I wandered the forgotten, half-stocked shelves of the back corner of the low-end department store like a ghost, weaving through a graveyard of display model car seats and pressboard cribs. On the walls hung plastic wrapped in plastic, pink and light blue devices, the last bastion of comic sans font. I waded through reams of onesies with messages like “First Round Draft Pick” and “Daddy’s Little Angel”, with disdain my machete. We were still in book, I thought to myself. The nursery was painted, the ultrasounds studied with burgeoning horror, our diaper philosophy established. All was proceeding.
I had long since lost the reason for being there. My wife unseen called out questions from the southeast, but I was far away, back in my own childhood. Growing up in 1980s suburbia, where crime waves consisted of vandalism, my parents would allow me to explore alone the wide, beige-tiled aisles of the local general store, and I would stare at all that colorful plastic and the potential that was vacuum sealed within. I coveted it all: wind-up pocket toys, board games, sports equipment. With my little senses I drank in the untapped fun.
I’ve failed, in my own little liberal arts degree way, to live up to the economic status of my hardworking parents. I’ve long grown accustomed to my own poverty, and since my wife volunteered herself into our collective cause, she’s accepted her own lead crown. But looking at all this stuff – and there is no better word for it – adorning the shelves, beaming with its own uselessness, I felt regret. I probably won’t be able to waste money on dumb things for my daughter the way my parents did for me, thanks to life choices squandered fifteen years hence.
It was under this cloud that I sulked aimlessly, until I stumbled across this:
Every prospective parent, I’m told, has that cold moment of liquidity, that sudden realization that parenthood involves actual lifestyle repercussions. I had thought I was ready; I had read all the way through The Expectant Father, used Lamaze to get through my Lamaze class. I had accepted in theory that some inert, helpless and defecatory machine would be entirely dependent on me. Six months of training and I had mastered the concept of the infant. But instead I stood facing a Disney Princess wifflebat, and thought: what if this is the natural conclusion?
I’m by no means egotistical enough to assume that my daughter will want the things I want. Certainly, I can imagine watching baseball games with her on Sunday afternoons, as she spreads her Duplos and then eventually Legos out on the family room carpet. I hear Rick Rizzs whispering the play-by-play on the car stereo as we head up to Grandma’s house. I envision dumping out a box full of 1989 Donruss cards and helping her make a collage out of all the disembodied heads we cut out together. I picture summmer games of wiffleball, patient and lazy games.
But maybe it won’t go as planned. Maybe she won’t like baseball, and beg me to change the TV over to My Little Pony every time the game is on. Maybe she doesn’t like the collage because it’s got too many mustaches, and not enough pink. Maybe she only wants to play with toys with princesses on them. Maybe my daughter will want to grow up to be… a girl.
There’s no use worrying, I suppose. She’ll grow up the way she’ll grow up. But just to be safe, I’ll use the voice of Vin Scully as white noise for her crib. It never hurts to plant a madeleine.
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