Tuesday, August 15, 2006
The Necessity of Discomfort
Jay Gress has an enlightening piece over at National Review Online: "Warm-Wipe Parenting: Bad habits start at the baby megastore." As a father, I could only nod my head in agreement as I read his thoughts from shopping for baby products. Here is an excerpt:
One product, however, proved to be just too much for me. Though my wife insisted on its necessity, I could not seem to justify the immediate expense or the lasting consequences of owning what is known as a “wipe warmer.” This silly apparatus claims to “take the jolt out” of wiping a baby’s undercarriage by warming the moist “baby wipes” to a more balmy temperature. As if “room temperature” is somehow abusively cold. This is one of those shame products that you’re supposed to buy so that you don’t raise the ire of visitors to your baby nursery. (“Did you hear? The Gresses are not warming their baby wipes! Unconscionable! Don’t they know that their baby could get Sudden Sphincter Frostnip?”)
Before moving to Washington, D.C., I worked as a mountain guide in the Rocky and Cascade mountain ranges of the Pacific Northwest, leading winter mountaineering and backcountry skiing excursions. On extended trips, toilet paper often consisted of carefully shaped snowballs — so I’m not at all sympathetic to the idea that my kids cannot stand a mildly cool wipe of the bum that lasts about two thirds of a second.
What most concerns me about the wipe warmer is the attitude it could engender, and that I’ll one day wake up to realize that I have raised exceedingly effete and spoiled children who cower from any “jolt” or discomfort. I fear that they will recoil from worthy pursuits that involve suffering, like studying and work, and worry how they will react to the compulsory sufferings of life. I do not know whether our kids will take up pursuits such as mountaineering like their father, or marathon running like their mother — two pursuits which can stockpile suffering, but can also develop degrees of character and confidence not found in, say, videogames. But I’d at least like them to be comfortable with austerity and quiet in the face of adversity. In short, the wipe warmer represents an affront to everything that I want my kids to be.