Not surprisingly, she
occasionally not infrequently pretty well daily goes home in a different outfit than the one in which she arrived. I might point out that my standards are a little reasonably extremely relaxed. I don’t change a child just because there are grass stains on their knees, or a dollop of lunch on their shirt. Dirt’s not dangerous, and there’s only going to be more before we’re done. If they spill water down their fronts on a hot summer’s day, I might dab at them with a towel, but I leave the clothes on the kid. It’s just water. It’s a hot day. They’ll dry. Heck, I’ll do that with juice, too. As long as the child is warm and comfortable, I don’t worry much about mess.
(On one occasion some years back, I bathed a couple of particularly grubby children one afternoon. At the end of the day, the mother of one said to the mother of the other, through a river of her delightful laughter, “And if Mary bathed them, you KNOW it had to be bad!!” She wasn’t sneering, and I wasn’t insulted. It’s only the truth.)
But this one, she goes well beyond grubbiness and into filth. When she really extends herself, she manages Assaults Against Hygiene. A virtuoso of grime, this sweetie.
All this is fine. Kids get messy when they play, I’m prepared for this. I have bins for each child, and the parents provide an extra outfit or two for spills, leaks, mud, paint and mystery smears. When an outfit is soiled, it goes home that evening and is replaced the next day.
However, some parents are a little less reliable about this than others. Anyone can forget once in a while, of course, which is why I also have a small stash of spare outfits. However, some parents have been known to go several days without returning a clean outfit. Which means that the offspring of these particular parents sometimes ends up going through my spare outfits — because we all know Grubnik’s not going to wait until there’s a fresh outfit to grime themselves up again. And sometimes, when it’s been days and days since the original outfit went home, when my extra outfits have been consumed, some parents’ children even end up going home with other children’s spare clothes… (and yes, I make sure they know these are now SOME OTHER CHILD’S clothing) …
and those don’t come back in a timely fashion, either.
Okay. Now it’s a problem.
(There was that time a few years back, when the family of a particularly grime-prone little boy was this kind of disorganized. I had asked, and reminded, and sent notes home, had even phoned them at home … and still no clean clothes or return of the FOUR outfits they were hoarding. I didn’t care if they’d been washed. I just wanted them back! Eesh. And on the umpteenth day of this, Junior needed another outfit. I rummaged through the bins, and I found one.
Pink tights, purple shirt with ruffles and sequins, red tutu … and My Little Pony underwear.
They returned the clothes — all FIVE outfits (and all still dirty) — the next day. Thankyouverymuch.)
It’s not a new problem, and it happens often enough over the years that when I discover I’m dealing with one of THOSE families, my response is practical and practiced.
“Another day, another outfit!” Mom chortles as her daughter trots toward her in her spare outfit. I laugh. It’s true. This child canNOT keep one outfit clean — even to my admittedly relaxed standards. Mom looks around. “Where’s the bag?”
“Oh, don’t worry about it. I was doing a load anyway, and just tossed it in with my family’s laundry. No problem.”
“Oh, that’s so nice! Thank you.”
Nice? Nothing like it. Total self-preservation. The tiny additional work of a wee pair of pants and socks is nothing balanced against aggravation of chasing them for days on end to return a clean outfit.
“You’re welcome. It’s no inconvenience, really.” (Subtext: FAR less than you’ll inconvenience me if I sent that outfit home with you…)
“Well, it’s very thoughtful of you, anyway.” And off they go.
Now that’s a win-win outcome: I’m spared a heap of aggravation, the child will have a clean spare outfit the next day and I get consideration brownie points for what is really nothing but sheerest self-interest.
(Yes, I saw him playing with that teeny Clifford the Big Red Dog. But he must be able to play in his sleep because whenever I moved around to the front of the cot, his eyes were squinched tight, tight, super-tight shut! Amazing child.)
