Shock-a-Bye Baby

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buildingblocksTurn on the music and turn off the noise.
Pull out the building blocks, puzzles and toys.
Stick to the basics and you’ll be okay.
‘Cause rock-a-bye baby, is high-tech today.

                        

Don’t panic: I spotted a friend in the baby aisles of a department store the other day. She had the wide-eyed look of a frazzled shopper in the throes of a panic attack. As I approached her, she hollered at me, “What the heck has happened to our babies?”

False alarm: Well I guess the sales girl and a few nearby shoppers thought this was an Amber Alert in the making – so you can imagine the kerfuffle that ensued. Once the fracas died down and she explained that we in fact had no babies, I took her for a cup of tea to calm what was left of her nerves. It appears she had just become a new grandmother and simply wanted to buy a few things for her grandson.

Gizmos and Gear: My poor unsuspecting friend was completely overwhelmed by the complexity of all the new high-tech baby merchandise that morphs into various contraptions as the baby grows. And as useful as this sounds, I often wonder how the parents of today know when to ‘Snap ‘n Go’, ‘Sit n’ Stroll’, or simply ‘Mop n’ Glo’? What has happened to our babies, indeed!

Looking back: As I hauled my friend out of the grandbaby gap, it brought back a deluge of shopping memories of when I became a grandmother thirteen years ago. It all started in the same way…standing alone in the baby aisles, looking desperate and feeling overwhelmed. But in time, I adjusted and learned to let my daughter do the heavy lifting when it came to making complicated baby-product decisions.

You’ve come a long way baby: Thankfully, we’ve travelled some distance since the days of treacherous baby cribs and toys filled with lead. The better care and feeding of our babies should always be the driving force behind any change to the nursery set. And the new mothers and fathers of today have a plethora of choices to make and many new adventures to behold.

5 Things I learned:

1. Strollers are like hot rods: My first stroller simply strolled with a squeaky wheel or two. Today, babies travel in style in trail-blazing strollers that promise easy release hand-brakes, front and rear suspension, multi-position reclining seats and all terrain wheels. It’s an amazing sight to see how the simple stroller has evolved into a deluxe rock n’ roll system, with the features of a souped-up automobile!

2. Car seats kick butt: Good grief! We didn’t even have car seats! Today, there are forward facing seats and rear facing seats and seats that go by the pound. There are latch systems and universal anchorage systems and space-age cockpit turbo-design booster seats for big kids. And if you purchase the travel model with the handy removable seat, you can jump out of your car – pop the whole ‘kid-and-car-seat’ package right into a  stroller base thingy and jog around the block, while you talk mergers and acquisitions on your cell phone!

3. High chairs collect points: My daughter’s old wooden high chair was as tippy as a canoe! And the removable tray kept sliding out and crashing to the floor. In today’s world, high chair designs have miraculously evolved into 3-point restraining systems, 4-point reclining systems and 5-point height adjusting systems. And, like the car seat and stroller, it can transform into just about anything, if you have an engineering degree.

4. New mothers are brave: Gone are the cold clinical hospital deliveries we had on baby-D-day. Today young women have birthing centres and many employ the services of mid-wives and doulas to have a more natural experience. Even my lovely daughter, who has the pain threshold of a gnat and gets sedation to have her haircut – tried the au naturelle route of birthing at home. But that’s a story for another day when my daughter isn’t reading my blog posts.

5. New fathers are nuts: Back in the day, most fathers kept their distance from mothers and babies and played the role of  being useless very well. Today, new fathers are fully involved in baby routines – from birthing to burping and all things in between. But my son-in-law was a bit ‘two diapers short of a pail’ if you get my drift. Before leaving for groceries one day, he instructed me on how to help my daughter breast feed! My advice: never have a milky-nipple discussion with your son-in-law!

Toys on steroids: Did you know that some of the little-girl dolls of today can give birth, breastfeed and poop? Did you know that some little-boy dump trucks can break-dance in a flashing display of lights and music?  And don’t even get me started on the brand new just released “Hello Barbie” – an interactive doll with artificial intelligence that talks and works using your WIFI. Where is George Orwell when you need him? This is nothing short of just plain creepy!

