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Debate Club: How Many Baby Showers Is Too Many?

A Second Baby Shower is One Too Many

by Michelle Downing

My little sister is expecting her first baby in the spring, and my other sisters and I were recently discussing her shower. My husband asked why we never had a shower for our daughter.

“Well, I did have one, before,” I replied. Before he was around, I meant. With my oldest daughter, when I was married to her father.

We never got to experience any of that, because I had already done it when I first became a mother more than nine years ago.

Granted, the situation could have warranted another celebration. My oldest was almost eight when our daughter was born. I had put the high chair and swing on Craigslist. I’d given away the crib and clothes to friends. A lot of things had ended up at Goodwill. I had never expected to remarry and find a man who was so great with children and who so badly wanted one of his own. And I had never expected to want to give him one.

My family had offered to throw us a shower when we made my pregnancy announcement. They wanted to celebrate this new chapter of our life and were so excited for a new little girl in our family.

But I declined. They had already thrown me a shower.

To me, a baby shower is just as much a celebration for becoming a mom as it is for the new baby. All the cheesy games center around being a first-time mom. Friends and family gift her with diaper genies and wipe warmers and a surplus of supplies she’s probably never seen and never knew she needed.

All the other moms get to offer their sage advice of tips and tricks. They get to share their sweet stories of the first time their son said, “I love you.” They share the horror stories of their daughter’s first blowout at the grocery store.

Once you’ve had children, you’ve done all of this. More importantly, your family and friends have already gone through the trouble of throwing a shower for you.

Unfortunately, showers aren’t always a celebration of a new birth. Sometimes they’re just a ploy for gifts. I’ve even seen etiquette rules for a second shower. The number one rule? Don’t ever throw your own shower.

This. This is appalling. The shower is not the problem. It’s the sense of obligation behind it. 

People argue their kids are far apart in age (I know the feeling!). Or now they’re having a baby of the opposite gender, and they don’t have everything they need.

Yes, kids are expensive, it’s a daunting task to go out and get everything you need to raise a little person of your own. But it’s part of being a parent. It is your responsibility and yours alone. No one will come over every night to buy groceries and supply your little one with dinner. No one will write your weekly check to daycare. No one helps with school supplies, larger clothes as they grow, a new car, college tuition, etc. 

When a baby is brought into the world, it’s a joyous event that should be celebrated. But a celebration doesn’t have to include balloons and invitations with storks. It doesn’t have to include every woman you interact with. A celebration doesn’t even need to include gifts. Why do people have to buy you something to prove they’re excited for you?

I had a nice brunch with my family before my daughter was born. We received lots of well wishes and cards in the mail. We had tons of visitors at the hospital, and at home once we were settled in. Some people brought gifts and some did not. I never once doubted how happy everyone was for us, and I have no doubt about how much that little girl is loved.

Each child is a blessing. But let people do it on their own terms, however they feel it’s appropriate.

Congratulations to all you first-timers preparing for your first shower. Make it a memorable one.

The Arrival of Every Child Deserves Recognition

by Sarah Broussard Weaver

I have four children, and each have had a baby shower, or at least a gathering of friends to mark the event. Each of my shower gatherings had a very different flavor, corresponding with the situation my husband and I were in at the time.

My first shower was kind of a flop because only three or four people came. It was a combination of the wrong day, the wrong location, and a community I was out of touch with, having moved away a year before. But it was mortifying for me. My mother-in-law and friend planned it and had prepared so much delicious food and fun games to play. The recollection of it was a painful thought for me for years.

When I had my second baby, I was given another shower, and the second baby was also a girl. Many people came to that one, and I felt strangely healed from the embarrassment of the first.

For my third daughter, work colleagues threw a small shower, and I went to see “Wicked” with my best friend.

For my last baby and only boy, my three best friends took me out and plied me with Mexican food and gifts. That was more of a pamper-the-mother thing, and it was just what I needed.

Baby showers are a time-honored tradition, born of needing to help a young couple gather the things needed for their first child. After receiving the layette of tiny nighties, socks, a crib, and later, the more modern “needs” such as a Bumbo seat, baby food makers, co-sleepers, and boutique baby slings, the new parents are prepared for any following children. Worn out nighties or other items can be replaced as needed by the parents themselves, because they would presumably be established in their lives and capable of doing so.

But modern baby showers seem to mean more than just providing the baby’s needs. The shower for a first baby is still the biggest affair. But often subsequent children will merit their own shower, especially if the baby is a different gender than the first (or than the first two or three, as the case may be).

