Jan. 20 2015 06:20 PM

Baby supplies you really need that you don't really even need

Illustration by Lindsey Voltoline

First thing you need to know about advice for new parents is that there's no bigger scam around. None of us knows what we're doing. I mean, you've sat next to us in restaurants, right? But early on, we all go through this delusional period where we try to convince ourselves that if we have the right gear, we can corner this racket on parenting. We'll be able to kick back and relax while the ergonomic, field-programmable baby swing, synced to rare Sigur Rós B-sides, does its thing. 

Never mind that its thing is to soothe back into unconsciousness a disoriented earthling who's just been ripped, days ago, from a totally alternate reality. (Sigur Rós might be ideal for that, actually.)

I'm here to tell you that parenting gear is going to get you only so far. People all over the world do this thing with little else but sticks, layers of cloth and good posture, so don't buy the hype. 

But you will want to buy the hype, because you're an expectant parent and you're freaking out, and it's your God-given right as an American to buy something to numb the pain. There must be a device! A device of some kind!

At least let us save you some trouble and tell you what to skip, and what to score:

Instead of: a designer diaper bag with more square footage than your current apartment

You need: one of those 99-cent wristlet keychains.

Let me explain. A diaper bag, by definition, will sometimes carry poop. If the word "luxury" is in any way related to what you carry poop in, you might want to explore that. And I don't care how well-organized you are—you're not getting out of that driveway without trekking back to the house a dozen times for whatever diapering supply you suspect you might need (peepee teepees) but can't remember how to use.

What you need is one of those stretchy wristlet keychains like the one your high-school P.E. teacher used to wear against his lithe, tanned and glistening bicep. Without this, you'll put down your keys and you will not find them again for 17 years, and if you're in the advanced stages of parenting a newborn, you might have even locked yourself, your P.E.-teacher husband and the baby you have born him out of the house. Fortunately, you've also packed a week's worth of supplies in your diaper bag, which (if you've been paying attention) probably came free with the purchase of Q-Tips at Target and will soon be banned in the state of California.

Instead of: books

You need: one book, only you have to guess which one! 'Tis a noble and wondrous thing to read to one's child from Kipling, White and Potter, but from now until October, your child will stop at nothing to ensure world domination of the Peek-A-Boo Valentine (lift-the-flap) book (known in our house as "Better Get the Scotch Tape" book). You got it free with lunch from Chick-Fil-A, and it is her world.

Oh, and Your Baby Can Read? This is the last thing you want. It's humiliating enough to have your pronunciations of Archaeopteryx and Nothronychus and Shantungosaurus corrected by a 4-year-old who somehow got a doctorate in paleontology when you weren't looking—do you really need a baby to show you up?

Instead of: toys

You need: OK, think about this from the baby's perspective. Babies are basically like alien beings sent here once a generation to take over the planet. You hand him a rubber giraffe, and he's thinking, This is useless—useless, I tell you! I must learn how to conquer their technology—but how? Which is why they're always going for the garage-door opener and the cheese grater. For the most part, just let them play with the (age-appropriate) cheese grater. You might have to explain a few times why we can't shred cheese into the houseplants, but you'll save a fortune on Legos. 

*A pro-tip for mothers: Get a decoy purse and make a big show of allowing your child to play with it. Never let on that there's a real purse with a real wallet and real lipstick somewhere, and you might not even have to order new carpeting and three replacement driver's licenses like some people. 

Instead of: an electronic "wipe warmer" 

You need: Are you kidding me with this? It's the world, kid. We got temperatures here. One basic tenet of parenting that will see you through is that it's better not to raise any human's expectations to unsustainable levels by suggesting, for example, that the world comes with warm wipes for one's buttocks (unless your baby will be raised in a Japanese airport bathroom, in which case, by all means).

Instead of: a subscription to "Artisanal Co-Sleep Rope Swings Quarterly"

You need: cheap-ass furniture in shades of black, black and black. Need I explain this (I won't even dignify that sentence with a question mark). If you happen to have a white cat in addition to children, bless your heart, and hopefully poor planning isn't genetic. Also: Try to find a car with an interior the precise color of goldfish-cracker crumbs; this will help, too.

And because we are equal opportunists, Three Bonus Baby Supplies We Originally Scoffed At That Are Actually Necessities:

1. Seamless socks for sensitive children. Because when it comes to lining up sock seams with an algorithmically determined edge-to-toe ratio, every child is on the spectrum.

2. A video baby monitor (or did you have other plans for going viral?)

3. A wine rack you can baby-proof. One. Bottle. At a time.

Write to editor@sdcitybeat.com.


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