HEADING for THE BABY STORE, Wendy says she wants to look at the Diaper Genie and the strollers.
"Diaper Genie?" I ask.
"Some gadget that turns diapers into, like, sausage links and eliminates diaper smell."
"Oh," I say. "Do we need that?"
"I'm not sure."
We are new at this. Wendy's baby is due in two months. My adopted child should arrive in about six. We have, neither of us, been doing the kind of shopping for baby stuff that you might think two mothers-to-be would do. In fact, this is only Wendy's third trip to the baby store, and my first.
"Do you think there is something wrong with us?" she asks. "Shouldn't we have closets full of baby gear by now?"
"Maybe we're just too busy," I say.
"Well, what does that say about what kind of mothers we'll be?"
True. I say maybe the reason we're not buying a lot of stuff is that we don't actually need it. How much of all this baby gear is just marketing hype, anyway? "These manufacturers play on people's fears," I say. You always hear how difficult parenting is, how much time it takes, how much effort. Parenting does not, I pronounce, have to be so scary.
"Right," Wendy says. "Because how hard can it be?"
"Exactly," I say, as we go clip-clopping like confident women into the store.
A little girl nearly runs us down in the crib department and then hauls off and bashes her mother in the stomach with a roll of wrapping paper.
"Ugh," the mother says, folding inward. She does not correct the child.
Wendy and I exchange quick knowing glances. Well, we are not going to be the kind of mom who gets beaten by her kids, that's for sure.
"But you can't just swing back," I say to Wendy.
"And I hate those moms who scream at their kids in public," I say.
"It's humiliating to the child," she says.
So what, exactly, are you supposed to do when your kid bashes you in the stomach with a roll of wrapping paper in public? We look at each other. Um. "The key is to just not have that kind of kid," I say.
"Exactly," she says.
Over by the diaper department a boy is pitching a fit because his mother won't buy him Bart Simpson underwear.
"Oforgodsakes," Wendy says. "I'm just going to let my kid pick out her own underwear."
"Yeah, but what if she wants Spice Girl underwear?" I ask. Wendy does not know who the Spice Girls are. Oh, Wendy. I enlighten her.
"See, this is why it's crucial not to use TV as a babysitter," she says. "I have a friend who gave her toddler two choices: `Jeopardy!' or the McNeil/Lehrer hour. He's 11 now and he can hold his own in a discussion about Ross Perot."
"Swell," I say. "I'm sure he's very popular on the playground."
"Well, it's better than one of those kids with semiautomatic rifles."
True. "I'm not allowing any guns in the house," I say. "Except, well, water pistols. I love water pistols."
"But do you think shooting water isn't as bad as, well, a fake gun that doesn't shoot anything?"
"Um. But water pistols are . . . fun."
"True." We decide to locate the Diaper Genie. We locate four variations of the Diaper Genie. We can't decide which is best. We look at strollers. A lot of them come with built-in car seats. We can't for the life of us figure out why.
A fellow shopper points out that if your kid is sound asleep in the car, you don't want to wake him up to put him in the stroller.
"You don't?" I ask.
"If your kid is sleeping," she says, "you'll keep him sleeping for five years if you can."
Well, that's not nice. And that woman sure looks . . . bedraggled. Another woman walks up. "I paid $179 for that stroller," she says, eyeing the one we're looking at. "The problem is, where do you put your baby when you're folding it up? I was getting on the subway the other day, and I had to hand my kid to a stranger so I could fold my stroller up."
I am sick of looking at strollers.
Finally, Wendy and I find something we can deal with: chairs. Huge, padded rocking chairs with rocking ottomans. She takes the beige one and I take the blue one. We rock. We rock and rock as we watch a crazed woman argue with her crazed husband about the seven-height-position highchair that can turn into a play chair and a booster seat and four other things we never knew we needed.
"So here we are on the brink of motherhood," I say.
"Yep," Wendy says, rocking herself just about to sleep. "Why, exactly, did we decide to postpone old ladyhood?"
Jeanne Marie Laskas's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.