Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Wonders of Technology

When I was pregnant with Ryan, one of the most daunting tasks I had to do was figuring out what equipment and supplies we needed to get ready for his arrival. Back when I was a baby, it was a much less complicated task: diapers and rubber pants (cloth was the only option), glass bottles with nipples (the only kind available), clunky molded plastic infant seat, and maybe a molded plastic bathtub. Now we have our choice of cloth or disposable diapers (6 kinds of each, with padding in different places and various kinds of miracle absorbency promises), BHA-free plastic bottles with the air vent nipple OR disposable drop-ins OR Dr. Brown's with the realistic angled nipple, a car seat that pops into place AND transforms into a carrier AND goes in the stroller three different ways AND fits into a grocery cart AND sits in an upside-down restaurant booster seat (how did I not know that trick?) AND rocks the baby to sleep (AND, I suspect, turns into a rocket ship or a nuclear submarine or a stealth fighter or something else that would make James Bond jealous, if only I knew which buttons to push), and a veritable zoo of cute bathtubs (whales and goldfish and zebras, oh my). So even when you know what stuff you need, you have to choose which "flavor" of stuff.

But the most amazing thing to me was how everything has batteries. They all vibrate, or light up, or play music. We had a hard time finding a Pack N Play that didn't sing a lullaby and rock the baby to sleep for you. Or a bouncy chair that expected the baby to do the bouncing. At least with most of those things, you don't have to use the electronic gadgets. You can turn off the music on the Pack N Play and ignore the vibrate option on the bouncy seat. Most of the battery-operated stuff will still function without batteries. But so much of it seems to take away anything for the parent or child to do! To me, the whole point of a bouncy seat is to encourage baby to bounce; the point of mommy lingering by the crib while baby drifts off is for HER to sing a lullaby; the point of toys was to teach baby to manipulate them and make them work, not for them to wiggle and bounce and sing on their own.

Then there are the real hard-core technological wonders, many of which really do make life easier. My favorite of these is the video baby monitor. In my mom's day, the only "baby monitor" they had was an open door and attentive ears. When I was baby-sitting as a teenager, we had audio baby monitors so you could listen to the baby from the other side of the house. But for Ryan, we have a video monitor so I can not only hear but see him from the other side of the house, from out in the yard, or even from the neighbor's kitchen drinking coffee (not that I would do that, but I COULD). And because my husband is a brilliant geek, the video feed is tied in to the computer so Daddy can peek at Ryan from his work computer or even from his phone any time he wants! Whenever Ryan does something cute, I send Daddy a text message (yet more convenient technology) so he can take a look. So when Ryan takes his first step or says his first word, even if it happens while Daddy is at work, he won't have to miss that miraculous moment.

Another advantage of technology is that it really can save time, when used well. No more trying to calm a hungry baby for the 20 minutes it took to sterilize and prepare a bottle. No more hour at the end of every day rinsing all the dirty diapers that had been soaking in bleach all day long. No more running in to check the baby because the audio monitor has been TOO quiet. Even simpler technologies like antibacterial wipes and washing machines and dryers save us hours of time.

I guess when it comes right down to it, technology is a mixed blessing. For every mom who thinks she can't sing and lets a machine sing lullabies to her baby, there's a mom who can check in on her baby from her desk at work. For every baby who's rocked to sleep by an electronic massager instead of bouncing on someone's hip, there's a colicky baby whose mommy gets a break from walking and bouncing him 24/7. For every dad who moves the baby from car seat to bouncy seat to programmable playmat with hardly a cuddle, there's a dad who snuggles her in the Bjorn carrier all day long while doing other chores. Like most things in life, technology is what you make of it.

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