Every soon-to-be parent is bombarded with the same series of questions. It’s predictable enough that some of my friends who have kids already actually preface conversations with statements about not asking about it and offering empathy and words of wisdom for dealing with the monotony of having to answer the same thing over and over again.
Similar to when one becomes engaged, the registry question is among the early winners.
First, let me get out of the way: I’m actually happy people are asking as I’m glad they are so excited for the little one’s impending arrival. I’m
more than happy to share it with them (and get them started on the parent approved, “gender neutral” path to gifting – something I’m sure we’ll talk much more about in the coming months).
What was more eye opening so far wasn’t the question of if we have a registry, or even what is on the registry … no, it was all about the complexity of creating a registry itself. I get now even better why the whole gift giving scenario to my niece was so stressing.
Everyone has done some form of registry making in the past even if they never called it that. Your list to Santa as a child is essentially your first registry. Family and friends pick out of it what they will get you and the fat man in the red velvet overcoat pretty much covers the slack on the rest assuming you didn’t request an F14 fighter jet or an alpaca or your dead grandparent back. Even if you weren’t searching for the elusive and yet childhood defining “Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time” think about all the crap you crammed onto that list given the opportunity.
List making is big business these days. Every. Single. Retailer. offers some kind of “wish list.” Not only do they provide the ability to create the list, but the fucked up thing is they will pre-fill the list for you if you so chose, and if not they are certainly not short of suggestions you can include on there.
For special occasion lists the entire scenario was even worse. We managed to avoid most of the calamity of such an experience when registering for our wedding since we approached it in a very non-traditional way (like essentially everything else) however we are confronted with it head on in the baby process.
The entire concept of their being a one-stop shop for anything and everything baby is pretty overwhelming in-and-of itself but when you see the square footage dedicated to the experience … wow.
So, here we are lost before we’ve even gotten thirty feet into our journey asking for help. Honestly, the help we did receive seemed really honest and straight forward. The rep working with us wasn’t pushy and gave us some tips and then pointed us on our way with gift bag in hand.
We were again not even thirty feet into our journey and here we were again: overwhelmed. And, maybe worse than before.
Knowing we needed a child seat for the car and having the minimum required specs in hand for a new born as well as desire to minimize unnecessary purchases down the road we headed over to the child seat section. It was insane. It’s one thing to have choices that fit your needs and budgets, it’s quite another to see rows of these things by themselves and then they are flanked by ones that come a part of / fit into just about every other kind of baby need from prams to swings, feeding apparatus to sleeping options, and I’m pretty sure a few others we didn’t explore. Furthermore, not every brand produces products in all the categories so it isn’t as if a consumer can easily compare possibilities across all use cases. Not having had kids before it became a game of estimating what we believe in advance might be more, or less, important to maximize cross-functional usage in looking over the options.
When we were both kids, there certainly were both not as many options, nor as many regulations, nor as many stupid people doing things that made the regulations necessary both on the manufacturer and the user level. And, maybe most interestingly, not as many self-indulgent parents perpetuating the perception that one needs most of this stuff in the first place.
This was problematic well beyond the essentials however. The store is filled with trinkets beyond description. Literally anything and everything you can imagine and much of it with the marketing pitch of being good for child development — as if much of this extraneous materialism is necessary for actual education. Coincidentally, much like cats, kids seem to be more engaged and enthralled with the packaging than the contents and probably get more out of the ingenious ways they promote their own creativity out of simple interactions than any of the now complex “things” they are presented with.
I’m certainly not discrediting the idea that children need high exposure levels to language and to tactile experience and they should get ample amounts of both. But no amount of store bought stuff is going replace the type of personal interaction we hope to find ways to facilitate this. And yet, the store has many more options than even a school full of children could hope to consume and the suggestion list provides many more examples than even a large multiple birth of kids would be able to adequately play with.
This comes back to our concern in obtaining stuff. Creating the baby list shouldn’t be an exercise in ticking off pre-prepared boxes, especially those likely influenced by product creators. Judging from the contents of our gift bag during the registry process as well as my extensive background in marketing and customer relationship management I would not be surprised if the list itself is an artifact of fulfilling partnership responsibilities between the retailer and product sellers.
Anyway, it’s concerning for us in a number of ways.
First, and foremost, it’s not that we’re without money, but we are on a tight budget. As much as some of our family and friends might not want to admit it, so are they. There’s no reason for us to overindulge and break the budget. Knowing the propensity to want to spoil kids and especially first kids for certain situations there’s no reason for us to promote that kind of indulgence in our list making. Some fun stuff, sure, but mostly, that’s going to happen without our help.
Second, we don’t live in a big house. We purchased this property because it was what we could afford. We purchased this property because it was something we felt a strong emotional connection to at the time. We purchased this property because it should suffice what our ongoing needs are. If we run out of space it isn’t likely for lack of space. It is because we overextended the space for no good reason (although, I can think of a handful of reasons we still might).
Finally, we don’t want to promote an indulgent atmosphere that predisposes the next generation to expectations that everything is always “just there.” Sometimes it is what we don’t have that defines us as much as what we do and our desire to attain what we don’t have that produces the strongest enjoyment when it is available. This again is not to say we won’t provide ample opportunity along the way, but, perhaps not every possible variant needs to be included or fulfilled just because it’s on a list.
So, we began the long, crazy process of creating our baby registry with all this in mind … because, as you would guess, we are thinking, rethinking, counter-thinking, backtracking, and ultimately probably overthinking things. While we know people will do as they want — there’s always someone who thinks they know better than you and buys “off-registry” for everything including gift which is how you end up with a pink bunny rabbit onesy adolescent costume for Christmas — there is no need to actually facilitate that kind of excess, at least not for the time being in our current circumstances under our current idealism.
Amazon is the my personal favorite list process because, well, you can put anything on there because they have nearly everything but there’s no pressure. Granted, Amazon knows I buy everything from our dog treats and toilet paper to family gifts through it, there’s a quirky way that it doesn’t insult me in the process of what it attempts to suggest and almost kind of respects my list making ability. If you look at my personal one it’s a range of underwear and replacement drum sticks and cooking spices that are in an endless repeat mode combined with the occasional deep yard work tool or something being an audiophile. On a similar note the list my wife has is similar, to a degree.
What we hope to accomplish in our list is specifically designed to do just what we are doing with our own list, our ongoing couple’s list and now our new baby’s list. While we cannot stop grandma (any of the three…or any other version of a family member) from doing their thing, we hope to help direct them in the right direction, the way we hope to direct our household and for them, or anyone participating in our kids lives down the road to understand our desires or concerns or whatever….