Wednesday, August 10, 2005

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!


Blogger Heather said...

We had the baby monitor with number one, and quickly learned that the wails of our offspring could not only be heard through the house, but down the street. The weird thing, is that I used to keep a monitor on while gardening - and ended up hearing other people's monitors, and conversations on their cordless phones. Eavesdropping was far by the most fun we've ever had with BM's.

8/10/2005 07:19:00 PM  
Blogger Candace said...

I could not agree more! You're just hitting them out of the ballpark lately, Mary!

8/10/2005 09:59:00 PM  
Blogger ieatcrayonz said...

I finally put mine away this weekend. I had the receiver in my bedroom, but the volume has been turned down for ages. I found it best for those sleep-in Saturday mornings when I think I hear Lauren crying and then look up to the monitor. If the LED's are flashing like crazy (from her screaming), it's time to get up. Yeah, I hated that thing.

8/10/2005 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger Mary P. said...

Heather: we used a BM in a group home where I once worked. The clients were developmentally and behaviourally challenged (which means, retarded - a perfectly acceptable medical term - and bytimes a little violent). We quickly stopped using it when we realized we were picking up someone else on the street, which implied that someone else might be able to hear our client when he was in his room, indulging in his rather boisterous, ah, self-stim. activities. Yeep.

Misfit: thank you, thank you. As one opinionated person to another (and I take some pride in that label) this means a lot.

Crayonz: Kinda like your own live-in chirpy camp counsellor: "Okay, campers!! Rise and shine!" Me, I've never lived in a house so large or well-insulated that I couldn't hear the child without one. Are you a very sound sleeper, you lucky thing, which I am NOT? My kids still wake me up, but now it's by coming in late, and instead of the BM we have cell phones...

8/11/2005 07:16:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

It's a peace of mind thing. I think all new parents feel a need to help their babies whenever they are needed. I have noticed, however, that because we have two babies and we'd be running into the room every 2 minutes sometimes, we tend to wait until the baby is screaming bloody murder before we go in.

The baby monitor we have (and you're gonna laugh at me, I know) also has a pad you put under their mattress that senses movement (like the baby's breathing) and it sends out an alarm when it doesn't sense movement after a certain time. The biggest problem with this, however, is when you take the baby out of its crib and forget to turn the monitor off, you get treated a loud alarm!

8/11/2005 09:39:00 AM  
Blogger Mary P. said...

Oh, Matthew, Matthew... I understand, I really do, because your babies are VERY little. They are so helpless, and their needs so urgent, and your biology drives you to BE THERE for them. I'm not mocking, I'm remembering!!

But a motion detector? Oh, dear. Though, wait now, I can see its use up to 12 weeks or so, when the risk of SIDS is the highest, particularly for premature babies who are at greater risk - not that yours were premature, mind. Still, it could have a valid use, I concede, for the first few weeks.

I would argue, though, that since you wait till they're full bore, anyway, you don't need the noise-broadcasting part of the monitor. That they do that quite effectively all on their own!

8/11/2005 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger ieatcrayonz said...

Unfortunately, I'm a VERY light sleeper. I think I probably kept the monitor on because of Lauren's ear infections, RSV, flu, and other illnesses she's had this past year. Sometimes she had difficultly breathing and the coughing spells could get scary. But you are right, I should have ditched the monitor, looking back.

8/11/2005 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Mary P. said...

You're too generous, you lovely woman. I think I can modify my original position to allow that these things are good for use with ill children, too. That "difficulty breathing" one in particular. Lord have mercy... If I thought my baby's breathing were not a given, I'd be sleeping on the floor in her room!! (Actually, knowing me, I'd have that baby in bed with me - which is another whole topic for discussion, I know!)

8/11/2005 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

I think the baby monitor is most useful when the children are no longer babies--for example, when they are, oh, say 12 or 13 and want to be alone with their friends in the finished basement. You know. Although you would have to hide the tranmitter, of course.

8/11/2005 10:52:00 PM  
Blogger Mary P. said...

Oh, you devious woman, you! LOL I have a 12 year old, but she and her friends are so loud when they're together, who needs the transmitter? It would be when they suddenly get quiet that I'd feel the need, I'm sure.

8/12/2005 07:47:00 AM  

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