The XX Factor

A Little Baby Einstein Never Hurt Anybody

KJ , I could not agree more with your post on the Baby Einstein refunds. There are so many edicts that come from parenting experts that new parents cannot possibly heed all of them. Which has prompted me to create a pop quiz for new parents:

Given that 1) You are not to let your baby cry, 2) you are not to let your child watch television, and 3) you must exclusively breast-feed your child for six months, what should you do when it’s time to cook dinner (you know, to get those extra calories you need to feed the baby)?

1) Hold Junior in one arm as you steam veggies, sauté salmon, and roast potatoes (that’s two hot liquids and one hot oven, if you’re counting) with the other.

2) Let Junior cry.

3) Expose Junior to some Mozart, Bach, or Beethoven.

The answer is so patently obvious that it’s annoying. (Please don’t respond that one parent can cook dinner while the other tends to baby. That ignores the realities of single-parent households, spouses working overtime and/or irregular shifts, or families with older siblings where one parent is cooking while the other is carpooling to soccer practice or piano lessons.) Almost as annoying to me as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. The anti-commercialism group posted a press release on its site, headlined “CCFC Victory! Disney Offers Refunds on Baby Einstein Videos.”

Now, I don’t want to be too hard on the CCFC. They’ve pushed to keep Bratz dolls out of the Scholastic book clubs and book fairs, and they’re opposed to Channel One and other in-school television. (I’d much rather my kids have more instruction time during the school day.) They’ve got ideas for holiday gifts that don’t involve knocking over the nearest Toys R Us.

But their overarching message-that exposure to marketing and commercialism is ruinous to children-is patronizing to parents. They don’t like Elmo selling anything (never mind that that helps keep Sesame Street on the air commercial-free); they don’t like any TV shows with product tie-ins; they want to control what time studios are allowed to air commercials for PG-13 movies.

There’s a very easy way to keep your children from being exposed to too much commercialization. Limit their television. And tell them, ” No , you may not have a toy every time we go to Target.” CCFC points to the drastic increase in the amount of money spent on marketing to children in the last 25 years-from $100 million in 1983 to $17 billion today. We can argue chicken vs. egg all day, but companies probably wouldn’t spend that kind of money marketing products if it didn’t work. Parents need to take some responsibility and not just blame companies for trying to make money. And I can’t see where moderate exposure to marketing and commercials has to be hazardous to our children’s health. In our family, some of the best time we spend together is running around at the kid’s museum or the zoo or taking day trips to new places. And some of the best time is spent sprawled in front of the TV for family movie night. I can think of worse things than my son asking to be Buzz Lightyear for Halloween after watching Toy Story with mom and dad one too many times.