This weekend we went to a bi-annual ‘Bring and Buy’ swap meet organized by the English Speaking Mothers group in France.
As we entered the sale room, it was clear that we were in for absolute CHAOS!!
The place was bustling with new and expecting moms, and the parents of toddlers desperately trying to free up space in their teeny parisian apartments. Above the din of screaming children you could hear hundreds of mothers haggling for the best priced booties, prams and nounou’s. Clothes and books and blankies were flying everywhere, and this was at a slow period.
I don’t think I was ready for this.
But, after some careful dodging and negotiation, we did manage to make a pretty decent haul for the prices. In total, we picked up a feeding pillow, a Baby Bjorn carrier, a Petunia Picklebottom diaper bag, a book on baby’s first year, half a dozen (maybe more) organic cotton onesies, a cashmere sweater, 11 packages of curry, and a copy of Charlie Wilson’s War. Total cost: 70 euro. Not bad.
But the the best thing we got was a lesson in just how much stuff you can accumulate in a very short period of time. We were talking with one of the vendors who was quite relieved to be going home with only a small pile – 5ft by 18in by 2 ft – of clothes. That’s right – 15 cubic feet of clothing is a small pile. It seems she came at the beginning of the day with three times that much.
“Wow! That’s a lot of stuff… And how many children do you have?”
“Oh, just the two, a boy and a girl.”
Looking around again we quickly got the sense that children are a great incentive for an un-be-leeve-able amount of useless shopping. We’ve managed to keep our consumerism relatively in check over the last few years, and the thought of owning our combined weight in baby clothes is just terrifying.
I think, the best trick is to set up a good trickle-down system where you find a parent about 9-12 months out of your schedule, and you can pass things down the line as yours outgrows them. We’ve been really lucky on the receiving end of this system so far, having received a crib, a pram, a baby carrier, and a few other bigger ticket items. What we really need is the next person down the line. Two friends of ours just got married this past weekend, and were given a nice long speech by the officiant on the duty of newlyweds to further the development of the French nation via French babies. Maybe with that kind of encouragement we might have a hand-me-down channel in just enough time.