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The Bouncer

December 18, 2011

I’ve been trying to purge some of the baby stuff we no longer use and recoup a portion of our initial outlay on the baby.  I listed a bouncer on ki.jiji and someone asked if I would deliver the item.  It was more or less around the corner from our house, and I was feeling some of that magical holiday spirit, so I thought why the heck not.

When I pulled up into the driveway to a rather large house, I saw a young pregnant girl through the window and a small plate by the door that read St. Mary’s Place.   I was at a home for pregnant and new teen moms.

I walked up to the door with the bouncer in hand feeling surprised, reeling and conflicted.  On one hand I felt a great amount of shame because I have so much and here I was going to sell a used bouncer for $10 bucks to a mom who presumably has way less in her life than I do.  On the other hand I felt a little bit frustrated by another situation where I was going to walk away with less, or even nothing, when selling a used item.

While I rang the bell, waited for someone to answer, and for the social worker to get the girl, I wrestled with should I just give the bouncer away or should I sell it.  The social worker was interrogating me on my relationship with the girl by which time the girl had shown up with her newborn in arms, passed me $10, taken the bouncer from my hands and I was on my way out the door.  It all happened so fast.  And I felt like a complete ass.  I had just sold something to a presumably single, teen mom, who was completely down on her luck with absolutely no support system.

I almost turned back to return the money to her but then I stopped.

This mother needed something for her baby and scoured ki.jiji to find it.  She reached out to me to purchase an item and coordinated delivery because she doesn’t drive.  I had something she needed that she wanted to buy and showed up at her front door with it.  She didn’t ask or seek out charity.

There was something defiant in her stance and interaction with me.  When I gushed about how tiny her newborn was, she didn’t soften or crack a smile.  Even in her sleep deprived state, this young mother had a toughness about her.  I think if I read her body language correctly, she would have been deeply offended if I had offered it to her for nothing.  She almost seemed offended that I showed up at this place with the bouncer as she had asked.

Sometimes the worst thing you can do is offer someone help when they don’t ask for it.  It’s hard not to be able to give your children all of the things you want to. I think that’s something all parents struggle with as we’d give our children everything if we had the means.  I imagine that this might be especially hard for this mom.  I hope that by not giving the bouncer to this mom tonight that she got to feel a little bit of pride in being able to provide a necessity for her child.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 19, 2011 11:32 am

    We would be willing to buy hand-me-downs, but maybe not for a couple of months … keep us in mind.

    • December 19, 2011 2:26 pm

      If there’s something specific you’re looking for, let me know. I still feel really conflicted today about this whole bouncer thing.

  2. newdoorknobs permalink
    December 19, 2011 6:54 pm

    If she wanted or needed to get a bouncer for free, she could have looked online for a free one. If the $10 you had listed it for was too much for her, she could have replied to your listing and said, “I’d love to have it, but can only afford $5, are you willing to bargain?” These are both such common approaches that the fact that she chose to do neither indicates that it probably *was* important for her to do it this way.

    Now she knows she was able to buy something special for her baby — that bouncer isn’t just a random donation to be shared by all the babies in the group home, but something she provided for her kid. I used to volunteer at a battered women’s shelter, and would occasionally see women buy things for their kids that were perhaps not the best financial choices for someone with practically nothing. But it was very important to the moms to know it was something special they got specifically for their own kids. I didn’t see it as the moms feeling pride so much as feeling capable and responsible, and that feeling can definitely be worth $10.

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