I have a confession to make, friends. Before the baby I was what one might call a bit self conscious. I tipped not to reward good service, but to make the server/valet/barista think I was nice. The dogs would get a long walk not because I loved them so dearly, but rather it was to avoid running into my good looking, well dressed neighbor while I was still in my pajamas.
So when I am thrown into a situation with so many comparisons to be drawn, such as parenthood and all that goes along with it, the paranoid side of me is in constant battle with the rational/let’s-keep-things-in-perspective facet. Opponents, tap your gloves and let’s get started.
First, there’s the battle of the baby carriers. Ergobaby vs. Baby Bjorn. Don’t even come to the field if you have any other off-the-shelf brand claiming to be worthy of cradling your kiddo (joking!). Oh, and if you have a tribal sling of some sort, you are in your own league: the one that walks Downtown without shoes on (…not joking).
Next is the stroller strut. It’s funny how Kate and I didn’t even want a stroller, and now we are part of the collector’s club. Don’t judge. Surprisingly, I’ve found that these things are more of a calling card than anything I have ever come across. Do you have one that looks like a kid’s toy, or one that looks like it could be a Swedish medical implement? If the latter, you probably spent a quick four figures on that puppy. Us? We have a sensible all-in-one for the mall and a very inexpensive folding shark stroller. Seriously, you can’t put a price on comedy. Kate has also recently acquired a Thule (yes, the roof rack company) running stroller to assure others that we are fit and oh so adventurous. And most important, that we now pronounce “tool-ee” correctly.
Maternity clothing? I saw designer jeans in the motherhood collection for brands that I wouldn’t even spend money on for regular wear, let alone a limited 9-month span. Kate was a champ by wearing hand-me-downs and Goodwill finds, however I feel that she retaliated by stretching out a couple of our shared clothing items. The brand new fleece jacket and some of our more expensive workout shirts are now a tad bell shaped thanks to being force-molded over a protruding baby bump. Yes, Kate squeezed herself into non-maternity clothes all the way through month nine.
Speaking of gestation, while Kate was pregnant, I could sense other pregnant ladies literally sizing Kate up, as she was fortunate enough to limit her weight gain to her midsection. Not that I really cared one way or another, but I could tell other people did. Now, Kate is below her pre-baby weight, which is fun to exploit when we’re together and watching people try to figure out which size 4 woman just gave birth to the baby.
I know that our future holds many rounds of these comparison moments, so I should just learn to deal with it now. How about just accepting that our ability to parent is strangely based on our baby’s arbitrary willingness to not cry in a public place. Soon we will be benchmarking the milestones, as if we have anything to do with Lucie’s aptitude for rolling over or even where she places in heighth percentile (it’s 90th, by the way). We are judged on the cuteness of our baby, with half of the points gained from the outfit du jour. Little do the judges know, our friends and family are actually the winners, as they have really great taste in baby clothes and we have yet to buy any clothing for our daughter.
Anyway, in a few years it will be more than just looks. People will compare Lucie’s intelligence, talent, manners and athleticism to their own progeny’s. Other parents will judge us based on how much we contribute to the booster club and how often we attend our daughter’s activities.
My response to this, I would hope, could be similar to when a friend asked me about how we revealed the gender. First I had to clarify what he was asking. Then my answer was: we told people when they asked. His answer was: he and his wife gave the ultrasound results, in a sealed envelope, to a baker in the trendy NoPo district. They had a party with all of their friends and relatives as the Cake of Fate sat idly in the corner, smugly holding the secret under its frosting. Then they cut the cake and the interior color (pink) revealed the gender of the baby.
So the attitude that I hope will carry over into the comparison game that parents play is the same one that flowed through my mind during this conversation: “oh, alright then.”