Having a child come into your life is like having Toys R Us, the baby section of Target and the entire baby food section of your grocery store dump their items right into your family room.
There are onesies (how can one baby need 93 onesies?), containment items, (exersaucers, bouncy seats, swings, pack and plays, strollers, car seats…need I go on?), breast pump accessories (I’m sorry, breast pumps cost HOW MUCH, exactly??) and entertainment devices (brain stimulating, BPA free, multicolored, Gwyneth Paltrow approved rattles, chew toys and some giraffe named Sophie). Friends buy you cute decorations for your nursery, adorable little outfits that will last for 46 seconds because babies grow so fast and if you are lucky, someone remembers to buy you a little something special to wear when your are no longer sporting a watermelon.
There is, however, one item that trumps all of the above. One item that, without it, you cannot claim the title of Most Watchful Parent EVUUR: The Baby Monitor.
The women of our generation have become obsessed with ways to monitor their children when they are out of sight and pretending to be napping. In my new mom day, 11 years ago, monitors were pretty basic versions of walkie talkies. And, on clear, dark evenings, you could hear your neighbors and local truckers, too, so that was a fun bonus. Nowadays, they are WiFi friendly, full HD screen situations that have an iPhone app to control them remotely. I would literally lose my mind if I had to set up one more wireless device in this house, much less when I was sleep deprived and leaking milk.
But, when Fruit Loop #1 was on the way, we dutifully bought a monitor because that’s what you do: you monitor your child’s Every. Single. Move. We set it up. We tested it around the house. We made sure we could get reception in every single square foot of our abode. People who used rabbit ears for their televisions in the 1960s spent less time making sure NBC came in clearly. We made sure that at any given spot in our house, our child would be HEARD.
About three weeks after Fruit Loop #1 arrived, my mother in law came to visit. At first, she quietly watched me take the monitor with me everywhere (strapped to my waistband, of course!). She said nothing when I heard a noise and would run to check on him. She said nary a word when I’d jump up from dinner to make sure the gurgle I heard during a nap wasn’t actually my child choking on his three week old saliva. And, God bless her, she zipped a lip when I insisted that it sit right next to my head in the middle of the night so that I could dash down the hall at 2 am to make sure his screaming was met with a fresh, milk filled boob.
She did, very gracefully and with as much tact as she could muster in front of her seemingly crazed and sleep deprived daughter in law, say “You REALLY don’t think you’ll hear this level of screaming in a quiet house at 2 am? I think you should give yourself a little more credit, sweetie”. At the time she made the statement, Fruit Loop #1 was screaming so loudly that he was purple and scrunched up. He looked like a Purdue Oven Stuffer Roaster Raisin, actually.
But, nope. I was stubborn. The Monitor was my friend. The Monitor understood.
And so The Monitor became a part of my anatomy on a daily basis. We were BFFs, Monitor and I.
Until Fruit Loop #1 was five months old. That’s when The Monitor and I had a falling out.
What this new mom didn’t realize is that The Monitor gave me PTSD: Post Traumatic Screaming Disorder. The Monitor made it nearly impossible to get one single minute of quiet and I was starting to resemble one of Pavlov’s dogs only instead of salivating, my boobs would leak. And, when you are trying to let your child cry it out for nap time, The Monitor brings you to a special place in hell. I felt trapped by The Monitor.
One afternoon in late spring, Fruit Loop #1 and I were in the middle of a Come To Jesus over nap time. He was not a fan and I was. He was not going to win and I was. We were at a standoff, him and I, that afternoon. So, armed with The Monitor set to vibrate and my mom on the phone, I sat outside on my front porch to try and escape the sounds of blood curdling, “you clearly hate me and my need to be on you at all times” screaming emanating from the Peter Rabbit nursery. My mom chatted away and that blessed Monitor bounced itself all over the side table next to me. The little red decibel lights on it were going berserk. The vibrating was constant. The Monitor was yelling, “I can see you ignoring him! I can see you ignoring him!”.
The Monitor pleaded with me.
The Monitor shook, rattled and rolled to get my attention.
Monitor was yelling at me.
But I held firm. Nap time was not a democracy. Nap time was a dictatorship.
55 minutes in, The Monitor was dying a slow painful death.
The Monitor was not pleased.
The Monitor started smoking. And making awful noises. And vibrating sloooowly.
The Monitor was throwing a tantrum, too.
Then, all of a sudden, as The Monitor left this world, there was silence. Sweet, beautiful, “you sexy bitch where have you been for five months??” silence right there on my porch.
No crying. No vibrating. No mean little red lights glaring at me and my selfish mom ways.
Just beautiful, quiet, silence.
Which, I enjoyed. For four seconds. Before I dashed inside to make sure Fruit Loop #1 was okay.
But, when I got inside, it was quiet there, too. Like The Monitor, Fruit Loop #1 had decided to give up and go to sleep for THREE SOLID HOURS.
The kid had literally cried The Monitor to death.
I’m not gonna lie: I was okay with that.
Amazingly, we survived the rest of his toddlerhood without The Monitor and when Fruit Loop #2 arrived, my superhuman, mad crazy mom ears managed to serve me well. I *did* hear the blood curdling screaming at 2 am. I *did* hear when a certain someone was sneaking around her room to play instead of nap. I *did* hear when they fell out of bed, needed a drink or threw up all over themselves. And, I *did* hear the sweet sounds of “Mama” early in the mornings and the sounds of “I not be in time out annnnnymore!”. I heard it all.
I didn’t need The Monitor to tell me my fruit loops needed me. I just knew. Because moms know that stuff.
And I know a certain mother in law who would never, ever say I told you so…..