As we get closer to baby time, I've been considering how to handle the whole "stuff" issue. Of course, I know that babies require stuff, and as much as I'd like to raise my child on a magical island of minimalism that's just not how it's going to be. Kids need diapers, car seats, clothing, and an endless pile of gear and gizmos just to get through the first year, well before they are actually aware of the concept of posessions.
I have visions of my house filled to the brim with singing plastic crap, and it makes my head spin. To give my fears a little back story, I grew up wanting for nothing. My parents were extremely generous when it came to gifts. On Christmases and birthdays my sisters and I were showered in toys, none of which we ever intended to give up. We became little tiny horders, piling up our posessions like buried treasure. I can see us in my memory, sleeping on mountains of toys, breathing smoke and brimstone at anyone who dared disturb our horde.
But it was never enough, was it? There was always some toy we didn't get, some magical product that tortured us with its absence. It seems like no matter how much you give a child (or an adult for that matter) they will never really be satisfied with what they already have. In my adult life I've found that limiting my posessions has actually brought me more contentment and peace than a mountain of presents ever could. It's only natural for me to want to start this kid off on the path that I'm already on.
Sounds simple enough. Just don't buy your kid a ton of stuff, right? Sure, that works for my husband and I, but what about all of the other people who will love and adore this child? Our kid is going to be blessed with a crowd of loving aunts, uncles, grandparents and best friends who I know will take great pleasure in granting their every wish. I don't want to take that away from anyone, but I do want to keep it under control. How do crunchy granola parents deal with this?
The other half of my dilema comes from my own distaste for our whole disposable junk consumer culture. I know this makes me sound like a hippie psycopath, but all I can see when I look at a blinking, talking plastic toy is a pile of stripped down electronics giving cancer to some poor kid in a third-world country. I look at brand new cute clothes on their tiny little hangers, and I imagine people slaving away in a sweatshop somewhere with missing fingers and chemical burns.
I'm a real debbie-downer.
It boils down to this: there are things about this world that I know, and I can't un-know them. I can't look at a pile of brand new baby stuff and think "awwww", not with my whole heart. That "awww" is echoed with "ewww" and "oh no".
Would it be totally weird and overbearing to ask people not to buy my kid electronic toys? How about asking for used clothes instead of new? Is that asking too much, or being inconsiderate of other people's fun? I know how much my Mom loves shopping for baby clothes, and I don't want to seem ungrateful or spoil her good time, but the truth is that new clothes and electronic toys kind of make my skin crawl.
I started off by adding a note to my registry. Here's what it says:
"Thanks so much for your support! We are trying to gear up for the baby in the greenest way possible, so gifts of used gear and clothing are very much appreciated. We're also trying to limit the amount of plastic and electronics we'll be using. Of course, we'll be grateful for anything at all, so please feel free to use this list as a guide for hunting down used items or to buy new if you prefer. Thanks, and see you at the shower. Love, Mary and Scott"
Too much? Too bitchy? Too judgy? These are my fears, coming across as a pain in the ass to people who are just trying to help me out.
So, crunchy parents, minimalists, hippie-dippie rainbow people, how does one handle this dilema? I'd love to get some advice on this whole thing.