Parenting and Why We Go Broke

They say it costs a lot of money to raise a child.  I know the reason why: you go broke before you even leave the hospital.

The hospital corridors are teeming with vendors hoping to cash in on the sentimental value of giving birth.  The offerings are numerous and mind-boggling, but one of the first things they get you with is the newborn portrait.  You know the kind — they grab your baby within hours of birth, comb the wispy hair down to the side, bribe the baby to stay still for 30 seconds, put their finger tips together like an old professor giving a boring lecture, and get him or her to look right at the camera and say, “mmmm.”

“Your baby is a one day-old only once.  Why not capture the moment…if you are a decent human being and a caring parent AT ALL,” the brochure states (well, with a little embellishment on my part).  How could I refuse, indeed?  I opened up my wallet and purchased my baby’s very first portrait.  I don’t recall the price, but I’m sure it was not cheap.  I did have the presence of mind, however, to resist the accompanying calendar, key chain, t-shirt, mug, birth announcement, water bottle, and posters plastered with that same photo.

While proudly showing my son’s very first portrait to my parents at the hospital, I took a glance at a newborn portrait in another mom’s arms as they were preparing to be discharged.  Well, that photo looked exactly like my own!  The kid also had wispy hair combed to the side, skin that looked at once pasty and ruddy, and eyes which were still puffy and therefore thin and slanted.  And the kid wasn’t even Asian!

Then there was another one down the hall which also looked just like mine.  And another one.

Oh, I see what’s going on.  They ARE all the same photo!

Newborns change in appearance rapidly during the first 24 to 48 hours of their lives, so by the time they take the photo and bring the baby back 15 minutes later, the picture no longer resembles the newborn in your arms anyway, so what’s the difference?  I think they took one photo of a generic kid back in 1985, and they have been reusing the same photo for decades in hospitals all around the world!  All newborns look shriveled, and you can’t tell if the kid is a boy or girl, Asian or African-American, Hispanic or Caucasian, blond or brunette, awake or asleep.  Lighten or darken the hair a bit, add a bow for a girl and a blue hat for a boy and there you go!

Case in point: put black hair on this blonde girl, and you would have my son Joshua.

I hate to admit it, but this was the first of many portraits that come in those large, white envelopes with the crimply clear plastic front which I ended up purchasing.  I tell myself each time that this will be the last time I’ll buy my child’s official portrait, but I just can’t stop myself: nursery, preschool, kindergarten, baseball, recital, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade…and so on. I always get suckered into that message that, as a good parent, you must not miss a single opportunity.  You will NEVER have a second chance.  You will do this if you are a decent parent, especially if you’re a Tiger Parent.

I will discuss in my next post some other items offered to me for purchase before leaving the hospital.  But before I go on, tell me about the various items you ended up paying for at the hospital or shortly thereafter for your own newborn.  Come on, you were suckered in too, weren’t you?  Feel free to comment here!