When I wrote My Must-Have Baby Gadgets a little while ago, I talked about the ridiculous amount of unnecessary crap you can buy for babies. But that is not all. There is also a load of necessary crap that you have to get as well. If there’s one constant in this world, it’s that kids need stuff. Even if you’re aiming to be the most frugal parent on the planet, you can’t get by without shelling out for at least a couple of things.
Over the last six years, I have purchased plenty of said stuff. And I have come to the conclusion that frequently, the designers of the things I need didn’t really think it through. I mean yeah, the things look about right, but they don’t always function in a way that is completely desirable.
Clear as mud? Allow me to elaborate.
1. Free Flow Cups
These are the cups that you are recommended to give to your kids. In case you don’t know, they have no valve, so the kid doesn’t have to suck his or her face inside out to get a drink. Apparently, they’re good for oral development and teeth and blah, blah, blah.
I have a couple of these. Because they cost about a pound, and I am stingy. But I hate them with a vengeance normally saved for or number three on this list.
Because they don’t fucking work.
Well actually, that’s a touch inaccurate. If the definition of working is that water flows freely out of it, then it works.
With bells on.
And that is the problem. It took Squeak approximately three minutes to figure out that tipping the cup upside down and shaking it furiously creates an impressive lake in the middle of her highchair tray. This can have many enjoyable uses: splashing the entire table, destroying previously dry food, soaking clothes, and so much more!
The cup is always empty by the time she’s finished eating. If I was estimating how much of the water actually got into her stomach, I’d say about… one millilitre.
This delightful occurrence is not just reserved for the kitchen. Squeak has discovered that the havoc-wreaking properties increase ten-fold when she can walk around carrying the fabulous free flowing cup.
I know. After that display, why is this woman dumb enough to let her run off with the cup?
It’s just…I can’t……it’s because…
I just forget, ok?! And if I had to confiscate every single thing that the kids used for the purposes of destruction, I’d be sitting in an empty room right now. Sometimes, you’ve got to pick your battles.
And sometimes you forget there was a battle. Whatever.
Squeak’s favourite thing to do is to sit down, and shake the cup so the water spills all over her clothes. The optimal time to do this is five or so minutes before we have to leave the house. Obviously. I’ve heard it’s frowned upon to take a child outside in soaking wet clothes in the middle of winter. I can’t remember where I read it, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. When I realise, the race to change her begins. I dive into the clean washing pile to locate some clothes (Yes, dive. I told you, my washing pile is big!) Then, I peel off the dripping wet clothes, realise I’ve got the wrong kid’s tights, run to get the right ones, catch Squeak and lie her back down and throw on the clothes.
I’m that used to fucking up in this way that I can now change her in record timing.So at least there’s one upside.
The drenching is not just limited to her own clothing. She’ll pour water over toys, into boxes, over my books (grrr), even over her sisters’ faces if they’re thoughtless enough to prostrate themselves in her vicinity.
Thankfully, she’s avoided electricals. Thus far, anyway.
Luckily, I do have a solution to this problem. Listen up, manufacturers, there’s a genius about! Essentially what I want is a cup with a psychic valve. When the kid is drinking, the valve is open. When the kid is making an unholy goddamn mess, the valve is closed.
Is that really so much to ask?
Baby socks are the cutest fucking things in the whole wide world. They’re so tiny! And they actually stay white, because babies are too small to feed their socks to the cat. Or to sneak outside sans shoes and do the twist in a pile of dirt.
There’s just one problem.
It is physically impossible to keep them on a baby’s feet.
With each new baby, I have gone out and bought new socks. And it’s not because they’re cheap, or because I have a thing about buying new stuff.
It’s because all the socks are gone.
I don’t know where they go exactly. Some people blame the washing machine pixies for stealing odd socks. I suspect that mine are currently providing the local pavements with a nice warm blanket.
A kid doesn’t need to be able to grab their feet to take their socks off. Hell, they don’t even need to know they have feet. Squeak figured out quite quickly that all she needed to do was rub her feet on the nearest available surface, and voila! Socks were off.
There is a little solution to this problem: A product called Sock Ons. Otherwise known as elasticised foot bondage for babies. I didn’t bother to buy any for two reasons:
1. They look like elasticised foot bondage for babies.
2. I’m fairly confident that my kids could figure them out in about 7.6 seconds.
I went for a cheaper and more devious tactic: tights. It doesn’t matter how hard you tug and yank at a pair of tights, they’re not coming off.
Although Squeak has become skilled at pulling them just hard enough that she ends up with long, flippers. Which she then trips over repeatedly until I notice and pull them up.
Meh. everything’s got to have a downside.
3.Toys With No Off Button
Do I even need to write anything more than the title here? You know what I’m talking about.
When I am the ruler of the world (and trust me, I don’t think it’ll be long), toys with no off button will be illegal. Yes, illegal. Because they are one of the most infuriating things in existence.
Noisy toys in general really grind my gears. The plinky computerised music makes me shudder, as does the fact that the same five notes repeat endlessly. And the zombified voices. I mean, is a little enthusiasm too much to expect? You’re talking to children, for God’s sake!
