The Baby Monitor

Yesterday, we had a baby shower for one of our employees. As she was unwrapping her gifts, I realized how many wonderful new tools have been invented for young mothers.   The baby monitor is one of those tools.

When I was a new mother, some 50-plus years ago, I was the baby monitor.  All night I was up and down, in and out of the baby’s room, checking to see if my little angel was still breathing. Never quite attaining REM-sleep, my ears were alert to the slightest creak in the floor, a small grunt, a tiny sneeze or cough.  Any sound sent me running into the baby’s room.  Honestly, I didn’t have an uninterrupted, full night’s sleep for probably ten years.

I don’t want to sleep like a baby.  I just want to sleep like my husband.

Everybody knows sleep deprivation is the curse of new parents. Babies have to be fed and changed every few hours.  But, in my case, it was MORE of a curse to me than my wonderful husband.  He can hardly hear out of one ear, poor guy (I am being sarcastic) and he sleeps with his good ear down on the pillow.  Except for the first few nights the baby was home, or if the baby was sick, my husband rarely heard the baby cry at night.  On many a morning he would say, “Great…the baby slept through the night” (yeah…sure he did).  In his defense, Alan did have to get up very early for work and he does generally require more sleep than I do…but still.

Plus, I was a complete worry wart when my son was born.  I felt totally inadequate as a mother. In fact, I remember one day saying to myself, “Oh my God, nobody is going to come pick up this child.  He is my responsibility, forever!”  (At 23, maybe I was too young to be a relaxed parent.)

Because I was so exhausted during the day, I sometimes got concerned I might fall into a deep sleep and not hear the baby fuss after his naptime.  To make sure that didn’t happen, I’d put a pillow down outside his door and slept on the floor just outside of his room.

As you can imagine, the sleep deprivation I suffered was acute and made me function in an almost zombie-like state on more than one occasion.

It’s a funny thing…I used to stay up all night by choice and called it “fun”.

Our son Roger (now a parent himself) and his wife Teri used a baby monitor for our precious granddaughter, London (again, what a great invention). They told me how reassuring it was to hear the soft rhythmic sounds of her breathing as they slept in their master bedroom on the other side of the house. Teri told me, “I don’t have to sleep in a semi-awake state because I trust that the monitor picks up the slightest sound.” Plus, with the home alarm system in place, as London aged and began to walk and explore, they didn’t have to worry that she might wander out the front door into the yard without their knowing.  (Home alarm systems, another parenting tool we old folks didn’t have.)

As time progressed and London matured, the baby monitor became an entertainment center of sorts.  Her parents could lie in bed and hear her sing and talk to herself as she played in her crib.

“She always wakes up happy,” Roger told us.  “We love to hear her talking to her stuffed animals, Lamby and Teddy Bear. It’s really sweet.”

But, as time went on, London moved from her crib to a small kid’s bed and with the bed change came an increase in morning activities.  Roger and Teri could now hear her in the morning organizing and talking to her dolls, and playing with Boobie, her imaginary friend (and the recipient of any blame for mishaps around the house).  The noise increased and so did London’s interaction with her sleepy parents.

“Hey you two, it’s time to get up!”  And then came orders for breakfast.  “Daddy, how about some French toast and bacon?  Call me when it’s ready…Boobie’s hungry.”

Roger announced over dinner recently that the baby monitor had been retired.

“Why?” I asked.

“London thinks she’s in charge.  She’s become a bit of a drill sergeant.”  I laughed out loud. “We’re just glad she doesn’t know how to play the bugle.”

MOTHERHOOD:  Powered by love.  Fueled by coffee.  Sustained by wine.



Heidi’s Christmas Dream

It’s every parent’s Christmas nightmare:  Santa arrives but does not deliver the present your child wanted more than anything else on Earth.

Santa….as I remember him.

My sister Alice was tucking her adorable little 5-year-old daughter in bed one Christmas Eve and asked, “Are you excited about Santa coming tomorrow?”

