It’s Like Being 12 Again: Postpartum Motherhood v. Middle School

Hold on, honey. Youll be weeping in the bathroom soon enough.
Hold on, honey. Youll be weeping in the bathroom soon enough.

My hair frizzed in all directions. When I finally mustered the gumption to shave my legs, I left a tell-tale gash more conspicuous than stubble. My boobs kept growing; I couldn’t find a bra and couldn’t decide if I should bother to wear one. My peers spent their time snarking about boys, snarking about each other, and endlessly dissecting the sex they weren’t having. Everyone hated me. Everyone was judging me. I regularly hid in the bathroom.

This is seventh grade. This is also new motherhood. The baby books don’t tell that having a child is basically like starting middle school, only with a squalling human appendage and better musical tastes (Sorry, Tiffany. Band of Horses rocks).

Your body changes in new and disturbing ways. The internet tells me that during puberty, your hips and thighs grow rounder; your breasts grow – sometimes one more quickly than the other; and you begin to sweat more profusely. This also describes a post-baby body. The only difference:  I didn’t leak milk all over my Catholic school uniform.

Everyone’s talking about sex, and no one’s having any. In 7th grade, we were too scared to make out. Postpartum, my husband and I hesitate to wash our underwear in the same load.  But that didn’t stop my girlfriends and I from talking. How will it work? Will it fit? Will he be grossed out when he sees me naked? Do my girl parts look weird now? Is everyone else having sex but me?

You have to have a clique. You can’t lone-wolf it through junior high. Neither can you manage mommyhood alone: You have to pick a clan. You’ve got the jocks (the moms who miss McKynzy’s first steps for Pilates), the cheerleaders (lots of monograms and seersucker, bottle-not-breast), the hippies (replace an adolescent obsession over “animal rights” with a sanctimommy case of “lactivism”), the Jesus freaks (people who swear by scheduled feedings and To Train Up a Child), the geeks (baby TARDIS tees), and the party girls (look for Facebook statuses like “Mommy needs a drink!” and  “It’s wine o’clock!”).  Yep, they’re all horrible, broad stereotypes. And they’re your new best friends.

She hates everything.
She hates everything.

Hormones make you crazy. The only person with the crazy highs and abyssmal lows of a middle school girl? A postpartum mommy. One minute, everything’s perfect. The next, you’re sobbing in the bathroom because you remembered that Sarah McLachlan SPCA commerical (not saw. Remembered.). A guy’s innocent question can throw you into a sulk for days, only “Why aren’t you going to the dance?” has become “When are you due?” Eternal emnity, dude. Eternal.

There’s crazy girl drama. Explaining mommy drama makes an otherwise reasonable adult sound like a teenybopper, except now kids, not boys, are the center of competition. Brittany said Alyssa’s kid’s the spawn of Satan, because he bit Stephanie’s son on the playground, but Stephanie didn’t care and she hates Alyssa anyway, except that time Alyssa’s daughter fed her son red dye 40 and he didn’t sleep for three days. Brittany was pissed about that.  That chick you made a “sisters” necklace with (probably from Origami Owl)? You’ll hate her in a year.

You get hit up for bullshit fundraisers. In middle school, everyone hounded you to buy overpriced wrapping paper, or doughnuts, or poinsettas, because they just had to win that pizza party prize. Now every other mama’s hawking Mary Kay or 31 Gifts or DoTerra or those creepy in-home vibrator party things. You will be bombarded with the tiered marketing schemes stay-at-home-mamas embrace to make some cash on the side. Do not succumb. Even if you really, really want that Pampered Chef pizza stone.

You become an inveterate mall rat. 12 year olds stalk Claire’s Boutique and Hot Topic for whatever neon crap corporate America’s peddling this week (fedoras? Hello Kitty thongs? Feather earrings?). Postpartum mamas move a few stores down – to eye the new Gymboree line. Both groups cruise the mall to meet friends, ogle the unaffordable, snarf soft pretzels, and generally beat the boredom inherent in both middle school and new mommyhood (you can only watch the baby roll over so many times before insanity sets in). The groups pass each other when middle schoolers tramp into the Gap to try on size 0000 jeans, and the mommies hazily drift back to cruise the Baby Gap clearance rack.

All of you are wrong all the time.

A fervent conviction of your own rightness is matched only by your crippling sense of insecurity. No one’s more right than a tween who knows Justin Bieber is so much hotter than whoever is the anti-Justin Bieber, and no one’s more wrong than a fellow mommy who chooses disposables instead of cloth (or co-sleeping instead of cry-it-out, or bottle instead of breast). At the same time, both middle schoolers and mommies spend their days wracked with self doubt. Yes, a 12 year old’s thinking no boy will ever like her, and a new mama’s worrying only years of therapy will undo her crappy parenting. But it’s still crippling, existential, and miserable self-doubt she’ll laugh at in five years. Mostly.

Parents just don’t understand. In seventh grade, your mom was wrong about everything: your music, your friends, your hair, your curfew, and especially that black miniskirt you desperately wanted. She will never be as utterly and completely wrong again –  until you pop out a baby of your own. Then, suddenly, your loving mother morphs into that same overbearing, idiotic monster you fought in junior high. Every single thing she suggests is wrong, from baby names to baby food to sleeping arrangements to do not even attempt to talk about circumcision. 

And the worst part? Boys totally don’t get it (mostly). 12 year old boys are too busy thinking about boobs to worry over the latest girl drama. 32 year old daddies are too busy thinking about boobs to worry over the latest mommy drama (Okay, not true: Dads worry about much more important things, like paying for college and parenting and mommies and whether they’ll ever, ever have sex again. Men are equal partners in parenting. Seriously. But they still worry about boobs a lot). Expect that your man won’t keep your mommy friends straight. Your Gymboree purchases will confuse him. Your weeping fits will confound him. He’ll find you inexplicable and wonderful and terrifying.

