Child-rearing in the digital age is driving parents crazy

Thanks for nothing, baby
Thanks for nothing, baby
Image: Reuters/Jim Bourg/Files
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At 14 months old, my son finally started sleeping through the night.

That lasted six blissful weeks.

And then… teething… gas… gassy teething… maybe? He’s 17 months old now, and every night is a surprise. Last night, almost eleven hours in a row! The night before? Well, things started out the way they always do —quietly. It’s hard enough when he wakes up on his own, but if we accidentally wake him—and make a long night even longer—it can feel almost unbearable.

Unfortunately, pretty much anything seems to wake him. The upstairs bathroom doesn’t share a wall with his room, and yet the flushing of the toilet will almost always wake him. Putting the sink on any more than a dribble will wake him. Removing a trash bag from a can, one floor beneath him, can wake him. Thinking too hard about being quiet can wake him.

So we whisper and watch the TV with closed captions and don’t let the refrigerator door shut too hard and chew our dessert softly and hope for the best.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Wait, what was that?

Beep. Beep. Beep.

An hour after he fell asleep, two nights ago, three high-pitched beeps, suddenly, out of nowhere. We panicked.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

What. Is. That. Beeping? And how do we stop it???!

At first it seemed like it was coming from my wife’s Kindle, on the coffee table, low on charge.

“Does it beep when the battery’s low?”

“I don’t know!!”

“Quick—we have to destroy it.”

She plugged it into the USB port on her laptop and we exhaled.

Not for long.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

“If it’s plugged in, why is it still beeping? Is the computer plugged in? Is the computer plugged in? Please, check, is the computer plugged in???????”

It was plugged in.

“Wait, maybe it’s not coming from the Kindle. My computer once beeped like that, I think. Something with the battery, maybe.”


She shut down the computer. And I stared at the baby monitor in my hand. Fortunately, our son was still asleep.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

“Wait—what if it is the Kindle, and the Kindle can’t charge if the computer is off? Or what if it’s the computer, and it’s still beeping even though it’s off?”

“Or what if it’s both?”

“Move them to the kitchen. Put them under a blanket. Anything.”

Beep. Beep. Beep.

“Okay, it’s not the computer. It’s not the Kindle. What is beeping???”

“Oh no—his toy piano is low on batteries. It’s the toy piano! It’s the toy piano!”

I grabbed the toy piano—which I had turned on earlier in the day—and moved the switch to off. Phew!

Beep. Beep. Beep.

“How can it beep if it’s off? Can it beep if it’s off? Maybe it’s beeping even though it’s off. I have to remove the batteries.”

I grabbed the screwdriver from the cupboard—carefully, because the last thing I wanted to do is make noise—and unscrewed the battery cover. No more batteries. Done.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

“It’s not the piano!”

Our son has three electronic toys. They all live in the living room, and not his bedroom, because my office is next to his bedroom and I can’t handle the noise. The toy piano, a Mozart music cube and a barking multi-colored dog that bends like one of the those straws with the accordion at the neck.

I grabbed the Mozart cube.

“Where is the on-off switch? Where is it?”

I turned it off.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

I grabbed the dog, got the screwdriver out of the cupboard again—quietly!—and removed his batteries. It had to be the dog. There was nothing left. It had to be the dog. And I went upstairs to brush my teeth.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

I tiptoed back down the stairs.

“I heard it upstairs. I heard it upstairs.”

“I know. I don’t know what it can be. I just don’t know.”

“Should I text the landlord?”

“And tell him what?”

“That the house is beeping? Wait — you don’t think it could be the new toilet seat we just got from Amazon, do you?”


“Umm—the flashlight?”

“You think the flashlight is beeping?”

“I don’t know.”

“Wait—maybe it stopped. Maybe we fixed it.”

Beep. Beep. Beep.

“Nope. Guess not.”

“Didn’t it kind of sound like it was coming from the basement that time? I think it’s coming from the basement.”

“The basement!!”

When we first moved into the house, the smoke detector in the basement had a dying battery and beeped every few minutes. So, of course—why hadn’t we remembered? It must be the smoke detector.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

My wife and I crept down to the basement—baby monitor still in hand, our son magically still asleep—and found the smoke alarm. Well, we found two. One that looked broken and one that looked fine.

“I’ll watch this one, you watch that one.”


“Are we going to be able to tell which one is beeping by watching it?”

“I don’t know.”

Beep. Beep. Beep.

“It wasn’t this one.”

“It wasn’t this one either.”

“I think it’s actually coming from upstairs.”

“Maybe it’s the upstairs smoke alarm.”

“The one we think doesn’t work?”

“Maybe it actually works. Or did, until it started beeping. I don’t know.”

Beep. Beep. Beep.

I stared at the smoke alarm. It was not the smoke alarm. I tiptoed back downstairs.

“It has to be the Kindle. It just has to be. But how do we turn it off?”

“Let me Google “Kindle beeping.”

Let me tell you, it appears from Google search results that everyone’s Kindle beeps. Mysteriously and constantly and without a way to ever stop the beeping. There are so many posts about Kindles uncontrollably beeping.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Except our Kindle was not beeping. OUR KINDLE WAS NOT BEEPING.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

“Okay, this can’t be as hard as it seems. Do you have anything in your work bag? An old beeper?”

“Yes, it’s my beeper.”


“No. Come on. I haven’t had a beeper for almost a year.”

Beep. Beep. Beep.

“Wait—it’s the baby monitor.”

“The thing I’ve been holding?”

“Doesn’t it beep when it’s low on charge?”

“Yes, but— we would have—”

“Plug it in.”

I crept back upstairs. I plugged it in.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

I tiptoed back downstairs in defeat, searching for beeps.




And then my wife figured it out. I’m sorry this is such an anticlimactic story.

No, it wasn’t the Kindle.

Last weekend, my wife’s parents got new cell phones. We took one of the old ones for our son to use as a toy. We left it on the shelf under the coffee table. The battery was dying. It was beeping. We turned it off. It stopped beeping.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

No, wait. It stopped beeping, it did. Those were just phantom beeps. I’ve been hearing them for the past two days. Forty-five minutes we could have been sleeping, instead we were chasing beeps around the house.

(Our son woke up three hours later.)