I cradled the precious little thing in my arm, my neck aching from gazing down at my beautiful grandson. His little snores didn’t irritate me like his grandfather’s. His knees curled to his tummy like only a newborn can manage. I was babysitting that night so my daughter and son-in-law could have a well-deserved date night.
Gingerly, I placed the bundle down on the arm of the sofa as I lowered myself to the cushion. A little jostle sent the bundle over the edge; I heard a crack as it hit the hardwood floor. The precious package was the baby video monitor. My grandson slept peacefully upstairs in his bedroom in his big old house that was built to keep kids’ bedrooms as far as possible from the formal living room. My ears that need closed captions for Downton Abbey could never hear the baby without the monitor.
The retrieved monitor had no picture or sound. I sought to remedy it with my usual method for electronics, and pushed all available buttons. Still no picture. Finally, I used the magic wand of computing—the reboot—which retrieved the little image. Relieved, I settled into the couch again to read, accompanied by tea and dark chocolate. I would be the Relaxing Grandma!
After a few swipes to my e-book, I glanced at the monitor. To my dismay, the screen was black. My heart skipped a few beats. The baby could be screaming at the top of his lungs, I wouldn’t hear him, and I’d be the Criminally Negligent Grandma.
I jumped up, spilling tea on my e-reader and my baby pee-stained yoga pants. Suddenly, the monitor came back to life. With bum in the air and fists under his chin, the baby slept soundly. In spite of the grainy quality of the picture, which almost required arrows to identify body parts like on prenatal ultrasounds, I thought, “aw, how cute.” Just then, the picture went out again.
I’ll need to sit outside his room, I decided. I would use the methods I used with my own pre-electronic-age babies: listen carefully, and if there is no sound and the baby’s dad isn’t there to stop you, sneak into the room, place your index finger below the baby’s nose, and feel for breath. This method was wonderful at reassuring me as a young mom, because it roused the baby and set off howls. Baby’s alive! Hooray!
My electronic escapades haven’t stopped there. Hundreds of pictures and videos of grandchildren sit on my iPhone that I don’t get around to sharing. There’s the toddler grandson who attacks my pocket if he sees any rectangular-shaped item, searching for the pixel fix of my phone. There are varying TVs and remotes for educational screen times the older grandchildren are allowed. The grandkids’ parents patiently respond to my frantic emails and texts asking how to make this or that work, and refrain from reminding me that I’d asked the same questions the previous week.
And there’s the sound machine, built to self-destruct before parents decide the baby no longer needs it. Eventually, you have to fine-tune the adjustments to overcome a loose connection, while simultaneously trying to sooth a baby and convince her that a nap is a really good idea right now. My toddler grandson recently showed me his dad’s curative method by applying a fist whack that looked disturbingly like the precordial chest thump I learned in my advanced cardiac life support course.
There are benefits to Grandmatronics. My 18 month old grandson taught me how to access my iPhone music app by twice pressing a little round button, without having to enter my secret passcode. Video chats allow us a pretend visit with the distant grandson, although the picture can be blurred by things like ice cream smeared on his video cam.
On returning home on that video-monitor-crisis day, my daughter asked how it went.
“Everything was great!”
“Did the monitor give you any trouble?”
“Maybe just a little.”