27 October 2009

Bye Bye Baby Einstein, Hello Real World

In late August of this year, I packed up my laptop, hugged my co-workers good bye and said, "Hopefully this will be over soon." My husband had been recalled from Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) and had been ordered, on somewhat short notice, to report to Fort Knox, KY.

This was the first time he'd be gone from home and it was going to be momentous. Our daughter would be with me all day instead of her father. I was going to have to sort out the best way to keep her routine, one she was and still is firmly attuned to; to work from home while simultaneously keeping both eyes firmly planted on her the entire time (at 16 months and running, her main mission in life was to find new and interesting ways to attempt to end her life and give us both as many heart attacks as was possible in one day without actually ending our own as well); and to try desperately to find affordable daycare if my husband's appeal to be released was denied.

As the leading opponent to TV for toddlers in our household, day 1 found us both in a funk. Daddy was gone. The house felt empty and, for the first time, not at all home-like. Both toddler and I went through the motions and even sort of chatted a little bit, but in the end, we spent the day watching TV and waiting for a phone call.

Oh, we had a walk and lunch and some outside time before the temperature got too frightfully hot...

But mostly, we just watched TV. When, for some reason, PBS and PBS Sprout channels both started repeating themselves in the afternoon, I went searching for the Baby Einstein DVD we'd been given as a gift when she was born. I found it in the study, collecting dust. I had cringed when we received it, I remember that. To me, these things were worse than "normal" kids television...they were actually trying to market genius in babies. I was smug about that, I will admit it. No gullible yuppies were we! With spending money at a premium in this household, we were both wise and frugal enough to know that the best way to turn a baby into a genius was hands-on teaching and interaction, o ho! But, never look a gift DVD in the...well...

My husband had previewed the video some time before and I recalled him telling me that it was the most mind-numbingly boring thing he had ever seen. Of course, he wasn't a baby, so that review probably wasn't the most reliable in the history of children's educational programming reviews, but I also remembered him saying that he would only ever show it to a child if he wanted to be accused of torture, it was just that bad. Similarly, I have banned Blues Clues from the house for the same basic reason.

But it was enough to make me put the DVD back where I'd found it. It was serving the household well as a collector of dust. Being too hot to play outside, daughter and I wandered in to her room instead and threw styrofoam blocks at each other .

Flash forward to now. That DVD only just now saw the light of day after our move a month ago when it was packed from it's dust collecting location into a drawer and I purposefully hunted it down and took it out. There's a note on it: Return to Store.

Over on Yahoo! Shine, I learned that Disney is offering refunds for all of the suckers...er...well meaning parents who really believed that plopping a child in front of a television watching a video specially designed to numb the brains of parents everywhere but "stimulate" infants was, indeed, to parenting what snake oil is to cancer, flux, indigestion, disease of the liver and any other ailments you can think of. Nothing more than a placebo that, in too many cases, actually caused a malady rather than cured anything.

I'm not sure, though, how this is so "stunning" to parents. The only thing that's stunned me about the refund is the fact that Disney is actually offering refunds at all. Sure, this will probably save them money in the long run (is it this or suffer a class action lawsuit?), but it's practically an admission of guilt - it's almost saying, "Yeah, we suckered you. And now your kid has attention span issues because we suckered you so here's your 25 bucks back, OK? That should cover the next bottle of Rittalin, right?"

The debate over childhood TV viewing and attention span disorders will forever rage long after this has subsided and parents will still draw their lines in the sand, prepared to label one another as Very Bad Parents for allowing/disallowing TV in the household at or under or around certain ages, or even at all!

But on that sad August day when neither of us wanted to do much of anything and both of us missed Daddy/Dear Husband and couldn't quite articulate our feelings to one another, Sesame Street and Curious George helped distract us just that little bit...and somehow, brought us closer together too. We snuggled a lot that day - and our decidedly independent hellion is not a big snuggler so that was something extra special to hold on to.

As for Baby Einstein's "Numbers Nursery: Discovering 1 Through 5" video, the cash I get back will definitely come in handy during the next diaper run. Or maybe to purchase another couple of sets of feetsey pajamas as we settle in for the winter to come.

At 18 months now, she already counts to 3 as it is...and that's just from a lot of silly songs with Mommy and Daddy and counting of fingers and toes. There really is no substitute for the Real McCoy - interacting with your kid and maybe even teaching them to count while you cook instead of hoping a video does it for you.


Greg Quill said...

Great stuff kiddo, hope all is well!!

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