The Gift Of Keeping It Real
20th February 2016
Gifts for newborn babies and their parents are misleading. They buy into a particular pastel version of parenting that I take umbrage at. Umbrage – yes. A newborn baby isn’t all velvet soft bunnies and teeny tiny mini-me clothes. It’s so much more complex and disturbing than that. The reason why I take umbrage is because all that cutesy, velvety, pastel softness contributes to a particular myth that can be really damaging – especially for first time mums. What if you don’t have those warm and delicate feelings for your newborn? What if your baby has just shat all over the gorgeous, feathery soft bunny rug? What if you find you don’t care what your baby’s wearing? You’re just relieved you kept it alive overnight? Perhaps it’s time we stopped buying into the newborn mythology – the one that Huggies has sold us – and start giving gifts that really tell it like it is.
Here are my suggested gifts to give to a newborn and their family.
1. Baby wipes. In bulk. A few weeks into parenting, you learn to pull baby wipes from their pack like a magician draws silk scarves from their sleeve. Before the baby is a month old, you’ll have baby wipes in the nappy bag, at the change table, in the cars, on the kitchen table and in your bedroom. By the time the baby is six months old (for me it was six weeks) you will stop buying the organic, sensitive skin, unscented, gentle on baby’s bottom, $1.20 per wipe packs. You’ll go for the home brand bulk box. Around about 4c per wipe. A palette of those on the arrival of the newborn would really be an excellent gift.
And baby wipes aren’t just for baby bums. They can also be used on – furniture, carpet, faces, dashboards, change tables, hands, seat belts, tables, benches, blinds, legs, car seats, picnic tables, trolleys…. anything really. Sometimes, as I’m baby wiping peanut butter off a crusty mouth moments before the school bus arrives or scrubbing three-day-old tomato sauce from the edge of our coffee table, I wonder what I ever did before baby wipes. Then I remember ski trips in Canada, sleeping in, dinner parties and having sex. I weep for a moment – remembering the life that was lost.
2. Pegs. BC (Before Children) I don’t think I’d ever found the bottom of our peg bucket. Now, I go to those mouldy depths quite regularly. BC I don’t think I even knew where I’d find pegs in the supermarket. Now, I buy pegs at least twice a year. BC I never thought about the pegs I was using. Now, I’m a peg connoisseur preferring a particular size and brand.
The first time I ran out of pegs was when my first born was about two weeks old. I remember squinting up through the 11am sunlight and staring at all the Wondersuits on the line, thinking how they looked bizarre yet beautiful – pastel baby skins hovering against a blue sky. I recall my fingers finding the bottom of the peg bucket and thinking ‘huh – I’ve run out of pegs’. The whole thing was an odd sensation – a little stranger’s tiny outfits now hanging on my clothesline and me in my dressing gown, barefoot on the lawn contemplating the empty peg bucket. Surreal.
Pegs would be a sensible newborn gift – God knows it’s something we use every day. Every. Single. Day. *sigh*
3. Sausages. I would suggest a year’s supply of sausages. Delivery should begin when the child turns one.
4. Serviettes. I’ve given up on buying a conservative sized pack of serviettes. Now I purchase the home brand 500 pack. And even that doesn’t last very long. Like baby wipes, serviette’s uses are many and varied. They are lovely and absorbent – ready to take up the half cup of juice that the 4 year old promised they would not spill and the second cup that they promised doubly that they wouldn’t spill. Also good for emergency nose blowing or if the baby wipe packet isn’t within arm’s reach.
5. Batteries. See the thing is – kids grow up. And after a while all the lovely pretty soft toys are just kicking around the bedroom being ignored and taking up space. Instead, the kids want to play with stuff that literally has all the bells and whistles. And therefore batteries are required. And screwdrivers – yes – put that on the list too. We may be living in a digital age and everything’s hooked up to Wi-Fi but batteries still reign supreme. They are generally expensive, so imagine being given a few large bulk packs when your newborn had arrived. You may not initially see their divine use, but a few years later you’d be saying “thank goodness someone gave us a thousand batteries or these Christmas presents would never get used”. I know that for us, Christmas Eve of 2013 would have been a lot less stressful had we had a large supply of double D’s on hand.
6. Wetties. I’ve just made this name up because I don’t know what their real name is. They’re a mattress protector with a plastic rubbery backing – you know what I’m talking about? I’ve always just referred to them as wetties. Now if you are going to give this as a gift, be sensible and give three or four. I’ll explain why:
At any given time, the chances of your child vomiting/ diarrhoeaing/ peeing in their bed when you have a wettie on the bed is high. BUT after the initial vomit/ diarrhoea/ pee the chances of a second event occurring goes one of two ways.
- If you make the bed up again WITH A NEW WETTIE on, the child MAY OR MAY NOT vom/poo/pee – it’s about a 50/50 chance.
- If you make the bed up and DO NOT PUT A NEW WETTIE ON you can be 100% sure your child will vom/ poo/ pee before you have a chance to put a new one on, thus causing you all kinds of grief with a mattress.
I’m not a gambler, but I’m sure the TAB probably has some category like this that you can bet on.
So – give the gift of three or four wetties. The newborn mother will look at you as though you are crazy, but a few years later they will think of you at 2am as they console a vomiting child and discover that the mattress is dry. And as they wrestle the fresh wettie onto the bunk bed, they will offer up a prayer for your long life and future wellbeing. Then they will bump their head and hope that the sound wasn’t loud enough to wake the other sleeping child.
7. Children’s Panadol. Like wetties the law of Panadol goes like this: you will never have it when you need it. The first time you will ever need Panadol will be at 3am because your baby is randomly crying and has been for 6 hours and you just know that Panadol is the answer. You will suddenly have gotten over all the pledges you made to yourself to never medicate this gorgeous organic bundle of joy and you will find yourself considering sending your other half to the chemist to break in and steal just one bottle. Rest assured, even once you get your hands on the Panadol it probably won’t make the baby stop crying. But at least if you have it in the house it will stop you from screaming crazy things at your husband/ significant other – things like “I don’t care how you get it – just get some baby Panadol into this house NOW – don’t come back here without it.” Or worse: “It’s only 3am, The Thompsons have some – go over to their place and get it.”
7. Face washers. When I was leaving my teaching job to go on maternity leave for the first time, a beautiful parent came up and gave me a pile of face washers. I haven’t described that very well – you must imagine… they were excellent quality and in a rainbow of colours. She had neatly folded them and tied them brightly with a ribbon. She said something like: “It doesn’t look like much, but this is a good gift. Trust me!” True confession: at the time, I thought ‘this is pretty ordinary’. Now – eight years later – I still have those face washers. They are faded and rough and misshapen but I think it’s possible that they were one of the best gifts I was given. Those face washers have absorbed breast milk and vomit and blood and spit and drool and food and water and spills and I don’t know what else. But when I use them, I think of the gorgeous lady who gave them to me. I’m glad that she was keeping mothering real on the day that she handed me that gift. And when I use those face washers to dab at toothpaste on a chin or scrub grime from the sole of a foot I think of that other mother and how she’s with me in spirit, probably doing battle with her own kids at the exact moment I’m doing battle with mine.