This story I wrote years ago about how marketers prey upon the self-inflicted fears of new parents has been getting a lot of traffic of late, so I thought I’d give it a plug.
FIRST, LET’S DISPENSE WITH any pretense of objectivity, I am a paranoid, first-time parent. As I write this, my son Greg is playing quietly and contentedly in his room. At one year old, he coos, takes tentative steps, laughs, screams like the devil’s on his tail when he wants to, beats his arm in time to music (at least as well as his father), and in general seems to thoroughly enjoy his life.That’s why I’m convinced he’s autistic.
Either that or it’s another neurological malady no one will notice until it’s far too late. Yesterday he was scratching at a bug bite, and I instantly knew it was lyme disease. Today he is crying more than usual, which means he is undoubtedly suffering from the first horrible arthritic symptoms of the disease.
I am not alone in this private hell. My wife has diagnosed nearly as many ailments as I have. Her biggest fear seems to be breathing stoppage. Not choking, just immediate, independent cessation, sort of like spontaneous human combustion of the lungs. This is what exposure to too many warnings about sudden infant death syndrome will do to you.
All of which makes us only slightly less rational than any of the other new parents we know. It also makes us the perfect marks for the Baby Industrial Complex (BIC), whose motto seems to be: If You Scare Them, They Will Spend. The BIC’s ad campaigns have refined this application of guilt and fear to a fine art. Their message: You are a bad parent. Your child is going to die a horrible death unless you buy our products.
(BTW, just so you can gauge the accuracy of my predictions: Greg is fine and finishes sixth grade this month. Well, at least I think he’s fine — there’s always the chance he has … )