by Mike Chomentowski
Excuse me for beginning this column with both an obvious observation and a gross understatement, but parenting is all about making important choices. Choices that are so big and so impactful that a paralyzing serum of indecision would run through you every time you stopped to consider the many ramifications, not to mention the lack of qualifications you have as the decision-making caretaker of a little human being.
So far I’ve discovered it is best to make these huge decisions quickly and just as quickly move on. If the choices you make for your child turn out to be wrong, well, that’s what a second or third child is for.
Happily, there are some decisions that are almost utterly inconsequential to how well- or poorly-adjusted your baby will be in adulthood. One of these trifles is what your baby will wear during his first year of life. He doesn’t care what he wears. And since babies constantly create so many stains in all shapes and colors (Jackson Pollock would be jealous), their outfits have a shorter lifespan than a major league baseball. With so many other issues for the new parent to ponder, the little dude’s duds should be a no-brainer. Then how come my head hurts from all the different styles and choices in baby clothes?
From the beginning, the clothes our son Henry wore were simple: onesies in the “we’re not finding out the sex of our baby beforehand” rainbow palette of white, green, or yellow. Note: if you’re not going to find out the gender, you’d better like frogs and ducks because your family and friends are going to shower you with biblical-plague levels of frogs and ducks.
But once the baby outgrows the initial wardrobe, it’s time to go shopping. This is where it gets “headachy.” My wife and I were lucky enough to have friends who had a baby boy 18 months before us, and they generously lent us bins and bins of their infant clothes.
My tip to you: if you are having a baby and do not have friends or family with a large surplus of baby wear, I recommend that you go to a playground or kid-friendly restaurant and look for a nattily-dressed baby of the same sex as yours (if you don’t know what you’re having, find one of each gender) and befriend the couple with a stalker-like enthusiasm. Nine months later, sit back as your new best friends (trust me, they’ll be your friends, people with kids love making friends with other people with kids) give you the shirt off their baby’s growing back (ask for the pants too).
No matter how many outfits you’ve stockpiled from others, eventually you won’t be able to help yourself and you’ll feel the irresistible urge to dress your child in a style similar to certain people in your social circle (you). We have a boy, so I can’t speak to what’s happening in six-month old girls haute couture, but based on the shelves and racks in the guy half of Baby Gap, bulldozers, bulldogs, football players, “futbol” players, skulls, guitars, bears, baseballs, and cowboys are all the rage this season.
But looks aside, boys’ outfits make all manner of outlandish claims. I can’t swing a cat without hitting a little guy in a shirt proclaiming him to be a Future All-Pro, Champ, All-Star, MVP, or Team Captain. My son has one shirt that names him a Superstar All-Pro (ridiculous) as well as another that celebrates him as Daddy’s All-Star. I’m the daddy here and I have no recollection of filling out a ballot or submitting any sort of official nomination to the All-Star people.
I certainly love my son, but as a life-long follower of multiple sports, I know you don’t just throw around the “All-Star” designation willy-nilly. Also, he got this shirt pretty early on, like, two months into his life. He was a good, healthy baby, thank goodness, but I don’t recall him setting any infantile records or putting together any Guinness-worthy streaks.
And since he’s my only child, who else would I name as Daddy’s All-Star? I mean, why don’t we create the Henry Chomentowski award, for anyone under 2 named Henry Chomentowski and see who wins it next year? Really, Daddy All-Star laurels should only be awarded in households with more than one child. It doesn’t have to be a big ceremony, just something after family dinner and before bath time, where one child gets the shirt while the others watch. To be fair and avoid inferiority issues, the other children also get a shirt or consolation bib, but theirs would read “brother/sister of an all-star” (to be clear I think they should read “brother/sister,” not one or the other).
Not into jockwear? Fear not, there are alternatives to the sporty baby look. There’s a whole wide web of options. Just Google “cool baby clothes” or “witty baby wear” and you’ll find pages of sites that will sell you baby onesies with Johnny Cash or David Bowie (as Ziggy Stardust) airbrushed on the front, or blazoned with ironic sayings like “I only cry when ugly people hold me” and “Diapers are so beneath me.”
Last I checked, my son is not into the indie band Wavves, nor was he spotted sipping breastmilk in a Brooklyn speakeasy with Natalie Portman; he’s not cool. He’s amazing, he’s adorable, but he’s not ironic or sardonic or whatever it is when a seven-month old wears a Nina Simone romper. My son poops himself multiple times a day and that’s just about the most uncool and least ironic thing you can do. And witty? My son laughs for five straight minutes every time the dog yawns. It’s safe to say he’s no Ira Glass.
Keep looking, but once you get to the matching Charles Bukowski(!) dad and baby t-shirt set you realize that these clothes aren’t about the baby, they’re about the parents: “Look how hip and iconoclastic I am, my baby’s in a tee shirt with a silk screened parody of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe featuring Lindsay Lohan’s police mug shot” (a steal at only $22.99).
While we’re here, we must discuss Star Wars. No other beloved morsel of my generation’s childhood has been removed from the fridge of nostalgia, reheated, and served to us to re-consume more times than Star Wars. Any child clothes purveyor worth its salt has a yoda onesie or Millennium Falcon bib in stock. Again, who is this for? My son was negative 33 years old when Star Wars came out. I’m sure he will get an enormous thrill looking at photographs of him in a Boba Fett sweatshirt in the same way I would have enjoyed looking at baby pictures of me in a “Gone With the Wind” Rhett Butler tee.
I better stop now. I feel a headache coming on and I think I hear my son waking up. If it is true that clothes make the man, then baby clothes make this man crazy.