Categories: One more thing

by mimzilla


Everything I know about parenting I learned from my Tamagotchi.

Get in your Way-Back Machine, travel to 1996 and recall the Tamagotchi digital pet fad where teens had small electronic pods that would simulate a growing entity that needed to be fed and changed on a regular basis. You knew how you were doing by measuring their happiness. These toys were impossible to get and my wonderful husband Larry, being the King of Pop Culture, was able to obtain this insane little machine for me. I loved and cared for my pet. I would be in meetings at BofA and it would chirp incessantly at me. If I didn’t attend to its needs quickly it could get sick and ultimately die. Goodness NO! I would apologize to the people in the meeting and clean its poop or provide it with some sustenance. As it got older, it would get more persistent and needy more often. I think I kept my little Tamagotchi alive for 10 days. The poor thing passed while I was napping and didn’t hear its plaintive wailing for attention. Ah, to be young again and have rejuvenating naps…

I’ve been thinking a lot about technology and how it’s changed so many things in our lives. Yes, it certainly makes life easier. As I do my basic chores, I often think about the PBS series 1900 House in which a family moves into a house and for one month, only does things the way they did in 1900 — handwashing clothes, using what we’d consider primitive household cleaning tools, shopping and taking all day to cook, etc. Technology has helped to even the playing field between genders and to some extent, socio-economic groups, although we still have a long way to go but I digress. This is not a political column.

I first thought about how the use of one particular technology has significantly changed how we prepare for babies when Larry and I went for our pregnancy genetic testing. It’s amazing that couples can get a genetic map of their unborn child in order to test for Down’s Syndrome and other birth defects. Other couples bypass these tests and just get the detailed sonograms of their child. All of these tests have helped to reduce the rate of children born with debilitating diseases or defects but again, I’m really thinging about less weighty and meaningful impacts of technology. I’m thinking about the social impact of being able to know the gender of your child. The genetic tests will tell you in no uncertain terms whether you will be berating a daughter for the clothes she wears or a son for breaking one thing or another. And the sonograms give you a pretty good indication (although I know a few people who banked on the sonogram and oops, the umbilical cord was making an appearance of something else or something else was being shy and weren’t those parents surprised?!). Parents can not only know the gender of their offspring but can see what it will look like with the new 4D sonograms. Good Lord! (These tests also will tell you if you’re carrying twins which is a good thing to know. My stepmother’s mom didn’t know she was carrying twins until the day they were born. SURPRISE!)

More and more parents have opted in to knowing what gender their child will be. Good for them. I think it’s wonderful to have all the information for planning purposes. Larry and I decided we weren’t going to know even though the answer was sitting ignored in a file over at UCSF (while it was tempting to call and get the info, it was just hard enough that I never did it — a lesson for marketing, make it easy to get your product because there’s something to that “barrier to entry” phenomenon). We quickly realized we were in the minority of pregnant couples. Everyone, it seemed, knew what gender their bouncing baby would be. Some even used technology to pick the birthday with planned C-Sections. We also quickly realized that the baby industry had capitalized on this trend and it was fairly difficult for us to find gender-neutral clothing and decor. We’d meet people in the Babies R Us and they would tell us we were “brave” for not knowing the gender. The only thing brave about it was going to the dark corners of the store where they kept the yellow and green layette items.

One co-worker was quite distressed at not having this critical piece of information. Having once been my boss, she sat me down and told me that I was “building inefficiencies into the system” and that I had best be “maximizing the value of this whole Christmas morning” thing. She wanted to see a plan. I informed her that being Jewish, I didn’t get a lot of these “Christmas morning” things so I thought I’d keep this one. (Of course, I didn’t tell her that we do have a tree and open presents on Christmas morning because, well, as far as I could tell, Jesus was not nailed to a pine tree with lights and bobbles and a fat man in a red suit didn’t visit him in his manger so what the heck, I’ll buy into the commercial aspect of the holiday.) But I digress…

Technology has also changed how we interact with our babies. There are so many things to occupy their attention. There are automatically bouncing or rocking chairs with music and moving pieces, there are mobiles that turn with music, there are “activity centers” that attach to the crib and have 20 different settings. (Walker LOVES his Bumble Bee mobile and doesn’t seem interested in the other items — yet.) I notice that he also is fascinated by the computer screen saver on my Mac (black background with slowly moving streams of color). A friend pointed out that things have changed a lot since we were kids. She used to watch red socks go around in the dryer which was a pretty high-tech solution for the day (we are old, you know). What would parents do without these amazing technological assists? How would we bathe, make food, or post to blogs?

And speaking of blogs, technology has changed the way we communicate. This blog has made it less critical that I chat 1:1 with folks. If they’re following the blog, they already know much of what is happening. It’s been great for me to help keep everyone informed but it’s also hard when I chat with folks to know if I’m being boring and repetitive. It also frees me up a little. I know if you’re reading the blog you care about us and I care about you by posting all this stuff.

I have more musing on other technologies like breast pumps, TiVO, web cams, and iPods but someone is waking up so I should wrap up this post.

Walker is getting more of his hair up front so he and his daddy will soon no longer share the same hairline. It’s very cute to see the little fuzz coming in.

For those of you interested in the Thayer Walker Adventures, he’s off to Indonesia to do a story on Tow-In Surfing. He’s accompanying a team of world-class surfers including a few “chest-thumping Hawaiians” and a family of child-protegy surfers (the oldest is 13). While Thayer is a certified dive master (Larry, my $1 please…) and he does surf, he isn’t world class. The highest wave tube he’s caught is probably a double overhead (to you and me that’s approximately a 15 foot wave). Tow-In Surfing is where the waves are so big that you need a jet ski to tow the surfer in to catch the wave because it’s moving so fast and it’s so strong. The best surfers may catch 50 or 75 foot waves, or so I hear. Also, they’ll be surfing in the middle of the ocean, not the shore, since the waves break really well over some mid-ocean coral reefs. Suffice it to say, Thayer is wearing a helmet and will only be catching smaller 20 foot waves — according to Thayer, “those that the world class surfers don’t need a jet ski to catch”. Smart man. Living on a luxury yacht for two weeks will take the edge off (and knowing that in a few weeks you’ll be travelling to Africa to hike Kilimanjaro for another story). Good luck, Thayer!

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