And he’ll still want to bang you. Just like middle school.

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DidyTai: You Need One.

dttopIf you only want one baby carrier, buy a mei tai. Yes, woven wraps will always have my heart, because I’m a fabric geek, and I love textiles, and I had a blanky as a little kid and I think those things are somehow related. But mei tais are quicker. They’re less intimidating. They share easily between different-sized caregivers, and can still provide the tight carries and easy nursing you can get from a wrap.

But still. I love wovens. I’ve used mei tais; I like mei tais; but I’m a woven wrapper at heart. So this beautiful blue ginkgo Didytai Birdie’s Room sent me sat for a while. In fact, my babywearing BFF tried it first. She sent me pics of her husband using it. “THIS IS SO AWESOME!!!!!” she said (I’m paraphrasing here. She’s not into the all-caps thing). Uh-huh, I said. You just love blue gingkos, lady.

I waited a while longer, and then figured I might as well get it over with. So when Sunny needed to go up, I broke out the Didytai. Tied the waist, pinned the top straps, put him in, tightened – dare I say it! – spread cross passes, and tied.

OMG. I was wearing a wrap. Except not.

dtsleepyThis is not your mama’s old school mei tai. This is a wrapper’s mei tai. Okay, yes, it’s made by Didymos, so that should be obvious. But this gave me a tight, snuggled carry I expect from a woven. Unlike many mei tais, I didn’t have to bounce and fuss to get Sunny deep into the carrier. I think it’s the curved bottom: it gives babe a naturally deeper seat to settle into.

The bottom also adjust for smaller babies. Sunny, at 20 lbs and 10 months, needed a wee bit of cinching. It would adjust down easily for a newborn, or up for a big toddler (more on that later).

So hemp gingko went to Target. And, of course, Sunny needed to nurse, because he’s a boob monster. I got wrap snuggles – and when he needed to nurse, I just loosened the knot and lowered him. Mei tais are really one of the easiest carriers for a newbie to nurse in, and this Didytai wasn’t an exception. The wrap straps held Sunny more closely and securely (spread passes!) while he was down low as well.

But what really made me fall in love with this carrier: the angle of the top straps. I like to back carry; I don’t love ruck straps (though the DIdytai gave me enough length to tie tibetan). The way the top straps attach to the carrier means I can, instead, cross the straps on my chest, spread the passes, and still not choke myself. This move concentrates all the baby’s weight in the center of my chest. Giant kids feel lightweight.

And I know they do, because we tested, both with my 30 lb four-year-old and my BWing BFF’s 50-lb 5 year old.

dtpfauWe had to widen the carrier all the way, use the wrap straps to hold their legs in knee-to-knee crosspasses, and put the sleep hood up to help create a higher back. But it worked. Both kids felt lovely and said the carrier was comfortable (and no, they couldn’t fling themselves out backwards; they tried at our request). My son said, when prodded, that the straps dug in on his legs a bit; hemp gingkos is really thin. This really is a carrier that can work from a small newbie on up to a largish toddler (around 30 lbs comfortably). In a pinch, I’d use it for a larger kid, but I wouldn’t make it my primary preschool carrier.

Some mamas complained that there wasn’t a stiffer canvas inside to the body, which would give the carrier more shape. I loved it: it made the mei tai feel that much more like a wrap.

Basically: buy a Didytai. It wears like a wrap with the ease of a mei tai. [ <---- feel free to steal that quote, Didy. I don't mind. ] I occasionally got some muffin top, but the wrap straps spread to hide it, and it was more uncomfortable than anything.

The only issue with buying a Didytai? Its feel will depend on the wrap used to make it. So while I adored the construction, some versions will be hotter than others, or thicker than others, etc. Liscas will be squisher; jacquards will glide better. This was super cool for the summer, but it’s a limited edition and rather hard to find. Damn you, Didy! Another ISO to track down!

And this thing will only get squisher and softer. The carrier I didn’t want to use is now the one I hate to give away – good news for you!

Want to win this Didytai for your lending library? Like Birdie’s Room and Manic Pixie Dream Mama on Facebook, then follow the instructions. We’ll choose a winner September 30th. Good luck!





Poe Wovens Norwich Review

blaisewrapPoe Wovens is back with its much-lauded Eaton Hill Collection: handwovens from the eponymous Vermont textile mill, which specializes in the reproduction of colonial-era fabric and dyes.  The wraps, then, build on traditional patterns and colors popular during those eras. It’s history and buying local and resurrecting lost arts and supporting artists and resurrecting textile belts,  O beautiful for spacious skies and sweet land of liberty of the people by the people for the people. ‘Murica.

Yes, these wraps are handwovens, but they’re handwoven in a mill.  Individual weavers on individual looms weave the wraps in a group. Sort of a collective, like Cloth of Kin or what Uppy has become, except in a mill. Clear as mud, right? Go with it.

Poe sent me Norwich, their first handwoven effort. It’s a twill weave, on the hefty side at 330 g^m, and … handwoven. What I mean by that is it feels like lots of similar twill handwovens. Thicker, some bounce, some stretch, a bit moldable, though you need to wrestle it into place as it’s got a bit of grip.

pfauposeAs a thick wrap, it’s going to have some degree of cush. But I find Norwich not as forgiving as my other super-thick-magic-carpet wraps (hello, Barbara’s Weave and Wear). The knot’s smaller than a Barb, whose twill weave knots up to a monstrosity bigger than my ten month old’s skull, but that doesn’t matter much, since Norwich is a single-knotter. It didn’t make pressure points, but it didn’t feel like memory foam, either. If you’re into sloppy wrapping a screaming toddler, I’d look elsewhere.

The thickness means it wraps short (as does the lack of tapers), so order one size up. I could barely eke out a double hammock with my 4 year old, and I use a base 5 (this is a 6). He did give this his stamp of approval, though.

