noted child-specialist, and as he is probably too busy to answer them himself, we have compiled an appendix which he may incorporate in the next edition of his book, if he cares to. Of course, if he doesn’t care to it isn’t compulsory.

BATHING

What should the parent wear while bathing the child?

A rubber loin-cloth will usually be sufficient, with perhaps a pair of elbow-guards and anti-skid gloves. A bath should never be given a child until at least one hour after eating (that is, after the parent has eaten).

What are the objections to face-cloths as a means of bathing children?

They are too easily swallowed, and after six or seven wet face-cloths have been swallowed, the child is likely to become heavy and lethargic.

Under what circumstances should the daily tub-bath be omitted?

Almost any excuse will do. The bath-room may be too cold, or too hot, or the child may be too sleepy or too wide-awake, or the parent may have lame knees or lead poisoning. And anyway, the child had a good bath yesterday.

CLOTHING

How should the infant be held during dressing and undressing?

Any carpenter will be glad to sell you a vise which can be attached to the edge of the table. Place the infant in the vise and turn the screw until there is a slight redness under the pressure. Be careful not to turn it too tight or the child will resent it; but on the other hand, care should be taken not to leave it too loose, otherwise the child will be continually falling out on the floor, and you will never get it dressed that way.

What are the most important items in the baby’s clothing?

The safety-pins which are in the bureau in the next room.

WEIGHT

How should a child be weighed?

Place the child in the scales. The father should then sit on top of the child to hold him down. Weigh father and child together. Then deduct the father’s weight from the gross tonnage, and the weight of the child is the result.

FRESH AIR

What are the objections to an infant’s sleeping out-of-doors?

Sleeping out-of-doors in the city is all right, but children sleeping out of doors in the country are likely to be kissed by wandering cows and things. This should never be permitted under any circumstances.

DEVELOPMENT

When does the infant first laugh aloud?

When father tries to pin it up for the first time.

If at two years the child makes no attempt to talk, what should be suspected?

That it hasn’t yet seen anyone worth talking to.

FEEDING

What should not be fed to a child?

Ripe olives.

How do we know how much food a healthy child needs?

By listening carefully.

Which parent should go and get the child’s early morning bottle?

The one least able to feign sleep.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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