Denise Day Spencer

June 10, 2008

No theme? No problem!

Filed under: Home Front — denisedayspencer @ 3:34 pm

Not too awfully long ago, I went to the first baby shower I’d attended in a while. The invitation promised that this one, mysteriously, would have a cowboy theme. Guests were encouraged to wear cowboy attire.

OK. I was game. I didn’t quite understand it, but it sounded like fun. So on the afternoon of the big event I donned my jeans, boots, bandana and a straw cowboy hat and took off.

It was a fun shower. Other ladies dressed the part to varying degrees, a couple of them even in chaps. The food included corn chips, bean soup and cornbread. Turns out the cowboy theme was, as you’ve probably guessed by now, the motif for the baby’s nursery.

Every nursery has a theme. You never ask a mother-to-be, “Do you have a theme?” but, “What is your theme?” And anything goes. Some parents choose the more traditional, such as Mickey or Pooh. Others forge a new path. One of our young couples at work has a toddler with a John Deere nursery. Now that’s creative! And everything coordinates with the theme–sheets, blankets and curtains, to be sure, but also bumper pads, diaper bag and a host of other accessories.

My babies never had a theme.

I can’t even tell you why, really. Were themes not so popular 24 years ago? I can’t recall. Was I just plain cheap? Well, yes. Lazy? That too, I suppose. But a big part of it was the fact that we didn’t know the baby’s gender either time. Believe it or not, we actually wanted to be surprised. I looked forward to that magic moment when my doctor would hold up the wiggling, crying newborn and say with a broad smile, “It’s a [fill in the blank]!” I’d watched too many old movies, I guess.

Even if we had wanted to know whether to go with pink or blue, our doctors had a policy of not telling the parents the gender of the baby. Though that seemed strange to some of our friends, it suited us just fine.

And so I decided that my nursery colors were going to be simple pastels, something that just said, “baby” rather than “boy” or “girl.” But even at that, I didn’t do much. I can blame it on the fact that we were renting the house and we didn’t have that much of a feel of permanence there. In reality, I was too busy reading books on infant care and parenting to be sewing curtains or painting murals. Who cared if all four walls were covered in the entire forest from “Bambi” if I didn’t know how to change a diaper?

Looking back, I can only describe Noel’s nursery as something that looked as if it belonged in Dickens’ “Bleak House.” It was sparsely decorated with white walls, white furniture and hardwood floors–not overly cheery, to say the least. In addition to the lack of color in the room, the house had a floor furnace, so the bedrooms often seemed a bit drafty. By the time Clay was born we had moved, but we were still in a rental home. His room had carpeting but was otherwise as drab as Noel’s had been.

Despite their primitive environmental beginnings, both of my kids have turned out great. I will say that Noel has always been interested in fashion and decorating, and loves nothing more than to be up to her elbows in a home improvement project. I expect that before she could talk, she sat in her crib and gazed around at the nothingness thinking, “I wonder what Thom would do with those windows?”

Recently Clay was home when Noel and Ryan came to visit. They were chiding me about how much attention I’d been giving our new pup, “Maisie.” Noel demanded, “When Clay and I were little, did you give us that much attention?”

Without hesitation I answered, “Yes! I did.” It turned into a mini-speech. “In fact, both of you wanted to be held all the time and with me every moment. I put you in your little cuddly carrier and took you to the basement with me to do laundry. I carried you on my hip while I tidied up the house. I could never put you in the baby swing or the playpen because you just cried to get out. You hardly ever spent any time in your room.”

Her room. Wait a minute.

I had always thought that my children were so attention-seeking because they were overly attached to me, or because they were insecure. Now I’m thinking perhaps they simply wanted to escape from the grim cave we called, “the nursery.”

At least they were able to exchange the visual sensory deprivation for a high degree of verbal stimulation. As I toted them about, I chattered and sang to them constantly. Noel in particular was a very early talker with a vocabulary that soon amazed me, and Clay wasn’t far behind. So maybe if you want precociously articulate children, the key is to keep the nursery decor so bland that the tots will want to spend every waking moment in the kitchen with you.

Still, if I’m ever told that I’m going to be a grandma, you’d better believe that one of my first questions will be, “What’s your theme?” Hey, it can’t hurt. Cowboys might be something the kid and I can talk about.



  1. Hey, you have a great blog here!

    I’m definitely going to bookmark you!


    I have this article which is releated to your post
    Decorating a Kid’s Room
    You can comment also 🙂

    Thans & Regards

    Comment by Decorating a Kid's Room — June 15, 2008 @ 10:41 am | Reply

  2. We had a gender-neutral theme (Classic Pooh), and then the first time I changed the crib sheet I had to untie the bumper pads and never put them back. Like you said, no time for niceties when I’m busy learning how to meet basic baby needs.

    We did paint the walls a nice, soothing shade of oatmeal though. I have no idea what my son thought of his (now former) room, but I loved being in it.

    Comment by skerrib — June 20, 2008 @ 6:14 pm | Reply

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