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Babies “R” Expensive

Because of our upcoming baby shower, one of the recent things on my checklist is to figure out what the baby will need once he joins us. It’s a two-fold feeling for me; on the one hand, I’m glad I don’t have to make a rocker by hand, on the other there’s a lot of unnecessary crap that’s totally useless to raising a healthy child, like a Zanzibar window valence. Not that baby themed valences aren’t useful for some people. Since “Zanzibar” anything is the top seller at Babies “R” Us, I’m sure lots of people are buying them. My definition of baby crap is someone else’s can’t-live-without. I get that.

Babies “R” Us has lots of baby crap for sale. A lot of it, I’m assuming, comes from countries that employ babies at ridiculous wages to make the crap. They also apparently have baby experts, who make up a list of things the company thinks new parents should have. I know this because we used that list to figure out what we needed. The list is introduced thusly: “Our baby experts have developed this practical Checklist of all the must-haves for baby's first year.” Yes, practical, I’m sure. Just because I can’t identify the function of every item on the list, I’m sure it’s practical.

I happen to be picking on Babies “R” Us, but I’m sure Target or Wal-Mart or any other department store would have a baby expert to put together a list. Hell, in a few months, I will be certified as a baby expert, and I will be happy to consult with your website in developing a list of stuff to sell to your customers. For a price.

Many things on the list don’t seem to be practical to me at all. I don’t own a car, so the auto mirror is probably not necessary. However, a car seat is probably a good idea, because at least on the ride home, the kid will be in a car sometime over the next year. But what the function of a “Companion Infant Car Seat Accessory Base” is I don’t know. It looks like a car seat for the car seat, so you can remove the car seat without unstrapping the infant. Or it could be a clever way to hide the true cost of a car seat by splitting up the pieces and selling them as accessories. I also have no idea of what the point of a “Kwik Cabana II” is. It’s some kind of indoor tent. I don’t understand why this would be appropriate for a year-old baby. As a toddler plaything, maybe. But besides the bright colors, what does it have for newborns? I think it’s part of trend to make parents think they are getting the kid outside for exercise without actually going outside.

Lists like this are so generic; a lot of the items aren’t for everyone. Terry and I decided to add about half of the items to our list of things to buy.

Of course the point is to drive up sales. So I decided to see what the total cost of the list, purchased from Babies “R” Us, would be. Some of the items weren’t available, so I skipped them, only clicking on the links provided. I set some loose, easily bypassed rules for my fantasy shopping. Only the best selling item that first came up was added. Since our baby care class instructor recommended six of everything that the baby wore, I got six of all the clothes (except the winter outfit.) Everything else I got only one item, unless it made sense to get two or three, like the cloth reusable diapers, for which I ordered 30.

So here’s the list. To get this baby started, it will cost us (really Terry, because I’m broke) $4917.84, plus $505.72 in shipping for a grand total of $5423.56. It’s actually less than I thought, but it’s still about $4000 more than I think we’ll actually spend getting the room ready. However, when you add in all the gifts from the shower, it may get to be that much. That’s the real purpose of the shower – your family and friends bear some of the cost of getting ready for the baby, so that your child doesn’t inherit debt from their first year upon your death. Thank you all very much!

We have a lot of crap, probably made by babies whose entire lives will be spent in forced labor, on our registry. Like all parents, we spent a lot of time researching things on the web, asking our family and friends for recommendations and donations, and then deciding what to post on the registry. And then I got so overwhelmed trying to find links on the web to stuff we wanted to get, sometimes it was easier to just link to Amazon or Target or some other mass marketer. Yes, I’m ashamed. No, I’m probably not going to fix it. There’s a lot of stuff to do, and at some point you have to release your wish list and not keep changing it. Of course, I published our list online in a password-protected thingamabob that some folks were never able to see, so I guess in some ways it was all moot anyway. The other problem is that there’s so many choices, it’s hard to know exactly what you’re asking for until you get it out of the box. Plus, there’s always the possibility that Ronan will hate it when he uses it, and then it doesn’t matter who made it, it’s getting sent to the garage sale.

Then there’s the age gap and the geek gap and the trendy gap. These gaps are misunderstandings about preferences between baby boomers and gen Xers, and geek vs. geek, and trendy vs. don’t care about trendy parents.

For instance, my parents are freaking out reading this right now, because right now they are reading that Terry and I are planning on getting things that do not have flame retardant chemicals in them insofar as we are able. Neither of us smokes and we expect the baby to skip smoking as well, so we think it would be better to limit chemical exposure. However, for some people flame retardant chemicals and babies go together. I’m sure I’ll get comments defending flame retardant chemicals, and that’s great for you, but we’ve chosen not to use them if we can help it.

The geek gap is the implementation of technology to the parenting experience. Since we live in a smallish two-bedroom apartment, we don’t feel the need for a baby monitor, a light-up diaper wipe dispenser, or for baby alarms that tell us when the kid’s about to fall off the edge of the changing table. I know some people that swear by their tracking program in excel that covers all the baby’s poops, feedings, and sleep cycles. And that’s great; we just don’t feel the need for it.

Closely related to the geek parents are the trendy parents, who buy their stuff based on what’s the current thinking about baby stuff. Saturday Night Live satirized these parents, making up wild baby-carrying devices that swung between your legs or strapped to your feet. Because the Swedish (or Dr. whomever) recommends this program/item/toy/etc. your baby is already behind without it, so get it now. These are the parents who are using flash cards and scheduling blood tests for private schools. These parents freak out when you don’t buy into the hyper-expensive Lobot© automated butler or other cutting-edge crap that you are not buying because you hate your child.

So raising a baby is a very personal and individual experience, and if you are lucky enough to have someone to work with in raising the child, you can develop your list together and work to make it your own. I hope Terry and I have resisted the consumerism pressure to buy baby stuff we won’t actually use, but I bet something we will buy or get as a gift will go unused or unwanted because Ronan didn’t like it or in the deluge of UPS packages we put it away to be discovered on Ronan’s 18th birthday. Unless it’s your present, we got your present and it’s great!

Finally, I often find that the presents that aren’t on the experts list or even our own registry are the best ones. I’m most excited to see our friend Kizz’s gift, which I am told was handmade. Now that’s a cool present.


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Comments (2)


Correct me if I'm wrong but the flame retardent chems are to reduce injury in the case of a fire event not in case Mama ashes on little Jim-Bob's PJs, right?

So buying you a new fire extinguisher as a baby present now.

I think the flame retardant chemicals help prevent a fire, not protect the baby from burns.

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