Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An Open Letter to Babies "R" Us

Dear Babies “R” Us:

First, let’s start off with the positive.

You are close to my house. You have ample parking. You have provided me with food for my child and with the products that help me transport my child safely in the car, and sleep warm at night. You stock more organic products than I first expected. You sell the Nintendo Wii, which undoubtedly has allowed thousands of men to somehow slip that onto a baby registry. For all of these things, I thank you.

But we really need to have a talk.

First, let’s cover the products you sell. How can there possibly be a need for an entire wall of bibs and three aisles of strollers? How am I supposed to tell the difference between the Triumph DLX, Triumph LX, Triumph Advance, Symphony, Symphony 65, Tribute, Titan, and Titan Elite car seats (and those are just the choices from one brand). Why is it that you stock roughly 19,659,308 toys that all do the same thing – play muzac versions of Bach, flash, vibrate, rattle, and prop up the Chinese economy, all while offering six textures, 8 colors, and creepy pictures of cartoon jungle animals – but only 12 books? Why is it that every doctor and nurse and child-rearing expert tells new parents not to put anything in their a babies crib yet all of your display cribs are decorated with enough bumpers, blankets, stuffed animals, pillows, and toys to smother a linebacker? I’m sure you would respond by saying, “Hey, we are just a merchant; we aren’t here to tell people how to raise their child.” Well, you kinda are. You tell people how to safely install car seats, you don’t sell bottles with BPA in them, you even have “Helpful Hints and Safety Tips" on your website, so why ignore the medical advice on SIDS? OK, so you sell bumpers and sleep positioners and the like, right. I’m sure that is because a lot of parents still want them. You are just meeting consumer demand – more capitalist power to you. But do you really need to put it on your “must-have” list for a registry?

Now let’s talk about your customer service. I have always been impressed with Babies “R” Us and your ability to hire and train the most apathetic of employees. You certainly have a talent there. Very little work above the minimal seems to be done. Help you find a price? Sure, just wait a second. Help with a mattress? Sorry, I specialize in bath tubs.

The most disturbing the about a store full of people that apparently “R” all about babies is that none of them really seem to like children. I can’t count the number of times I have been in your store, and looking back, I also can’t remember seeing an employee ever acknowledge the existence of a child. Other stores that focus on a niche usually hire people who like that demographic. Every time I went in to Petsmart to buy cat food someone would ask me about my cats. How old they were, if they were brother and sister, how long we had them. They would pat dogs when they came in and they would talk to you about their pet iguana. They keep doggie treats at the counter for Pete’s sake. It seemed like the employees of PETsmart actually liked PETS. You wouldn’t hire someone to work at an auto parts store if they hated cars, so why hire people at Babies “R” Us that seem allergic to toddlers? Sure, maybe working at Babies”R”Us makes you a little numb to kids. Maybe it even makes you really sick of them. But you do work at a place with “Babies” in the name. Shouldn’t you at least be able to tolerate mini-human beings?

Would it kill you to give my daughter a little wave when I ask where I can find the Baby Einstein videos? How about asking how old she is while walking me over to the land of gliders? When my wife and I were in your store making up our registry (you know, that thing that encourages our friends and family to spend thousands of dollars at your store and not other stores) not once did someone ask my wife “Hey, how are you feeling?” or “Is this your first?” or “Are you going to find out if it is a girl or a boy?”

That kind of stuff can go a long way.