This would shine as a ruck wrap for a toddler, though I don’t love super thick wraps for those jobs. It’s soft enough for a squishy, but honestly, I liked it as a long wrap for midweight kids.

reduxBut the color. Yes, it’s subjective. Yes, this will appeal to other people. If I left this out, I wouldn’t be honest, and aesthetics are a huge part of wrapping.  So here goes: my husband and I spent half an hour sussing out exactly how colorblind he truly is by using Norwich’s pattern. I don’t like green and orange together; I don’t like the subtly different blues and greens together. The 18th century was a lot louder than I thought, y’all. I’d much prefer this wrap in the taper’s white or green wefts.

Since this is a tester, who knows how Norwich will end up. I recommend the other wefts, which will flatter pale people’s complexions more. I can see this wrap looking good on mamas and babes with darker hair or skin tones. But fellow vampires, steer clear.

I’m excited to see what else comes out of the Eaton Hill collection. I’m a sucker for fabric geekery, and a history nerd to boot, so I hope we get some extensive info along with the wraps – the dye process, the 200-year-old loom pics, the historical patterns. This is a departure for Poe. But it’ll help develop their brand as the America-as-Apple-Pie vision ex-Marine Nancy has in mind. Keep on weaving, y’all.

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Avoid a Swamp Scam in Ten Easy Steps

photo by jepoirrier,
photo by jepoirrier,

It’s called The Swamp for a reason.

Back in the halcyon days of The, before the advent of Facebook babywearing, there weren’t many scammers. This isn’t because of some hippie good vibes – there weren’t many babywearers around to scam. But now, the many swap groups on Facebook, the rise of pricey handwovens, and the scattered feedback systems have all combined for some balls-to-the-walls scamming drama. Every week, someone’s selling a carrier they don’t own, opening another fake profile, deleting negative feedback, and generally making admins go gray way before their time. (Show your admins some love, ladies. They have seen some shit. When they get together, they swap stories like ‘Nam vets.)

It’s a swampy, swampy jungle out there. Buyer seriously beware. Here’s how to make sure you’re not fodder for the next scam story.

  1. Check the f&*(ing feedback. No really, check it. Read it. Some groups don’t require feedback to sell; many sellers don’t ask for feedback links when buyers come PMing. Always ask for feedback. Always read the feedback. Not enough feedback to satisfy you? Ask for more in other places – other feedback groups, or, or even eBay. A girl’s gotta have something somewhere.

2. Ask questions. Length, width, size, negative vibes, pulls, stains, holes, hems, selvages, weaving flaws, demonic possession, and fiber content. Make sure you know what you’re getting; EUC means different things to different people.  Make it clear how the item is to be mailed – i.e., that it’s sent Priority, not sea mail. This has actually happened.

3. Screenshot. The seller shouldn’t delete the listing until the item arrives safely; however, it’s always important to have backup. Especially if you’re buying, take a screencap.

4. invoice it. Add a specific description of what the buyer’s getting. I like “used baby carrier.” If the buyer goes ballistic over the single pull on an indio, Paypal will laugh at her.

5. Pay as “goods or services”, never “sending money to family or friends.” Paying for something as “goods or services” gets you PayPal buyer protection. “Sending money to family and friends” gets you squat. It’s like sending cash via Western Union and hoping the person on the receiving end mails you a baby carrier. Unless you’re sending money to your grandma, it’s goods and services. Sorry, Mom.

6. Insure it. Insurance protects the seller,  not the buyer: if your package never arrives, you have (as of last week) 180 days to file a dispute with PayPal. PayPal almost always gets your money back ASAP. The seller then makes a claim via insurance. But be warned: you need to provide proof of purchase or cost. “But this super-limited-unicorn-and-sunshine-wrap sells for 2 Miiiiiiiillion dollars on the swap” won’t get you 2 million dollars. If you bought it for retail, you’ll get back retail. Don’t waste money insuring for more than you can prove you paid.

7. Only mail to the PayPal-specified address. No “oh but send it to my friend”,” or “I’ll be on vacation” or whatever. It’s a recipe for scamming. This is why my PayPal addresses include my mom, my in-laws, my first cousin, and my brother-in-law’s.

  1. Track it. All US priority shipping comes with tracking. Sellers, don’t lose that receipt. Buyers, ask for a tracking number ASAP. Then you’ll both know if the package gets lost in the mail.

  2. Document, document, document. If the package arrives damaged, take pics before opening.

  3. Any issues? Talk to an admin immediately. Don’t wait for two weeks, when it’s clear you got scammed and the scammer’s deletedd her profile. Make sure admins have a heads-up to anything shady.

Yeah, some of this is obsessive and annoying. More annoying? Losing two hundred bucks.

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Rebozo Wraps … And a Giveaway!

rebozob“Traditional carrier” is a problematic term in the babywearing world. We use it to refer, generally, to babywearing methods that predate Didymos and Snugli-type carriers in Europe and the Americas. Excepting the welsh shawl carry, most of these methods are practiced by non-European people of color, usually from the lower economic classes: caregivers who wear as a necessity, not as a researched parenting choice. The terminology becomes sticky; “traditional” can translate to “not white” and “not expensive”. The cultures who developed these carriers may see their widespread use as appropriation rather than admiration, especially when their authority is usurped by so-called babywearing experts from the developed world.

That said: I really, really, really love rebozos.

Babywearing in a rebozo is becoming a lost art in much of Mexico, where women see strollers as the more modern option: rebozos are for poor people. But rebozos will never go away. They’re a scarf, a blanket, a prayer shawl, a baby carrier, a device for pain relief in labor, a burial shroud, and pretty much anything else you can think of.  Some people claim even Our Lady of Guadalupe worn one when she appeared to Juan Diego in the 16th century. Basically: rebozos are multi-use, woven pieces of art. Possibly endorsed by the Virgin Mary.