I’m not a gadget gal. All that baby paraphernalia that’s out there? 98% unnecessary. The younger your child, the less it needs. A change table? Baby monitor? Bassinet? Don’t need them.
A thousand-dollar crib? A thousand-dollar stroller? (A thousand-dollar anything. Geez, people, get a grip.) Similarly, designer clothes. Does your child care that it’s wearing Brand of the Month?
In fact, for clothes? For the first year or so you can go for the cheap. A child that age is growing so quickly they won’t have time to wear anything out. Unless you plan a large family and want it to last for handing down through several siblings, the cute-and-cheap stuff will do just fine. We want them warm and comfy. Anything after that is window dressing.
I’m not saying you can’t have any unnecessary fripperies, just that you be aware they are fripperies, that you can live without them, that you’re not a Bad Parent if you don’t have them. Why is Good Parenting so often equated with Spending Lots of Money? Lots and lots of money. It’s nonsense. A newborn needs diapers, clothing (a dozen onesies will do just fine), food (which is free and also blessedly accessory-free if you’re breast-feeding), and a place to sleep (with you works fine; a neatly-padded dresser drawer has also worked for many families; a stroller has done double duty for more than a few).
That’s it. There will be other things that you can accumulate as required. If you wait to purchase until you discover you actually need something, you’ll probably discover you need far less than you expected.
So. Not a fan of Stuff for the sake of Stuff.
Each family will probably find that they have a few discretionary items that for them are pretty much essentials. Often these fall into the baby-soothing category. Some families could not imagine functioning without soothers, or a musical mobile, or a bouncy chair. For me, it was the baby swing. When my children were babies, I had a wind-up swing. I loved, loved, looooooved that thing.
Purists will say that a parents’ arms are far better than a mechanical device, and, though that is undeniably true, to the purists I say “Pfft”. Parents have needs, too. Sometimes a parent’s arms get tired, or are needed for other tasks. I could strap the little monkey on my back, yes (particularly now I have an Ergo!!!) but maybe I want to feel deliciously light and unencumbered for twenty minutes. That’s valid.
And if you’re looking for a baby-soother, I’ve stumbled across one that looks like it could be really, really useful. No more middle-of-the-night car rides to soothe your fractious baby. (Or the in-home variant: putting the screamer in their car seat and setting the seat on top of the tumbling dryer. Baby feels the rumble the vibration, and is often soothed right to sleep. ‘Course, that means you have to stand guard in the laundry room in the middle of the night…)
The Crusin’ Motion Soother is a car ride for baby, right there in your home. Right there on the floor beside your bed, I’m thinking, while you sleep blissfully on…
It’s not an essential. You don’t have to have one. You can probably live without one. Your baby will never miss it if they don’t get one — and will probably still manage to get into the university of their choice when the times comes. BUT! What a cool idea!
You recall that post I wrote a few days back, in which I was craving an Ergo? Since writing that I had decided I would have to wait a few months on the Ergo. Too many other expenses (like fabric, ahem) (for hats and bags, which makes it a legit expense! really!) precluded a purchase of that magnitude.
It wasn’t such a hardship. New Baby, as I’ve said many times, is having a very easy transition. Though a baby carrier would be convenient, it isn’t desperately needed as it would be were she an anxious, fretful child. So I can live without an Ergo for another little while.
And then I got an amazing email. A wonderful, fabulous, so-good, very cool note.
I had mentioned a local baby-and-toddler-toy-and-cool-stuff store. A fairly high-end one, but full of clever, creative, funky stuff? And I had groused a smidge about the prices while admitting I get all sorts of inspiration from its stock.
The email was from Jen, owner of that store. She’d noticed a spike in hits on her website, and followed it back to me. Causing me to break out in a cold sweat and scramble back to the post to make sure I hadn’t been too snarky…
She liked the blog, she said. (Oh, aren’t you wonderful, I said to myself.) Moreover, she’d noticed that I was looking for a baby carrier, and…
here comes the wonderful bit…
if I hadn’t yet gotten one, she’d be happy to give me an Ergo.