Right now your customer service is terrible, and just ok customer service isn’t going to cut it. Really, your employees need to be better at customer service than everywhere else. Why? Because your customer base is full of wackos like me. Parents tend to be in a hurried state of distraction/frustration/ready to bite someone’s head off if they don’t find that package of flash cards and diaper cream before little Madison needs to be fed again. We probably aren’t the easiest customer base to work with. We usually have a screaming infant/toddler hanging from us, or maybe our breasts are engorged, or maybe we were dragged out of the house by our wife to pick up nipple shields and we realized that the game just started but we can’t find our wife and child in the store because we are stuck in the changing table section and they are trying to find someone to help them figure out which is the best sippy cup to buy out of the 3000 you offer. So that means when your computer goes down at the checkout, like what happened at our last visit, that you shouldn’t stare at it and hope it comes back to life. Or when, also on our last visit, a coupon doesn’t scan right the first time, second time, third, fourth and fifth time you try, please, in the name of all that is good and holy, do not try and scan it a sixth time. Just go get someone to take the F’n dollar off of my bill.

I really shouldn’t forget to tell you about when we made our first attempt to set up a registry and we made the mistake of coming in 45 minutes before closing. We were told that we couldn’t get a scanner because they require them all back to the front 15 minutes before closing so they can get ready to close. “We want to go home too, you know,” the employee scowled. Really, I wasn’t trying to hold her up, I was just trying to spend lots of money at your store. After ten minutes of cajoling and letting her know that we didn’t want to keep her at the store any longer than she was contractually obligated, she relented and gave us the scanner. She then spent the next half hour making announcements on the loudspeaker: We are closing in 30 minutes, please return all scanners. We are closing in 20 minutes, please return all scanners. We are closing in 15 minutes…you get the idea.

So, Babies “R” Us, you seem to have cornered the market. As much as I despise your store and all it stands for, I was there this weekend, spending money. Congratulations. But there is nothing pleasant about shopping at your store – do you really want to be the place that no one CHOOSES to go but where they HAVE to go? Maybe you are trying to prepare expectant mother for child birth by putting them through this trial by plastic. Maybe forcing us to deal with unhelpful, unfriendly, and unresponsive employees is your way of thickening my skin so I can deal with a teenager someday.

Really, it wouldn’t take much to turn this around. You have so much potential, so much to offer. Just look at how Wal-Mart and McDonalds have been able to upgrade their image. People want to buy your products, we shouldn’t walk out the door pledging never to go back.

So take the first step, Babies “R” Us. If you really believe in that joke of an "Oath of Office" that says you "proclaim your allegience to kids everywhere and champion their right to a childhood filled with magic" then get your heads out of your behind. Try listening to your customers, take some extra time to help a few out, and maybe, just maybe, say hi to the kids.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dropsy Game

Olive has recently learned that dropping things is fun. Not sure why this is fun. I get angry when I drop things. Of course, I don't have someone who will follow me around and pick up everything that I drop. When she really gets going she will sit in her high chair or the chair we have attached to our kitchen table and drop things over the side. Then wait for mommy or daddy to pick them up. She then immediately drops them again. The video below will give you an idea.

Friday, November 20, 2009

My New Mantra

I said in my last post that one of my irrational fears was Olive missing developmental goals. Really, Leanne and I have done a pretty good job of cutting that one of at the pass when we feel it coming on. It is a little mantra that I have started to repeat to myself and have shared with other parents.

Anytime we think Olive is having trouble doing something or we start getting worried that she isn’t doing something when she should, we just tell ourselves, that “Well, she isn’t going to be an 18-year-old that – fill in the blank”.

For example, Olive shows absolutely no desire to crawl right now and every once and a while we start wondering if this is going to slow down her being able to walk, ask ourselves if we should put her on her tummy more, and in general, we start worrying about inconsequential stuff since Olive has been developing her gross motor skills just fine. So we say, “It’s okay. Olive won’t be an 18-year-old that just sits motionless on the floor.” It works! You immediately feel better. We have used it for everything. When it seemed like Olive was teething for weeks without any sign of a tooth we would say “Well, she isn’t going to be a toothless 18-year-old.”

You can also use it to help prepare you for some bad times too. A friend of mine would probably, referring to one of my other irrational fears, recommend that I tell myself that Olive will not be an 18-year-old who has never had diarrhea. When we heard that she made another kid cry at day care by taking his toy I said to myself, well, she wasn’t going to be an 18-year-old that never made another kid angry.

