One day about a month ago, I found myself in the middle of Brooklyn's Prospect Park in the pouring rain desperately clutching a BabyBjorn Babysitter Balance black pinstripe chair. (That’s a seat for newborns—which retails for about $150—in case you're among the well-rested childless.)
My umbrella’s metal rod smacked me in the face before blowing off into the wind like so many other lost New York City umbrellas. I muddled on soaked for the next 20 minutes until I reached my apartment. My wife took one look at me, then down at the trash bag-protected chair, and in a pained voice said, “I hope it isn’t ruined.” I could see my place.
The rub is that the BabyBjorn was our second infant chair. Our son—only three months old at the time—hadn’t outgrown his first one, he just didn’t like it. Or at least my wife didn’t. The same goes for his sound machine and bathtub. I knew that we’d need a lot of baby stuff, but I had no idea that we’d need that stuff in duplicate.
I had gone to purchase the chair from a perfectly sweet couple that lives in a tiny brownstone apartment—I immediately resented them and imagined my family in their home—because in the recent past our son began a non-violent protest against his chair (a Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny Deluxe Bouncer, $65.)
The problem with the Snugabunny was beyond me. Cloth birds hang from a plastic branch attached to its base, soft fabrics cushion its seat and the thing vibrates, bounces and chirps. It was also the first bit of his furniture I assembled, so there was that.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Tepper said the chair was no longer worthy of our son's time. And to be fair, she is with him all day (I’m only there mornings, nights and weekends), so she would know.
Some poor soul bought us the Snugabunny for our baby shower, so at least we hadn't laid out any cash on the thing.
The brownstone family sold us the BabyBjorn for $70 because we are part of the same neighborhood parents' listserv. Get on a listserv! It pays to belong to a community of concerned parents who will read a product’s specs and reviews as closely as your wife.
It also helps if all the parents in your group have a lot more money than you do.
This is not the only time we've doubled up on items:
His original sound machine, the Sweet Slumber by Graco ($45), came with a glow nightlight and 12 sounds, such as nature sounds and white noise. At some point that became insufficient, so we added the Dohm-DS by Marpac ($60.) This one is for adults. He now uses both and his room sounds like an airplane tarmac.
We’ve gone from the Puj Tub ($45) to the 4mom’s Infant Tub ($50), which actually measures water temperature, and traded in the Harper Elephant Mobile from Pottery Barn ($59) for something French called the Mobile nuit insolite Djeco. This mobile sells for 20 euros, (I’m not actually sure how my wife paid for it) and also glows in the dark. Glowing in the dark is big.
I’ve found it’s best to think of the first round of baby purchases, and the hundreds of dollars spent on these finely crafted stand-ins, as a necessary cost of business: Everything involved in caring for your child is so new and you don’t know what chair your kid will like until he sits in it.
At least you can always hock the barely used stuff on your neighborhood listserv.