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Extolling the virtues of baby containing contraptions
By Charlie Fern

babyThe world’s most photographed child is bobbing happily up and down, suspended in the doorway of my home office. He’s sitting in his “jumper” -- a cloth seat tethered by three long straps to a heavy-duty spring. The spring, in turn, is attached to a large clamp that hugs the inner and outer wall above the doorway molding.

Some may call it a jumper, but I prefer “portable-temporary baby containment unit,” or PTBCU.  It is one of many in my house. The world’s most photographed baby’s feet can just touch the floor from the PTBCU, and he bounces up and down – more excitedly when he sees the dog or cat, or when I say “Wheeere’s Mommy?” and jump out from behind a door.

The words “Portable” and “temporary” are important. “Portable” so parents can move and reassemble, with relative ease, the unit(s) in doorways and free floor spaces throughout the house – most often those parts of the house that require urgent care after having been destroyed by the baby.  “Temporary” because each portable baby containment unit has a limited span of effectiveness.  Most units can entertain a baby for an average of 10 minutes; perhaps 25 on a good day. 

If you can acquire a variety of such units – I recommend a collection of at least the following: the ExerSaucer, automated swing, jumper, high chair, or any one of several Baby Einstein videos – you can start your own rotation and thus buy yourself enough free arm- and hip-time to dang near get something done around the house. 

In the time that I’ve written these few paragraphs, we have already deserted the jumper in favor of an entirely different room with a few square feet of floor space upon which sits a blanket, the baby, and an array of talking, stacking, squeaking, slobbery toys. I have likewise changed rooms, and seats, and computers.

You might be wondering if there exists the mother of all temporary portable baby containment units, or MOFA TPBCUs. It does exist. It is the car seat. And it is the mother of all TPBCUs because it also has the power of sleep-inducement, which is mission-critical when all other units have failed to contain your baby.

I suspect that most reasonable people have already figured these things out. It took me the better part of six months.

Before our son was born, my husband and I were Reasonable People. We pored over tomes of books on the subjects of pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting. I made notes. We spent long evenings considering the “what-ifs” of raising our impending baby. We read, rated, and requested all of the paraphernalia we were required to buy – and avoid.

Armed with those notes, bargain books, and consumer reports, we set off for the baby stores. Up and down the aisles we walked, mouths agape, absolutely baffled by the mind-numbing variety of possibilities…the instructions, brands, pieces, parts; the things that either fold, flip, slide or convert from one size to another.
But we were Reasonable People. We bought only those things that were absolutely necessary for a safe, happy, and educational babyhood.  And because we were Reasonable People, we reasoned that there were some things we would never do once our baby was born:

  1. We would never play anything but classical music for our child.
  2. We would never let the television become a babysitter.
  3. We would never buy a walker, swing, or jumper.
  4. We would never let the baby control our schedule.


I should have known we were in trouble when, three months after our son was born, my husband came home from work and asked me to look at his feet. 

I looked down. I looked back up blankly. I was missing something. He explained to me that several hours into his workday, an employee asked him how he’d broken his foot. He asked why.

“Well, because of the special shoe,” the employee said, and pointed at his right foot. It seems that the “special shoe” on his right foot was a grey running shoe. What made it special was the shoe on his left foot – a brown loafer. 

I looked down again. My husband had somehow managed to lace himself into two completely different shoes – different laces, different textures, different soles. He had gone to work, walked around for several hours, perhaps even bent down to tie a shoelace, and never noticed the difference. I have no doubt that he would have made it through the entire day, had the concerned colleague not pointed it out.

I laughed.

I – who had opened the cupboard where we keep the coffee cups and found the missing gallon of milk that I’d put on the second shelf – laughed loudly.

I – who plays rock and roll in the car; who lets the world’s most photographed six-month-old control my schedule; who has given up the middle territory of our bed for him; who embraces the portable temporary baby containment units –  am still laughing.



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