Babywearers tend to call any short wrap a rebozo (it’s also been co-opted as a term for a backwrapping pass, as well as the traditional  slipknotted carry). True rebozos are handwoven in the home, and sold in local markets. Their designs vary regionally. Mexican women use them in a one-shouldered, slipknotted carry – babies on the front, and toddlers on the back, though the toddlers are often scooted around to nurse. Generally, like this:

There are lots of rebozo companies out there. However, most of their wares are mass-market, poorly-woven, and almost certainly the product of sweatshop labor (or at least wildly underpaid workers). So it’s great to have Rebozo Wraps, a company selling direct-from-the-source rebozos for fair wages.

Rebozo Wraps started when an American woman asked her mother, a missionary in Mexico, to find her some rebozos. The company snowballed from there, and continues to buy all its wraps from the same family in San Cristobal De Los Casas. They’re crafted in traditional  Tsetzal and Tzoltsil designs, and never purchased for bulk discounts – the owners insist on paying the asking price or more.

They retail for only $50. So of course I totally had to get my hands on one.

They sent me a gorgeous blue rebozo, 85% cotton and 15% synthetic, according to the weavers. The length surprised me: I expected a standard 2.7m (Didymos size 2); instead, it measured about 2m (76 inches). Very, very short. When I put up 20 lb Sunny, I had juuuuuust enough fabric to eek out a rebozo carry. The owners recommend using sling rings fora  no-sew ring sling.

Complaints? Well, it feels kind of acrylic, and it holds heat. The blend is super soft, and perfect for squishes (as is the length). I’d have loved to have this when Sunny was teeny, rather than now.

But even if it wasn’t perfect for beast baby, I used the heck out of it as a fashion accessory. It goes perfectly with my Minnetonka-hippie aesthetic; it can cover my shoulders in church; I can cuddle it in over-air-conditioned rooms. I’d love it as a scarf and emergency Sunny carrier (or regular carrier if he was smaller). It works like this:

Like a Didy indio, it pulls easily. I found that out the hard way.

Basically: fair trade practices, pretty, soft, and great for squishes. Plus it’s only fifty bucks. Buy one to use for your teeny, and then keep it as a scarf/blanket/Frieda Karlo-esque awesome accessory.

My wardrobe needed this wrap.

And so does yours, because unfortunately for me, this is a giveaway carrier. See Facebook for details, but you know you want this (and yes, I fixed the pull).

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Keppeke Bollekes: Another Budget Option from 5MR!

Sleepy Sunny

Famous for carrying budget handwoven Inda Jani, 5 Minute Recess has done it again: they’re the sole US distributor for Keppeke, a new Belgian brand just hitting stateside. This is typical of 5 Minute Recess, a company committed to making babywearing affordable for all types of caregivers. One more reason they’re extra awesome, along with the handwritten fluff-mail notes – owner Rachel signs the Tyvek packaging. I don’t even think she got the idea from Pinterest. She’s just that nice.

5 Minute Recess is committed to making babywearing sustainable, too. Inda Jani weavers are paid fair wages for their fabric, and Keppeke follows the same model: their wraps are woven, sewn, finished, and washed in Belgium. Keppeke has a serious commitment to supporting the local economy with sustainable manufacturing practices. And a size 6 retails for only $120. Bonus!

So budget-friendly, civic-minded, sustainable, and sold by 5 Minute Recess. These wraps are already winning, people.

I was sent a Keppeke Bollekes, which I assume translates to polka dots or something, in a size 4. The tapers look and wear about standard (i.e. around Didy size), and it comes in the standard European sizing we’ve all learned to mentally convert.  (I could make cracks about American mamas and metric systems and the only reason the former knows about the latter, but I’ll refrain from bitching about our pigheaded stupidity in maintaining the imperial British measuring system. Throw off the colonial shackles, America!).

Anyway, I wasn’t thrilled out of the box, for two reasons:

  1. I hate polka dots.
  2. It wasn’t particularly soft.

kwrongsideLet me explain the polka dots: these are big polka dots. At times, one will do a double hammock. Circle-shapes on your boobs run the risk of obscenity (either “Lookit these g-cups!” or “Hey, look, these dots are exactly where my nipples would be.”). Old school mamas call this “shell boob” in honor of the Didymos Nautilus that spawned the phenomenon. So I worried about shell boob.

But I was pleasantly surprised.

The regular pattern prevented the dreaded shell boob. It also created something awesome: that perfect bounce and stretch that comes with a large, repetitive pattern woven in whatever magic Bollekes shares with Poe Woven’s Harlequin weave. It has to be something about the large-scale diagonal pattern on a jacquard weave.

Because Bollekes has bounce. It has stretch. These two things combine to give you a great, tight carry that molds easily and sticks in place. It’s great for beginners and fun for experienced wrappers. It’s more grippy than slippery, so you have to work on the passes, but I really enjoyed it in a kangaroo carry. Seriously, this is my favorite kangaroo wrap ever.

Bollekes is medium-weight, and while it wasn’t my first choice in the blistering heat, I wore it for over an hour at the Farmer’s Market/Latin Festival when the heat index climbed into the 100s. I sweated. Sunny sweated. But he also fell asleep and neither of us died of heat stroke, so I name it a cautious success.

augustkI didn’t find it super cushy, shockingly. I assumed the bounce and stretch would translate to cush, but it didn’t; Bollekes is more solid than floofy. If I screwed up a wrap job, I knew it in the long term, though pressure points weren’t a terrible issue. Bra pressure points bugged me once, and I don’t know if that was an issue of overtightening, weird bra straps layered under a tank top, or a combination of the two. This only did happen once, however, so I’ll name it an anomaly.

My local babywearing group liked it. We all felt the off-side was a little beastly, though, and kept it for an extra two weeks to abuse it. It softened up for us, but the gray side never attained the super-softness of the white.

