by Charles W. Dowdy
A good way to prepare yourself for being a parent is to put on a bunch of clothes and fill every pocket you have with cash. Then go out in the middle of a crowded street, take all your clothes off, put them in a pile and burn them. Not only will being a parent cost you gobs of money, it will embarrass you and can leave you feeling terribly exposed. (Note: Please be careful handling matches while you are naked.)
A good example of this is what I refer to as the “Baby Room Racket.” The room your new child will occupy was probably a guestroom. While this room may have been suitable for guests in your home, it will never suffice for your new child. No sir, walls have to be painted. Bedding bought. Walls repainted to match the new bedding. Curtains hung. Lamps bought. New curtains hung to match the lamps. And so on. In the months preceding the child’s birth this room must become a shrine to your unborn child.
Someone, somewhere has programmed the entire country to believe the child’s very future hinges on the completion of this room. Your child will become a drug-dealing reprobate unless this room is decked out prior to your return from the hospital. Never mind that the new baby will spend the first few months of life in a bassinette next to your bed. Never mind that the child can’t see or color coordinate.
It’s as if we expect the little thing will enter your home as a miniature mix between Truman Capote and Bob Villa, passing judgment on his prepared quarters before he deems you worthy of his company. Like the infant is saying, “Very creative what you did with the pillows but the superheroes on the bed do not match the superheroes on the curtains. And where did you find this hideous shade of blue?”
Why does this have to be so? Consider a child’s room in its natural state. Walk in the room of any two-year-old in the country and nothing’s neatly put away. Until mom or dad cleans it up there is plastic junk everywhere. They are trying to destroy that room. He’s coloring on the wall. She’s arranging all her dolls. He’s collecting a big pile of stolen pennies and trying to stuff them up his nose. She’s feeding her dolls actual cookies chased by a strawberry drink.
The simple fact of the matter is that the baby’s room has nothing to do with the baby. The baby’s room, or shrine, is all about the new parent’s fear. And smart business people are cashing in on this “Baby Room Racket.”
Fixing up a room that until then seemed to be perfectly fine is a way of convincing yourself that you are capable of raising a child. It’s a shot of confidence before entering the horrific struggle called parenthood. You CAN raise this child and you’re going to PROVE it by painting a room, buying some bedding, putting together a bed with Chinese instructions and stenciling some dinosaurs and clowns on the walls.
We submit to this shrine building because we subconsciously acknowledge all the things we’re going to get wrong during that child’s lifetime and this room is at least one thing we can get right.
And the reward is something to behold. That newborn is going to stroll in there and say, “Wow, Mom and Dad, you two are really on the ball! Look at the craftsmanship! The color coordination! With a start like this I’m obviously going to BE SOMEBODY! Nothing but Ivy League colleges and well-bred friends in my future. Now, somebody change this stinker.”
Charles Dowdy is the father of four and the husband of one. He’s a freelance columnist for several Mississippi newspapers. Editors may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more stories by Charles Dowdy, visit these USADS pages:
Goodby, Debt; Hello, Ricecakes
The Waiting Room War Zone
Small Towns and the 3 Second Intersection Rule
President Bush, Sponge Bob, and a Banana
The Twins Journal
Amending the Neighborhood Constitution
Double Trouble: Cross-eyed Twins
Hunters and Diaper Bags
Letter to Santa
Brunette Altos and a Five Year Old Wiggler
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