2008.04.02 New generation of couch sitters

Written 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.cowboy
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  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
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  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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