By: Mary Fran Bontempo

A traveling apartment, formerly known as a baby stroller, now called a “travel system,” available on Amazon.com.

I don’t know how we did it.

Okay, it’s been said before, but yes, I’ll say it again–I’m going to be a grandmother.

My oldest, son David, is going to be a daddy come August, thus making certain that, like it or not, apparently I AM ready for Granny Panties. (Go on, giggle all you want; you’ll be here someday, too.)

So last week, we gathered at mom-to-be Kelly’s family home and enjoyed a lovely baby shower. And oh my, how things have changed.

Baby Emma (yes, a girl and already named), is beginning life with an array of gadgets, gizmos and contraptions so complex and technologically advanced, it’s a wonder her new parents aren’t required to obtain an advanced degree to assemble and operate it all.

Where we used to have a walkie-talkie-like (oh Lord, even I think that sounds antiquated) baby monitor that allowed us to hear our children when not in the room with them, now they have video surveillance cameras which can be moved from room to room to track the baby’s every move. (I’m not sure what anyone thinks the babies are doing that merits video surveillance, but what do I know?) Also gone is the bouncy chair, replaced by something right out of a NASA training center that moves the baby up, down and all around in a motion intended to mimic that of a human trying to sooth a fussy kid.

Baby strollers now look like tenements on wheels, large enough to have their own zip codes, complete with detachable baby carriers in addition to the regular seat, as well as enough compartments to store clothing, food and toys for a two week vacation–for the entire family.

And remember the port-a-crib? Now re-named the “pack and play,” it’s a crib, it’s a changing table and it’s also the closest thing to a playpen available these days.

Apparently, the reason for all this is that we did everything wrong. We didn’t watch them closely enough, we didn’t bounce them correctly and we actually put them in playpens, which was very, very bad. It seems to have been decided that children should not be confined in a playpen, because…well, I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s beneath their dignity? Putting a child in a pen sounds antediluvian to this generation of parents–much like the word “antediluvian;”  it’s an antiquated, outdated concept that perhaps too much recalls a pigpen for their liking, thus potentially causing subliminal harm to their offspring. (Yet really, depending on the amount of drooling going on at any one time, a case could be made.)

I never thought of my kids’ playpen as cruel and unusual punishment. I thought of it as a life raft. For me, that is. Every single day, after every meal, my kids spent some time in the playpen, where they played, while I most definitely did not play, using the precious half hour to do laundry, run the vacuum or quickly shower. They survived, and so did I.

Which is miraculous, especially given that everything we used while raising our kids is now considered a death trap, including the crib in which all three of my children slept. I thought I was being a good parent; it seems I should have been investigated for child abuse.

I’m looking forward to the arrival of baby Emma. More than that, I’m looking forward to seeing my son learn to parent. I’m certain David and Kelly will do a great job–until, that is, Emma grows up, everything changes and they’ll also find they were doing it all wrong.

Until then, I’ll try and learn to use the gadgets and gizmos, but I can’t promise I won’t put Emma in a playpen–if I can find one, that is.

What are your thoughts on new baby gear? Click “comments” below and share!