As parents, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do the perfect job and raise the perfect child who develops right along with the books and the charts. Reality doesn’t play itself out like that. We, as first time parents, are a portrait of naiveté. We think we know everything but we know very little. And our kids know even less, the certainly don't know what timeline they are supposed ot be following. They just do what they want, what feels good, and what comes naturally along the line. A lot of times, we are just a long for the ride. Somehow, everyone comes out okay.

Olive rolled over really quickly. But now she hates being on her tummy. Some kids will sleep through the night before others. Some will tolerate food better. Some will potty train and walk and talk later or earlier than others. But so far we have a healthy happy child, and there is no reason to believe that these things won’t come in time with good parenting. Mistakes allowed.

After all, Olive probably won’t be a toothless, non-vocal, bald, 18-year-old who can’t walk and poops her pants.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Irrational Fears of a New Dad

I like to think of myself as a laid back Dad. You know, the kind that doesn’t rush to grab my daughter after every little wimper; the kind that takes getting poop on his hand in stride; the kind that isn’t afraid to let her play in the leaves even though leaves are “dirty”. I am also apparently cool enough to let my daughter hang out with what looks like, from this picture, to be a dingo. Luckily, pirates don't eat strawberries.

But being a dad can make you think strange things. It can make you afraid of any item the size of a Hershey Kiss (including Hershey Kisses) because they are choking hazards. Over the last seven-plus months I have developed into an all-scared, all-the-time kind of person. I might hide it well, but I have become more neurotic than Larry David. And so, to give you some idea of what bother a father of a seven month old, here is my list of completely irrational fears:

1. Other Kids – They carry germs, for one. They also do things like hit and grab. This irrational fear is particularly troublesome since Olive spends three days a week surrounded by other kids in day care.
2. Crooked Teeth – They are starting to come in. So far they are straight, and they aren’t permanent anyway. But each one is just another role of the dice. I just don’t want to have to nickname her snaggletooth.
3. Sugar – While I feel bad trying to feed Olive the plain whole-milk yogurt, I’m pretty sure giving her the kind with fruit and added sugar will cause her to become diabetic at age 1.
4. Non-Organic Food – The baby food section of the grocery store puts the choice right there in front of you: Organic Carrots or Poison Carrots.
5. Mountain Lions – Okay, I admit, I’ve been scared of those for a while. But now that I have a baby, I’m even more scared. At least I don’t live in Phoenix.
6. H1N1 – Maybe this fear isn’t exactly irrational – I heard today that 7% of all hospital visits in Massachusetts were flu related last month. The normal amount at the peak of a normal flu season is 1%. So you can be sure that every time Olive sniffles she is going to be getting a thermometer in her butt.
7. Growing up to be a stripper – As a wise man once said, if I can’t keep her off the pole, I have failed as a father.
8. Getting Too Cold/Hot – I have no idea how to dress my child. It will be 60 degrees outside and I’ll have her in three onesies, a pair of pants, a jacket, mittens, a hat, and a blanket. But the next day it will be 30 and I’ll take her outside naked. I am really looking forward to the development of speech when she is finally able to say – “I’m cold.”
9. Missing a Developmental Milestone – Child rearing books will have these lists telling you what you baby should be doing at each month of development. If Olive somehow falls behind I immediately start training her. "Olive! You should be sitting up by now! No, more sleeping on your back…you will sleep in a chair until you learn to sit up! All the other sitting up kids will make fun of you!"
10. TV – Okay, we have the TV on a lot in our house. For a while we wrote off Olive’s fascination as no big deal, she just likes things with bright colors. Now I’m convinced that her first words will be “Turn off ESPN!”
11. Diarrhea – Olive has never had it. And I am going to do everything in my power to prevent it. I have seen normal baby poop, and I really don’t think my brain has the capacity to understand what baby diarrhea must look like. It must be the worst thing ever. Right now I just can’t imagine it. It is like asking me to imagine having a billion dollars, or telling me about the “nice” parts of New Jersey.
12. Car Accidents – I’m THIS close to getting a Baby on Board sign. Or a tank.
13. Superstitions – Maybe I should just skip this number.
14. Doing Something Wrong – Am I not reading to her enough? Is she the only kid in the world whose parents listen to NPR while they feed her? Will she start to salivate if she hears Carl Kasell’s voice 10 years from now? When am I supposed to switch car seats? Is she napping enough? Maybe she is sleep deprived? Why don’t I see other parents letting their kids play with knives?
15. Allergies – She is trying lots of new foods now, and as far as I can tell is allergic to none of them. But after each bite of a new fruit or vegetable I wait a second to see if she turns blue like Violet from Willy Wonka. “Olive! Your turning Olive, Olive!”
16. Tripping While Holding Her – I have been walking for about 29 years…I’m pretty good at it. But There are time I definitely heel-toe it when she is in my arms.

