So a totally hilarious thing came out recently in the news. Turns out that parents who bought the Baby Einstein videos (originally conceived by chic blonde Colorado mom and entrepreneur Julie Aigner Clark, who was Einstein-smart enough herself to sell out to Disney) can now ask for their money back. Because, you know, turns out the videos and DVDs and music CDs (wait for it…) don’t actually make your kids smarter.
Oh, dear God.
Read this piece, by Washington Times writer Marybeth Hicks. Hicks describes how the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) has pushed and pressed for several years now for Disney and Baby Einstein to just up and admit that the videos are pure entertainment, not the first stop on the road to Harvard. (Even better, Hicks quotes one of my favorite writers and bloggers, Jen Singer, owner of Mommasaid.net and author of the new Stop Second Guessing Yourself series of books, who is the go-to gal if you need a reality check on parenting).
So yeah, big surprise.
I first heard about this on the radio yesterday, in a brief segment on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show. He took a couple calls, and seemed surprised that parents aren’t beating Disney’s doors down asking for their cash back. Again, no surprise here.
Because, uh, did anyone buy this stuff, seriously, in hopes that plopping your 6-month old in front of them would boost his IQ? I imagine some did, but not seriously. Just sort of in that, “well, this could give him a teeny edge, and couldn’t hurt, right?” kind of way.
Baby Einstein, and our old friend Julie Clark (who always included an annoying promo for herself and her products on the tapes, which my husband and I parody to this day… hi, I’m Julie Clark, founder of the Baby Einstein company, and I’m getting fabulously rich on the backs of your parental insecurities and competitive natures! Isn’t that great?!), dovetailed nicely with a general climate, in the parenting world, of edge-getting. Anything we could possibly do — or anything someone like Julie Clark soothingly coerced us into thinking we could do — we simply had to do.
It all seems so benign. And the videos themselves are, for sure. But the impulse behind them is anything but.
Listen, we had the whole collection of BI videos. Some bought, some gifts. The big boy loved it when we first showed him Baby Beethoven at about 8 months (that is, aside from a brief scene when a lion puppet plays a saxophone. He’d cry hysterically if we didn’t grab the remote and fast-forward. No idea why). But before long, those videos became a routine part of many days. First, all of the videos are about 30 minutes long. That’s a shower, with extra time to moisturize, deodorize, and get dressed in peace. Second, my son was mesmerized by most of them, and soon they became a clear signal that it was calming-down time. Video, then nap. Easy-peasy.
But I never expected him to hum Beethoven, then toddle to his play piano and start composing his own music. And while we both loved Baby Van Gogh, I don’t expect him to wander into a museum when he’s older and feel a pull toward the artist’s work thanks to his early exposure. They were just nice. Mild. Not jarring. No purple dinosaurs, no commercials.
I don’t want my money back, thanks.
But I am getting a good laugh, and that’s priceless.