There was a time when I thought they weren’t real. I saw them on a classic episode of the Simpsons and thought they were a clever joke. But, sadly, they do exist. And it’s hard to believe anyone would consider using one.
I’m talking about the “Baby Harness.” In the classic Simpsons episode that featured the return of Danny DeVito as Homer’s long-lost brother Herb, a baby-speech translator captures the feelings of a child who has been subjected to a harness: “This leash demeans us both.” (Watch the episode here)
And the kid is right. But the sad fact is that even parents like me, who refuse to succumb to the convenience of the baby harness, can’t help but regularly demean their children with items as necessary and commonplace as everyday clothing.
Not everyone knows how to dress a toddler.
Baby clothes seem to come in four categories: animal-based (which includes dinosaurs), space/car/farm-based, family-based (“My Mommy Rocks,” “Grandpa’s Favorite!,” etc.) or “funny,” which has a few categories of its own (i.e., the edgy: “Daddy drinks because I cry!” or the ostensibly clever: “iPood”).
Some of you fashion-plates out there may have noticed that I’ve left out a large category, and that would be what I like to call the “mini-adult” fashion line. These items include polo shirts, board shorts, khakis, preppy sweaters, etc. Basically any kid-sized versions of the clothes most of us wear. Some of these things work, some are way too much (spare me the designer clothes for a 10-month-old. I get that you have money. But your baby just had a blow out that went all up the back of his Brooks Brothers sweater! And look, he even somehow got some of his feces inside the UGGs you bought him! Yeah, you’re a real Rockefeller.), and most make the child look like his life is one long Easter mass.
There’s also the “mini-slacker” category, a sub-genre of mini-adult, which is basically just tiny t-shirts and jeans. Most parents seem to use this as an opportunity to showcase their terrible senses of humor (see the “funny” category above) or to impress strangers/indoctrinate their children with the things they like (sports teams, bands, Obama, etc.).
I admit, this is the category I find myself falling into more often than not. I’d rather my kid wear a Beatles t-shirt than one with a tractor on it. But mostly I’d rather my kid wear a t-shirt. I don’t really mind the animal based stuff, and I’m actually shocked he only has one Superman tee so far. Animals and superheroes are the way to go, as they are both age-appropriate and eternally cool (though their coolness must be measured on a case-by-case base with both groups: ducks? Captain America? Not that cool. Sorry nerds.)
Being that I am in possession of a male child, I can’t even fathom how much more difficult it is to dress a little girl. My primary concern is making sure his collar isn’t accidentally popped, because I’m not trying to raise no douchebag. Judging by all the little princesses and ballerinas walking around my neighborhood, it’s pretty clear there’s a different set of rules for the ladies. Or a different set of no-rules.(Let’s not even get into the disturbing trend of dressing babies in shirts that praise their attractiveness/sexual prowess, e.g. “The Incredible Hunk!” and etc. WEIRD.)
It’s hard to dress a baby, male or female. And I don’t just mean physically, though that is a struggle in itself. There’s a fine line between cute and ridiculous, an even finer one between stylish and overboard, and an even finer one between “comfortable and easy” and “whatever was lying around the house that didn’t have shit on it.” If you even HAVE anything lying around the house that doesn’t have shit on it.God knows I don’t.
But just because your kid’s clothes are filthy doesn’t mean that have to be ugly or cheesy or inappropriate for his age. I’m much more comfortable letting my kid wear a stained but cool t-shirt promoting the Dolphins (or even actual dolphins) than I am with him wearing a pristine but ridiculous pair of overalls or madras shorts.
Your kid is not in Vampire Weekend, don’t dress him like he is.