Things, goods, possessions, treasures, crap—call it what you may—the stuff parents purchase throughout a child’s infancy, youth, and even adulthood can accumulate. Some stuff might live a life of extensive use to the point that it clearly exhibits substantial wear-and-tear and the value that it has provided. Other stuff might be passed along from family to family, providing similar value over time. Other stuff might break. And then there is the other major category of stuff that becomes waste, ending up with seemingly no place to go but the landfill after a measly life-cycle of several months or perhaps a year. This stuff might even appear new, but for some reason its characterization as used renders it tainted and subordinate.
In my first few months as an expecting father I have begun to learn about many of the fantastic new products (delights?) that I will need in order to raise my child, particularly during the first few years. During a rather long conversation in which my mother cited a laundry list of items I could not help but laugh, to which my father responded by saying that I could always drop my baby in the field while I tilled the crops. While this didn’t sound appealing I still figured there to be a middle ground, somewhere in between transforming our apartment into a large baby pad and holding the baby at arm’s length during potty time.
I need a crib, a changing table, a high chair, a bouncer—the needs never stop! I suppose I could save all these items for our second child. Still, I wonder what we’ll do when we no longer need the bouncer—most likely we’ll end up bringing it to a secondhand shop or giving it to a friend or colleague. Yet I am beginning to understand (I probably never fully can) that through parental instinct mothers want the best for their children, and best often means new and new means clean, safe and sterile. I fear that my wife will refuse a bouncer that has been bounced in by another child. Will our friends refuse to use our bouncer? Where will all the bouncers go—to Bouncerland? The bouncing aspect of such a magical place seems quite fun.
The parental instinct extends to all things tangible, including other humans. If my wife is going to ask me if I have washed my hands (I hear this could happen) before I hold the baby then she most definitely will not like our baby using a secondhand changing table. I might be going in circles here, trying to sell my secondhand smoke to mothers seeking sterility. Still, I shall continue to advocate…
Share baby items by handing them down, over, across, or anywhere else besides the landfill. Diapers and like items excluded (i.e. not a bouncer), share baby items with other families, accept hand-me-downs or hand-me-overs, and purchase less. Having a baby is not an excuse to pillage Mother Earth for every baby item that humans have come to invent. Some stuff makes life easier while much of the rest is more smoke and mirrors than my advocacy—babies are like (some) adults who cannot take care of themselves. They do not require a unique piece of furniture for every bodily pose imaginable. Once again in the case of the environment, less can be more, this time in the name of baby stuff.