Competitive parenting was struck a major blow today thanks to Baby Einstein. You know, the videos that were supposed to turn babies into a geniuses? Turns out, they didn’t, and now Disney is offering refunds to parents who bought the videos.
I have to admit, when I read the article in today’s New York Times, a broad smile spread across my face like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. (The original cartoon, not the Jim Carrey version.) It read: “The unusual refunds appear to be a tacit admission that they did not increase infant intellect.”
Finally! Here’s proof of what I’ve been saying for years: We do not need to create Super Babies who are ready for Harvard shortly after they potty train at 9 months-old and read the entire Harry Potter collection by age 4. We don’t need to make geniuses. We just need to get kids ready for adulthood, and showing babies videos of Native American musical instruments or exotic animals in their natural habitats apparently isn’t the way.
When these videos came out when my son was a baby in 1997, they were part of a broader movement that pressures affluent families to better their babies through Teachable Moments, blah, blah, blah. Thanks to the competitive parenting movement, I felt pressured to make every moment count and if I didn’t, my kids would — gasp! — fall behind.
But I realized soon enough that my kids could (and still do) learn through play, and that pressuring them to be perfect wouldn’t help them at all. It would only give them — and me — a nervous breakdown.
So I said no. I said no the videos promising to make my kids geniuses and to tutoring for A students and all the competitive parenting nonsense that has been pervasive over the last dozen years. I even wrote a book about it. You’re a Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren’t So Bad Either) is for moms who get caught up the the trap of holding flash cards for the kids at stop lights, and for those who don’t dare to.
And now, this. The admission that videos can’t make your baby smarter is, I hope, the beginning of the crumbling of the Berlin Wall of parenting. It is an admission to what videos for babies are really for: A chance for Mom to shave both legs on the same day. That’s it. Anything more would be an empty promise, and, perhaps, a refund.