Pernicious Parenting Paraphenalia
Preamble: those of you who have as an item in your parental mission statement that Good Parents never, ever let their baby cry, not even for a moment, please stop reading now. What follows will only raise your blood pressure needlessly. For the rest of you, now that I've got you all onside regarding baby paraphernalia, and have lulled you into a false sense of security, here's my next bit of babystuff wisdom: Baby Monitors are 100% unnecessary. Maybe more. Worse than unnecessary, used improperly (and most parents do) they are a positive scourge to parental peace. As parents of newborns can attest, a baby's cry can effectively permeate the most oblivious consciousness. In fact, as Matthew can further attest, a baby's cry can permeate your unconscious, and even make inroads into your sanity. And yet somehow we think it needs to be electronically enhanced? Broadcast, even? I was once briefly held hostage by a friend's Baby Monitor (hereafter to be referred to as BM). During dinner, I happily visited with their delightful eleven week old baby. After dinner, he began to droop and was popped into bed upstairs. The BM sat on a coffee table at my elbow. Not having often used one for my children, I was completely unprepared for just how intrusive that thing could be. Every time the baby coughed, murmured, or even rustled a bit, one parent or the other would leap to their feet and dash upstairs, physically vacating the conversation. The other parent would vacate the conversation mentally, eyes and ears glued to the BM, following their spouse's footsteps through the speaker. In a moment or two, parent number one would reappear. "He's fine!" would be the announcement, to the great relief of parent number two. If neither of them went, they would both sit, tense and quivering, all attention drawn to the antenna on the coffee table until complete silence returned. Gee, I had had no idea I'd been invited so we could all watch the BM together. After eight or ten such false alarms, I was completely exasperated. Never mind the mincemeat it was making of the conversation, the anxiety that monitor was causing these nice people was helping no one, least of all their baby. Sooner or later, they were going to wake him up with all this upstairs-and-down-ing. Under pretext of reaching for my coffee, I discreetly turned the damned thing off. Only then did we finally manage to generate (and maintain!) some worthwhile conversation. What a relief. I could see the tension seeping from their weary shoulders as the evening progressed. As I was preparing to leave a couple of hours after my subversive action, one of them innocently commented, "Gee, little Oswald has never settled so easily!" I didn't smirk when I told them what I'd done, but did gently suggest that the BM was perhaps causing more problems for them than it was solving. When you are in the living room, and your baby is up one flight of stairs, you will hear him if he needs you. Not to worry. Now, there are obviously times when a BM can be a handy tool: If you want to do some gardening during baby's nap, say, and baby's room is on the opposite side of the house. (If baby's room overlooks the garden, opening the window will suffice.) And let us not overlook the entertainment value of listening in on your neighbours, whose BM is set to the same channel as yours!! Otherwise, turn it off! Turn it right off!