So many baby necessities are color-coded these days – rose-petal pink or baby blue – and some parents don’t want to ignore these societal cues. I can tell you from personal experience that even if you have your baby girl all robed in pink, strangers in the grocery stores will still coo, “He’s so cute! What’s his name?” so there’s not much point in that.

Multiple baby showers are fine in my book. They’re celebrations, gatherings to celebrate the child coming soon. I think the practice of multiple showers started slowly, with some mothers getting another shower when they had a “surprise” baby long after they got rid of their baby things, or when they were having a girl after two boys.

Now subsequent showers have themes like “diaper shower” where people only bring diapers and baby wipes, Diaper Genies, or cloth diapering supplies. There are “book showers” where people bring their favorite baby books. Showers to replace worn out baby supplies are called “baby sprinkles.” (Get it? Not a full-out shower, just a sprinkle. I guess that sounded better than drizzle!)

Sometimes showers for non-first children focus on pampering the mother before the baby’s arrival. They don’t have to be a huge fancy deal, but rather a great way for people to get together and celebrate.

Parents need different things at different times. When my son came, although I had nothing geared for a boy, we were in a place in life to provide it all ourselves. I just needed some relaxation, and a night out with friends gave me that, plus a feeling of the coming baby being honored and recognized. Sometimes parents need or could really use new supplies they might have difficulty providing. Others just need a nice celebration.

Just as people celebrate birthdays every year, I think the arrival of a new child is an event that deserves recognition. If you don’t agree, just RSVP your regrets, and all will be fine.

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When we consider all the skills our kids will need to succeed in the future, what comes to mind? Perhaps creativity, tech skills, or an excellent understanding of math might be at the top of many parents' lists. Social-emotional skills, like empathy, compassion, or the ability to understand another person's viewpoint may not be the ones you thought of right away, but deep down you know they matter.

We've all had those co-workers who didn't know how to listen to our ideas or friends who couldn't compromise with others. We know that in the work world and in our personal life, emotional skills are key to developing and maintaining healthy relationships.

If you are the parent of a toddler, you know that young children are inherently self-centered. It's not some faulty aspect of their character or a misstep of parenting skills. Young children simply do not have the brain maturity to consider another person's perspective or needs just yet—their brain physically is not ready to handle that kind of mental work.

However, child development research shows us that we can do a few things along the developmental path to help foster social-emotional skills in our kids. With a little help from us, our kids' brains can develop with meaningful connections that tune them into the feelings of others.

Here's how:

1. Treat others how you want your kids to treat others.

How we talk to our kids becomes their internal dialogue. We know from research that this goes for emotional skills as well. A recent study showed that when parents talk to their kids more about how other people might be feeling, the kids had better perspective-taking abilities—the ability to see a situation from another person's point of view.

This, of course, is the basis of many emotional skills, especially empathy. Just by talking about another person's feelings, kids begin to develop those crucial brain connections that help them develop empathy.

It's worth pointing out that very young children under ages 3-4 do not have the brain maturity to really understand another person's perspective. They lack a crucial skill that psychologists call Theory of Mind, meaning they can't understand the mind of another person.

However, our urgings and thoughtful phrasing to point out how another person might be feeling can only help them down this developmental path. Then, once their little brain matures, they will be in the habit of hearing and understanding the feelings of others.

2. Model positive emotional behavior in daily life.

It's probably not surprising to learn that how we react to our kids' feelings influences their emotional development. When your child gets upset, do you get angry or ruffled by their big emotions? We are all human, of course, so sometimes our kids' emotions are the exact triggers that fuel our big feelings, too. However, if we can remain the calm in the emotional storm for our kids, their development will benefit. Through modeling emotional regulation, over time our kids will learn how to self-regulate as well.

One study, in fact, showed that toddlers whose parents exhibited anger or over-reacted to tantrums were likely to have more tantrums and negative emotionality by the end of the study. However, the opposite dynamic can happen, too. Parents who model firm, but calm emotional regulation help their kids learn these skills as well.

3. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions.

Many times, we feel that one of our main jobs as a parent is to protect our children from the big, often overwhelming emotions of adults. For instance, we try not to break down crying or become red-faced with anger in front of our kids. It just feels too big for them to handle and perhaps not developmentally appropriate.

As they mature, however, older kids are able to handle a bit more discussion and expression of honest emotions. Have you noticed that kids usually pick up on the fact that you are upset even if you try to hide it? Kids are naturally curious and, many times, very sensitive to the emotional tenor at home. If they are developmentally ready, this can be a good time to have more discussions about emotions and how to handle them.

For example, my 9-year-old is playing a lot of baseball this summer and always wants me to pitch to him so he can practice batting. Now, I am not a very skilled player so my pitches often go off course or are too weak. He had gotten in the habit of correcting my pitching or (more likely) complaining about it every time we played.

