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Babies need love, not designer nurseries

Parenthood has gotten more complicated since my daughter arrived 27 years ago. I know this because I'm now a grandmother, thanks to that daughter. I've gone shopping in the big-box baby paraphernalia stores.

Car seats now are sold in multiage versions, requiring replacement when the little one grows from infant to baby to toddler. Don't take this the wrong way -- I believe that car seat use should be mandatory; I just don't believe in purchasing one every six months.

The problem is that new parents don't have experience to lean on. Advertising convinces them that if the perfect baby furniture is registered for before the baby shower, 18 years later that wonderful baby-to-be will get into Harvard, or whatever the parents' college of choice is.

Who am I to tell these parents that buying the right food grinder won't guarantee Junior will star on the Food Network?

Who am I to tell them that supplying baby with the perfect infant gym won't promise them a place on the sidelines clapping for a 100-meter race winner?

And who am I to point out that sometimes babies just cry, whether they're being fed with the latest and greatest bottle-feeding system or not?

It seems that even a $2,000 gift card wouldn't cover the must-haves recommended for new parents. The thought of such expenses makes me laugh.

I'll quote my friend: "Just love your baby, and everything else will follow." I don't think that today's parents have plans to not love their babies, but somewhere along the line they bought into the belief that loving a baby means spending incredible amounts of money on her, and not doing so will cause irreparable harm. Can I just say, "Nonsense!"?

My two children are wonderful, decent, well-adjusted adults. They came home to a second-hand crib (yes, with slats the correct distance apart), a small desk converted into a changing table, homemade nursery curtains and two terrified parents who were afraid to clip baby fingernails the first time. Once they had teeth and enough interest, we stopped buying food in jars and fed them from our own table.

Their childhoods weren't perfect by a long shot. I spent some of those years as a full-time outside-the-home worker, some as a stay-at-home mom and some working part-time at Burger King -- mother's hours and a uniform, sweet!

These users of second-hand, mismatched baby furniture are both college graduates. They also appreciate the opportunity to go thrift store shopping with me. I guess they have turned out OK.

Maybe it was easier for us back in the day because we weren't facing the tidal wave of advertising washing over today's new parents. We had only four television channels to watch, and there weren't any pop-ups blasting us through the Internet.

I also know that even though I remember those days as "simpler," my own mother thought we were living in very complicated times compared to my infancy, back in the pre-car seat dark ages.

Your baby doesn't need a designer nursery. Think of where she's been living for nine months. Crib sheets that don't match won't create juvenile delinquents.

What she really needs is to be held, loved and paid attention to. Life is too short to worry about anything else. Trust me, we grandparents know this. These years go so fast. Don't forget to enjoy them.

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