Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Baby Story Part 5

Not long ago, my wife and I embarked on one of the greatest privileges of any new parent: the baby registry. The concept is decidedly first-world in nature: you pick things you want and other people use their hard-earned disposable income to acquire them for you as a reward for your fertility. So we walked into our local Target store, acquired a scan gun, and covered each and every inch of the baby isles.

First, we agonized over bottle systems, each more vented and ergonomic than the last. Every brand reassured the consumer that it was designed, bankrolled, and recommended by a team of pediatricians working in conjunction with an ASE-certified diesel mechanic. Based on name alone, I was leaning toward Dr. Brown but I felt they really missed an opportunity by not getting into the diaper market.

Then came the nipples, oh sweet humanity, the nipples. It isn’t enough to select a brand based on the liquid delivery system; one must insure that said system is dispensed through a bottle nipple that will closely mimic the mother’s factory equipment. If the dichotomy is too great, your infant could suffer from “nipple confusion” which sounds more like a Cinemax production than a medical diagnosis. We were assured by the packaging that each offering had been designed by a team of nippleologists to guarantee interface compatibility.

Once our bottle system had been established, we had to decide how we wished to take our child’s temperature. While the oldest, and apparently most reliable, method still involves an unmentionable area, many companies have begun offering less invasive techniques for ascertaining your child’s body temperature. For the undecided, one product offered a single device with interchangeable attachments. You could choose forehead, ear, rectum, or armpit simply by affixing a separate probe not unlike most modern weed-eaters.

Next, it was on to the pacifiers. As with the bottle nipples, we were inundated with claims of “natural contours” and “soothing design” that would mollify the most violent of infantile outbursts. One company had even trademarked the name “Binky” in an attempt to conjure up the buyer’s childhood nostalgia. We spent almost ten minutes agonizing over which brand of later-to-be-recalled Chinese plastic our son would have the privilege of drooling on. Needless to say, we simply registered for all of them.

Finally, we needed to choose some mentally-stimulating interactive manipulatives to improve our child’s cognitive development. Marketed simply as “toys” just a few decades ago, these items utilize colors and sounds to enhance your offspring’s neurological prowess. Apparently, the same set of colored plastic rings I played with as a child suddenly has the ability to prevent dyslexia.

Off course, the juggernaut in early development is the Baby Einstein series. Personally, I feel it is misleading to associate a few re-branded toys with one of the greatest theoretical physicists the world has ever known. Plus, it creates an inflated set of expectations for the parent. While I may envision my 1-year old son dissecting Rachmaninoff concertos after I hand him the Baby Einstein Neptune Ocean Orchestra Musical Toy, the truth is that he will simply giggle at the pretty lights while soiling himself. I propose a line of toys with a more balanced and realistic approach to my child’s cognitive abilities like “The middle-management play set” or “The 3-year associates degree jungle gym.” 

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