Thursday, December 18, 2008

All She Wants For Christmas

If Violet understood the concepts of Christmas, wanting material things, and getting the most bang for her entertainment buck, she would most certainly put Baby Einstein DVDs at the top of her wish list. I don't know what it is about these videos that she loves so much, but I sure wish I'd thought of them.

The idea is ingenious: set excruciatingly basic footage of children's toys, animals, babies, and puppets to music. I'm sure the production cost is minimal and, at $14.99 a pop, the lady that invented these things must be rolling in the dough. As with all winning products, the marketing is really the key to Baby Einstein's success. Call it Baby Couch Potato and you probably don't move many units. But a baby couch potato is exactly what you get when you turn one of these things on. As you may have inferred from the name, Baby Einstein markets itself as an educational tool for babies. All the DVDs focus on a different instructive principle: Baby Bach is music appreciation, Baby Wordsworth teaches first words, Baby's First Signs employs Marlee Matlin to show various signs from the ASL lexicon. So, you see, they are good for my baby. She'll have a leg up on the other kids on the playground this spring if she diligently watches her Baby Einstein videos this winter. At least, that is what I told myself tonight when I want to eat a baked potato without her putting her tiny hands in it or wailing when I refused to let her tip over my wine glass.

It is true, Violet does like to watch these 20 minute "movies" and I am amazed how well they hold her attention. I never thought babies were much interested in anything on TV which makes me a bit suspicious of Baby Einstein. Not so suspicious that I won't plop her down in front of one so I can grab a shower, but suspicious just the same. It is sort of creepy-cute the way Violet squeals and beats her arms when the DVD begins to play. And she looks at the toddlers who "star" in the movies like they are near, dear, friends. I don't think she looks at any real people with as much tenderness as her little face expresses when the weird puppets come on the screen.

Honest to God, she really doesn't watch them that much. I know my Mom uses the Baby Einstein DVDs as a distraction when she's caring for Violet during the day and she needs a break. Typically, I don't play them unless I need to take a shower and Vi's awake. Couldn't she play quietly with her toys while I shower, I sometimes wonder. The thing that makes the DVDs so handy is that when I pop one in, Violet suddenly doesn't notice when I leave the room. On the other hand, if I spread out her blanket and scattered all of her favorite toys around her, she would be occupied for somewhere between 3 and 12 minutes. Enough time to shower and dress?? Doubtful. If I'm in the same room and she gets frustrated, I can walk over to Vi as she plays on the floor and re-direct her attention to another toy. With Baby E, there is no need for Mommy to redirect, the monkey puppet or Marlee Matlin do it for me.

So I've been trying to quiet the voice of the parent I was before Violet was born. That parent reminds me that the television should never be used as a babysitter and that babies whose first foods are vegetables and fruits will be healthful eaters their whole lives. I really had good intentions of living by the Rules for Raising Perfect People, but this job is often far more difficult than I thought. I still know what the "right" thing to do is, but sometimes I just want to eat my baked potato and wine unmolested. And if Violet can be learning the sign for "Neglect" at the same time, doesn't everyone win?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Be Here Now

Momming is, as everyone tells you, a full-time job. Besides going to work, I could probably list from memory how many times I have been out without Violet since she was born almost 7 (!) months ago. Shawn and I have had 2 dates and gone to 2 weddings, I've been out with Jen once, I met a friend after work for drinks about a month ago, and there was one time when I met my co-workers for beers. So when I left Vi with Shawn to go to a holiday dinner for work on Friday, I was a bit disappointed when he called me at 9 o'clock to tell me the little lady hadn't stopped crying since I left home.

The dinner was close by so I got home less than 10 minutes after he called. Violet had 3 vaccines on Friday afternoon and I think the residual effects of those were probably to blame for her unusual fussiness. Whatever the reason, she continues to be a Momma's Girl and her tears disappeared when I walked in to the room. Shawn handed her off to me and, as soon as he did, she turned back to him and grinned from ear to ear, just as an extra slap in the face in case he wasn't sure who her favorite is right now.

This is the thing about Violet's babyhood (and every other mother's baby, as well): It's all or nothing. I can't spread her infancy out; it is finite and fleeting. In 10 years, when she is so over being held, there will be no way for me to recapture that. When she is 17 and wants to spend more time without me than with me, I'm sure there will be no convincing her that snuggling on the sofa is a great way to spend a Saturday night. As much as I'll wish for the feeling of her otherworldly soft skin under my fingers when I am an old, wrinkled, woman, I'll have to settle for the memory of these days she and I are spending together now.

Keeping that in mind, it is easy to turn down an invitation for drinks or rush home from a dinner party or put the vacuuming off for days. Baby Violet will not be Baby Violet for much longer. While I sometimes wish I could put her on hold to do my stuff, that is not an option. So I submerge myself in her babyhood, coming up for air only occasionally, and not worrying too much about what else I might be missing.

This is a poem my Mom recited for me when Vi was just a week or two old. I don't know who wrote it, but it is a wonderful sentiment.

Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow,
Cause babies grow up, I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep.