Let’s start with a disclaimer: I am not a General Contractor. I have a bunch of experience with small home repairs; painting, toilets, taps, fixtures, etc., but I do all of it with a fear of electrocution, soakers and irreparable damage to the house. I used to be afraid to admit that. As a Canadian male there’s an arcane expectation that I can change oil, re-calibrate my brakes, and build a house if it needs to be done in support of my family. I can’t. At some point after the ’60’s the passing on of these skills faded to the background. My Dad can do all of them yet, with a few notable exceptions, I didn’t get the gene.
So, when it was time to set up the baby room, challenges abounded. I wasn’t able to fix drywall except for patching holes. I couldn’t redo the closet, except for painting the new shelves. I wasn’t manning up in the same way that some of you can, but I still did more than some of you plan to. You should change that plan!
Colours, Cribs & Cushions…
There are pieces I wasn’t suited for. Picking colours and accouterments that coordinate never was my jam. I can look at the selections and make final calls, but to trust me with the tones which will surround our little angel for years to come would be a terrible lapse in judgement. That said, you have to be involved. It’s important to Mom that she doesn’t feel like she’s doing it all herself, nor that she has to turn outside the home and make her family help. It’s your kid and it’s your home and it’s your responsibility. So man up and pick out some drapes.
Don’t be afraid of baby registries. This wasn’t Mom’s first baby (though it was mine), but it was important to the families to have a shower for us. We didn’t have anything left in the house for a baby, and had to start at ground zero. We do okay with work, and felt badly letting people buy things for us. Saying that, we decided early and committed to registering for what we wanted. It was all stuff we were willing to buy for ourselves, and what we actually needed for the house and the room. The idea that gifts should be a surprise and that we shouldn’t be dictating others’ good will doesn’t apply when you’re planning a future. I had to swallow my pride and start to click and scan.
Pottery Barn Kids (join the mailing list and get an additional discount on top of your registry discount, but you have to register BUYERs too. Ask them… it’s weird) and Babies R’Us were the only places we went to. That said, and keeping in mind that we didn’t want people spending a bundle, we checked to see that Walmart and other stores had some of the items available for those that wanted options. We were clear that we wanted the particular items, but didn’t care where they came from. It worked. Side note, Walmart is becoming my favourite place for cheap food and small stuff. IT’s amazing the price differences.
Lead Paint Chips…
Don’t use lead paint. There. That’s all you need to know. Okay, so there was a little more to it. Soft colours, avoiding bold and Bright for young babies, and theming the room allowed us to keep the ball rolling on the decorating choices. There are an equal number of articles on each of the Soft vs Bold side of the argument, but I think the peace and tranquility piece wins out overall. We happen to have an amateur artist in our family. Nana showed up with an overhead projector (remember those from school?!) and her brushes, and projected a tree with spreading branches, Fairies, and stars in strategic places. It ended up looking beautiful as a result of choosing a slightly darker shade of the base wall colour. I still think it’s the highlight of the room.
The closet was a plain white which, with the lilac walls, really made the room soft and ‘pretty’. The little girl didn’t get inundated with girly pinks and sparkles, but she got a balance in the colour equality wheel. The closet did, though, get an overhaul. It’s an older ’20’s house, so the closets are small. Before she was born McKenna had a wardrobe that rivaled her moms. Solution? McK needed shelves and hanging rods. Papa cruised in with drills and saws and when he left she had double the space and lots of room for her little clothes to hang in two rows until she’s at least 10. Stroke of genius! Not mine. Mommy’s. Again, I’m getting better at being wrong.
Get a diaper genie. Don’t bother arguing with me, just do it. You’re not gonna use cloth diapers, at least not for long once you try it. You’ll have disposable diapers and they will stink. Get a diaper genie. Important note, in Toronto we are able to compost our disposable diapers! I know right?! We can’t at our chalet up north, they don’t play that. At home, though, being able to store and dispose easily into the big wheely compost bin easily is a god send.
Get a chair. A glider is, I think, Ideal. We don’t have one. We happened to have one of those Ikea PELLO chairs around the house, and we updated the cover to match the room. Brilliant AND it’s removable and washable. Baby puke and poop. Washable. Smart. Mom Smart. The chair and pillow in the room is a great place to calm down the baby and to read stories, right from the get go! Change table; not necessary. If you have a waist high dresser that doesn’t make you lean or reach, then just get one of the change pads with the sides that curve up and removable covers. It saved us space and it’s the baby’s favourite place in the house, no joke. I have a baby who is NEVER happier than when she is getting changed. IT’s hilarious.
Bookshelf / corner cabinet. Get one. You will want to put up pics, toys, momentos etc, and you need something with high shelves to retain them. The bottom shelves have some toys and all the books we play with. That way she gets used to going there for her stuff and doesn’t bother with the upper shelves.
Crib. 3 or 4 in one. The convertible high crib, low crib, toddler bed to big girl bed means I have everything I need for a decade. Go ahead, argue with that! They aren’t as expensive as you think, and there are options at all stores. They are beautiful too, so it’s not that plain white crappy prison cell you remember from your youth. They also don’t have that guillotine-like dropping front panel any more. As a species, we’re evolving. We had a bassinet that had great family history, as every baby in the last generation has used it. It was perfect for the first few weeks at our bedside, but I saw it in McK’s eyes… she was ready for her crib… and it was ready for her!
Monitor. This is getting its own post, but get something. For a new dad, the video one is entertaining and keeps my mind at ease. I can also talk to her through it, and watch the video on my phone at work. Oh yeah, that’s a thing! I can record from my phone and… well… I’ll tell you more later. Get one. Video.
Worth it in the end…
There are lots of pieces you can add to customize. We put her name up on the wall. I look like a craftsman. I’m not. We painted the letters that we bought at Michael’s (the craft store) to match the room. We found a cool footrest for mom that was a big knit ball. Matched. Boss. We got her feet casts done and shadow boxed by Wee Piggies, and they have locations all over the place. Never thought I would do it, but so glad we did. It’s really kinda cool to see. Just be creative, and make it work for the people in the home. Make it a focal point for a while, and it truly does help build the anticipation.
Having a space that is all for the baby is amazing. It helped our kids get excited about the pending arrival, gave Mom a sanctuary to go and get some tranquility when I drove her bonkers. Mom and I walked by the the room one day before Goobie was born, and both kids, the dog and cat were in there just lounging and hanging out. No idea why, to this day, but they do it often. I caught myself sitting in the baby room now and then and just thinking about what kind of Dad I wanted to be, what I still needed to do to get ready, and where I found myself most excited about her arrival.
Don’t short change the baby, the family, or yourself… make it a project of love!