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?


Jen said...

I love it when everyone wins. And, oh, how I remember and love those pants. Thank God in heaven for Diego and Dora. I would be a stinky mess without them. Thanks for the awesome X-mas shopping trip today. We've come a long way from our childless weekend trips to the RUE.

Julie said...

At our house it's "Yo Gabba Gabba" episodes saved on the Tivo. Now that Isaac's mobile, I put him in his high chair, play an episode, and take a shower while he's strapped in "Clockwork Orange" style. If he's having a temper tantrum kind of day, nothing pulls him out of his funk like dancing with DJ Lance Rock. Nothing.

Babs said...

I love it when you can take my thoughts and write them down so accurately! I USE Baby Einstein videos (thank you, Andy & Aly) because I remember how rapt the attention of her cousin Jack was when we were enjoying a "grown up" breakfast together at their house and I suddenly realized the helpless little guy had quietly disappeard. When I asked, "where's Jack?", they calmly replied, "watching Baby Einstein", and I thought to myself, can that be GOOD? But of course, in my attempts to be the good (non-meddlesome, non critical) Grammy, I kept that thought to myself.
Oh, what a revelation it is to be back temporarily as a near full-time caregiver! Now I remember the "whatever works" philosophy I adopted when I had real babies with real, 24/7 needs for comfort, stimulation, entertainment and love! It's a lot...more than a single person can manage sometimes.
If we find out somewhere down the road that we've somehow done damage to the psyches of our little darlings, I now know the proper response, too: Oh well, I did the best I could at the time! And we did. All of us.

Aly said...

I fully credit The Backyardigans for being able to shower each morning. Like Jen, I would be a stinky mess without them!