Every day it happens. I receive numerous paper catalogues in my mailbox and numerous electronic catalogues in my inbox. When Restoration Hardware recently sent out 17 pounds of paper catalogues to their customers (And I am a Restoration Hardware customer, owning both a sofa and dining room table from the amazingly expensive, perfectly-art directed aspirational lifestyle brand that I purchased on sale after scrimping and saving for eons, thankyouverymuch) I was livid. What a waste of paper! How amazingly ecologically wasteful!
And then I took the Baby and Kid's Sourcebook and almost wept at how adorable all the children's rooms looked.
(Image: Restoration Hardware)
And I feel this way constantly. There is a certain type of feeling you get when confronted with items that you want for your children, adorable, beautiful, precious, perfect items that you somehow think would make your life better, or their life better, or that tie into this whole sort of mystical ideal we have of childhood, especially when your own childhood didn't have these elements of whimsy or beauty.
I grew up poor.
And I don't mean poor in the sense that I didn't have enough to eat or gifts under the Christmas tree, but poor in the sense that my parents would have never considered buying me a $78 nightlight.
(Image: Simply Smitten)
Because, and any rational person gets this, a $78 nightlight is stupid. But I refuse to believe I'm the only parent out there who doesn't see items like this, the $35 cardboard houses:
The $48 Monster Blocks:
The adoringly designed Land Of Nod Playrooms and WANT these things. The things aren't just beautiful to look at, but signify something greater: creativity, organization, and fun.
(Image: land Of Nod)
If I had these things my kids would be happier. They would have better memories. They would magically keep their rooms cleaner. I would like looking at these things.
I think all of these things and then some when looking at what I can buy my children.
It's cool and beautiful and fun and it shows that I'm the sort of parent who likes nice things. This is basically all about me. Or you. Kids don't care.
And it's terribly stupid. We all know kids don't give one wit about $78 nightlights. Any Pinterest board can show you a kid would be just as happy with a three dollar Christmas clearance string of fairy lights on their ceiling. Any kid would be happy to sit with mom and dad and make their own cardboard doll houses from discard boxes and markers. We all get that you create memories with your kids by doing things with them, and not by buying them things.
But I still want these things. And $250 fairy tents.
I'm like most parents out there. I pick and choose what to splurge on, marry hand-me-down furniture pieces with cute little flourishes and scour Pinterest for ideas about how I can make my kid's spaces cooler and more functional. I swoon over expensive things and try and find similar items at big box stores. I bookmark things and watch for sales.
But I still feel bad. Because I want things for my kids that I didn't have, but I can't see blowing $28 on paper lion costumes when I have older kids and college to save for. So when I get these catalogues in the mail or an email directing me to a website that sells these things I can't help but look, because even though I know I will rarely buy anything I need to see. I also need to feel bad, and consider my own parenting, and fret about how if I were a good mom with more money my kids would have all these things and beautiful rooms to fall asleep in and if were a good mom who knew how to create things they would have a fairy garden thus ensuring my youngest daughter won't have a baby out of wedlock when she is 16.
It's a magical world that stores that cater to parents create. A magical world of beauty and design and gut-wrenching angst when you just know a $10,000 Pottery Barn playroom would fix everything, no more messy rooms, or tantrums, or sadness when other kids are mean to your kid, or boredom. Grades would improve, smiles all around, and when other moms dropped their kids off for playdates you would be that mom, fun and aspirational with lovely hair and the instinctual ability to ice sugar cookies that look like Frozen princesses. Your teeth would be whiter. Mealtimes would be filled with witty banter and result in cherished memories. Your husband would always find you fascinating.
And your children would go to sleep, drowsy after a bedtime story, their cherubic faces illuminated by a beautiful cottontail nightlight.
Or at least that is part of the dialogue that goes through my brain when I receive another glossy catalogue in the post. I just know my perfect life is out there. I just know it can be brought if I save up enough money and arrange all my kid's books by the color of the spines and place them neatly on shelves made of kiln-dried wood with a distressed pantina. Until then, I'm sitting on beige carpeting with stray Legos that need to be put in a three dollar plastic bin from Target. All by the glow of a dollar store nightlight.