Friday, August 10, 2007

Super Babies!

The last thing I want is to make moms (or dads) feel more guilty. As I write this, Samara is sitting in her Exersaucer, playing quietly and I feel like I should be expanding her mind somehow. So believe me, I get the guilt. I am not going to say that I am greater than thou, either, because I am anti-television for my baby. It is a personal choice and if you watch television with your child, moderate the time and make it interactive, it is probably fine.

That said, in the mom circles I run in, this article is making big waves.

I was first introduced to Baby Einstein in 2000 when the somewhat posh couple I babysat for encouraged me to boost their son's intellect with a series of repetitive videos full of colorful images of toys and moving objects. The videos took him from fussy to calm in 0.03 seconds and made him stare at the TV, mouth agape, drool collecting on his bib. I believe his mother was the primary shareholder in this franchise or had at least started the online fan club. She sang their praises daily.

This baby had Baby Mozart and some kind of video that counted to 10 in several different languages--I was mucho impressed. I was sure these videos were going to make a race of super-intelligent babies that would someday sit with me, holding my hand as drool collected on my bib. I was sure these videos were some posh conspiracy to make their babies smarter while the lower classes wallowed in their own filth.

The only problem with my theory was the series creator. I had expected a Manhattan woman with an extensive business background and two nannies. Or maybe I had expected a hippy Vermont woman with long flowing hair who grew organic vegetables. What I did not expect was the actual creator--a super (fake) blond Texan who was actually from Colorado. I had two thoughts about this:

1.) How strange that my somewhat posh East Coast clients would listen to anything this woman would have to say. Let's just say that they would not attend the same dinner parties a woman like this would frequent and leave it at that. I know, I know don't judge a book by its cover and all that. But trust me. These people were not from the same planet, let alone country.

2.) It is pretty cool that she is now rich from selling weird, mesmerizing images that hypnotize babies into submission.

Fast forward a few years and Disney bought them out. Suddenly the videos were everywhere and what seemed like a secret of the elite was suddenly available mass market to every teenage mom on the block. I have long since lost touch with the posh couple, but my guess is that they would be horrified that they ever had anything to do with Baby Einstein.

And in some ways, I have to say Duh. Did anyone really think our babies would be bilingual because a giant hand appeared on a screen while a soothing yet frightening voice boomed: MANO?

It is one thing to want some peace and quiet for a half hour or so, but it is an entirely different thing to park your kid in front of the tube for hours on end hoping they learn Spanish. Um. No. Ain't gonna happen. And while I am loathe to make moms feel more guilty for whatever gives them peace, I think if we are honest about what we want, studies like this would not matter. How many parents are really shocked that human interaction is better for babies than boob tube lovin'? I would say the numbers are pretty low.

Now I am just waiting for the studies that will tell me Exersaucers make kids emotionally unstable, ugly and el stupido. Then I will have to face the fact that a stationary play thing is not going to make my baby Ivy League material The sad truth?. Last night, I caught her trying to put her Stanford application in her mouth. Clearly she needs all the help she can get.


Kristi said...

I, too, am anti-tv, and anti-Baby Einstein. We have two BE videos, given to us as gifts, and I think Isabella has watched each one maybe 3 times each. And she's not really all that into them, either. Rich and I, however, are mesmerized, at times.

That study is not surprising. The findings seem to relate to one I read a few weeks ago about the "language explosion" toddlers experience at about 18-24 months. Apparently (and I know this will shock you) videos and interactive games don't boost vocabulary! Reading and talking to your babies is what gets them talking.

Stephanie said...

Lesson: baby toys that make wild promises that sound too good to be true (much like fad diets, infomercial exercise equipment, and hot, drunk men in bars at last call) are exactly that - too good to be true. ;)

Mama Zen said...

Oh, damn! Does this mean we're all going to have to start interacting with our own children again?