Was that not nice and generous (and gracious and forgiving)?!
Things like that just do not happen to me. I’m the person sitting next to the woman who wins the door prize, the one whose ticket number is 2 away from the winning ticket at the school’s lottery, the one who has yet to win an eBay auction, who remembers the amazing three-forone coupon three days after it expired. That’s me.
I’m not the one who writes a post (with a teeny edge, no less) and wins a prize I wasn’t even trying for!
But I am this week. Whee!
Two days later I popped down to Three Little Monkeys, and the lovely… um… I forgot to ask her name, I was so fixated on MY NEW ERGO!!!… anyway, she was lovely. She helped me choose one and showed me how to use it, using a life-like doll. The next day I tried it with New Baby. I was a little clumsy but managed not to drop her, and she, being the easy-going muffet that she is, was as cooperative as a 12-month-old who hasn’t a clue why you’re tossing her around could possibly be.
Between the both of us, we got her ensconced on my back. Yay! I wore her for a few minutes and it was comfy enough. I adjusted it a bit, and tried again. Even better.
Vistas of freedom stretch before me: bus trips with only a single-seater stroller. Yay! Getting lunch ready without a baby trying to scale my legs. Yay! Having an empty seat in the four-seater stroller to carry a picnic lunch or extra-large sand toys. Yay!
I am SO EXCITED!!!
Thank you, Jen.
I have an Ergo. Isn’t that amazing???
New Baby arrives in her mummy’s arms. She looks a little out of sorts. So does baby. Both their normally cheerful faces are out of kilter. Baby looks solemn-bordering-on-grumpy, and mother has tension lines around blue-shadowed eyes. Not a good morning, I’m guessing.
“Not a good morning,” Mum informs me.
She thrusts baby at me. This is not standard. Usually mum holds baby for a minute or two while we chat, and hands baby over only as she is leaving. (This as per my instructions. Far less misery all round that way.) I’m thinking mum has reached her tipping point, poor thing.
New Baby, beginning from a baseline of grumpy, and now startled to be in my arms so abruptly, bursts into howls of outrage.
“She’s had a rough, rough morning,” Mummy informs me over the ruckus. “I’ve never seen her so bad, ever! She woke up at five, and it’s been cling, cling, cling ever since. She wouldn’t let us put her down for a second.”
We ascertain there’s no apparent health issue. No fever, no snottiness, bowels normal, no rashes.
It’s probably teeth, mum suggests, and I agree.
In truth, I don’t have any strong feeling re: the teething. But at this age? It’s always “probably teeth”. If you can’t figure out what the heck else to blame it on, teeth are a pretty fair bet, since they spend much of the first two and a half years of their lives teething.
So if mum needs a reason, we can blame it on teeth. Why not? Could very well be. (Or not.)
Mum leans in to her red-faced daughter. “Have a good day, hon,” and plants a kiss on the sweaty head. She looks up at me. “To tell the truth, I’m kind of happy to be leaving her right now.” Her glance falls to her still-roaring daughter. She kisses the now-snotty nose. “Cheer up today, missie, or I might just not come back!”
I burst out laughing. “Nothing like a mother’s unconditional love!”
Mum laughs with me, and the lines of tension around her eyes ease. She heads off to her nice, quiet office. I’m pretty sure I detect a visible bounce in her step.
I like the frank parents. Parents who can admit when their child is being a pill, parents who can admit when they’ve had about enough of it, parents who can admit that they don’t always enjoy this whole parenting gig, even when the child’s not being objectionable.
Parents who don’t expect perfection of themselves don’t expect perfection of me. Parents like that can laugh at the child’s foibles, don’t get tied up in knots if another child hits a milestone first, or if their child goes home with a bump, a bruise, or (heaven forbid, but it does happen) a bite. They don’t get all angsty or competitive. Parents like that are just… easier.
