Mondays are for the Millennial Mothers (and dads too. And aunts and uncles, grandparents and friends. It’s just more alliterative this way…)
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This weeks’s theme: Gadgets
A while back, I wrote a Modern Baby Shower Wish List that was slightly tongue in cheek, but not very.
So I started thinking about all the gadgets we have available to us now.
When my mother first saw our motorized baby swing she swooned.
“We used to sit rocking the baby with our foot and joking that someone ought to invent a motorized one,” she said. It seemed so ridiculously extravagant back in the 1960s that they joked about it. Now, no modern parent would dream of leaving off their list some sort of jiggling, bouncing, vibratey-machine.
But how much did you use yours?
Honestly, I used the swing a bit with the first child but eventually I packed it up and used this chair, which took up less space and which, once the baby’s neck was strong enough, converted to a seat that I could, yup, rock (silently) with my foot. I used this as a feeding chair before I got my small high chair, too. With the second child, I mostly carried him around in a homemade sling, because leaving him where his two-year old brother could attempt to swing him around in a circle, or rock him right out of the rocking chair, wasn’t what you’d call relaxing or secure.I did use my little plastic baby baths (this one was good when they were little because of the bump that helped hold their bums in place a seat was good when they were bigger) and I did use my pack’n’play when the babies were sleeping beside my bed.
I loved my Baby Bjorn for a couple of months with my first child, but then he got heavy and it was just a bit of a kerfuffle to put it on and take it off, and it took up a lot of space in a bag, that I didn’t use it for shorter trips.(I repeat it was great for a new parent, it’s brilliantly engineered and much easier to put on than most of the others the same type. It holds the baby beautifully and is super-secure).
Eventually, though,I switched to a sling I made myself (with these sling rings). It folds flat, opens up to become a blanket, works as a dribble-rag, tie a knot in a corner of the flap and use it as a distracto-toy or teether, it goes in the washing machine and dryer, and was very comfortable once I’d watched the video secured by the sling rather than held by me. I even carried the baby around the baby pool in the sling while my toddler toddled in the summer. Can’t recommend this enough as a gadget. about how to put it on properly. I am no seamstress, and I managed it. Never did much use the store-bought padded No-Jo one, which was bulky and awkward and felt insecure. The homemade one got lots of use, especially with the second child. Sometimes I had the baby in it, and sometimes the baby was in the stroller, while the two (and even three) year old rode on my hip,
We mocked up a video monitor with a webcam that published pictures to a private web page, because we still had a computer in the baby’s room at the time. That was priceless for catching evidence of the first time the ‘baby’ climbed out of the cot! But the store-bought monitor didn’t get much use. Kept picking up conversations from the neighbours’ houses (there were lots of babies around here at the same time).
I’m not sure why they still sell play yards. I’m sure babies since time immemorial have simply rattled the bars and screamed to get out. The Exersaucer on the other hand, earned its keep.
I did use Stair gates. I have friends who put stair gates across their kids’ doors once they were in a toddler bed, so that they couldn’t escape. We never thought of that and used door knob locks. I suppose the stair gate would have been a bit more humane, since the kids could have felt like they were still part of the world…
My favourite gadget (because I had been wanting something like it) was the Bumbo. We only used it for a while, but it was a great bridge between the time when the baby wanted to be sitting up and watching what was going on, and when they could actually do it themselves. They have trays and all kinds of things for it now, but I spotted my favourite use of the Bumbo on a blog recently. The mother of triplets, this woman uses two Bumbos to make supermarket trips workable.
But the Bumbo tells the sad tale of most baby gadgets. No matter how much you love them, your kid is going to grow out of them faster than you can imagine when you’re being seduced by the advertising.
The things on my Modern Baby Shower Wish List however? I’m still using them, five years on!
Some other things that I’ve used a lot, although they’re not on the traditional baby list:
*My iPod (the type that plays video). When combined with an iPod dock (or more recently a headphone splitter and two sets of ‘phones) this can magically allow me to have half an hour of peace and quiet, even at the supermarket. I can see the eyes of other parents light up as I pass….
*Pop-Up Playsets. I take a bag to any family restaurant, that contains a pop-up-playset and some cars and we get to make our dinner choices without wrestling tiny boys. It doesn’t last but it serves as a bit of a distraction.
*Crayons. Everywhere you go, there is some way to amuse a child with crayons and paper. Draw a race track, a train track and give them a toy. Draw rudimentary steam trains in blue, red, and green and any two-year old boy will tell you you’ve drawn Thomas, James and Percy.
*Balloons. If you can trust your child not to put it in his mouth, always have a balloon about your person. You can blow it up and let it go: hilarity ensues. You can blow is up and tie a knot and ping it all over the room: instant fun. You can fill it with water or cornstarch or rice, and let them squish it. You can draw a face on it and give your child an instant ‘friend’. If you’re at all adventurous, buy the kind you can twist and learn how to make a dog, a sword (really not hard) and a crown, and you’ll be a hit at parties forever (hint, adults want complicated things. Kids want really simple shapes that you can make in a super-human timeframe and they can play with NOW. Kids have better imaginations than adults.) Talk about value for money.
So, in short, things that make noise and require batteries and are designed for a specific stage of your child’s life= disappointing and a trip to the consignment shop/listing in the classified ads. Things that may not be intended for children plus a little ingenuity= happy families.
Just like in the 1960s. And the 1860s. And the 60s…