Every morning I braid Margaret’s hair. Not too shabby, right?
We have a system to get her hair just the way she likes it. It involves a stool for her to stand on, water to wet her hair to make it easier to braid, no-slip hair ties because her hair is like fine silk, and my phone so Margaret can be occupied with “baby shows” instead of wiggling around like she has ants in her pants, making faces in the mirror, and complaining that doing her hair “takes hours!” (even though she’s the one who requests braids EVERY SINGLE MORNING). At first she was only allowed to watch the PBS Kids app because, you know, educational shows and what not. Have you seen Ready Jet Go! and Peg + Cat? Good stuff, right there. But then Margaret asked to watch Peppa Pig on YouTube, which she used to do every morning until she started watching Kinder Surprise videos and we had to delete the YouTube app. I downloaded the YouTube Kids app, instead, to make it less likely that she would stumble upon something that would scar her for life and it was a slippery slope from there.
One morning when Niels was about 9 weeks old and contently sleeping in his baby rocker, I siezed the moment to sweep and mop the tile floor downstairs. To keep Margaret entertained, I handed her my iPad and told her she could watch whatever she wanted to on YouTube Kids as long as it was a “good choice,” which means no violence or general weirdness. Margaret’s eyes glazed over and she said with a little lilt in her voice, “Can I watch baby videos?” I agreed, but told her this was a “one-time thing.” After that day, Margaret would ask me for the “one-time videos” and frankly, she wore me down. Now it’s all baby videos all the time when I’m braiding her hair.
The first few times Margaret watched these baby videos, I didn’t pay attention. And as I’m writing this, I’m wondering how did she even know these videos existed in the first place? Do all kids of a certain age just know about these things? How do they know? But, dear Lord, these baby videos. Have you seen these videos of women taking Baby Alive dolls out of their packaging (which they call “doing an unboxing”) and acting out full scenes, replete with different voices AND baby talk AND crying? Or sometimes they just talk about the baby and its features and demonstrate its abilities, like some babies will eat, wet, and cry. If you haven’t seen these videos, head over to YouTube and search “Baby Alive videos.” I refuse to embed one of them here. I’ll wait. Yeah, weird, right?
I don’t get it. These are women playing with dolls for the whole internet to see, and based on the numbers on their YouTube channels, a good portion of the internet sees them. I know they’re playing with the dolls for their audience, but still. The videos always start with some upbeat, whimsical melody, and then we see a woman’s hand holding a Baby Alive doll, and the woman, who is either using a GoPro or wearing some kind of camera headgear, says, “Hi, guuuuys! Today Daisy and Molly are going to go play with their friend Elsia at the park!” Then there’s more whimsical music and cut to a gaggle of various Baby Alive dolls sitting on a baby blanket at a park. As if it wasn’t already strange enough, these babies act out a whole scene about how Daisy and Molly are trying to play with Elsia, but Elsia isn’t playing nicely. There’s drama and suspense and Margaret is completely engrossed in the plot. If the woman asks her audience a question, Margaret answers. She pays closer attention to these videos than she does literally anything else in her life. These videos are captivating. IT IS BIZARRE!
I, however, have so many questions. First of all, are these ladies allergic to cats? Some of these women seem really, really into these baby dolls, and while I’m braiding Margaret’s hair, I wonder about why these women not only play with these dolls but also record it and post it on the internet so that all children between the ages of 2 and 6 can completely zone out. I don’t know these women or their lives, but I find myself making up sad backstories for them. Maybe these women couldn’t have children, but all they ever really wanted was to be a mom? What prompted them to start making these videos? I find myself feeling incredibly sad for the women in this made-up scenario and start to question whether I’m a good person for thinking such thoughts. You know, like these women would be “cat ladies” if it weren’t for their allergies. I know, I know. I’m a terrible person. Maybe I need a hug or they need a hug or maybe we should hug each other. I’m sure they’re all lovely women who want to make children happy and are damn successful at it.
Do you know how many subscribers these Baby Alive YouTube channels have?! It’s astounding! I mean, rather than making up horribly judgmental scenarios about these women and being completely perplexed by these videos, maybe I should quit my day job, buy a GoPro, invest in some Baby Alive dolls, and work on my character voices and baby talk. Seriously. Here are some real numbers for you. One Baby Alive channel has nearly 400,000 subscribers, and one of the videos has nearly 25 million views and over 2,500 comments. Comments! Who is commenting?! I’m not going to lie, though, I’ve thought about commenting: “Please tell me your life story that led to you the point of posting this video.” I can’t stand these videos, yet I’m sucked into them and genuinely concerned about the happiness of the ladies who make these videos, even though they’re probably laughing all the way to the bank with all the money they make from their YouTube channels. I mean, here I am writing over 1,000 words about these videos and making zero money from it. What is even going on?!
All I can say is I’ll never understand the appeal of these baby doll videos. But, thank you, Baby Alive, Baby Alive ladies, YouTube Kids, and whatever magical appeal this combination has that helps me keep Margaret’s hair on point. Hug, please?!