Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thank you, Disney, for making the ultimate admission that Baby Einstein videos are absolute crap by offering this refund for their return.

The better move for most parents would have been not to go near those products in the first place.

Granted, I'm not that immune to all the bells and whistles, myself. I did purchase two things labeled "Baby Einstein", one of them a board book and another a CD collection of classical music for the infant set that was on sale at BJ's Wholesale Club. The CD collection was boring as hell, to the point where the little guy was nearly begging me to put the James Brown back on. The board book got lost in a sea of other board books we owned that were better, and the Baby Einstein one could never surpass the board book version of Margaret Wise Brown's My World, which wasn't even her best, but held the little guy's attention enough for him to carry it everywhere and for us to have worn out three copies of it.

My aunt, after having babysat for him once shortly after I purchased My World, told me I needed to return My World right away to the bookstore, as it was badly written and didn't seem to be doing much for the kid. One memorable night at Lafitte's Landing with the little guy in his high chair and our friends all around a great big table, however, told me different: he turned to a page on which the bunny family was sharing a meal around a big table with their friends and kept looking up and back down to the book to compare what was around him with the picture.

My World helped him connect with what he saw every day. Baby Einstein products, not so much.

And really, it wasn't the idiotic videos that aggravated me so much. I just didn't buy them, just like we made the decision not to purchase $900 strollers or Dolce & Gabbana for infants, as we knew the little guy would grow out of 'em almost as soon as we passed our credit card over to the salesperson. What got me more than freaked was seeing the apartment of a mother of a year-old child that was full of electronic toys, all of them requiring batteries in order to function and nearly all of them being of the Baby Einstein brand.

It was consumerism run rampant. It was a brand name using its supposed research-tested clout to put something over on new parents who were so lacking in confidence of their own parenting skills, so frightened of what it was going to take for their youngsters to get by in a brave new post 9-11 world, so in need of keeping up with the Mommy and Daddy Joneses that they were going to blow some serious bucks on something that would make their kids the best of the best and allow the parents to do the housework and hold down a career in the bargain. God forbid you were not one of those families that wanted to give your kid the best. That would be tantamount to being in the same sad basket with at best, the people who shouldn't have had kids in the first place, and, at worst, in with some sort of 21st century child abuser.

I also made it a point, and still make it a point, not to associate with people who think that way...because the best isn't necessarily the stuff that costs beaucoup bucks.

Parenthood is a crazy time, especially when we all seem to have bought the whole idea of the nuclear family in which both parents work and juggle the child care (though that is still kind of uneven by gender - moms still do more than dads in the child care realm) and one's own parents and grandparents are no longer the ones we consult about what to do when a problem arises with one's own child - or, if we do consult them, their advice doesn't hold as much sway over the parenting decisions we make as it once might have. Still and all, I was wary of jumping on the Baby Einstein bandwagon because I knew, deep down, there were other ways of nurturing the little guy than plunking him in front of a screen full of hand puppets and transforming and pulsating shapes and colors. And we really had little use for toys that had us buying stock in Duracell, since most of those toys were little more than glorified noisemakers.

If the whole debacle over Baby Einstein ought to have taught parents anything, it's that of buyer beware, especially in an age where adding "baby" or "infant" to products from furniture to safety locks and outlet covers (oh, don't get me started on THAT) to sheets and toys is enough to make us parents hand over our wallets in good faith that what we purchase is always going to be good for our kids.

Gather up those videos and get your money back, parents. Then let your kids bang on the pots and pans while you cook, and, later on, read some good children's books to them that don't have a brand name anywhere near them. Dance a little to "I Feel Good" and have some fun with your young 'uns....because good, honest play will teach them more than some video ever will.

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