I liked Bollekes when Sunny fell asleep on my back for an hour, thus turning into a limp bowling ball of twenty pound baby. He felt decent. I adored it in a kangaroo with him, and put Baby Bear up a time or two. While he didn’t stay up for hours, he stayed up long enough to make sure Bollekes is a decent toddler choice in a single-layer carry.

It’s definitely thicker than a Colimacon et Cie, but I wouldn’t call it a thick wrap. Maybe on the thicker side of medium. Beginners may need to wrestle with Bollekes a bit, but as an experienced wrapper, I didn’t feel like I was taking this thing to the mat.

Overall, I liked Bollekes. I got over the dots, though I would have preferred gray over blue and worn it more, but the gray matches with everything. With some abuse, it’ll snuggle a newborn decently and last you up to the toddler years. It’s a great choice for bowling ball babies, what with the stretch and the bounce and the support.

So welcome to the US, Keppeke! As budget wraps go, this is a good one: I like it better than Inda jani’s binni weave for newborn to toddler, and while I adore Tekhni’s Arche and Aplos, they are meant to work in tandem (Arche for babies, Aplos for older kids). So if you’re looking for one wrap to do it all, like C&C, Keppeke is a great choice. The craftmanship is impeccable, and I’m happy to patronize a company that cares about its workers and its manufacturing process. Hoping this sticks around and more mamas find the Keppeke love: I can’t wait to see what else the company has in store.

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10 Ways for Parents to Fight Racism

swingsI grew up in the 80s, near a Philadelphia still cratered from the MOVE bombings. Reading Comprehension meant “Famous Black Americans,” Mary McLeod Bethune and George Washington Carver. There were Black History Month Celebrations and Harriet Tubman lectures. Coretta Scott King herself appeared at an assembly.

66% of my class was white. We received these earnest efforts with a mixture of boredom and resentment.

Then my fourth-grade teacher explained Jim Crow. Under a banner ordering us to “Accentuate the Positive”, Miss Crutchfield told us of a childhood of segregated train stations and bathrooms. And I thought: when you and my mother were girls, you could not drink from the same water fountain. You were separate-but-equal. I cared about Miss Crutchfield, and I cared about the injustice she’d suffered.

February recitations of “I Have a Dream” can’t obliterate three hundred years of oppression. But how do we teach kids to care about racism? In the wake of Ferguson, more parents want to start talking. We know we want our children to have a personal stake in fighting injustice.  But that’s about as far as we get.

There are a few things we can do to help kids of all colors understand racism in America. Some tokenism? Probably. But we’re battling ingrained cultural assumptions, and we have to start somewhere.

1. Talk about race.
People of color talk and think about race all the time. White parents can choose to ignore it – one more benefit of white privilege. Stop ignoring and start talking. We don’t sit our kids down at sixteen and explain the birds and the bees. We use proper terms for body parts, answer questions, and discuss sexuality in age-appropriate ways. Do the same about race. Use appropriate names: Black, African-American, Native American, Latino/a, immigrants (rather than illegals). Open the door and let your kids’ questions take the lead.

2. Integrate the toy chest.
You want your child to see people of color as valued, important parts of their world? Make their toys reflect it. Yes, it’s an old liberal cliche for the hippie kid to drag around black Barbie. But kids need to see possibilities beyond whiteness. Children learn through play. And if we want them to learn diversity, they need to play it.

lloa3. Integrate the book shelf.
Find books that show characters of color – especially when their color isn’t a significant plot point. Corduroy and Lola at the Library both have black main characters; Mama, Do You Love Me? features an Inuit mother and child. Read Chinese fairy tales and African folklore. Yes, there’s a place for hero-biographies of Harriet Tubman and Barack Obama. But save room for Iktomi and the Buzzard. Our world is larger than white-washing would let us believe. Give your kids all the possibilities, not a narrow sliver.

4. Talk about absences. 
The town of Chewandswallow isn’t exactly swarming with minorities. Hogwarts is run by white people, and let’s not touch racism and Tolkien. Where are the South Asian superheroes? The black people in Dr. Seuss? Make sure your kids know the world they see has missing pieces, missing people, and missing stories.

5. Talk about racism they can see.
I hadn’t watched Peter Pan in decades when “What Makes the Red Man Red?” jolted me out of Disney nostalgia. We had a long talk about Native Americans that day. Kids understand that more black kids get called to the principal’s office; that more black kids populate the lowest reading group. Call racism and racial discrimination by name. My four-year-old doesn’t need to know that the police shot Michael Brown in cold blood. But he can understand that people might not like his friend’s dreadlocks.

6. Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate.

Nothing makes you love a culture like its parties, and nothing brings people together like food. Go to Greek festivals, heritage celebrations, and Juneteenth block parties. Eat and drink and dance. Yes, these show only the positive parts of a culture. But you have to start somewhere, and somewhere can look a whole lot like empanadas.

7. Diversify your friendships
This is uncomfortable. It can smack of tokenism of the worst sort. And it can be a hard question to face. But how diverse is your group of friends? Do you regularly interact with people of different races? Do your children? If not, how can you change that? It can be as simple as going to a different playground. You cannot expect your children to value people of color as authentic community members if they aren’t actually part of your community.

8. Watch yourself. 
Parenting well takes self-evaluation: it’s gutting to hear your own worst self speak in your child’s voice. Examine your own prejudices. Be careful about how you speak about people of color – do you see African-American boys as rowdier and more aggressive, for example? Does your language reflect that?

9. Let your kids hear you. 
Angry at the events in Ferguson? Conflicted about the Washington Redskins? Don’t hide it. Let your kids hear your speak about racism and white privilege. Find it in the little things, in the way a clerk rolls his eyes at a black kid or Grandpa complains about “illegals.” Talk, and keep talking.

