The Sacajawea Theory, v2.0

Posted by jdg | Tuesday, March 11, 2008 | , ,

One thing that really triggered my curmudgeonly tendencies during the lead up to the birth of our first child was a burgeoning awareness of the baby industrial complex. I watched as a corner of our 500 square-foot apartment filled with boxes covered in photos of smiling, chubby babies who were only smiling and chubby because their parents had the good sense to register for the "Gymini Super Deluxe Light and Music" or the "Safety 1st Comfy Bath Center." Who names these things? They sound like the kinds of places Hong Kong businessmen go to unwind after long days of being Hong Kong businessmen. If it were up to me, there would have only been one box in the corner, and it would have been this box:
My wife does not lack that peculiar gene native to both her sex and her profligatory Gaelic ancestry, the gene that creates enjoyment in the exchange of hard-earned money for overpackaged gewgaws that one doesn't really need. We had a baby monitor in an apartment where it was physically impossible to be more than seven feet away from a baby, for chrissake. She bought a bouncy seat and a swing. She's a helpless slingaholic: having purchased and wrapped herself in dozens of different fabric babycarriers over the years, German tourists take pictures of her, thinking Christo has something to do with her. During the leadup to Juniper's birth, there was a lot of conflict over what we thought we needed. Wipe warmers? I'd ask. Really? I didn't believe there actually was such a thing. Are we as a nation really at the point where the asses of our infants cannot tolerate the cold touch of an unwarmed pre-moistened disposable wipe? I wonder if anyone's ever studied the relationship between infant mortality in sub-Saharan Africa and the lack of warm pre-moistened disposable wipes. Get on it, scientists.

Over time, on every occasion that my wife suggested a trip to the baby store because there was something that just might make our parenting experience .000027% easier, I would cough and grumble "Sacajawea." It's well known that the Shoshone maiden adorning our most-recent failed dollar coin led Lewis and Clark from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean, but it's often forgotten that she started on that journey just a few weeks after giving birth to the child of a Gallic fur trader. Believe it or not, that baby, Jean-Baptiste, made it all the way to Oregon's coast and back without a single ear thermometer or Breathe Easy Sleep Positioner! Sacajawea brought her baby on a journey of many thousands of miles without a "travel system." She just stuck him in a papoose and led a band of lusty legionnaires through the wilderness. And don't even get me started about childproofing. How do you childproof the entire Louisiana Purchase?

The Sacajawea Theory, in short, is that all newborn babies really need is boobs. Everything else is just marketing.

Repeatedly annoying my wife with this theory in the early days of Juniper's life really seems to have paid off. Before we left San Francisco, she sold the stroller and the swing and the bouncy seat and all kinds of other crap to a Chinese guy who talked her down to $20 from $100. Before Gram was born, we didn't buy anything. No crib, no changing table, no crap. She did buy some mind-bogglingly expensive cloth diapers, but I approved because it meant we would never have to drive out to the suburbs for diapers again (a sound fiscal decision: with my wife, any trip to Target for $24 worth of diapers inevitably ends up costing us at least $150). But as this second kid gets bigger, I'm having to rely on the Sacajawea Theory more and more with each passing day.

She'll see some cute little toy on one of those newfangled websites that focus on infant products and I'm all, "Sacajawea. . ."

"Well, get off your ass then and whittle him a rattle or something, will ya?"

She starts grumbling about needing a dresser for Gram's tiny clothes. "But Sacajawea. . ." I start.

"Sacajawea wasn't married to a tightwad who comes home from the thrift store with twenty early 1980s Garanimals mix-and-match separates every week."

The UPS guy comes to the door and she tries to play it off like he has the wrong address, hiding the box containing the new sling she's ordered. "Sacajawea. . ." I scold.

"This one's made out of buckskin and sewn together with sinew and a bone needle, if it makes you feel any better."

"It does."

And still, the UPS guy keeps coming. "This one's for Juniper," she tells me. "And shut up about Sacajawea. It's not like Lewis and Clark had a 3-year-old love child, too."

"Well, if they did, I can promise you she wouldn't have needed anything from the Mini Boden catalog."