Johnny's getting haircuts in the kitchen this year.
A British mother is steeling herself against "kiddy consumerism," promising not to buy anything for her two-year-old son in 2013.
Hattie Garlick won't be keeping up with the Joneses this year: Clothing and toys will be acquired through swaps; disposable diapers will be replaced by reusable cloth nappies; haircuts will be DIY; and the kid will eat whatever his parents are eating, Garlick, a journalist, explained in The Telegraph this week.
"We will spend £0 on the kid's threads in 2013. Kids grow criminally fast. They should stop, really they should. But in the meantime, it just compounds the crime not to use secondhand clothes. And thirdhand. And fourthhand. This boy is two years old. He doesn't need to be on trend," Garlick writes on her blog – of course there's a blog! – where the tag-line reads: "The toddler and me and our year for free."
Garlick insists her cost-free year isn't supposed to be preachy. But in The Telegraph, she argues that "kiddy consumerism" is out of control, pointing to "the queues in Baby Gap, the supermarket aisles devoted to snacks for babies and toddlers, the parenting magazines rammed full of adverts for the latest infant accessories and trinkets."
She continues: "It wasn't even a middle-class madness. It may not have existed in previous generations, but all the symptoms pointed to a nationwide epidemic."
Still, there are things Garlick won't skimp on, including medicine, tear-free toddler toiletries and childcare three days a week. "A girl's got to work (this one does, at any rate)," she writes on her blog.
Predictably, other mommy bloggers are taking swipes at Garlick.
Writing at Mommyish, Maria Guido complained, "I just find her 'challenge' a little insulting to those that have to live that way. Don't you think parents who can't afford to buy their kids new clothes would love to be able to? And buying organic – if you can afford it, why wouldn't you?"
Guido then suggested that Garlick opt for moderation rather than "[bragging] about depriving your child of stuff you can afford." For that complaint, Garlick had a rebuttal, pointing out that the project is about "liberation not deprivation."
"If it actually turns out that the kid is suffering in any way from not having something (or we are), then we'll have to rethink. The idea is that he should be having just as much fun, food and love as before. Just without spending money on them," she wrote on her blog.
The other common complaint has been whether Garlick will apply the same Spartan edicts to her own lifestyle: "Why reserve your cutbacks to just your son. Perhaps you could cancel your satellite subscription, buy your clothes from the charity shops … no meals out and holiday in a caravan in Skegness instead of Tuscany!" wrote one Telegraph reader. (Skegness, by the way, is a lacklustre resort on England's North Sea.)
Garlick seems well aware of that attack, too: "It would seem a bit unfair, wouldn't it, if I was sipping on a skinny latte while using one expensively manicured finger to tap out a blog post on a new iPad and another to wave away my son: 'No darling, you can't have a babychino. It's against the rules on Mummy's website.' "
The journalist insisted that she has always budgeted when it came to her own expenses, but tended to splurge on her son. "Though this project is about spending less on Johnny, it's really about me me me: examining the values I'd fallen prey to as a parent. Because I can't afford it, but mostly because it doesn't seem right and I do worry, a bit, that I might pass them on to him."
Referencing Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, she wondered, "Didn't Veruca Salt's 'I want' bring her to a sticky end?" Now if only Mummy's challenge would land her a book deal.
Would you ever take on a "cost-free" challenge with a toddler in tow?