10. And don’t stop. 
Talking about race can be uncomfortable. It’s frightening. It’s fraught with grief and sadness and rage: the legacy of race in America. Feeling these things means you’re getting somewhere. Push through. Keep going. Make discussing race a part of your everyday life. See it. Say it. Listen to stories and tell them. Because it’s only when we start to speak, when we join our voices to the chorus of others, that racism will finally disappear.

How do you help your kids confront racism? How do you work to help them recognize people of color as important parts of their own world?

Want to read more about social justice, attachment parenting, and raising socially conscious kids? Check out Manic Pixie Dream Mama on Facebook!

Lovin’ the Ladies: Didymos Blue Nino

For all of you who are here for social justice and race stuff, thanks for coming! I do both social activism and attachment parenting, which is sort of social activism in itself. If you’re interested in the intersections between race and babywearing, you can check out my post on the subject, and the Facebook group Babywearers of Color. On with the regularly scheduled wrap reviews!

Note: If you’re here for social justice stuff, this review will be utterly unintelligible, and you’ll probably think babywearers are insane.

meblueBirdie’s Room knows I love the ladies. Owner Barb said I was getting a standard-line (i.e. not a limited edition) Didymos to review, but I didn’t know which one. I frankly expected one of the striped ones. But instead, Barb and her lovely assistants sent me a blue nino. I’ve been seriously lusting after a friend’s rose nino lately, and ruing the day I sold my heaven and earth nino since the day I mailed it, so I was super excited to have more ladies in my life.

See? Not dementors.

Let’s go back to old school, mamas: Birdie’s Room was once the sole place to buy Didymos in North America. Didy’s signature  “nino” isn’t “neen-yo”, or Spanish for baby. Remember, Didy’s German, people, and Germany and Spain are indeed different countries. Instead, nino  (nee-no) is actually an acronym standing for “Nine In, Nine Out”: a reference to how long a baby spends in utero, and how he needs close cuddles after. Ninos have been accused of looking like dementors, sperm, skeletons, and a host of other things. But the nino symbol is a lady and her child. Just in case you can’t see it, I included my bad photoshop rendering.  See? SEE?!

Ninos are straight-up classic old-school Didy. Back in the day, mamas collected whole stashes of them. Some went for up to a thousand dollars – pflaume, limone, chocolate, and others. Now the secondary nino market has regulated (ie returned to a little less than retail), and Didy releases designs as both standard line and limited edition. Collectors hoard them.

Most cotton ninos wrap similarly. Some are thicker (heaven and earth in particular), and some thinner, but they all have some basic characteristics in common. They’ve got more slip than grip. They have a touch of bounce, with a mostly solid feel on the shoulders. They break in soft as your favorite t-shirt. They wrap easily, and they teach you how to wrap well.

pfau pose!
pfau pose!

Here’s what I mean. Ninos are typical of the type of wraps Didy released in the past. Remember, we used to consider 260 g^m unwrappably thick. Ninos are what we considered medium-weight, like blue nino’s 190 g^m. They wrapped solidly, and they wrapped well. But because they aren’t the super-thick beast wraps of today (I own some, y’all, so don’t go hating), you have to wrap a nino carefully. Sloppy wrap job? You’ll know it after a half hour at the farmer’s market. So ninos teach you how to take your time to get a good carry.

And this is an easy-to-wrap carrier. The passes glide smoothly into place; no one wrestles ninos. Ladies are more refined than that. If you place your passes well, you can take them anywhere. And they love hot weather.

babgyblueI used blue nino primarily with Sunny (9 months, 20 lbs). He stayed up there for more than two hours at a time on occasion. As long as I wrapped carefully, over the long haul, the wrap felt great. Not a bunch of cush on the shoulders, but no digging. If I screwed up and over-tightened, or let one rail sag, my shoulders knew it quick. In a multilayer carry, I’d rock these ladies with a babe up to about 30 lbs. pretty happily. Especially when it’ s hot out – this is a wrap that excels in hot weather. It keeps you about as cool as a 4.6 meter piece of fabric can.

Blue nino’s the one you buy when you have an itty-bitty and you’re just figuring out babywearing. You learn to wrap as baby gets bigger. When it comes time to back carry, the passes slide easily into place. It’s a fantastic practice wrap to use when learning new carries. Plus, it’ll break in to feel like the old tshirt you stole from your high school boyfriend. You seriously will want to cuddle this wrap forever.

When I brought the ladies to the local babywearing meeting, everyone got misty-eyed and petted them. True story.

And it’s a Didy jacquard. That means no pulls, no fuss: this is the wrap you use as a picnic blanket, window shade, pillow, handkerchief – you know you’ve got that beater you’ll wipe noses with! – and then toss in the washer. My kids love ninos as hammocks. I’ve used them as actual-for-sleep blankets in a pinch. They’re that cuddly, and that washable. It’s hard to get such cuddles and class at the same time.

Basically: if you learned to wrap a few years ago, you learned on something like these ladies. And they’re awesome. Perfect for a newborn, good for a bowling-ball babe, and even workable for your beast toddler. You can’t get softer than a nino. Wrapping with this one makes me want to hoard them all.

Plus they’re on mega-sale right now. Like, super mega sale. So you ought to probably go get some before they sell out.

Want to read more about babywearing, wrapping, and attachment parenting? Like Manic Pixie Dream Mama on Facebook! 

After the review, Birdie’s Room generously donated blue nino to a chapter of Babywearing International. So cool! Want to win a Didy for your local lending library? Stay tuned for a special lending library giveaway!

A Mother’s White Privilege

What if my son was black? How would you see this picture?
What if my son was black? How would you see this picture?

