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The Grandbaby Gap: How times have changed for Grandparents!

Turn on the music and turn off the noise,

Pull out the building blocks, puzzles and toys, Stick to the basics and you'll be okay, 'Cause rock-a-bye baby, is high-tech today.

Don’t panic: I spotted a friend in the baby aisles of a department store the other day. She had the wide-eyed look of a frazzled shopper in the throes of a panic attack. As I approached her, she hollered at me, “What the heck has happened to our babies?”

False alarm: Well I guess the sales girl and a few nearby shoppers thought this was an Amber Alert in the making – so you can imagine the kerfuffle that ensued. Once the fracas died down and she explained that we in fact had no babies, I took her for a cup of tea to calm what was left of her nerves. It appears she had just become a new grandmother and simply wanted to buy a few things for her grandson.

Gizmos and Gear: My poor unsuspecting friend was completely overwhelmed by the complexity of all the new high-tech baby merchandise that morphs into various contraptions as the baby grows. And as useful as this sounds, I often wonder how the parents of today know when to 'Snap 'n Go', 'Sit n' Stroll', or simply 'Mop n' Glo'? What has happened to our babies, indeed!

Looking back: As I hauled my friend out of the grandbaby gap, it brought back a deluge of shopping memories of when I became a grandmother ten years ago. It all started in the same way...standing alone in the baby aisles, looking desperate and feeling overwhelmed. But in time, I adjusted and learned to let my daughter do the heavy lifting when it came to making complicated product decisions.

You've come a long way baby: Thankfully, we've travelled some distance since the days of treacherous baby cribs and toys filled with toxic lead. The better care and feeding of our babies should always be the driving force behind any change to the nursery set. And the new mothers and fathers of today have a plethora of choices to make and many new adventures to behold.

Baby Check Up

What I learned:

1...Strollers are like hot rods: My first stroller simply strolled with a squeaky wheel or two. Today, babies travel in style in trail-blazing strollers that promise easy release hand-brakes, front and rear suspension, multi-position reclining seats and all terrain wheels. It's an amazing sight to see how the simple stroller has evolved into a deluxe rock n' roll system, with the features of a souped-up automobile! Music and heat and four white feet...

2...Car seats kick butt: Good grief! We didn't even have car seats! Today, there are forward facing seats and rear facing seats and seats that go by the pound. There are latch systems and universal anchorage systems and space-age cockpit turbo-design booster seats for big kids. And if you purchase the travel model with the handy removable seat, you can jump out of your car - pop the whole 'kid-and-car-seat' package right into a stroller-base thingy and jog around the block, while you talk mergers and acquisitions on your cell phone! Holy moley, take it slowly!

3...High chairs collect points: My daughter's old wooden high chair was as tippy as a canoe. And the removable tray kept sliding out and crashing to the floor. In today's world, high chair designs have miraculously evolved into 3-point restraining systems, 4-point reclining systems and 5-point height adjusting systems. And, like the car seat and stroller, it can transform into just about anything, if you have an engineering degree. I hurt my head, on what I read.

4...New mothers are brave: Gone are the cold clinical hospital deliveries we had on baby-D-day. Today young women have birthing centres and many employ the services of mid-wives and doulas to have a more natural experience. Even my lovely daughter, who has the pain threshold of a gnat and gets sedation to have her haircut - chose the au naturelle route of birthing at home. She isn't in doubt, 'til baby wants out!

5...New fathers are nuts: Back in the day, most fathers kept their distance from mothers and babies and played the role of being useless very well. Today, new fathers are fully involved in baby routines - from birthing to burping and all things in between. But my son-in-law was a bit 'two diapers short of a pail' if you get my drift. Before leaving for groceries one day, he instructed me on how to help my daughter breast feed! My advice: Never have a milky-nipple discussion with your son-in-law! He means so well, but I'm in hell!

Toys on steroids: Did you know that some of the little-girl dolls of today can give birth, breastfeed and poop? Did you know that some little-boy dump trucks can break-dance in a flashing display of lights and music? Would you buy a play-centre that bombards a baby with a whirlwind of activity, colour and noise? With so many children diagnosed with attention disorders, are we doing the right thing by purchasing these monster-toys for our kids? I'm just saying...

Just imagine: Children might love these multi-tasking toys, but most of them are designed to entertain and distract - rather than engage the child. The imagination is a powerful playmate. And if the toy does too much, the child does too little - and the imagination shrivels up and dies a very sad death by starvation.

Finding the balance: We live in a very complex world. And it’s wonderful to see the new products that keep baby safe, and the educational toys that help baby enjoy an enriched and comfortable environment. We can marvel at new inventions like the Diaper Genie that twists and links soggy diapers together like a stinky-sausage-maker; or the mechanics of electronic toys that turn our kids into little masters of the universe. But there's also something to be said for the pure joys of simplicity.

Final word: So what has happened to our babies? Nothing. Babies aren’t any more complicated than they used to be. It’s this world we live in that’s become more complicated. And I believe it’s up to each one of us to bring back some small pleasure from our own childhood and introduce it to our grandchildren. You just never know what simple goodness you might find.

So don’t be in shock on becoming a Grand, With new-fangled stuff that you don't understand, Despite all the gizmos, the gadgets, the gear, Our babies are babies - the same every year.

And may I remind you, in case you forgot, The best toys are those that do diddly-squat! And books are for reading and shouldn’t talk back, Just stick with the program - you won’t go off-track.

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Pat Skene is a retired banking professional and writer for

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