I like New Baby’s mummy!
“Well, that’s funny. I thought your name was Tyler, but if you say so… Hello, Thirsty. Pleased to meet you.”
Emily starts to giggle. At five, she knows what’s going on here. Tyler stares at me for a longish moment.
“But I’m thirsty!”
“So I heard, and I’m pleased to meet you, Thirsty. Even though I think your name is really Tyler.”
More giggles from Emily. Another longish moment from Tyler. Clearly, the boy needs a prompt.
“You are telling me something, when I think you really mean to ask a question. Is there something you would like?”
“Yeah, Thirsty. You need something?” Big sister Emily dances around, pleased as punch to know something he doesn’t.
“Emily, that’s enough. It’s okay to laugh if something’s funny, but now you’re just showing off. Shush and let Tyler think.”
“I would like a drink!” He clearly thinks he’s conveyed this perfectly adequately. He’s not annoyed, only baffled. What on earth is my problem??
“Well, then, you need to ask for one politely.”
The puzzlement clears. THIS he knows how to do!
“May I have a drink of water, please?”
I let joy overcome my countenance. NEVER have I been happier to serve.
“OF COURSE you may, lovie! Let’s go get that drink.”
‘Polite’ is an evolving target at this age. When words are scarce, “Drink, peas” is perfectly acceptable. A little later, they can manage the entire polite sentence. And by three-and-a-half, declarative sentences intended to make the adult hop to it without being asked politely? Not acceptable.
And when a nine-year-old tries it?
They stay thirsty.
When parents start with me, we discuss what each of us provides for the children. They provide formula, I provide milk. They provide diapers and wipes, I provide zinc oxide cream. And so on. None of this tends to come as a surprise, until we get to the last three. I provide soothers for children who use them, tote bags, and sunhats.
The parents are generally impressed by this. What a great caregiver! I’m really going the second mile!
You know what? Not so much. Because really? I do it for my own sanity.
See, the thing about soothers is they get lost. All.the.time. Now, if I lose one of my soothers, I pay the price in a fretful child. That’s okay. I can deal with that. If I lose one of their soothers, however, I have to scour the house for the damned thing before the parents come. I hate that. And even more than I hate that, I loathe doing it while a parent watches. And EVEN WORSE that that? Have a parent hunt for the stupid thing with me.
Call me crazy, but I object to another adult getting up close and personal with the beneath of my chairs or the behind of my shoe rack or the back of my bookshelves. And that parent who slid their hand down the back of the couch? Let’s just say they got exactly what they had coming to them.
And me, I’m wondering… Seriously? All this for a soother? Which costs maybe $6? If it’s really that important, it would probably be quicker to pick up a new one on the way home. There’s a drug store two blocks away…
So. I provide soothers. For my sanity.
And sunhats? In part it’s for health reasons. Though most parents provide sensible hats, you’d be surprised how frequently toddlers turn up with baseball caps — also known as “neck and ear burners”, or sunhats that may have fit them when they were six months old, but now join baseball caps in the race to fry tiny ears and necks. If I provide hats, I know everyone will be properly protected.
Here you can see my old sunhats.
Now that’s coverage! A brim for the face, and the French Foreign Legion look for the back of the neck.
But the main reason I provide hats is not really the sun-protection issue. As I said, most parents do provide sensible hats. The occasional ball-cap is a minor annoyance, but it’s not so pervasive as all that. No, the main reason I provide hats is my own personal sanity.
My hats are GAUDY. This is a Good Thing. Gaudy is noticeable. Gaudy catches the eye. Gaudy is hard to lose, even in a crowded sandbox. And that makes them more than just a healthy choice, it makes them a safety-conscious choice. When you’re caring for five toddlers, you are pretty much doing a constant head count. By the time you spot child number five, you’re wondering where child number one has gotten to. When you’re doing head counts that often, you want to be able to SEE those heads. And with hats like these my tots’ head stick out like sore thumbs. So to speak. THIS saves my sanity.
