Kids have a lot of crap. It’s not like registering for a wedding shower where you can walk around the store and respond to the things on the shelves, taking quick inventory of what you have and what you don’t. I know I was a baby once, but I haven’t spent a lot of my life wondering what they needed. I was told once, love, but these baby stores seem to disagree.
As we entered our first store to start the registration process, I once again felt like the uninformed parent because I had assumed that kids didn’t need much more than a crib, car seat, diapers and lots of changes of clothes. I thought at least admitting the inherent messiness of a child had put me above the curve, but Babies ‘R Us would tell you this isn’t true. The message was driven deep as the store clerk setting us up with the registration told us an easy guideline was to put three times as many items on our list as we had guests attending our shower. And I don’t think she was counting wash clothes as separate items.
It’s nice to have rules of thumb. I like a good guideline just as much as the next person, but here we were talking about how to quantify how many gifts we could receive. It felt dirty to be calculating how much each person should get us, we were more than happy to buy quite a bit of it ourselves, but more importantly I still didn’t know what a baby needed. It turns out the answer is: a lot. A shit ton. Rooms and rooms full of stuff. I find it amazing that stores that specialize in selling prefabricated sheds don’t set themselves up right next to baby stores.
As we walked around the store I carried the list of guidelines. There are four different types of blankets and you’re supposed to have several of each. An item that I think is a little overly hopeful for something I’m told won’t sleep much.
We walked in with a general game plan: see what was there and decide what we needed. We’re somewhat intelligent people so we assumed that as long as we took our time we could make good decisions. But the store has another aim, one of confusion and overload. There are things I never considered a baby would need: bottle warmers, baby bathtubs, changing tables. Chairs that bounce, chairs that swing, chairs that vibrate. Within each category of items you’re not sure you actually need are different styles, different brands, different promises to be the best and safest. Items that some parents swear by and others laugh at them as superfluous. You quickly realize that you’re in a jungle of emotionally driven retail—the manufacturers more than happy to prey on your parental insecurities as you try to navigate between “what’s best for your child” and “how the hell am I going to afford groceries after I buy all of this?”
We gathered advice from friends, online articles, books (even spent money on a book about how to spend less money on the baby). In the end, we got what we thought we needed and made sure to keep all of the receipts for after we can see which type of seat our baby “prefers”. I don’t mean to sound skeptical, but if we let this kid call the shots about what kind of chair he’d prefer I don’t know how we avoid raising him into a materialistic brat. I’m told I won’t ask these questions later. That I’ll quickly comply with all of his demands if it means another few minutes of sleep. It sounds like a valid point, but I wish I could be stronger.
The shower itself was amazing. It’s always so humbling to see how many people care about you enough to attend a party where the guest of honor isn’t even there and if he was, he’d be about 21 years short of joining them for a drink.
As we got home and literally filled the baby’s room with his presents, I couldn’t help but think about the less fortunate. The ones who want, but can’t have kids. Ones that have fewer resources than us and try to raise a child on very little income. Or the worst: the couple that has a tragic misfortune during birth and not only has to come home alone, but also walks into a perfectly arranged nursery—a wrenching reminder until it can be disassembled.
In the end, I try to think of those real life issues. Focus on the baby, and the amazing privilege to be surrounded by such immense amounts of support, instead of the baby stuff. If you talk to anyone over the age of 30, we were plopped on the ground to eat dirt, had play dates set-up with kids who had chicken pox, and our favorite toy was a box. “We all turned out fine” we mutter, as many generations before us have. I’ll do my best to raise this baby to be appreciative and humble and as unmaterialistic as possible. I’ll only be mildly resentful that I don’t have three different kinds of chairs.