As the ongoing events in Ferguson, Missouri show us, America’s racial tensions didn’t disappear when George Wallace backed down from the schoolhouse door. Dr. King didn’t wave a magic wand, and we never got together to feel all right. White America remembers this at ugly flashpoints: the Rodney King beatings, the OJ Simpson trial, the Jena Six, Trayvon Martin’s death. White America recoils in horror not at the crimes – though the crimes are certainly horrible. It’s not the teenagers gunned down, the police abuse, the corrupt trials. It’s this: at these sudden, raw moments, in these riots and demonstrations and travesties of justice, White America is forced to gaze upon the emotional roil of oppression, the anger and fear and deep grief endemic to the Black American experience. Black America holds up a mirror for us.

And white America is terrified to look.

To admit white privilege is to admit a stake, however small, in ongoing injustice. It’s to see a world different than your previous perception. Acknowledging that your own group enjoys social and economic benefits of systemic racism is frightening and uncomfortable. It leads to hard questions of conscience may of us aren’t prepared to face. There is substantial anger: at oneself, at the systems of oppression, and mostly at the bearer of bad news, a convenient target of displacement. But think on this.

threatI have three sons, two years between each. They are various shades of blond, various shades of pinkish-white, and will probably end up dressing in polo shirts and button downs most of the time. Their eyes are blue and green. Basically, I’m raising the physical embodiment of The Man, times three. The White is strong in these ones.

Clerks do not follow my sons around the store, presuming they might steal something.

Their normal kid stuff – tantrums, running, shouting – these are chalked up to being children, not to being non-white.

People do not assume that, with three children, I am scheming to cheat the welfare system.

When I wrap them on my back, no one thinks I’m going native, or that I must be from somewhere else.

When my sons are teenagers, I will not worry about them leaving the house. I will worry – that they’ll crash the car, or impregnate  a girl, or engage in the same stupidness endemic to teenagers everywhere.

I will not worry that the police will shoot them.

If their car breaks down, I will not worry that people they ask for help will call the police, who will shoot them.

I will not worry that people will mistake a toy pistol for a real one and gun them down in the local Wal-Mart.

In fact, if my sons so desire, they will be able to carry firearms openly. Perhaps in Chipotle or Target.

They will walk together, all three, through our suburban neighborhood. People will think, Look at those kids out for a walk. They will not think, Look at those punks casing the joint.

People will assume they are intelligent. No one will say they are “well-spoken” when they break out SAT words. Women will not cross the street when they see them. Nor will they clutch their purses tighter.

My sons will never be mistaken for stealing their own cars, or entering their own houses.

No one will stop and frisk my boys because they look suspicious.

My boys can grow their hair long, and no one will assume it’s a political statement.

My boys will carry a burden of privilege with them always. They will be golden boys, inoculated by a lack of melanin and all its social trapping against the problems faced by Black America.

soldierFor a mother, white privilege means your heart doesn’t hit your throat when your kids walk out the door. It means you don’t worry that the cops will shoot your sons.

It carries another burden instead. White privilege means that if you don’t school your sons about it, if you don’t insist on its reality and call out oppression, your sons may become something terrifying.

Your sons may become the shooters.

Like Manic Pixie Dream Mama on Facebook to read more about social justice issues, race, and attachment parenting.

Negotiating the Swamp, Part Deux: Selling a Wrap

insioIt’s finally happened. You have to offload a baby carrier. This happens for a few reasons:

  1. You need more money.
  2. You need another carrier.
  3. You need more money to buy another carrier.

It’s okay. Churning happens to the best of us. So do things like, you know, the need to pay your mortgage or electric bill or shamanistic Buddhist doula. But the swamp is a scary, scary place. What if you miss a pulled thread and then the postman smokes all over the wrap and it gets there pulled and smokey and the buyer poops all over your feedback?

It’s not that bad. I promise. Take a few more shots than you would if you were buying, some more if you really love the carrier, and start listing.

Because selling is a little more involved than buying, I’ve broken selling into several posts. First: the preliminaries.

Check your carrier.

Do not skip this step, or you’ll end up refunding a buyer because your husband used a wrap without telling you, and he let the toddler eat a Red Dye 40 Special Popsicle in a back carry. (Sorry, lady who wanted that BBSB of mine.)

  1. Check for stains, spots, suck marks, or discoloration. If you find any, wash according to instructions and check again. Tide-stick or oxyclean if you must, but if you do, don’t label it fragrance-free. If you can’t get it out, take lots of pics and remember to disclose. Small marks or spots, especially if not visible on the carrier, don’t matter so much. Large stains or suck marks will seriously affect your resale value.
  2. Make sure there are no pulled or broken threads, fraying, loose seams, etc. Check everywhere. You can list with these flaws, just make sure you disclose. I usually say they’re there and that I’ll fix before mailing (in the case of wraps).
  3. Measure it with a soft tape in hand (STIH). Make sure it’s the length or size you think it is.
  4. Check for thread shifting, wrinkled hems, loose tags, fraying seams, weaving flaws, slubs, nubs, and curses. Disclose them in minute detail, especially if listing on the Swamp.
  5. Wash it, dry it, and iron it. It’s only polite. De-fur if you have pets.
Do your damn research.

Figure out the market value for your carrier. No, it’s probably not what you paid. You sweated on it, and so did your baby. Assume you’re losing about 10-20% in value, plus shipping.

Yes, you’re eating the shipping. If everyone added shipping to a wrap every time they sold it, there’d be tussah silk ninos out there going for a thousand bucks. So suck it up. Ten bucks shipping is the price you pay to play.

There’s several places to research carrier prices. Start on forums. Search the FSOT threads and see if the same carrier has sold lately. Check the ISO (in search of) forum – you might not have to list at all! It’s against policy on TBW to ask about pricing, by the way. Save that for …

Facebook. That means combing through various swaps. Too lazy? Me too. Just ask your local babywearing group, a brand-specific group, or a general forum like Babywearing Love and Support. Someone will tell you about what the ballpark price should be. Make sure you include any flaws into your equation.

