2008.04.02 New generation of couch sitters

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

This morning I read an interview in the on-line magazine Salon with Pamela Paul, the author of “Parenting, Inc.,” a book critical of the growth industry of modern parenting.

The introduction to the article says the market for baby products and services “has ballooned like a giant inflatable bounce house” in recent years.

There’s the amazing Miracle Blanket and the Kiddopotamus SwaddleMe for squirmy infants. There’s the Halo SleepSack Wearable Blanket to prevent inadvertent suffocation, showing that something as simple as the baby blanket is no longer sufficient.

There’s a large array of infant sleep symmetry systems to prevent baby from slumbering in any position but its back. One of these comes with a complimentary “Sounds of the Womb” CD.

Baby monitors costing well over $100 now feature zero-interference technology, taking the fun out of listening to neighbors on their CB radios. CB radios? They’re still around?

A link in the article took me to Amazon.com where page after page after page of baby products are listed. I noticed that diapers are among the leading sellers—this from what was once a book-selling company—and I wonder about the future of America when small-town stores are no longer needed.

Comments about the article are numerous. I suppose the overall tone is one of agreement, but.… In other words, yes, so many of these products are unnecessary, but the baby sign language really helped us, or the fancy swaddling blanket really worked like a charm or the Bugaboo stroller was essential for living in the city where we had to walk everywhere, up and down curbs, into the subway, off to the laundry, etc.

The $800 Bugaboo stroller. Now there’s a hot topic of discussion. It’s not even top of the line anymore. Thousand dollar models are available and, according to the author, the cheaper brands have seen the light and raised their prices.

There’s a lot of discussion about items that are new since I had babies around, such as the Baby Einstein device which I’m still trying to figure out. Baby’s own DVD player? I’ve seen it described as the hottest toy ever to feed off “the status anxiety of neurotic parents.”

The timeline of success on the company website starts off with a child contently playing with colored rings, then moves forward into the story of the multi-million dollar business acquired by Disney. What a sad progression from baby playing with toys to baby watching its own mini-television.

But wait. Other mothers chime in saying not to look at it as producing a young Einstein. It simply fits in perfectly with the essential needs of the day—mother has to take a shower, make dinner, etc. And baby is entertained. Ah, there’s the difference—entertained rather than playing and exploring.

Pamela Paul says that honest marketing would have named Baby Einstein “Couch Potato Kiddie” and urged parents to “Get your child started on the joys of watching television as early as possible.”

Paul comes up with a statistic that says the average child acquires 70 new toys a year. She would like to see more reusing.

One reader jokes about marketing “The REAL Baby Einstein.” She would package wooden spoons, a few pot lids, some yarn, wooden blocks, etc. The stuff that Einstein probably played with, she says.

Another suggests putting away the high-tech toys and just getting down on the floor and playing with baby. Crawl around, play peek-a-boo, read a book—and don’t worry about the mess.

It takes a strong stomach to step off the must-have merry-go-round, says one mother, because other parents will be watching and criticizing.

I think about the cardboard boxes, the red wagon, the colored blocks, crayons and paints—all those simple toys that my kids enjoyed in their younger years—and I wonder what will happen when they have their own kids.

Will they make up for their “deprived” childhood and load up on what the marketers are pushing, or will they think back to their simpler toddler days and choose to repeat it?

I like what this one mother wrote: “Finally we realized that all our kids really needed was us. You are the best thing your kids can have.”

  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
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