Don't. Do This!

Fellow Bleakonomist Devin sent me a link yesterday, in an act clearly meant to aggravate my already shaky grasp on sanity. While I try to steady my trembling hands and calm my twitching eye, check out the newest option for neurotic, obsessive parents. From Wired:

Allen Fawcett admits he and his wife are mildly addicted to keeping track of their babies’ schedules. The pair of economists have been recording every diaper, feeding and nap since they became parents.

With the help of the Trixie Tracker website, they know they’ve changed exactly 7,367 diapers for their three-year-old son and 969 for their three-month-old daughter. They also have a graph of precisely how many minutes each of their children slept on nearly every day since birth. During their daughter’s first month, the data shows she averaged 15 hours of sleep a day, which is two hours more than her brother at the same age and well above average for other Trixie Tracker babies.
Sweet merciful crap! "Above average for other Trixie Tracker babies"?!??! Who the hell cares?

Why one earth would anyone need to know that they have changed 7,367 diapers? What purpose does that serve other than to create another reservoir for meaningless information? Your child is not a spreadsheet!

This, though, makes me want to hurl:
Fifteen years ago, tracking your baby’s development meant going to the pediatrician every few months and recording his growth on a simple height and weight chart. Today, baby tracking is a booming business. In addition to websites that let you track your infant’s schedule, there are iPhone apps that translate and record your baby’s cries, wearable devices that keep track of how much you talk to your child, and even electronic toys that record how your child plays with them, so you can compare his progress to developmental norms.

On one level, I can relate to this. As a pediatrician with a new baby, I am tempted on a daily basis to dig out my old Denver developmental assessment kit and see how the Critter is progressing. When he masters some new skill I make note of it, and there's a pleasure in seeing him do well. I can understand the desire to know that one's child is making strides as one would hope.

But, for the love of God, put down your damned iPhone and act like a normal human being. I don't need an app to tell me what the Critter's cries mean. At this point, I can tell the difference between "tired" and "angry" and "hungry," using a process developed over the centuries known as "paying attention to my child." (For example, if he is crying and it has been several hours since his last bottle, I emply this process to figure out that I should make a bottle.)

Further, tracking how much you're talking to your kid plays into the worst aspects of the "Baby Einstein" syndrome. Your kid is going to be your kid, and no amount of developmental hectoring is going to make the difference between dropping out of high school and making it into Stanford. The kinds of parents who are inclined to monitor how much they're talking to their kid are probably the sort who are affluent and educated enough to be talking at amounts sufficient to foster good language skills. The guilt (or smug one-upmanship) that a talking tally will induce will lead to no good outcome.

And toys that give you a developmental report card are the absolute pits. Let your child play with toys for the sake of playing with toys! Elizabeth has already written about this pathological need to teach one's kids at all moments, at the expense of simple free-form play for its own sake, so I don't need to add much. But enough already. The very last thing kids need are report cards for how they are playing.

1 comment:

  1. What, you can't be with your kid without measuring every last....diaper?

    I'm now a grandmother. I think there is something to having the skill-set of measuring little kids' behaviors (especially when ill) but the apps that let you "translate your child's cries"? It's a subspecies of "Nature deprivation disorder". It's like you can't trust your own perceptions without them being validated electronically.