Having a baby gives a person perspective on their life relationships … for better and worse. There are people who show up empty-handed during the delirious early days and drink most of your diminished beer supply. Others arrive unannounced, leaving an aromatic bowl of beef stew on the front stoop.
Yet it’s the increasing essentialness of one particular acquaintance that’s surprised me most.
The NPR News app on my iPhone.
While I’ve listened to NPR for years — usually when driving or doing housework — I’ve recently noticed that the app I’ve often taken for granted (like a faucet I could turn on and off when needed) is gaining appreciated prominence in my daily life.
Why? It likely has something to do with the fact that the two beings I spend the most time with — a fearful dog and a feisty 1-year-old — communicate mostly through barks, babbles, whines and cries. As a fledgling stay-at-home mom, sporadically listening to public radio throughout the day has been a sanity-saver as I adjust to a life that’s dictated by nap and meal schedules.
Before having my daughter, Juniper, in November 2015, I often satiated my inquisitive streak by writing offbeat feature articles — typically for this publication — whenever inspiration struck. Although I know I’ll have more freedom to report in the coming years — when Juniper and her hypothetical future sibling go to school — the NPR News app has virtually swiped in to fill the void, acquiring the role of crucial cultural companion in what can be a rewarding, yet occasionally isolating, day.
For starters, the NPR “Morning Edition” crew makes for good company while a bleary-eyed version of me sips coffee and spoon-feeds Juniper breakfast. (I’m not the only one listening in: Happily munching away in her highchair, my tot bops along to the show’s music interludes.) Some individual M.E. team members help in specific ways, as well. Renee Montagne’s interview with a member of a Kurdish news organization that’s live-streaming the fight against ISIS kept self-pity over sleepless nights with a teething baby in check. Another morning, Steve Inskeep’s chat with Nobel Prize winner Bengt Holmström about the power of incentives was a welcome distraction as I tried not to panic about a facial rash Juniper inexplicably got a half-hour earlier. Even legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg pitched in, informing me of a Supreme Court hearing about the effect jurors’ racial bias could have in court rulings as I changed a not-so-pleasant diaper.
There are spur of the moment drop-ins, too. As I battled to keep Juniper’s bib on during lunch, the recently deceased Carrie Fisher told Terry Gross about her affair with Harrison Ford. Wiping down the highchair tray, I chuckled along with Peter Sagal and the guest panel on the NPR news quiz “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” Applying my eyeliner during Juniper’s morning nap, I livestreamed the BBC “NewsHour” and learned of the rapid decline of South Asian vultures due to the use of certain drugs in treating livestock. When my husband gets tied up at work, American Public Media’s “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal is a virtual dinner guest, keeping me up to speed on economic happenings as Juniper scoops finger foods.
Yet it’s during my daughter’s afternoon nap that NPR News app and I have our largest chunk of hang time. I may be scrubbing a toilet, but “StoryCorps” transports my mind’s eye to Tacoma, Wash., in the 1960s, where the arrival of a bookmobile made a lasting impact on the life of a child migrant farmworker. As I snapped green beans and peeled butternut squash for dinner, the TED Radio Hour had me contemplating what a tiny speck human history has been in the existence of our planet. Cleaning the kitchen, I smirked as the midday news show “Here & Now” mentioned a parade in support of yoga pants in Barrington, R.I., in response to a letter to the editor that decried the proliferation of yoga pants-wearing women. Putting the finishing touches on my slow cooker chicken chili, I bent an ear to the ever affable “Science Friday” host Ira Flatow in the midst of an engrossing discussion on the use of lawsuits, email hacks and congressional subpoenas as a means of intimidating climate scientists.
Every day, this smorgasbord of engaging dialogue keeps my mind nimble while providing a welcome respite from the increasingly common conversation topics of nap lengths and pediatrician visits.
So, thank you, NPR News app, you complete — kidding. Outdated “Jerry Maguire” jokes aside, I now view you with gratitude for keeping me connected to the world, even when I’m cooped up inside during naps.
Apologies if our relationship seems a little one-sided. Guess it’s about time I made a contribution to the next NPR membership campaign.
Kris Coronado is a freelance writer in Midlothian, Va. Find her online at kriscoronado.com.
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