Monday, February 11, 2008

The Stuff of Parenthood

I had an interesting feeling the other day in the waiting room at the hospital.

I was thumbing through a magazine for grandparents- it was actually pretty cool. Its secondary premise was informing new grandparents of all the things that they were told to do back when they were new parents, that now are the mark of a horrible parent. Now, you see, if you put your baby on their stomach to sleep you are probably handing them over to SIDS. Nursing is once again the preferable way to go, according to literature anyway; don't even think about giving your infant water in a bottle; you should feed your baby every time she wants it- banish the thought of a schedule!

It also offered suggestions on how to be a good grandparent.

Which leads me to its primary premise- getting you to buy stuff.

(Did I forget to mention this "magazine" was published by Fisher Price???)

Of course, I was wise to their little scheme. Their blatant and unabashed marketing won't work on me, I thought.

Until I started seeing the pictures of the happy little babies.

And the smart little babies.

You see, they realize that plain old toys don't sell to new moms.

Nope, today's mom has way too much pressure for her child to succeed in every area of life.

Today's mom buys developmental toys.

If you don't have a mobile with bright, contrasting colors, your child won't ever be able to focus- you're dooming him to a lifetime of glasses!!

If your precious little one doesn't have a play gym with things to grab at, he will be behind all his classmates in motor skills!!

If you don't have a hanging crib toy with mirrors and things to look at, he will never be happy enough to go to sleep (didn't you know? stuffed animals in the crib are another death sentence...)- and without the mirrors, he will not know that he controls his environment until way too late!

Then there's the safety aspect- no ordinary infant bathtub will suffice- only the Fisher Price Rainforest one- equipped with the latest in safety equipment- and a padded armrest for Mom!

It worked on me.

For about 10 seconds.

Then I realized that our stuff is ok. Yep, most of it is either from garage sales or given to us- and it's all in great condition. I'm not saying developmental toys are bad or wrong- Sophie has some and will have more. I just maintain that the same end result can be attained through other means. It amazed me how I felt like I needed to have all that stuff to be a good parent. That I was doing my child a disservice by not depending on toys for her development. That the only way to ensure her success would be to follow all the latest research (which, I'm sure, in another two or three decades when I'm a new grandparent will all be wrong again anyway...). It doesn't matter if the mobile on Sophie's swing is of tan teddy bears and not bright red and blue shapes- she'll learn to focus. We read to her. We interact with her. We smile at her and hug her and kiss her. We show her pictures. We expose her to different textures and music. We give her "tummy time"- which she happens to love.

When people would talk about the responsibility of being a parent, I never quite "got it." Now I do. I feel like every decision I make will impact the rest of her life. But you know what? It will all be ok. She'll be a good kid. I'm sure I'll make mistakes- and I'm sure her younger siblings will have a slightly different experience than our little guinea pig.

I do know that I don't want to raise her to be materialistic and always need all the latest and coolest.

I also know that no toy can replace me and the time I spend with her.

That said, I thought I'd share this picture. Without developmental toys, we thought we'd better get a head up on teaching her to read now... (said tongue in cheek, if you didn't catch that...)


jonathan said...

That would be MOM'S tongue in cheek... dad's all about the reading....

~joanne said...

Does she have redish hair or is it the picture?

Sara said...

She does have reddish hair- in the light. Not so much to just look at her head-on.

Even when I was pregnant, I always pictured her with red hair (Jon's mom had vibrant red hair, and when his grows out, it has definite red tones). Jon claims he can't see the red- thanks for helping me win my case! :-)

Anonymous said...

I see the red. I'm just waiting for the Georgia drawl:)


Amy - said...

Wow, she's beautiful... really she is.

Anonymous said...

The picture of her laying on her belly looks just like you did when you were little. Just with lighter hair.