“Yes,” Heidi replied, with a glow in her eyes that is so common when children are young, and Christmas is in the air.  “I can’t wait to open up my silver magic star wand and princess crown with jewels and colored ribbons flowing down the back,” Heidi answered enthusiastically.

Alice immediately stiffened.  “Santa” had not heard a word about this silver star magic wand or a princess crown with jewels and ribbons flowing down the back.  Where did that come from?

“What crown, Heidi?” Alice asked weakly, a lump in her throat.  “I never heard you tell Santa about a crown or a magic silver wand.”

“Oh, Santa knows, Mommy. He knows that’s what I want, and it will be under the tree for sure.  I just know it will.”

After giving her daughter a kiss and pulling the blankets up around her chin, Alice wandered into the living room where her husband was reading beside the Christmas tree.

“Larry,” Alice pleaded in a frantic whisper.  “Heidi thinks Santa is bringing her a silver star magic wand and a silver crown with jewels and ribbons flowing down the back.”

“So?” Larry asked, looking up casually from his book.

“It’s all she wants for Christmas, Larry, and Santa is not going to put that under the tree.”

Now, everybody knows men and women are wired differently.  And, it was never more obvious than when Larry gave his unemotional and practical response to this Christmas Eve dilemma.

“Well, it’s almost ten o’clock at night.  How is Santa going to find a magic wand and a silver crown in time for Christmas?”

“Well he has got to!” Alice insisted.  “He just can’t let little Heidi down.  It’s all she wants.”

With that pronouncement made, my devoted and clever younger sister sprang into action.

“This Santa is going to make a crown and magic wand from scratch or die trying,” Alice stammered, still in disbelief at her husband’s casual reaction to an obvious holiday catastrophe.

Alice flew into the kitchen looking for silver … aluminum foil for those of you without any imagination.  But there was none to be found.  This was in the days before 24-hour drugstores and Larry and Alice lived out in the country.

Not to be deterred by a lack of silver in her kitchen drawers, Alice headed for the freezer and started scrapping aluminum foil, two inches at  time, off the frozen meat and other foodstuffs stored there.  It took her about an hour, but she figured she had enough silver to fashion a magic star wand and princess crown.

Up to this point, Larry was no help.

“Alice … I remember one year I wanted roller skates and Santa couldn’t afford them.  It didn’t kill me, I survived just fine.”

“Well, maybe it killed your spirit,” Alice snapped back. “Otherwise you’d be up here helping me figure out how to save your daughter’s Christmas dream.”

That statement must have hit home because Larry put down his book and joined Alice in the kitchen.  She was in tears.  She felt like a failure for not knowing her daughter’s deepest Christmas desire.

“You’re a good mom, honey.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Now, where can we get some jewels for the crown?”

“My jewelry box,” Alice said quietly.  “I’m sure we can take apart a couple of necklaces and bracelets.  And see if I have any ribbons in the bathroom with my hair clips.  Get the glue gun too,” she yell/whispered down the hall

Santa’s elves worked diligently to create a crown and wand with items they found around the house.  They stole pieces of colored ribbon from presents already under the tree and fashioned the wand from a piece of dowel under the kitchen sink, a dowel whose lowly job was to dry towels out of sight. The star for the wand and the princess crown were fashioned from a cardboard box they had in the garage.

Then they glued the entire ensemble completely over with bits of aluminum foil and added jewels and brightly colored ribbons to the crown.

It was well after midnight when Alice and Larry finished their projects and flopped down into bed.  On the couch, in a testament to panic and parenting and hot glue, was a silver star magic wand and silver princess crown with jewels and colored ribbons flowing down the back.

They got a bit of sleep, and then Christmas morning arrived, as it always does.

“See Mommy!” Heidi yelled gleefully, as she danced around the living room waving her magic wand, festooned with bits of colored ribbon tangled in her hair.

“I told you Santa would know what I wanted.  “Santa always knows your Christmas dream.”

Alice gave her sleepy husband a sideways glance.  His eyes slightly teared over as he lowered his coffee cup and said to his daughter …

“You were right, honey.  You were so right.”