I’m a few years past the baby stage and while I miss the smell of newborn heads and the deliciousness of superfat thighs, there’s plenty I don’t miss: namely all the excess stuff, both actual items you’re enticed into believing you need and habits you fall into like packing an arsenal of snacks to “survive” a short trip from home, because, well … who knows why? If I had it to do over again, I’d go way more minimal.
And I’d start with sippy cups.
The first sippy I ever saw was, by today’s standards, barely an improvement over a real cup. In the ’70s, when my brother was a toddler, my mom bought a cup with a plastic cover and a spout at a Tupperware party, of all places. Of course if you knocked it over, it would spill. Fast forward years later to when my two boys were tots, and sippy cups seemed to be developed by NASA. Those valves, the very things that make it possible to drink practically upside down without a dribble, are the cups’ most vexing feature: difficult to reassemble, easily lost, and prone to mildew – because, of course, they never fully dry. In a mistake I regret to this day, I once bought cups that came with reusable straws that needed to be threaded through the cup’s cover, rather than the typical spill-proof spout. I had many tense moments with my kid waiting for his cup while I tried to guide the straw back into place. I used to pretend I was an ER doc inserting a breathing tube; if I didn’t hit it exactly right, disaster would ensue. So if I had it to do over, I’d require my kids, as much as possible, to do what my parents expected of me: to drink out of a cup. At the table. Like a human (not like an astronaut).
Next thing to go? Snacks. You heard me. And yes, I mean it. Fan as I am of, you know, eating, if I had to parent little ones again, I’d skip the part where I poured Cheerios into those “ingenious” snack containers with the lids made for fat little hands to poke through. I’d venture bravely out of my house snack-free, with the confident assurance that, should anyone in the car be in danger of actual malnutrition (highly unlikely) we could find something to eat by either returning home at regularly-scheduled meal and snack times; or finding something to eat while out and about. (I prefer the first option.)
Truthfully, I wasn’t snack-manic, and I didn’t succumb to the belief that if I was leaving the house for any length of time, I needed fortification. Ever watch kids play at the park? Absorbed as they are in such activities as pouring sand on one another’s heads, they most often have to be told it’s time to eat. But if you’re sitting on a park bench nearby and start unpacking Goldfish (and of course a sippy cup), they suddenly want to eat, swings and slides be damned.
‘Course, if I had packed snacks, where would I’d pack them? A diaper bag, right? And that would be the next thing I’d lose. Like almost every other mom out there, when I registered for baby gifts before my first son’s birth, I put on the list a diaper bag that I thought would fit my needs, choosing a backpack style rather than anything in green or yellow or sporting duckies. Guess what? I very, very rarely used it. (And when I did – surprise! – a regular old backpack would have done the same job.) My light bulb, why-did-we-get-this-thing moment came when I watched my husband prepare our toddler for a trip to our local playground. He put a diaper and a plastic baggie of wipes in the cargo pocket of his ubiquitous Dad Shorts. That’s it. I could easily stow that amount – and more – in my regular handbag. My feeling is that the more pockets and zipper compartments you have available to you (a slot for your cellphone – plus another for baby’s toy phone!), the more crap you begin to believe you need.
And yes, of course, I get it that if you live 25 miles from the nearest town or are spending an entire day away from the comforts of your changing table (another thing I’d argue you don’t strictly need, by the way!), you’ll need a diaper bag, or some easy-to-carry vessel for the requisite change of diapers and extra set of clothes you’ll inevitably need. To go to the library? Eh. Not so much.
And when it comes to the thought of heading down the baby path again, one thing sure to make me shudder in horror even more than sippy-cup valves, and endless bag compartments? Potty training. And if I did it over again, I’d go about it without one key piece of equipment: a potty.
No, seriously. Training my first son was an exercise in extreme frustration. He hated the potty. Hated. It. The climax of our Year of Potty Horror was this: my boy – already closer to four than three – spent an hour on the damned thing, being plied with videos and juice and refusing to pee. The whites of his eyes were turning yellow, and still, nothing. Late for a family party and frustrated, I bundled him into a diaper and drove to my cousin’s house, a half-hour trip, during which he was still dry. He could hold it like a champ; why couldn’t he let it go!? And why didn’t want to do it in the fancy turquoise and purple throne I’d bought him? (And in a related question, why did that darned thing have so many nooks and crannies? Do the designers understand what’s going in the thing and what needs to be cleaned out of it?)
So we walk into my cousin’s house, and upon seeing my frustration, she says to my son, “Daniel, do you have to go pee-pee? Want to use Cousin Ruth’s toilet?” She led him to her little half-bath, he peed on the toilet, and was treated to a squeeze yogurt (don’t get me started!) in celebration. And he never wore a diaper – or used his potty – again.
Next time – and it’s almost too bad there won’t be a next time, almost – I’m not buying or doing any of this stuff.
Meanwhile, anyone need a potty?