Let’s just say that batteries don’t get replaced often in our house.
But I can accept all of that, if I can just turn the damn toy off every once in a while. Can yearning for blissful silence be so wrong? It’s beautiful to be able to flip a switch, say, “Oh dear, it’s run out of batteries,” and settle down for a peaceful afternoon.
Ha, no batteries required! Nice try, Mother.
Ok, so the last bit never happens, but the bit about turning the toys off is totally real.
A bit of peace isn’t the only reason why I like a switch on a toy. It’s because of the whole batteries thing. Even though it doesn’t happen quite as often as I claim, the fact is that batteries do run out. In my experience, this usually happens in the evening, when I am alone. It’s like the toys can sense that I am a complete chicken-shit.
I wouldn’t mind if they simply ceased to work. But of course, they don’t. No, what they do is begin to make eerie noises in sloooow moootion. I remember when Big Girl was a toddler, she had a little toy rocking horse which clopped and neighed when you pressed the ear. For a while it lived in her bedroom as she was too small to use it and it took up a fair bit of space.
One night, when we were all fast asleep, I was woken by what I could only imagine was a ghost horse galloping through the house, or a poltergeist. “Clip, clop, clip, clop, mooeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeergh…”
It was the rocking horse. “Mooeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeergh,” is what a robot horse sounds like in when its batteries are running out. Don’t believe me? Go find a robot horse then, and test it out.
After I had stopped shitting myself, I sent Mark to see what was making the noise. Because a ghost was still a reasonable possibility, at that time. He took the batteries out and that was that.
Oh wait, no it wasn’t. He totally laughed his arse off at me as well.
So, what do you do when the toy has no switch? I’ll tell you what you do. You weep silently as the monotonal ‘beep, beep, beep’ threatens to burst your ear drums and slice open your last shred of sanity.
Too dramatic? Well, that’s been said before.
4. Velcro Fastening Shoes
Who the fuck though it’d be a smart idea to put Velcro on a pair of first walking shoes? Whoever it was, I can guarantee they don’t have kids.
Back in ye olden days (ok, five years ago), I got Big Girl’s first pair of shoes. And they fastened with buckles. Which makes perfect sense! I could put them on her and leave the room to pack a bag/nip to the loo/scream into a pillow. You know, whatever. When I came back, they would still be on her feet. Despite her best efforts to remove them.
But this is not the way any more.
Squeak got her first shoes last month. I have put them on her regularly, but I would guess that the accumulative wearing time would be about 37 minutes. She was foiled by them at first. Velcro is tricky when you’re only one. They stayed on her feet for aaaaages.
Or, twenty minutes. That’s how long it took her to figure out that pulling the strap and wiggling her feet at speed would send the dreaded foot-imprisoners flying across the carpet.
Now, she’s a regular pro at it. And she doesn’t just take the shoes off and discard them. Oh no, that would be a step too close. She takes one shoe, and hides it. I really think it would be less irritating if she hid both shoes. When she only does one, I am provided with incontrovertible evidence that the thing I am looking for is inches away from me. Inches.
But this is the kid who managed to conceal the remote control for the tv in such an obscure place that it took us two weeks to find it. I’ve got no chance.
Seriously, shoe-makers, throw us a fricking bone here. Don’t you think we’ve got enough problems?
5. Anything With Buttons
There are so many beautiful baby clothes available to buy now. You can make your kid look like a model from a catalogue, if you’re so inclined. I am not so inclined, but I do like it when they look cute.
But beautiful as some of these clothes are, they are not always practical. And there is one reason for this.
I understand that buttons are sometimes necessary. You know, for cardigans and shit. But they definitely do not mix well with small babies.
Why, I hear you ask? Well, even if you don’t ask, I’m going to tell you. Because I’m the boss.
Babies can sense when there’s something about that they can turn from a simple task into a total impossibility. And most babies hate the hassle of getting dressed. If they’re small enough to be immobile, then they hate being messed around with. And if they’re a bit bigger, they just want to be on the move again. When something is already tricky, buttons can make it even more complicated.
The mere whiff of a button induces the ‘octopus phenomenon.’ You know, where their limbs flail so wildly that they actually appear to multiply?
Like, about this wild.
You get me.
Babies are, like, super good at octopusing. You manage to get all body parts where they are supposed to be, move in to do the fastening and wham! Naked baby.
When Squeak was about four months old, she had a gorgeous green onesie/body suit/who’s know’s what you’re supposed to call it. The colour really suited her, and it was very soft and comfortable. So, want to guess how many times she wore it?
Because, you see, it fastened at the crotch with eight oddly-shaped buttons.
As soon as I touched one of those buttons, she would screech and kick, kick, kick at my arms until I lost my grip. Over and over again. I basically had to pin her down just to finish the job.
No outfit is worth that sort of effort.
One could be forgiven for thinking that baby product companies want to make us suffer as we tread the rocky path of early parenthood.
Surely no one could be that mean. Right?
Have you got any baby products that you hate with a passion, yet use every day? If you’re as cruel to yourself as I am, then let me know in the comments!