Just imagine: Children might love these multi-tasking toys. But it raises the question of long term consequences on their ability to focus on a singe task – not to mention their ability to learn language. Most of these types of toys are designed to entertain and distract – rather than engage the child. The imagination is a powerful playmate. And if the toy does too much, the child does too little – and the imagination shrivels up and dies. A very sad death by starvation.

Finding the balance: We live in a complex world. And it’s wonderful to see the new products that keep baby safe, and the educational toys that help baby enjoy an enriched and comfortable environment. We can marvel at the new studies just out last week, that stated nearly every child under 4 years old uses electronic mobile devices to keep them busy. And while we may be grooming them to be masters of the universe, there’s also something to be said for the pure joys of simplicity.

Final word: So what has happened to our babies? Nothing. Babies aren’t any more complicated than they used to be. It’s this world we live in that’s become more complicated. And I believe it’s up to each one of us to bring back some small pleasure from our own childhood and introduce it to our children and grandchildren. You just never know what simple goodness you might find.

So don’t be in shock on becoming a Grand,
With new-fangled stuff that you don’t understand.
Despite all the gizmos, the gadgets, the gear,
Our babies are babies – the same every year.

 And may I remind you, in case you forgot,
The best toys are those that do diddly-squat!
And books are for reading and shouldn’t talk back.
Just stick with the program – you won’t go off-track.

See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene

20 responses »

  1. So true. Great comment on our modern world.I wonder when that stick that we used to break off a tree will cost $21.95 and come with batteries and an instruction booklet as to how you can use it to play

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  2. I haven’t looked at baby gear in nearly 15 years and can’t even imagine these things you speak of!
    You have me intrigued to go into a baby department now and check all of this out. It must be so expensive too!

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  3. You are so, so right about all of this. I’ve told my daughters my goal is to buy nothing that requires batteries for my grandchildren, 5, 3&3. So far so good. Books and blocks and Legos still work fine.

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    • Good for you! I remember when my daughter was born in the early 70’s and I went to our department store at Christmas to find a doll that didn’t do anything. It was a real challenge and I finally found a “Baby Brenda” baby doll, up on a shelf about 10 feet off the floor. Obviously not a big seller. I had to get someone to climb up there and bring her down. It was my daughter’s favourite doll for years.

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  4. We loved this post, having been through over 18 years of grandparenting. Since our six range in age from 18 to 2, we are much more confused in the toddler aisle now than we were back at the beginning. You had us in hysterics with your clever descriptions! By the way are your daughter and son in law still speaking to you? As always, it was a very entertaining read! Thank you for the good laugh!

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  5. I haven’t been in a toy store in a long time. My brother and I had a robot in the 80s named Omnibot. We loved him. We could send him to each other’s rooms carrying books or drinks on his tray. He spoke a little. It was a sign of things to come!! Lots of great points in this article. I think it’s so important to keep it simple–and that’s true for all ages.

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    • I agree that robotic toys like that are exciting for kids. But I guess what I’m saying is not at the exclusion of simple toys in the mix as well. Little toy cars, books, building blocks and baby dolls that do nothing, can struggle to compete with the allure of other louder, faster, brighter options. Your robot sounds like it was lots of fun for you and your brother. Thanks for your comment.

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  6. Loved this! Thanks for the stroll down memory lane. I recently went to a baby shower (first time in over 20 years and decided that I wanted to buy timeless toys. I went to ‘My gifted child and bought wooden toys (blocks, puzzles etc.) made in Germany with paint from fruit and vegetable dies. The recipient loved them! Sometimes just sticking with the basics is the best!

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  7. Loved this blog…so humorous and so true! I believe the greatest gift we can give to our children is imagination and I have tried to do the same for my two grandsons who are 21 and 4! Thanks Pat for reminding this “baby boomer” grandparent how important it is to keep those toys of old alive!

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    • Thanks for checking in Janice and for your comment. Yes, it’s so easy to get caught up in the toys that make the biggest splash in the media. A good old cardboard box, a blanket and a couple of stuffed toy pals can create a magical experience for any child. Throw in a bowl of Cheerios and you’ve got a secret cave and a picnic!

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    • I couldn’t agree with you more. Colouring book and crayons still works too. Watercolour paints on a big plastic tablecloth makes wonderful pictures and memories for years to come. Thanks for your comment.

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