Does “smart” baby care replace “present” baby care?
Electric hanging mobiles, multicolored dimming lights, Spotify-ish designer music for every occasion, weight calibrators, electric formula machines are finding their way into the nursery. Are we really better parents when we place a device between ourselves and our children?
I ponder these questions as I review the most recent edition of my book cover showing a father squatting to play catch with his young daughter. Will there soon be a technology to erase even this parenting moment?
I remember all too well the cries of my baby boy in the early morning, and as I shook off my sleep, clearing my head, a welling of joy would erupt from within. I could not wait to bundle him in my arms, change his diaper, and heat up his bottle, all the while humming and talking to him about our day ahead. What would it have been like to push a button, activate a mobile, dial in Spotify, all for a few more moments between the sheets?
When will we realize the ramifications of smart parenting? Winnicott* believes that parents provide a mirror to their infants. Through the reflection in their parent’s eyes and facial expressions, an infant gets to learn about him/herself. They internalize that they are accepted and authentically exist within the world. Through the parental embrace, an infant instinctually calibrates what lives within them and that which is outside.
Will a recorded song replace the parental humming of lullaby? Can a patterned mobile take the place of a smile? I am left wondering, what App will replace the love?
~Timothy Dukes, Ph.D. The Present Parent Handbook, June 2017
*Winnicott, D. W. (1971). Playing and Reality. New York: Tavistock Publications.