Julie Fay: iPod works great as a baby sitter

Julie Fay

Not too long ago, I was seething with jealousy over my daughter’s new iPod. I’m happy to report that I have been cured of my envy, having bought one for myself a few weeks ago. I use my iPod for work, just as I thought I would. I use it for play, when I’m exercising or taking a walk around the neighborhood. I never expected, however, to use it as a babysitter.

Lest anyone worry that I’m taking off for the weekend, leaving my children in the care of a device smaller than a deck of cards, I suppose I should call our family iPods “mother’s helpers.” They don’t care for the kids the way I do, but they certainly provide them with something to do when I can’t be mom-on-demand, like during my daughter’s violin lessons.

Abby has been playing violin for a couple of years, and her weekly lessons, which challenge her musical knowledge and ability, have challenged me, as well. Specifically, I’ve pulled my hair out trying to keep her little brothers occupied and quiet for the half-hour session each week. We’ve tried coloring books, workbooks, story books, puzzle books, magazines, stickers, card games and even babysitters of the human kind. (Since that last option doubles the cost of the lesson, it’s not my favorite.)

Then, two weeks ago, I got the bright idea of bringing my old Shuffle and my new Classic for the boys to use. I loaded them up with their favorite tunes and pulled them out as the lesson was beginning. The effect was magical. Suddenly, my wiggly worms were mesmerized by selections from a roster of artists ranging from the Beach Boys to Raffi, with some movie themes by the Boston Pops thrown in. It was so quiet I nearly forgot the boys were in the room.

Now, Abby’s lessons are tranquil, the only non-violin sounds being the occasional snapping to the beat. The entertainment factor is high, as well, such as when the 5-year-old strikes his best surfing pose or follows directions in an action song (“You put your bottom in, you put your bottom out...”)

Based on our iPod success in Abby’s violin lesson, I’m starting to think of other targeted uses for the technology. Appointment waiting rooms will be a cinch as long as we remember the tunes. Same goes for grocery shopping. Gone are the days of my suffering through “The Days of the Week” and the Jonas Brothers on long car rides. With personal, portable listening devices, I foresee a peaceful future for our family, at home or away.

The irony of my iPod revelation is twofold: one, that I resisted it for so long, and two, that other moms have been using similar tactics, and telling me about them, for years. I have a friend whose sons’ portable video games only come out in waiting rooms or in the car. She shared this idea with me at least three years ago, and I’ve seen it in action with other families. Why did it take an attack of technology envy for me to put it to use with my own kids?

The next time I have an inexplicable urge to buy a gadget, I have another angle to consider. Will that BlackBerry/Cuisinart/hybrid car help me in some way to be a more effective parent? If so, it might be doing my family a disservice not to buy it. I’ll have to think this one over myself, though. Anyone with whom I might discuss it is wearing little white earbuds.

Julie Fay is a winner of the 2010 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. Read more at