Drop at least five bucks off that, because you don’t want your carrier to sit and sit and sit and sit. Otherwise you have to keep bumping the thread, and it’s a pain in the ass. Seriously. The people who list for purchase price + shipping are the ones bitching that the swap’s slow.

Include shipping and paypal fees in the listed price, unless you’re from Europe. Usually mamas offer to cover the first $10 in international shipping. Usually it’s written as “ppd” – “postage paid”.

Yes, you need good pictures

You need really, really good pictures. These pictures will theoretically only a) catch the eye, and b) prove you own the wrap. However, assume the buyer is a Chinese national unable to access Google for fear of the secret police.

  1. Use a good photo in natural light that shows the wrap more than the baby. Try a pfau pose, or something from behind.
  2. Find a flat pic that shows both sides of the carrier in good lighting.
  3. Do not use bathroom selfies, florescent lighting, flash, or stash shots (unless you’re having a stash sale – and even then you need individual pics).
  4. Include pics of all relevant issues, flaws, or invisible demons. Because you’re going to get asked for them, so take pics now, while you’re good and drunk.
  5. If there’s something special about the carrier – it’s a black tag Didy, or it’s fringed, or an older Ergo, or whatever – take pics of that too. You can never have too many pics on hand.
Make Your Listing

Make it short and sweet. Maker, weave/design/style, material, length/size. Describe the carrier’s condition, typically:

  • BNIB (brand new in box): you didn’t wear or wash. Probably didn’t unfold.
  • BNIB, used once or twice, or washed and not worn. If you touched the wrap, qualify it.
  • EUC (excellent used condition): you used it, but there are no stains, shifting, broken threads, or other issues. An indio or a pull-prone wrap may have a picked thread or two. This is normal.
  • GUC (good used condition): anything less than listed above to super abused but usable.
  • Not for use as a carrier, scrap only, etc.: use under penalty of death or dismemberment.

Add your qualifiers. Buyers want to know about smoking, pets, fragrance and detergent. Don’t forget this, because otherwise people will presume you smoke, and that’s the kiss of death to any sale.

Link to any relevant reviews online, and include a sentence or two about the carrier’s qualities (cushy, thin, thick, etc.). Don’t get wordy. It should read something like this:

FSOT: Didymos Mineral indio, size 5 (4.3m STiH). GUC.  Pretty wrap, thick, toddler-worthy and cushy. $130 ppd in the US, first $10 of int’l shipping. Non-smoking, German Shepherd friendly home.

Oh, Feedback.

You need this. Otherwise people think you’re Jeffrey Dahmer. So get some.

The gold standard for BWing feedback is, and always will be, feedback from the iTrader system on TBW. If your number’s above 50 on there, you’ve been around the block. No, I won’t reveal mine. But it’s firmly in wrap slut status.*

If you don’t have that – and even if you do – you need to get some FayBo feedback. There’s The Babywearing Swap Feedback; Babywearing on a Budget Feedback; and High End Babywearing Feedback. You might only need the relevant one. Or you might need them all because you’re listing in multiple places. Either way, you gotta have something.

  1. Join the designated feedback group.
  2. Make an album with your name on it. Use a picture. You’ll agonize over this for too long, but don’t worry – no one cares about it but you. Link to anything relevant that shows you’re an actual real human (eBay, TBW, some cloth diaper swap, whatevs).
  3. The link to this album is your “feedback” or “feedback link.” You have to post it when you list, either in the original listing or in the first comment. No actual feedback, just a link? List it anyway. Otherwise you’ll be deleted sans merci.
  4. Do this right. Read the rules for how to add feedback on each page, then read them again slowly. Do not f&*( this up. Admins have too much to do to hold your damn hand – someone is selling the same handwoven six times, and someone else is posting pics of a wrap they don’t own in the first place. Go with God, Swap Admins.
  5. Screenshot your feedback every single time you get new feedback. Then when it gets Zucked up and erased again, you won’t be back to default newbie.
Where to List?

Locally. It’s easiest. You save shipping. You likely know the person you’re selling it to. I will always knock 15-25 bucks off a listed price for a local mama. Truth.

My next choice is The forums. They have the best FSOT boards, the best feedback, and the best community on the internet. Sweet admins will help you out. Your listing won’t get immediately buried under an avalanche of others; you can add unlimited pics. And seriously? Carriers sell best on TBW.

You can also list on brand-specific or price-specific pages. Buyers there tend to know what they want. You’re targeting your audience, and that’s always helpful. Some brands will sell quickly on their pages – the Didymos page moves fast – and others will sit. Carriers in the budget range sell more quickly on the Budget Swap than the regular Swap; High End carriers can go either way. Put extra pics in the comments to the original post.

Finally, there’s the site of last resort: the Swa(m)p. It’s not the admins. It’s not the format. It’s the sheer freaking size. The percentage of crazy on the Swamp is probably the same as the percentage of crazy on the rest of the internet. But the Swamp’s so damn big, the crazy’s Texas-sized. That doesn’t mean your carrier won’t sell, or you’re bound to get scammed. It just means it’ll take longer to sell, and you may have to deal with more weird questions than you wanted.

And since the Swamp is so huge, there are very, very strict rules about formatting, bumping your listing, where to post, and number of pics allowed. If you violate these, they will delete your listing. This leads to people posting something like: “U KEEP DELETEING MY POSTS AND I DONT KNOW Y ADMIN PLEASE PM MEEE.” Which just makes the poster look illiterate, because:


Then read them again to make sure.

  • Did I just stash shame myself? Or is “wrap slut” an empowering term? You can argue this out on Facebook if you want. Points to the first person who uses the word “patriarchy”, and bonus points to the first person to misspell “oppression”. First one to work Hitler into it wins #allthethings.

Stay tuned for the next part in “Selling a Carrier” – dealing with buyers, shipping, and disputes.

Want to read more about babywearing and attachment parenting with a side of snark? Like Manic Pixie Dream Mama on Facebook!