Thursday, October 20, 2011

Decorating The Nursery, Bad Luck Or Not?

I'm a pretty superstitious guy. At least, most people would probably call it that. It's not really superstition. That is to say, if some old wives' tale or something obviously has no basis in reality whatsoever then I don't pay any attention. Like walking under a ladder or a black cat crossing your path.

There's no such thing as luck. I don't mean that everything happens for a reason or that we're all controlled by fate—quite the opposite. Aristotle explains that what we call luck is simply a chance convergence of two events. Whether this convergence works in our favor or not depends on whether we see it as good luck or bad luck: "Chance or fortune is called 'good' when the result is good, 'evil' when it is evil. The terms 'good fortune' and 'ill fortune' are used when either result is of considerable magnitude," (Physics II, 5).

But, what if by bad luck we mean that there is some kind of unseen causal connection between one thing and a bunch of bad things happening. In other words, what if breaking a mirror somehow, for unknown reasons, actually brings about undesirable events? Well, obviously that's not true. Like walking under a mirror, a black cat crossing your path, or spilling the salt, the odds that breaking a mirror will have any kind of severe impact on the events of your life are very slim. I mean, assuming it's not somebody else's very expensive mirror or something.

Here's the thing, though. What if some of those old wives' tales aren't made up? What if they're based on centuries upon centuries of accumulated empirical evidence? For example, it's supposedly bad luck to decorate a new baby's nursery before it arrives. Depending on who you ask, it can be bad luck to do it at all, or maybe just bad luck to finish it completely. Either way, what if this particular myth came about by a whole bunch of people observing the effects, one way or another, of a whole bunch of different couples choosing to either decorate or not decorate and drawing a conclusion. I'm tempted to consider that possibility. Just because we don't fully understand the causal relationship doesn't mean there's not one.

Obviously a big part of this has to do with the outcome of labor being really pretty uncertain until fairly recently. I can't imagine what it must be like to have to come home and take apart a fully-decorated nursery. I have another theory, though. I've heard a few people say that the first few weeks after a new baby arrives can be a little crazy. It must be hard to keep one's feet on the ground after such a huge change. I mean, it's got to be quite a shock to realize (especially given the half-committed nature of most marriages these days) that you're...not your own anymore. You're living for somebody else now. For ever.

Even aside from that, just the sheer practical changes that occur. The sleep deprivation. The constant worry. All of it. I bet any parent would tell you this was the most stressful period in their life. While not the whole story I'd bet this has a lot to do with the phenomenon of postpartum depression. It's just got to be hard to cope.

I wonder if being forced to go through the motions of putting a nursery together at the same time could be a mechanism for keeping new parents focused and occupied those few moments they don't have to be feeding, burping, changing, or lulling baby. I bet it's satisfying to get to see such a concrete manifestation and validation of one's nurturing ability. I bet it obliges everybody to keep close at first, maybe in the same bed, maybe baby in a bassinet next to it, to make it easy for the new parents to have some much-needed reassurance about his well-being through those first few nights. At the same time, I bet it gives them something to do besides stare at him, or worry about him—all in all, just serving to keep new parents sane.

That's my theory anyway. What do you think?


  1. Babies don't need rooms, they have successfully grown up with much less for centuries....a cave, a box, a dresser drawer...a reed basket can be sufficient. Rooms are convenient for parents and part of our modern world. Baby only needs's not concerned with the decor and color scheme.

  2. Thanks for the comment!

    Of course you're right. The unbelievable level of luxury new parents and children are afforded these days is truly extraordinary. It's probably too easy for expectant moms and dads to get caught up in all the stuff and think having just the right baby monitor or car seat will make them good parents.

    As you say, it's all for naught unless all those frills and fuss are founded on the bedrock of family, faith, service, and a love that sacrifices itself for the other day-in and day-out.

  3. Thanks for this great post, i find it very interesting and very well thought out and put together. I look forward to reading your work in the future.κουνια μωρου


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