After repeated experiences with this, I was not only annoyed but it also sort of hurt my feelings—so I finally told him how I felt. Guess what? His behavior at practice time changed dramatically! The mere fact of him realizing that his mom has feelings too really made him think about his words more carefully.

These types of interaction can become part of your "emotion coaching." It may sound silly but it can make a big impact for kids, especially as they grow older and are more able to really understand the emotional lesson. On some level, it's nice that our kids think we are superheroes, but it's also crucial that they understand that we are still human, with real feelings.

The magic of helping our kids develop empathy doesn't happen in well-planned lessons or elaborate activities. The real magic happens in the small, simple interactions and discussions we have with our kids each day.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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Sometimes it can feel like you never get a minute to even finish a thought—let alone a to-do list. When your day is packed with caretaking, your own needs get pushed back. So when you finally get to lie down at the end of the day, all those thoughts are waiting for you. While we haven't figured out the secret to keeping you from over-analyzing every.single.thing. (sorry, mama!), we do believe you must carve out time for you. Because that rest is just as important—and you've certainly earned it.



PS: We spoke to Jessica Alba and she gave us the lowdown on why she stopped breastfeeding, and Nordstrom is having their anniversary sale until August 5th. Here's everything we want!

My Instagram feed has been full of pictures of friends that their kids to the beach. I get it, I like the beach a lot. But the forest and the mountains are my real loves.

The way the damp leaves smell in the morning. The peace of walking underneath a canopy of trees. The sound of firewood crackling at night. Sigh, heaven.

I also grew up camping with my family and have done some intense hiking, backpacking and search and rescue. So it's kind of in my blood—I wear my frostbite scars with honor.

So I couldn't wait to get my future kids out into nature (minus the frostbite). I had visions of us hiking to a stream, swimming and splashing all day, then cooking a big meal over a campfire as we sing songs and laugh.

Then, I actually became a parent. Of three kids, actually, all of whom are still very young… and a dog… and a husband who doesn't really like camping.

Despite the realization that it wouldn't be exactly as I planned, this summer we finally decided to take our first camping trip as a family.

Here is what I learned:

1. Set the bar low

I had to remind myself over and over again that this trip would not live up to my expectations. I know this sounds like a bummer way to start a trip, but it really helped. I have the tendency to over-plan and get really (really) excited about things. This is not a bad quality, but it can lend itself to disappointment when things don't go as hoped. I didn't want us to leave the trip feeling like it was a failure in any way.

This trip was a success, and a big moment for our family, no matter how it turned out.

Instead of forcing activities or memories, I forced myself to just… be. Not expecting the trip to be magical opened us up to appreciate the unexpected moments of magic as they occurred naturally, without being forced.

This got harder, of course, when our car got stuck in the mud (true story), and we had to wait three hours for AAA to arrive. But when our kids talk about the camping trip now they still squeal with delight as they recount the story of the tow truck coming. You're welcome (I guess)?

2. We made it really easy

I put my camping ego aside, and we took a lot of shortcuts on this first trip. We didn't stay in a tent but rented a barebones cabin instead. For dinner, we ordered a pizza. And we let the kids play on our phones for a little bit in the evening.

Those things didn't make for a truly authentic experience, but goodness, they really helped. I have started to realize that there is no shame in making things easy, especially when you have little kids. And they didn't know any different. As far as they are concerned, we hiked the Appalachian Trail and gathered all our own food from the earth.

This was a lazy camping trip, for sure—and that was exactly what we needed.

3. I over-prepped for safety so I could calm down

I have hiked and camped in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in February—this was not that. At any given moment on our trip, an ambulance could have easily reached us, and we were only a few minutes away from a hospital at any point. But it made me feel much better to know that we were safe and ready for anything that should happen.

We bought a first aid kit, a survival kit, too many flashlights and bottled water. I was really big on everyone wearing good footwear and teaching them how to walk carefully on uneven terrain.

We also used the opportunity to teach about other areas, like water safety. Rita Goldberg of the British Swim School recommends "[teaching kids] to avoid water hazards and to not approach a fountain, river, pool or lake without an adult's supervision and permission."

We also incorporated their "Water Watcher" program, which assigns a "badge of responsibility" to one adult at all times, who maintains a constant watch over the kids while they are near water.

These easy steps, that we decided on ahead of time, made me feel much more relaxed, and therefore better able to enjoy our time.

This trip took some emotional adjustments on my part. It wasn't glamorous, or particularly exciting. But that was exactly what it needed to be. Emily Glover wrote that "by getting away from the distractions of home and focusing on each other...we're reminded of what really matters."

We found that in the woods—together.

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