We like to get free stuff. Businesses love to give new parents free stuff. This is a perfect relationship, like those birds that sit on the backs of rhinos in Africa. We would be the birds in this case.
When we found out Darling Valerie was pregnant with Child No. 1 over three years ago, we signed up for every freebie on the web that we could think of, including but not limited to, formula, diapers and, just because I giggle every time I say it, many containers of “butt paste.”
The biggest haul of freebies included a lot of parenting magazines, because we would have never known that we were deficient without their help.
I like to think that I don’t judge my parenting skills based on what a writer in New York thinks is the best way to raise kids. But they have all these pretty graphics and glossy print, so it seems official.
The covers scream about these impossibly genius kids, like, “Little Johnny Reads Shakespeare In 5 Languages,” or “Baby Jane Not Only Eats Exotic Foods, She Rolls Her Own Sushi Rolls!”
I think my kids could just as easily be shown off for lesser – if more realistic – talents, such as, “Cooper Has Seen Every Thomas & Friends YouTube Video of ‘Accidents Happen’!” or “Baby Penny Can Stick Her Whole Hand In Her Mouth!”
Even in Biblical times, I expect there were some great headlines on stone tablets or parchment passed around the village, screaming things like, “Don’t Spare the Rod: What Size Stick Won’t Spoil Your Child?” or “Jesus Wows The Elders At The Temple: How To Make Your Pre-teen Wise.”
In the meantime, here’s what we’ve learned from pregnancy/baby magazines:
Lotion ads like to show nekkid baby bottoms - Apparently that’s the only area of their itty-bitty bodies that requires moisturizing.
EVERYTHING in the house is harmful to the baby - If I don’t have the doohickey that goes with that thingamajig, my kids might end up unconscious, or even worse, with diarrhea.
You aren’t hip without the newest in really expensive baby gear - Penny shouldn’t have to learn the word “couture” until she’s out of college, at least. Our kids are perfectly happy with hand-me-downs and big cardboard boxes.
Self-righteous tree-hugging hippies are taking over- “Ooh, look at me, I let my baby run around butt nekkid, we use only biodegradable diapers, our crib is an actual bamboo tree and a panda poops in the nursery to keep it warm!”
Their “recession-proof” ideas are a lot pricier and fancier than my ideas - They shop Whole Foods while I’m looking for a bigger basket to fit a box of 10,000 wipes, a 300 oz. barrel of Sunny D and a bushel of 100 Hot Pockets at Sam’s Club.
It’s good to let your children make decisions - I’m going to record a video and send it in during lunch when Cooper decides that he wants rice and beans, no, chicken and fries, no, mac and cheese with chips and applesauce!
Everything’s normal in a pregnancy - Darling Valerie apparently needn’t have worried about any questions she had: “I have a lot of indigestion?” “That’s normal.” “I have no indigestion?” “That’s normal, too.” “When I watch TV I daydream about kidnapping squirrels for ransom.” “No problemo.”
I’m going to start a magazine called “Common Sense,” with features that are presented as if it’s breaking and exciting, like, “Eating Fuzz Off the Floor: Dangerous or Healthy Fiber Alternative?” and “Jumping Off The Roof With A Superman Cape: Bad or Okay as Long as You Land in the Bushes? What You Need to Know to Keep Your Children Safe!”
I’m not going to let the Christian publications off the hook, either. They can make you feel just as guilty about your performance, when you read that “6-year-old Esther’s Lemonade Stand Raised $1 Million For Missionaries In Asia” or “Jeremiah Is Only 4, But Has All Of Ecclesiastes Memorized!”
I kid, of course, and celebrate every successful child in these stories, and I’m very proud of my own son and daughter and praise God for their blessings.
It’s just that sometimes you wonder if you’re supposed to feel bad that your boy would rather sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” than “Jesus Loves Me.”
Then again, maybe that’s a teachable moment, too, because who made those stars? Sponsored by Gerber, of course.