A few days ago, I wrote about Cameron and baby crack. These are the talismans for every parent. Things that they can do that will instantly affect their child’s behavior (usually to distract the kid from whatever has currently got them wound up).
For Cam, one baby crack item is Elmo. He just loves the voice (the PoE). Curiously, he hasn’t yet put together the voice and the image. So when we took him to the mall a week or so ago and he saw a wall of Elmo’s – no reaction at all. But press Elmo’s hand on one of these digitally-enhanced stuffed animals and poof: a smile on Cam’s face that simply beams.
But Cam has a few other items that are just as transformative. And in our house, you can guess that it didn’t take long to figure out that the telephone is one of those things.
You all know that I’m a geek. Including work-related numbers, there are five different phone numbers you can dial right now that will ring on either my left or right hip (no, please don’t try). So it should be no surprise that I have my cell phones on me almost constantly. Add in Tina to the mix and there are now several phones that tempt Cam with their bright buttons.
Cameron, of course, pays attention to them. Almost from birth, he’s just a little more tan than any other child his age from the proximity to the glow of a Blackberry or iPhone. We didn’t actually intend for this to happen, of course… but we use our phones a lot for work and I have my own addiction to my iPhone. The result is that he wants what we pay attention to… and besides, isn’t a Blackberry just a cool device to play with?
Now, Cameron greets most toys with an open mouth hug. Phones are no exception, which is good for neither him nor the phone itself. But after the initial desire to eat it comes the desire to push the buttons – especially on Blackberries (he is just now realizing the iPhone has a reactive screen). And he does so with aplomb.
This is troublesome because phones aren’t cheap. So I figured I’d get him his own to play with. Visiting the local Verizon store, I was informed that they don’t have any old demo phones that they can give away. Apparently all of theirs are real and have to be returned upon retirement. But the Verizon rep said that he’d worked at Radio Shack and that they always had dozens of non-working examples in the store that were no longer on display.
So the next time I was near Radio Shack, I stopped in. Unbelievably, the Verizon rep was right. This store had more than 30 phones for me to choose from! Picking a Blackberry that looked like mom and dad’s but wasn’t exactly the same color, I thought this would give Cam the best of both worlds: something he could play with and something that wouldn’t use my cell phone minutes to dial Antarctica.
I brought it home and proceeded to bathe it with Clorox wipes. Figuring that it had been held by hundreds of people who didn’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom, I almost decided to dunk it in bleach. But I wiped it and let it dry about a dozen times (not exaggerating). I then made sure that it was completely solid and nothing could come off it (the battery door was already glued shut).
Approaching Cam’s room where he was playing with his nanny, I called out “guess what Dad got you?” as I walked into the room holding the Blackberry in front of me. Cam stopped what he was doing when he saw it. Momentarily frozen in place with sheer excitement, I could see the facial transformation as his smile lit up. In what I think was as close to a run as he could get, he charged.
Grabbing the Blackberry out of my hands, he proceeded to press the buttons with such rapidity, I thought for a moment that he was a crazed rat in a Skinner box looking for a food pellet from an empty chamber.
I let him have the Blackberry for about an hour before I decided that it was too much. He wasn’t letting go. He wasn’t playing with any other toys. He wasn’t responding to verbal enticements from his nanny or me. He appeared not to be interested in food, either. All he wanted was to press the buttons. Baby crack, indeed.
So now I’ve got Cameron’s Kryptonite. I just don’t know how I can ethically use it.