An old friend of Baba+Boo, Jane Shaw, has contributed to our series about gifting. It’s a powerful message as we start to think about Christmas - please do have a read and let us know in the comments how you feel about it.
“It’s funny how the nature of an object - let’s say a strawberry or a pair of socks - is so changed by the way it has come into your hands, as a gift or a commodity”.
This week I’ve been re-reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. This sentence moved me beyond words. It’s taken me all week to process why.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas: how, for so many families, this year it’s going to be a source of stress and strain, rather than happiness and thanksgiving.
When my beautiful boy was a few days old a parcel arrived from a certain Eve Bell - ‘Frogs’ our first Baba+Boo nappy. It was - and is - treasured and cherished. Of all the prints that I later bought myself, none compare to that one. Whenever I see the froggies, it brings back a memory and it makes me smile.
This year, more than ever, we need those gifts.
I’m fundamentally uncomfortable with consumerism and over-consumption, so Christmas-with-kids has never sat well with me. Boxes overflowing with tat that will be forgotten or broken by the new year; or children so overwhelmed by stuff that a meltdown is inevitable. It just seems to miss the point.
So I’ve always been more of the ‘don’t buy me anything, there’s nothing I need’ type. Content to go through the motions of exchanging a bottle of wine with my sister-in-law; and not bothering at all with my wonderful husband.
But re-reading Braiding Sweetgrass made me realise that I, too, have misunderstood gift giving.
Gifts aren’t valuable because they’re expensive. We all know that, really. Ask teachers what they treasure and the answer is rarely the chocolates or the wine - it’s the handmade cards, the sewn pictures, the decorated poems.
Gifts are valuable as an act of love. As an act of thankfulness, of reciprocity, of support.
There’s something about the gift of giving nappies that fits so neatly into this. It’s an act of support, of thoughtfulness and of care - a gift that keeps giving, whether through the saving of money, the saving of space, the saving of time, or the saving of the complexity that we’re sold in the name of convenience.
Every time I used our frog nappy, it was associated with the giver: a wonderful friend whose kindness brought a smile to my face.
As a parent of three children, I look back on their births - and their first and second birthdays - and I despair. Those babies and children were far too young to appreciate their gifts, but their gifts impacted me. They overwhelmed me - with the time they took to sort and store and clean; and with guilt when they were forgotten, lost or surreptitiously sent to charity, untouched and unloved.
Recently, I told my older son about the money his grandmother gifted when he was small, to allow him to go to an amazing and eye-wateringly expensive nursery school. We then spoke about the money she also quietly puts away for him every year - to help him when he needs it, perhaps at University. His teenage face softened with humbleness and amazement. He was touched by a gift so thoughtful, so understated and so meaningful. He was genuinely speechless, before asking “How do I ever thank her?”
He doesn’t remember the expensive lego sets. But he’ll never forget the contribution to his nursery and his future security - because its value isn’t in the amount, it’s in the thought.
As our children grow up with the legacy of our impacts on their planet, there’s no doubt they will ask us what we did to protect their futures. The gifts we give them that contribute to the solutions, not the problems, will surely be the ones for which they are most grateful.
It’s three years since my youngest potty trained. I still cherish my precious Froggies. It truly was a gift of thoughtfulness. And it’s a gift that I have, in a sense, ‘passed on’ - I have now repeated the act of giving nappies many times. Hopefully with the same thoughtfulness and kindness with which it was given to me.
It’s a gift that relieves financial and emotional strain, while helping our children’s future. One that can be genuinely appreciated, and one that connects the giver and recipient every time it is seen, touched and used.
When we look at gifting through the gentle, thoughtful lens of Braiding Sweetgrass, the giving - and receiving - of the gift of nappies feels ‘right’.
This year more than ever before.
Written by Jane Shaw.