The Eclectic Autodidact: Baby fever takes over social circle


I don’t know if it has to do with the onset of spring or if it’s a lingering result of the royal baby hullabaloo from last summer, but baby fever has infected my immediate circle. The symptoms include: distraction in the presence of infant mammals, an inability to pass by the baby section in Target and itchy hives.

Fortunately, I possess the necessary chromosome to avoid being forced to attend a baby shower, but Flo reports that the event consists of the expectant mother being forced to open gifts for four hours in front of a crowd while everyone else drinks heavily. Two of Flo’s friends are currently in the process of turning excess calories into additional humans, so she and I have spent some time lately rummaging through the baby sections of various stores for registry gifts.

Baby clothing is made in three color options: blue, for boys; pink, for girls; and yellow/green for when the parents refuse to tell you the gender, so you wouldn’t buy them blue or pink. The color selection is very important because a wildly inaccurate conjecture has conclusively proven that giving an infant clothing of the wrong color will throw off their gender identification for life. I know I still rue the day when my parents made me ware purple mittens for an afternoon and thus destroyed my chance of a professional football career.

Really though, I don’t understand why people buy baby clothes at all. Babies don’t know what you put them in so why make them wear regular clothes when you can dress them in Halloween costumes every day. A toddler can get away with having a wardrobe that consists of pirate, monkey suit and ninja turtle and no one can really say anything.

We also browsed some baby books. From a literary standpoint, babies typically have terrible taste in reading material, but then again they also think the sound of jangling keys is avant-garde music. I believe that the careful choice of baby books is crucial for a child’s development. The first stories that a baby hears as it begins to piece together the concepts of language, culture and things that aren’t food will form the basis of their world view. Like the mythology of a primitive civilization, these original tales will shape their development from their interactions with others to their views toward themselves. This is why it’s vital not to start them off with movie tie-in books. I can only imagine what sort of twisted humans would result from getting your first exposure to fiction through an eight-page pamphlet dashed off in an afternoon to cash in on the latest comic book movie.

For me the weirdest part of early stage parenting (I’m sure that were I a parent, I would quickly discover something much weirder) is just how much of a child’s preferences are mapped out ahead of it. It makes me call into question any possibility of self determination. Does anyone actually choose their favorite color themselves or is it determined by the color palate the parents picked out when the baby still has gill slits? Do you get to pick your favorite animal yourself or did the fact that one was plastered across your bedroom walls before you knew what legs were for contaminate the results? It has to make you wonder how many of your defining traits were actually the result of what was on sale the month before you were born.

It’s best to pay it forward by figuring out how you can mess with the next generation rather than dwell on your own manufactured identity. For example, if you were to dress a little boy in onesies that say "Daddy’s Li’l Slugger," give him a plush catcher’s mitt for a pillow and a plastic bat to gnaw on, he’ll have convinced himself that he loves baseball before he even understands the rules. Similarly, if you dress a little girl in pink frilly dresses from day one, let her sleep in a tiara and wear a bib that says "Li’l Cutie," you can make Susan B. Anthony turn over in her grave.

Someday I may want to make my own little person (though given that I’m turning 30 in two weeks, the timeframe on starting to think about that decision is beginning to shorten). This current outbreak of baby fever is like a window into a possible future. I can’t be certain that I ever will have a kid, but if I do, I know he or she will be wearing a monkey suit until preschool starts.


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