Okay, that’s what I can think of right now, but trust me, there are a lot more. Parents? What did I miss? Let me know what other irrational fears haunt your dreams now that you have a child.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Weight Gain and The Fever

So it is time for me to start catching up on writing about my life. I haven’t been writing because, well, life is happening.

Olive keeps growing. We know this because she has added a second chin to her repertoire and because she has been to the doctor three times in as many months. The first was a regular appointment and she weighed in at a whopping 14 lbs 14 oz. This moved her up to around the 25th percentile. Those of you that know Olive or have read this blog before remember that she was at one point the Lindsey Lohan of babies, staking out her spot in the 5th percentile of weight. Yet, like a little infant Kirstie Alley, she continues to grow. A month later, Olive weighed in at 16 lbs 3 oz. Whoah. That put her into the 35 percentile. She was beginning to look like a normal baby!

Unfortunately, the reason that she was in the doctor’s office and getting a little weigh-in was that she developed the first fever of her young life. Leanne and I knew something was going on and after one of the worst nights of sleep in the past seven months, we decided that she was indeed sick and took her temp – 101. After immediately WebMD diagnosing my daughter with everything from H1N1 to polio, we decided that the best thing to do would be to give her some children’s Tylenol, put her to bed, and see if the fever changes. Next morning – 102. Okay, now I was sure she had polio.

Later that morning we found ourselves at the doctor. If you haven’t been in a doctor’s waiting room, especially a pediatrician’s waiting room, in the Swine Flu era, I can only describe it as a cross between a MASH unit and the opening scenes of a zombie movie where everyone is starting to become infected. Kids who are way too old to be cradled by their parents are being cradled by their parents. Every face the complexion of Robert Pattison in Twilight. Nurses walking around with masks on their face. Purel everywhere. Just a pathetic and sad scene. Luckily, Olive did not have H1N1 and was diagnosed with a common cold.

Sure enough, a day later the fever was gone, but the stuffy nose remained. Nothing is more pathetic than an infant with a cold. Their little mouths hacking out a mini-cough. Snot running down their lips because they haven’t figured out how to wipe or blow their nose. Sometimes, usually after a couple minutes of crying in the crib, you get the trifecta of facial fluids. Little cheeks and chin soaked with snot, tears, and drool.

Unfortunately for me, every time Olive gets sick, I seem to get stricken as well. And this last one hit me hard. Leanne, however, always comes out clean, which leads me to believe she is the carrier, or part of an alien race that is immune to the rhinovirus.

But there is lots to write about and lots that has happened in about the last month or so. Here is a little preview about what you can expect to see in upcoming episodes:
• Halloween! Little babies in ridiculous costumes!
• Teeth! Olive has two!
• The irrational fears of a new dad – H1N1, diaper rash, mountain lions, oh my!
• My new mantra: Olive will not be an 18 year old that…