However, these hats are old. Old, old, old. I think I bought them in… um… 1998. Maybe 1999.
So these things are limp and washed-out and just plain dejected-looking. Bleached by hundreds of hours in the sun, they’re not really gaudy any more. I’m not even sure, after a gazillion washings, how much sun they’re capable of resisting. They don’t perch on the tots’ heads, all crisply cotton, they languish there like damp tissue. The brims don’t protrude, they flop dejectedly. The time has come. We need new hats. But hats, good ones? They are EXPENSIVE. I checked out the hats in the nearest Mummy Has Money To Burn store in my neighbourhood last summer. They were $35 – $40 apiece. For five hats? $175 – 200. Before taxes.
Ye gods. It’s taken me a full year to recover from the shock such that I could tackle the Hat Issue again. Now, even in a more reasonable-priced store, for a good sunhat that actually shades face, ears AND neck, I’d be looking at $80-ish dollars for five of them. STILL TOO EXPENSIVE!
(That same My-Parents-Have-More-Money-than-You-Ever-Will store has the most delectable metal sandpails and matching shovels, all in bright primary colours. I loooooove them. I drool over them every time I pass.
Five pails and five shovels would set me back $135. Plus taxes.
I do not go into that store to actually purchase anything. Nor, all appearances to the contrary, do I go into that store to deliberately depress myself. In fact, though I could afford perhaps 5% of their stock, I love this store. Truly, I do. I go in there for craft inspiration. So much of their stock has that quaint and charming hand-crafted look. The Look for which parents with money to burn (but no time) will spend great gobs of cash. The Look which I, being poorish but decently creative, can make for a FRACTION of the cost.
(Those buckets? I have something in mind. If/when I get it sorted, I will show you. But in the meantime… I am making sunhats.)
Here’s the pattern I’ll be using.
And I only spent a hundred dollars at the fabric store!!!
Yes, I know. I can hear you from here. “You said buying them would cost $80, and that was TOO EXPENSIVE!”
Quite right. Way too expensive. But you know, I was in a fabric store, and since I was in there anyway, I might as well pick up some fabric to make curtains for Emma’s room, right?, and also a few metres of interfacing that I need, always good to have extra on hand, and look! Aren’t these the cutest little scissors? Bet they’d be perfect for the tots! (Way better than those useless Crayolas, ugh.) Oh, and my thread collection has a couple of holes, and…
If you love to sew, you’ll understand… :)
But the hats? They’ll cost $25 – 30 all told, I think — and if I calculated correctly, I’ll also have enough fabric to make five matching tote bags, for about the same price.
All that for a hundred dollars! A solid 50 – 70% of it being a tax deduction, no less. :)
Health and safety and creativity. It doesn’t get much better.
The spam filter … I have a heap of stuff all originating in Turkey. All of it English… sort of. Or maybe it’s not English. It uses English words, but they all add up to… nothing. Doesn’t seem to be advertising a product or service. No idea what it’s supposed to be accomplishing, and I’m not fool enough to follow the link. Anyway, WordPress’s ever-diligent spam filter sent them straight to comment limbo, and I’m perfectly willing to let them languish away there, ignored and unloved, until Akismet vaporizes it permanently.
More timely, and more comprehensible, are the offers of Naughty Nudie Pics of Kate Middleton. (I think that would be the Duchess of Cambridge to you, sir. Ahem.) This I understand. Porn is pretty straightforward. Assuming they exist (which I doubt) and assuming they really were simply nude pics, we could debate whether that makes them porn or simply erotica. Not that I clicked on that link, either. Straightforward, except for the warning at the end: Don’t post this link, or “I will hunt you.”
“Hunt me”? Ouch. I think I sprained an eyeball with the involuntary rolling.
Hoookay. Porn-promising spam, with added threat. YOU I’ll delete immediately.